Land animals were always very important to the Amarak. During the last Ice Age, the ocean would have been more than 100km away, hence they would have relied on these animals more for food.
Wallabies were common in these parts as they lived among the rocks, and made a good feed.
And goannas were often found up the trees and also made a good feed.
However, the walls also showed animals from long past. The thylacine (a.k.a. Tasmanian tiger) for example had lived in the area at one stage. You can quite clearly see its stripes.
And what about this bird? Is it an emu, or some other extinct giant bird species?
Unlike in Central Australia, where life and art revolved around water, the people of Arnhemland were more interested in capturing their fauna, which was integral to daily life. We viewed many paintings of animals, some recent and some potentially very old.
Fish was of course very important, since it was abundant when the water levels were high. The white ochre paint used and the intricate cross-hatching meant that the painting was probably done in the last four thousand years.
This dugong (a sea cow) has been overpainted with a pair of wallabies.
And this fish was so bright that it could have been painted yesterday.
All our adventures had been on Amarak land, lying east of the East Alligator River across from Kakadu National Park. The Amarak lived traditionally on their land until the 1950s, and the land had seen little use until Mount Borradaile was established in the 1980s.
Given that the Amarak lived on the land until relatively recently, there were many paintings and habitation places around the property that are well preserved. We were able to see quite a few in the four days we were there. Some were ‘mens business’ places – mens ceremonial places – as you can tell from these set of paintings – they’re all of busty women!
Others were of a more spiritual bent. This giant three metre long serpent was drawn on the roof of an overhang.
Being so close to the coast, the serpent had many shark/crocodile like features.
And was spectacular close-up.
The sea eagle wasn’t the only large bird we saw on the floodplain. It was a tad early to be seeing large flocks of magpie geese, but we saw this beagle egret, white against the dark green grasses.
And it was a joy to watch it take flight beside our boat.
While on the floodplain, we once again encountered the magnificent sea eagle.
And later on were able to come quite close to the tree it landed on.
It was quite late in the day when we saw it, so perhaps dinner was on its mind?
The floodplain was surrounded by sandstone country.
Many of these places are sacred and contain walls of rock art, some which outsiders have been allowed to visit, and others which are for only the initiated.
We skirt the shores to find sandstone and lush vegetation side by side.
And even get to venture on land.
It’s quite a view from the top.
Visiting at the tail-end of the Wet, the clouds sometimes threatened rain.
Sometimes the rain missed us.
But at other times it hit the bullseye!
Fortunately, the downpour was over in five minutes, and as the temperature was close to 30C we were dry again in no time.
The lily ponds were lovely.
But soon those were left behind as we headed for the open floodplain.
It’s a landscape that’s unique for me – calm water, green grasses, and big, big sky.
The clouds were so beautiful and fluffy, like Constable clouds (except that we were a long way from England).
There were bigger creatures living in the monsoon rainforest.
Along a canal were a whole series of darter bird nests. These extraordinary bird love fishing, and can stay underwater for five whole minutes.
Not too far away lurked our one and only crocodile for the trip – a freshwater crocodile sunbathing on the sandy bank.
And on the lookout for prey.
But the most magnificent site was the one we had of the white-breasted sea eagle, which we had interrupted having its breakfast.
They may not be the largest bird of prey in Australia, but they were large enough for me.