Maguk - Kakadu National Park
Barramundi Gorge Or Maguk - different name, same magic.
Years ago Maguk in Kakadu National Park was only known as Barramundi Gorge.
Don't ask me why. It doesn't look like a gorge and I never saw any barramundi here. (Barramundi is the most popular fish up here for eating and sport fishing)
You find Maguk in the Mary River Area, in the southern part of Kakadu National Park.
Barramundi Gorge / Maguk
The turn off is about 50 km from the southern entrance to Kakadu National Park, or 92 km south of Bowali Visitor Centre on the other side.
Maguk is another 12 km from that intersection, on a track that's only recommended for four wheel drive vehicles.
It is an unsealed track, sometimes corrugated and with a couple of soft, sandy bits. But during the dry season (see "When to visit Kakadu National Park") you may be able to get there in a two wheel drive.
On my very first visit to Kakadu National Park we actually were in an old, beat up Ford stationwagon. It had already done over 300,000 km. A typical backpacker vehicle it was, painted with flowers and all. It took a while because we had to go slow, but we made it without problems.
The track leads to a bush camping area and a car park with picnic tables. The 2 km walk to Maguk starts from the car park, and the walk alone is worth the drive down that track.
The start of the walk to Maguk
The first part of the walk leads through monsoonal forest. Still damp air, and lush thick vegetation. The cool shade is welcome on a hot day, there are interesting plants to investigate, and birds and lizards to watch.
Hmm, even a crocodile trap to check...
(There are saltwater crocodiles in the area, but any that move upstream towards the gorge are trapped and relocated.)
A little bridge has been built where the walking track crosses the creek, to stop the crocodiles from snapping at your ankles. (Kidding, but it saves you walking through squishy mud.)
Near the main pool of Barramundi Gorge
The forest opens gradually. The ground you walk on changes, and with it the vegetation. The soil becomes dry and sandy and finally turns into rock.
The track crosses back and forth across the creek, no bridges here, just pick your rocks or get wet feet.
In a few places the creek widens to a small pool. (Great for a quick dip on a hot day!)
The further you go the more difficult the walk becomes. You have to clamber over rocks, and the sun beats down on you as the rocks reflect the heat upwards. But with every rock you scale the scenery gets better.
And here we are:
Knowing that this is waiting we never bother to stop for a swim on the way...
Swimming at Maguk / Barramundi Gorge
Maguk is one of the falls in Kakadu National Park that don't dry up straight away when the rains stop. It gets smaller towards the end of the dry season but it always flows.
You can swim across the pool and get a back massage under the falls. In the past you could also climb to the top of the waterfall.
See the dark patch in the photo, to the right of the falls? That's where the climb started. There is a tunnel through the rock and it leads to the top of the fall. Steep and slippery... And now closed for re-vegeatation purposes, to give the little ferns etc. a chance to grow back.
These days it is much easier to get to the head of the falls. There is a proper walking trail that branches off 300 metres before you get to the swimming hole, just before you cross the creek the last time.
I'd love to show pictures, but I didn't have my camera up there. So you'll have to take my word for it:
The pool at the top of the falls is very deep. On one side it is flanked by tall vertical cliffs, with ledges at different heights to jump from.
On the other side the rock is flat, with a big hole not far from the edge of the pool. The hole is deep, with water in it, and the water level is over a meter down.
I only know this because on that first visit to Kakadu National Park I watched a tour guide do it. If you're game you can jump into this hole. You can't climb back out, you have to stay deep under water and wait for the bubbles to clear. Then you will see a faint glimmer of light through a tunnel. It's the only exit and leads into the top pool. Spooky. I wouldn't have done it had I not seen someone else do it first.
And here is something more relaxing. Towards the end of the season the flow of the fall is not very strong, and where it falls over the edge the rock is washed out, in a way that allows two people to sit there like in a bath and....
... turn the waterfall off. Watch all the heads down the bottom fly around...
Anyway, you'll have fun up here, and there shouldn't be too many people. Which, as you can imagine, is one of the main rasons why Maguk or Barramundi Gorge rates as one of my favourite places in Kakadu National Park.
Other popular places in Kakadu: