Half the size of Switzerland, this top end national park offers everything that would make National Geographic or the BBC giddy with excitement. But this is fittingly on ABC1.
There are breathtaking landscapes, dense vegetation and flora, killer crocodiles, exotic reptiles, vast birdlife, postcard sunsets and volatile seasons.
Northern Pictures and Beach House Productions have produced a 4 part series that brings it all to the small screen. Filmed across 12 months this is a vast production that captures all the drama of this unforgiving terrain.
The first episode is dominated by crocodiles -the perfect drawcard to lure in a broad audience. We begin in May in the run up to Tourist Season when humans are at greatest risk of being killed by a croc. The monsoon season is over but the rise in water levels has allowed crocs to swim all the way to the tourist drawcards of Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. It’s up to park rangers to find and remove the threat before opening to the public.
Watching these prehistoric relatives slip silently through the waters is always captivating, even more compelling when experienced rangers invade their space in order to capture them. If the landscape itself isn’t the star of Kakadu then it looks like the crocs are certain to be.
There are also feral pigs on the run, introduced and now prevalent to the land. They are killing wildlife and destroying vegetation. Rangers are forced to kill them at every opportunity, but it seems like an insurmountable war. There are no apologies for taking them out, and very little is salvaged in the cycle of life.
Naturally there are sweeping aerial shots of the land, and on a big screen TV it’s easy to sit back and become an armchair traveller. Enhanced by dramatic music the camera can do no wrong here. Rugged cliff-faces, billabongs full of life, sandstone plateaus, open plains as far as the eye can see… time stands still in this majestic, World Heritage land.
Unlike other geographic docos, Kakadu isn’t purely a nature series. It combines law-enforcement in the same way as factual series like The Force and Kalgoorlie Cops . Rangers chase poachers raiding fish stocks and barramundi. Out here everyone acts like a law unto themselves. There is scientific research to conduct, with plants and animals to preserve. There are tourists needing medical emergency and townships to protect from fire.
Indigenous communities are also integral to the land and park management applies old practices with contemporary technology. Blackfellas know this land better than anyone, with generations of traditional habitation. There’s also a fight against uranium mining.
Having Indigenous actor Tom E. Lewis as narrator maintains a degree of respect, while still bringing the storytelling.
I feel confident in saying the small screen doesn’t do justice to the backdrop of Kakadu, and while I lament this isn’t in high definition on ABC1 it’s no reason not to fall under the spell of its attributes. If there are thousands of tourists every season, I’d expect thousands more after this airs.
Sit back and let this one sweep over you.
Kakadu airs 7:30pm Sunday on ABC1.