When I decided to add Darwin to my itinerary, I immediately started looking for tour companies that led trips to the national parks, Kakadu and Litchfield. There are lots of tour companies that range in levels of luxury and in length of trips, but many didn’t operate during the rainy season at all. Thankfully, I found Wayoutback Australian Safaris, which operate tours throughout the country but specialize in the Red Centre and the Top End. We booked their Buffalo Dreaming tour, which goes round trip to Darwin and lasts three days and two nights.
We were picked up early in the morning and boarded the 4WD minibus that was to become our home for the next few days. Soon we found out that many of the people already on board knew each other, as they’d taken another Wayoutback tour together from Alice Springs up to Darwin. It was a bit disheartening that most of the group knew each other and that the guide already knew their names, but we did our best to make friends. I was ultimately glad I booked with this company, as many of the other tour groups we saw didn’t have as nice of vehicles or were significantly smaller groups (5 instead of our group of 20).
We were led by an expert guide named Nathan, who brought along two guides in training. He was very knowledgable on the area, not just from a tour guide point of view, but as someone who really lives out here. He was an expert at spotting wildlife, pointing out bearded lizards in the distance while he was driving us down the unpaved roads.
Coming from a tour where we mostly had cold sandwiches, I was amazed at the level of food available on this tour. Over the few days, we had chicken burgers, sandwiches, stir fry and lamb steaks with mashed potatoes, which were much nicer than most of the meals I’d been cooking myself in hostels! They were also accommodating to those with alternative diets, like the vegans and dairy free of the bunch. And best of all, everyone takes turns cooking and cleaning, so there’s no one left doing all the work.
Judging by my experiences on the tour of Uluru with Groovy Grape Getaways, I assumed we would be sleeping in swags outside at a campground. But I guess it depends on the season, as storms break out at any moment. Instead, we slept in permanent tents that had twin or bunk beds inside and sometimes a fan and electrical outlets. They were much more comfortable than I expected, but still let in a lot of bugs. Campsites vary by tour, as some guides choose sites over others and it depends on what you’ll be seeing, but expect at the vary least some sort of roadhouse, permanent tents, bath houses, pools and an outdoor kitchen.
Since we were traveling during the rainy season, many locations we would have visited were impassable. Anything you’ve read on the brochure about an itinerary is subject to change at a moments notice. Sometimes we would set off in the morning without knowing where we were going. If this is the sort of thing that bothers you, I recommend traveling during the dry season instead. Even though we couldn’t see some areas, I felt that the locations we were able to visit were well worth the tour, specifically waterfalls and areas with Aboriginal artwork. I also didn’t feel rushed as I had on other tours, but some days do involve a lot of driving, which can be tiresome.
For $465 AUD, our tour included all transportation, entrance into parks, guides and food during our three days. If you wanted to buy beers or snacks along the way, they will stop for you, but you’ll need to bring extra cash. I compared this tour to others I’d seen that looked relatively similar for $600 and up. For some tours that cost more, you may get additional access with a better equipped vehicle or stay in nicer accommodation, but past that, they’re all the same.
Overall, I feel that I chose wisely in booking with Wayoutback Safaris for my Kakadu tour because they had the best prices for the backpacker budget, decent accommodation and delicious food for your money. We did end up making friends in the big group of travelers and ended up going to dinner with them all in Darwin on our last night. I highly recommend them for your tour of the Top End.
I did not travel for free, but wanted to share information on one of the good companies you can see Kakadu with.