After leaving Daly Waters, we headed to the Mataranka Homestead Resort and camping grounds, which are located just east of Mataranka, between the Little Roper and Waterhouse Rivers. Both rivers are famous for being full of Barramundi and the occasional crocodile. However, we were more interested in the Rainbow Thermal Spring and swimming in it’s downstream pools, which are a short walk from the campground. The pools (known as Mataranka thermal pools) were set amongst a large grove of palm trees and quite picturesque.
How amazing is a thermal pool? The Rainbow Spring pumps out 30.5 million litres of warm water (34 degrees C) each day. That water flow has carved out a small creek and deep pools where you can swim or lounge about in the warm water as it flows past. The water eventually finds its way into the Waterhouse River.
Slightly further north (just a few kms) we visited Bitter Springs – yep, another Spring to swim in! This one was a more natural experience (as the springs at Mataranka were more like a resort swimming pool), allowing us to float along the small creek on the current made by the flow of the Spring water. This also required some dodging of snags, floating weed etc, and several hundred metres along, there was a ladder and steps to climb out of the creek, and a boardwalk to take us back to the start to do it all again.
And, we had to acknowledge the risk that there may be crocs in the area …
This was also the first time we broke out the masks and snorkels on this trip, and also ‘christened’ the new GoPro by taking it for a swim! And hey, it survived the dunking! The water was so clear, and we were amazed by the abundant plant life.
Check out our short videos:
As if that wasn’t enough, Katherine has it’s own hot springs, situated on the banks of the Katherine River – right in town!
And while we’re on the subject of water, Katherine had the largest flood in it’s history, on Australia Day in 1998. This photo shows the water level reached in the office of the caravan park where we stayed …
Note also the extent of the water depth markers on the bridge support in the photo below … which weren’t high enough in 1998, as the flood hit a record 20.4 metres!
Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge was next on the list of incredible things to experience. We opted for the boat tour up the first two gorges – out of a total of thirteen gorges. Incredible scenery, cliffs and vegetation – a feast for the eyes, and the commentary provided was excellent.
The gorge has fresh water crocodiles permanently residing in it – unfortunately, they were all a little shy during our visit, and we didn’t even see one!
However, after flooding events, saltwater crocodiles may also be found in the gorge. There is an ongoing program in place to identify and trap ‘salties’. Traps are used to capture the salties, and a red float tethered to a tree helps to detect the presence of others, as they will bite the float and the bite marks allow the rangers to determine what sort of croc may be in the area.