Mary River: a Wildlife Hotspot in Northern Australia

There is so much wildlife in Australia’s Northern Territory, that even a highway becomes a wildlife watching destination. This part of our epic  Australian road trip had the most abundant wildlife watching opportunities.

Driving from Kakadu to Darwin on Arnhem Highway we saw more birds and reptiles than you would see in a month in the drier parts of Australia. The countryside surrounding the highway could well be a National Park.

And there are plenty of eco-lodges along the way that offer various wildlife watching opportunities. We stayed at Mary River Wilderness Retreat and took a cruise on Mary River.

Mary River cruise

Part of Mary River National Park, Mary River is a great place to see Freshwater crocodiles and Azure kingfishers, as well as Great-billed heron and Australia’s biggest eagle – White-bellied Sea-eagle.

Freshwater crocodile on Mary River, Australia
Freshwater crocodile
Saltwater crocodile on Mary River, Australia
Saltwater crocodile

Mary River Wilderness Retreat operates boat cruises and it is also possible to hire a smaller boat for a few hours and explore the river at your own pace. We did both and saw the Freshwater crocs, Saltwater crocs, eagles, kingfishers, and plenty of more common birds, that we have already seen elsewhere on this trip.

READ MORE: 50 Outstanding Safari Holidays Destinations Outside of Africa

White-bellied sea eagle at Mary River, Australia
White-bellied sea eagle

Wildlife at Mary River Lodge

In the afternoon, just before the boat cruise, I watched a group of Agile wallabies grazing on the lawn in front of our tent. And as I watched them, two young males decided to practice their boxing skills giving me a few good photo opportunities.

Australian wildlife - Agile wallabies
Agile wallabies

Wildlife watching on Arnhem Highway

Driving along Arnhem Highway the following day we came across a small wetland on the side of the road that was absolutely teaming with birdlife. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a few Jabirus there. We spent days searching for them in Kakadu and there they were – scraping in the mud on the side of the road!

jabiru along Arnham Highway, northern Australia
Jabiru

Apart from the magnificent Jabirus, there were Pied herons, Great and Intermediate egrets, Gull-billed terns, and a few Magpie geese on a nearby tree.

Pied heron along Arnhem highway, Australia
Pied heron

We also saw our first Water Buffalo along the highway – the largest introduced animal in Australia. These giant bovids were introduced to Australia between 1824 and 1849 and became a feral species, wreaking havoc to Kakadu wetlands and other areas. The only predators big enough to snatch a water buffalo are the saltwater crocodiles that share the wetland habitat with the buffalo.

More Northern Territory nature adventures


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