Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls
I recently headed up to the Northern Territory in the wet season. Boy, they aren’t kidding around when they call it that. If it’s not the sky dumping an ocean’s worth of rain upon you most afternoons, it’s your entire body dripping sweat the moment you step outside because if it’s not the flood rains that kills you, it’ll be the humidity.
Back to the former drenching from the sky, there are perks to visiting the Territory this time of year, even though it doesn’t seem like it, and at the very top of that list is waterfalls.
There’s an incredible amount of rain that falls from the sky during the wet season, and all that water’s needs to go somewhere, culminating in some of Australia’s most thunderous and dramatic waterfalls making their way over spectacular cliffs and gorges on route to the ocean.
Two waterfalls of particular prominence that come alive during the wet season are the world-renowned and utterly spectacular Jim Jim Falls and its equally breathtaking neighbour Twin Falls in Kakadu National Park.
But with Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls inaccessible by road during the wet season no matter what you got under the hood, it wasn’t too hard to decide that a scenic flight over two of Australia‘s most beloved waterfalls in full flow was the way to go.
There are a few companies that fly over Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls in the wet (there are no flights to these falls during the dry season). You can either go for the helicopters if you have a lot of dough or the more modest but still expensive light aircraft route. At more than twice the price, the helicopters were out for me, so the light aircraft it was.
And for no other reason than it having the name of the national park I would be flying over, I went with Kakadu Air because I can be trivial like that.
Between Here & There
Between Jabiru and the headliner attractions of Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, we flew over the vast, endless, untouched wilderness of Kakadu National Park as glistening pools of water rested on lush, over-saturated landscape. We saw glittering rivers that had carved and snaked their way through solid rock and spectacular escarpments that rose dramatically above the plainlands, including the culturally significant Aboriginal rock art site, Burrungkuy (Nourlangie).
The Big Crescendo
After viewing the endless uncultivated lands on the way south, it was time for the headliners: Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls. Holy blonde cheerleader Batman, these falls were incredible.
Bursting at the seams from months of rainfalls, Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls were spectacular and exceedingly beautiful.
Jim Jim Falls
Numero uno was Jim Jim Falls. First to be seen was the thundering river glistening above the falls snaking its way across hardened top rock, broadening as it got closer to the cliff. Then the water squeezed its way through carved channels onto two ledges before making the final, thundering plunge into a spectacularly dark, narrow gorge where the force of it impacting the rocks below created plumes of mist that rose above the cliffs. To the right of the breathtaking main waterfall was a thinner divergant waterfall to the right that had carved another way through the landscape as if it was being defiant.
Next up was the last order of the day: Twin Falls. Circling from the left around the top of the falls, it wasn’t the waterfall that we saw at first, but a prominent rocky ledge that sat above a deep, dark gorge. As the plane banked right, the thundering Twin Falls and its spectacularly rugged canyon revealed itself in an even more impressive and awe-inspiring scene than its famous neighbour.
With the two iconic and magnificent waterfalls out of the way, it was time to head back. The pilots took us back to see Jim Jim Falls again, but the waterfall mist manifesting from the canyon was now obscuring the whole view. Damn you!
Homeward bound, the flight path was different from the southbound journey. There were more wetland plains and rocky lowlands. But there was also low-level flying through lush valleys lined with towering escarpments that revealed hidden waterfalls, which combined with nothing but wilderness and not a speck of civilization felt fantastically Jurassic Park-esque.
Coming back down to earth in the lightweight, 6-seater Kakadu Air aircraft, we flew past the Ranger Uranium Mine, which has only just finished its 40-year operation, before landing and completing our 60-minute wet season flight across the spectacularly vast and picturesque Kakadu National Park.
The Kakadu Air wet season scenic flight provided a variety of different topography to gaze upon. With Kakadu National Park being a wetland region, plenty of lush low-lying plains dotted with glistening puddles were present. Whilst that was the least exciting part of the flight, there were also sparsely populated rocky low lands and glistening rivers carved into the landscape, which were lovely to see.
One of the best aspects of the flight was soaring low alongside escarpments that rose dramatically from the plainlands. With the rugged cliffs, fallen rocks and not a speck of civilization to be seen, there was an old and primal feel to it, reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Knowing that this was home to the modern dinosaur, the crocodile, and ancient culture only sold the fact that I was traversing a primordial land filled with a lot of natural history and unexplored secrets.
Of course, the highlight of the air adventure was undoubtedly Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. Nothing short of spectacular, breathtaking and epic. The deep, dark, rugged canyons that the powerful, thundering waterfalls crashed into complimented each other with their incredible theatrics and drama. After seeing them, it’s unsurprising why there are so iconic and revered. It was a very brief but sprctacular sight.
The Kakadu Air light aircraft was in great shape. It looked well-loved, well looked after and clean. I didn’t feel like it was old, unmaintained or that the plane was going to fall from the sky in the middle of a stinking hot wilderness to fend for myself with the crocodiles like the end half of Jurassic Park.
Inside, it was pretty damn tight & there wasn’t a lot of personal space, but at the same time, it didn’t feel like we have shoved in there like sardines in a can or clowns crammed into a car. Even though there was no air condition installed in the craft (at the time, though Captain James said they might be getting some soon), it wasn’t too stuffy, but once we got up into the blue sky up above, I didn’t even notice the temperature. Like Goldilocks and her soup, it wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold, it was just right. It doesn’t get more perfect than that.
As for the flight, even though it was a bit crammed in the cute little plane, it always felt safe, there was very little turbulence, but because of the low hanging clouds that prevailed for much of the day, we had to fly lower. That was great as it kept us close to the action and able to peer upon the landscape and get a better look at it.
One thing that was a bit disappointing was that of the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel. When telling us about the sights, Captain James said that he would be looping around the sights so both sides could see them. I naturally thought that he meant all the sights he mentioned by name. One of which was the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel.
I was excited to see it as I was staying there. While the left side got to see if just after takeoff, I was expecting him to turn around, and so us on the right could too. That didn’t happen. I surmised that he would loop around it at the end. That didn’t happen either. There wasn’t really a way to communicate with him either as the plane was noise, and I don’t think the headphones had a microphone.
More Loops Please
Another thing that was a bit of a downer was the loops around Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls. The folks on the left had three loops around Jim Jim Falls, while us folk on the right only got one go around. Twin Falls for us on the right only had one loop around, although I can’t remember how many the left had. The pilots did try to return to Jim Jim Falls for one last look but by that time, the mist expelled out of the gorge was sadly blocking the view.
I think a few more loops around both for each side would have been really nice (not so much when it’s obsecured, but perhaps a short wait to see if it disappitates) as the plane goes by the falls in the narrow gorges so fast. You only have a few seconds to see it and photograph it. A few more go around would have allowed passengers to take pictures for a couple loops incase they stuff up the first time, and a couple more loops to get to really gaze upon it and commit it to memory.
Because I only had one loop around each, I didn’t have the chance to commit the details to memory very well. I have some nice photos, but I can’t remember aspects of it without looking at the pictures. I was hoping for another loop like the left side got with Jim Jim Falls so that I could just look at the magnificent sight before me.
The pilots, crew and staff at Kakadu Air are great. There were friendly, courteous, accomodating, interactive and helpful. Captain James, in particular, enjoyed cracking some jokes at his own expense and keeping the atmosphere light and jovial whilst being informative and professional. Couldn’t fault them.
The overall experience flying with Kakadu Air was a largely positive one.
While the staff were exceptional, the landscapes lovely, the escarpments beautiful and the main attractions of Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, while short-lived, were exceedingly spectacular, what stuck with me the most was its diversity, scale and grandeur.
Driving along through Kakadu National Park is a very long and rather unexciting endeavour, with trees lining pretty much the entire way. It’s only when I get close and experience places like Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) that I get a sense of the landscape. Seeing the national park from the sky and how expansive it is, and what lies in the areas that I cant see from the ground, I could see how beautiful, diverse and wild it truly is as a whole.
Although I’m already a big supporter of nature and its preservation, the elevated perspective allowed me to understand the landscape in a much more spiritual way than any of my experiences on the ground did. It furthermore hammered home why these places are so special and important and why they need to be preserved for peoples learning and enjoyment and not its destruction for personal gain and profiteering especially since there are so few of these vast wildernesses left in the world.
While I was a bit bummed about not getting to see the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel from my side as I assumed I would, the thing I was more sad about was the very short amount of time there was to view the main features of Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls. As they cascading into narrow canyons, the view time flying past them were already a lot shorter than anything else that was seen on the flight. Being the deciding factor for taking the flight, I think a little longer lingering and looping around these incredible sights would have made a lovely flight perfect and allowed me to forge a deeper connection with the most rugged and picturesque parts of the journey creating a more enduring memory of something I may not have the chance to be able to experience again. Regardless, I still enjoyed the experience quite a lot as a whole despite wishing they could have stayed a bit longer so we could bask in falls in all their glory for a while longer.
- Based on my experience in February 2021
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