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.
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.
The monsoon rainforest was alive with all sorts of creatures. Different coloured dragonflies kept us company. This one was a bright red.
In the water were a grand assortment of water birds of many colours.
While up in the trees, the Collared Kingfisher surveyed the scene for a potential catch.
In between the patches of forest, we floated through acres of lily-pads.
And we were lucky to see many waterlilies in bloom.
Being on the water, we could see the flowers up-close, and they were stunning.
But these waterlilies weren’t the only aquatic flowers we saw. Among them also grew the snowflake lily that only blooms in the Wet.
Up-close, they look a lot like snowflakes.
Our other adventures at Mt Borradaile involved cruising the various waterways in this flat-bottomed boat.
We discovered very quickly that there were many habitats in the wetlands, the first we passed through being the monsoon rainforest. These are tropical areas that are waterlogged during the Wet but are completely dry otherwise. For example, this ‘canal’ under the paperbark trees in the Dry season is a road!
Paperbarks weren’t the only type of forest we cruised through – there were patches of Livingstonia palms, straight out of the dinosaur era.
And water-loving Pandanus Aquaticus, which I’ve seen in many parts of Northern Australia that I’ve visited.
I loved how serene it all was, particularly when our guide cut the motor – beautiful reflections, and no sound bar the trickle of water and the twittering of birds.
There are also bigger creatures in Sandstone Country – but being marsupials and nocturnal, they were rather elusive. We did catch sight of these two though, with the help of our knowledgeable guide.
This rock wallaby made a brief appearance under a rock overhang.
And we caught a glimpse of a pair of possums in a rock crevice, out of the midday heat.
Apart from these two larger creatures, that’s all the larger animal action in Sandstone Country, and the end of our visit there – although there’s plenty more to see at Mt Borradaile. Next, we venture somewhere much more watery.
We had quite a few encounters with the wildlife in Sandstone Country. Being a place with many nooks and crannies, there were many places for creatures to hide.
The smallest first – these green tree ants were definitely the most ubiquitous. Their green bums have a lemon taste, and most tour guides in Northern Australia will
coerce encourage you to taste it.
This little beetle (or is it a bug?) had an almost jewel-like shell.
These St Andrew’s Cross spiders were almost as ubiquitous as the green tree ants. Thankfully, they’re not poisonous.
But the most striking small creature was the Leichhardt Grasshopper, first recorded by explore Ludwig Leichhardt back in in his first expedition through the Top End. He lived to mount a second expedition, where he mysteriously disappeared!
Further down-stream, the creek pooled into a wonderful fresh-water pond, complete with waterlilies and a sandy bottom.
It was our swimming spot for the week – I was lucky to be able to swim there three times. By mid-afternoon the water temperature was close to 30C, though it was a tad cooler in the deeper parts. I was told that the pool’s depth decreases as the Dry goes on, so that by July it would only be waist deep.
The creeks of the area drain into the many channels of Cooper Creek, which we’ll explore later. This waterfall/rapids gives you an idea of how much water was draining away.
Being among rocks, we saw some interesting weathering effects. These little silt pagodas probably formed the creek bed at some point.
This giant, overturned slab had somersaulted away from the cliff face.
Water was never far away. And it was fresh water as we were up above the floodplain. We waded through this creek on our way to the top of escarpment.
We scrambled up to the top of one of these sandstone escarpments to be greeted by a sea of green.
The pandanus – one of the main palm species in northern Australia – was verdant with new growth.
It was even fruiting – though apparently you have to wait a bit longer if you want to eat the seed inside.
There were still deep puddles on the escarpment.
And when the puddles dried up, these red flowers grew in their place.
So it’s not all just gum trees and spinifex up north, although we certainly saw our share.