Kakadu is home to a vast array of freshwater billabongs, each a showcase of biodiversity. During the wet season, they’re largely inaccessible and, in some cases, indefinable from the surrounding water-covered floodplains.
But when April comes around, the waters recede and all manner of life – waterbirds, insects, crocodiles – seeks refuge. The nutrient-rich billabongs become their haven, creating a natural spectacle for visitors to admire.
Sandy Billabong is one of Kakadu’s most beautiful. The turn-off is 12km past Jim Jim Falls Road. A 6km drive on bitumen will lead you to the Muirella Park camping area, itself situated alongside Buppa Wetland. There’s a boat ramp – barramundi is a popular target species – and reasonable amenities, including hot showers. The Buppa Wetland walk is a 4km loop best done in the mid-to-late dry season. Along the way you’ll see paperbark swamps, freshwater mangroves, pandanus, ghost gums and more.
A further 6km along a dry-season-only, narrow and dusty track leads to Sandy Billabong. Caravans are unlikely to make it through, so leave it at Muirella Park, but offroad camper trailers shouldn’t have a problem. Camping is permitted at Sandy Billabong but amenities are limited – drinking water is not available.
Should you swim? Absolutely not. It’s teeming with salties – people have been attacked and killed in this very billabong.
Nonetheless, Sandy Billabong is a serene spot, the perfect place for an afternoon of wildlife spotting, hiking or having a snooze… just not too close to the shore.
Originally published in Caravan World #508, November 2012.