HOW ABOUT THE WEATHER?
Fred Astair sang “singing in the rain”, John Denver sang about “sunshine on my shoulders”, Nat King Cole sang about “the autumn leaves”, and Crowded House sang “always take the weather with you. There’s no getting away from it, us humans are preoccupied with the weather! We happily chat about it, sing about it, measure it, predict it and most of all, we appreciate the changes that the seasons bring. From the enjoyment of snuggling up winter evenings in front of a crackling fire, to the first blooms of spring, a warm day at the beach and everything in between. Although you and I may think of our annual weather in 4 seasons, the climatic changes and weather patterns for the indigenous people of Kakadu are described in 6 seasons. These seasons are more descriptive of the subtle changes which occur and often represent reminders to start burning country, or signalling that certain foods are good to eat. These are the descriptions of the recognised seasons….
Pre – monsoonal season. This period runs from October to December and is characterised by hot and humid weather. Large thunderstorms build during the afternoon and heavy showers bring lots of water to the streams and floodplains which start to run. This period is also significant for the local indigenous people as they know that this is when barramundi tend to move from waterholes downstream to breed. In the past, indigenous clans also moved themselves to higher ground or what is referred to as ‘stone country’ to take shelter from the heavy rain and violent storms which characterise this season.
This is often described as the true ‘wet season’ and runs from January to March. Gudewg is characterised by electrifying thunder storms, heavy rain, flooding and humidity. The country looks greener than ever as the conditions allow for rapid new growth and magpie geese nest in the grasses. Spear grass grows to over 2 meters and animals like goannas, snakes and rats may often take refuge in the trees to escape the floods. This makes them easy targets for hunting.
This period is characterised by the gradual dispersant of clouds and less and less rain. It occurs in April and clear sky tend to prevail at this time along with less humidity. There are often windy storms which knocks down the tall spear grass, and they are referred to as ‘knock em down’ storms. Animals are tending to their young, wildflowers are in bloom and most plants are fruiting.
Yegge runs from May to mid June and is characterised by lower relatively cool temperatures, and much lower humidity. The wetlands start to receded and the Darwin woollybutt trees are in flower. This lets the local people know that it’s time to start to burn patches of the woodlands and grasses to ‘clean the country’ and encourage new growth for animals to graze on.
Wurrgeng runs from mid June to mid August and is often referred to as the ‘cold weather’ time although day time temperature may still reach 30 degrees C. The flood plans dry out further which causes the water birds to crowd around the shrinking billabongs. Magpie geese are fat and good for eating after abundant feeding.
Gurrung runs from mid August to mid October. This period is characterised by hot and dry weather. At this time local people start to hunt for file snakes and long-necked turtles. Wetlands continue to dry up and late afternoon winds may be present, along with thunderclouds which starts to signal the return of the build up or Gunumeleng season.
From these descriptions you you would be correct to assume that the most popular time to visit Kakadu for a holiday would be during the Yegge, Warring and Gurrung seasons. But if you have never visited during the wet season, don’t let the thought of humidity or rain put you off. The country is truly breathtaking during this monsoonal time with the rivers and waterfalls flowing magnificently and the landscape green and lush. It presents a different picture to behold and with some clever planning, you can certainly get around with plenty of things to do. But whenever you visit Kakadu, you can be sure that mother nature will provide a spectacular experience for you.