Jim Jim Falls (Aboriginal name Barrkmalam) was in our minds the Northern Territory‘s (let alone Kakadu National Park’s) most spectacular waterfall. It was said to plunge about 200m off the escarpment and tended to flow spectacularly in the Wet Season. The picture you see at the top of this page was taken during our visit in June 2006, which was towards the start of the Dry Season. And as you can see from that photo plus the rest of the photos on this page, the dual-segmented plunge along with its sheer size and awesome settings were what really compelled Julie and I to place this at the top of our Top 10 Australia Waterfalls list.
It was hard to believe that we almost weren’t able to visit this waterfall! To make a long story short, we originally intended to do a land tour to both Jim Jim Falls and the nearby Twin Falls, but an unseasonably late cyclone (Cyclone Monica, I believe) had hit the area just a month prior thereby prolonging the threat of Saltwater Crocodiles and closing all 4wd roads, including the ones needed to reach this falls. To snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, we booked a helicopter tour instead at the last minute. Thus, all the photos you see on this page were taken from the air.
So as you can see with Jim Jim Falls, timing was everything. Come during the Wet Season, then the falls would flow spectacularly but it would only be seen from the air. Come during the Dry Season, then the falls may diminish to the point that its flow might be a disappointing trickle. We tried to time our visit to get the best of both worlds (i.e. the Wet Season flow with the Dry Season access), but this was not easy to do considering we live across the Pacific and we were budgeting time and money along with our work schedules. So when Mother Nature had other plans, the onus was on us to react and respond.
At least the benefit of doing the aerial tour was that we were able to see the surrounding escarpment lands of Kakadu National Park, and we were really able to get a sense of the grandeur and context of not only the falls but also the vast wilderness that was around us. The aerial tour also bought us sightings of bonus waterfalls such as Double Falls in the Death Adder Valley.
Had we been able to do the 4wd land tour to the base of Jim Jim Falls, then our experience would’ve obviously been a lot more intimate. However, we knew that it would’ve been a rough and rugged ride along Jim Jim Falls Road (roughly 2-3 hours each way to cover the 66km). I doubted that rental car companies would be comfortable letting us go it alone with their vehicle on this road, which was primarily why we booked a land tour so the experts in the know would handle the difficult logistics (especially the creek crossings).
Unfortunately, with Cyclone Monica keeping all the 4wd roads closed, the land tour operator wanted to substitute the Jim Jim Falls experience with a tour to Gunlom Falls and Motor Car Falls. It was an unacceptable trade in our minds since we had already visited the falls on our own, and it was nowhere near as good as what they were replacing. So the moral of the story here would be to take a wait-and-see approach when trying to time a visit to see this waterfall. Nonetheless, we felt that our Jim Jim Falls experience was incomplete and we’re itching to come back here to do the land tour.
The access road to Jim Jim Falls branches off the Kakadu Highway (Hwy 21) just east of Cooinda. Since we didn’t self-drive to the falls, we can’t say much more about what the drive was like.
As for tours, land excursions can pick you up if you’re staying in Jabiru or in Cooinda (where we were staying). The helicopter tour we took was based in Jabiru (some 50km northeast of Cooinda along Kakadu Hwy). So we had to drive there before embarking on the aerial tour.
For context, Pine Creek was 225km (about 2.5 hours drive) south of Darwin and 164km (over 2 hours drive) southwest of Cooinda. Coming from the other direction, Jabiru was 57km (over 30 minutes drive) northeast of Cooinda and 253km (under 3 hours drive) east of Darwin.
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