After spending the night in Katherine and having a seriously good sleep in, we set off to visit nearby Elsey National Park and go for a little swim in the beautiful Bitter Springs.
When I say that Bitter Springs is ‘nearby’ Katherine – be warned that this is an Aussie’s version of ‘nearby’ and in reality it is about 110km away! It takes about an hour or so to drive there, but it feels like a much shorter trip.
After arriving at Bitter Springs we found that we were the only people there – one of the benefits of an early morning visit. However, despite the lack of other humans the place in no way felt empty; there were fish, birds and even monitor lizards hanging around the place.
Look at this big guy just hanging out!
This incredible little haven is a naturally occurring hot spring – a bit of a rarity in Australia. The water sits at about 28-30 degrees celsius and even though taking a swim in warm water when the outside temperature is 35 degrees may sound horrible, it was actually incredible soothing.
Like most national parks in the Northern Territory – entry to Elsey and Bitter Springs is completely free. Another bonus for the budget traveller!
Emily and I spent ages splashing around in the water and enjoying having the place to ourselves. I love this next picture of us – the water looks incredible, Em looks like a magical mermaid and I have the most boggly eyes ever – such a winner!
Now, this is where the really interesting part of the story begins.
On the NT Government ‘Crocodile Safety: Be Crocwise‘ webpage (welcome to Australia guys) it states that Bitter Springs is safe to swim in all year round without risk of a crocodile encounter. So Emily and I swam around without a care in the world, left without incident and thought nothing of it.
That was until a few weeks later when I saw this news story pop up on my Facebook news feed.
Naturally, I clicked on the story to learn more about the attack without thinking too much more about it. As I was reading however, something caught my eye…
A 2 metre saltie was spotted right there in Bitter Springs! I sussed out the dates, did a bit of research and then found out that this sneaky croc was spotted there only a few days after we had been fully immersed in its territory! For all we know, the croc could have been in there with us!
A pretty scary thought! A 2 metre crocodile isn’t overly huge for a saltie, but one of that size could still easily have killed us if it had tried. Crocs give me the heebie jeebies, so even though Bitter Springs almost never has croc sightings and has been since deemed safe for swimming, in future I will probably give swimming there a miss and call my swim in these gorgeous springs a ‘once in a lifetime’ kinda deal.
So, if you like the idea of beautiful blue thermal springs but aren’t keen on the croc factor – Mataranka Thermal Springs could be right up your alley.
Located in a caravan park not far from Elsey National Park, Mataranka has native thermal water flowing through a little lake. Stairs have been added, and the lake landscaped with concrete. There are also barriers at either end of the designated swimming area, so you wouldn’t need to worry about crocodilians while swimming in here.
Unsurprisingly at this point, entry is free, even for non guests. You can just park and swim! The water is the most incredible shade of blue, it was hard to get pictures that really did it justice – not that that stopped Emily and I from trying.
Mataranka is exceptionally popular with families, but is enjoyable for pretty much anyone and everyone. It wasn’t insanely busy when we visited, but it was far more occupied than Bitter Springs had been.
We spent the rest of our morning and early arvo (for all my non-Aussie readers arvo = afternoon) chilling out before starting the long drive back to Darwin. Our little weekend road trip to Katherine was absolutely amazing and if you find yourself in the Top End, it is a trip I would absolutely recommend.
T H E L O W D O W N
Ibis Styles Motel: This is a typical yet comfy motel located in Katherine town and it even has a pool! Click here to learn more and to book
Getting to Katherine: From Darwin, rent and car and drive or catch the Greyhound bus
Getting to Bitter Springs and Mataranka: From Katherine, drive south through the town and follow the signs
Camera: Nikon Coolpix S31 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 with M.Zuiko 12-40mm pro lens
Be Crocwise: Any and all swimming in the Territory should be done with caution – pay attention to any and all signs or warnings
Remember: Croc attacks aren’t common but are always a possibility, proceed with caution