Travel Information - K
The Top End's most important asset is the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, renowned for its extraordinary eco-systems and wealth of Aboriginal history. Aboriginal people have inhabited the land for more than 50,000 years, leaving behind incredible galleries of rock art. More than 5000 sites of historical or cultural importance have been identified, though only a few are open to visitors. Add Kakadu's magnificent scenery unique flora and fauna, and you have one of the world's greatest natural wonders.
Contrary to some myths and movies, kangaroos do not hop about all over the country, particularly in towns and cities. Even in rural areas you may not come across them as they tend to stay away from people (even though the ones in sanctuaries are friendly and love being stroked). There are a number of different types of kangaroos (different sizes and colours). If driving in the outback, or areas where signs suggest there may be kangaroos, do keep a lookout both for the thrill of spotting some and because they can do a lot of damage if they jump in front of your car. On first seeing a kangaroo some people would think it a freak of nature but it really is a superb example of an animal adapting to its environment. A herbivorous marsupial, its tiny forelimbs are quick delicate and are used to hold leaves. Its powerful hind legs allow it to leap quickly over great distances and its sturdy tail is for support and balance. The pouch in front allows a mother to effortlessly carry her young ('joeys'). They are so well adapted to the unpredictable conditions in the outback that in times of drought females can delay pregnancy or birth until the rains come.
Naturally enough you will find kangaroos on Kangaroo Island off South Australia along with many other animals (land and marine) in the wild. This is Australia's largest island (after Tasmania) and there is accommodation and a visit is most worthwhile.
A kelpie is a breed of Australian sheepdog developed from imported Scottish collies. They have smooth coats and pricked ears and are extremely intelligent. If you visit a sheep property you will be amazed watching one efficiently round up sheep and obey commands (both verbal and signals).
Australia uses the European METRIC system for weight, length, distance and area: millimetres, centimetres, metres, kilometres etc. For US and UK visitors' reference:
- 1 mile = 1.609 kilometres
- 1 pound (lb) = 2.21 kilograms
- 1 gallon = 4.55 litres
Firstly, koalas aren't bears, they are tree dwelling marsupials. To some they are the cutest, cuddliest beings on the planet - to others they are scratching, piddling, smelly little things. The truth is somewhere in between. They are cute and furry, but they can give a nasty scratch, so only try to pat one if its offered by a handler in a sanctuary. While sluggish, they can move at great speed if necessary (say, if threatened by another animal or a bushfire) and although they live high in gum trees (on a diet of eucalypt leaves) they are actually quite able swimmers if the situation dictates.
These fascinating birds are also unique to Australia despite their call being used as part of African jungle atmosphere in early Tarzan movies. Meat eaters, they belong to the kingfisher family, these handsome birds are renowned for their harsh voices that resemble human laughter. Their birdsong is usually heard around daybreak or dusk and is actually a call from one family to another. They may also 'laugh' if threatened during the day where they will pass on the warning of a predator and then sit, bolt upright, camouflaged as a twig. They have a strong sense of 'family', having one mate and keeping their young with them for several years. Other terms for a kookaburra include 'the howling (or laughing) jackass', 'the ha-ha duck' and the 'settler's clock'.
'Koori' is a colloquial term for an Aboriginal person, often used by Aboriginal people themselves.