We took the Katherine Gorge dinner cruise 6 May 2013 and loved it. It is without doubt one of the highlights of our brief trip to the ‘top end’ and well worth the long distances to get there. We had decided to drive the 300 km plus from Jabiru for this experience, rather than just return to Darwin. A lot of extra kms, but no regrets.
We stayed at the Nitmiluk Chalets rather than Katherine 30 km away and that will be the subject of a separate review. We parked near the information office and it was necessary to walk about 400 metres from there to the boat departure point, a bit undulating with a few steps. Only when we approached the departure point did we become aware that we could have driven the car to within 100 m of the departure spot, and a much easier walk. I was amused to see two signs for people to wait behind; one sign for the evening dinner cruise and another for the dawn cruise. I wonder how many people would have been queued for the dawn cruise at 4:30 pm?
A person who later turned out to be the steward collected details of who wanted steak and who wanted barramundi, and also advised that couples would be sharing tables set for four.
So off we went on the cruise for the first gorge. There would have only been about 24 people on this trip and the boat would have taken about 60 or so with fixed seating 3x3, therefore there was plenty of room to move around taking photos from the front and either side. I sat in the front row of seats. The views were great and the guide/skipper very informative about the history of the region and indigenous culture.
At the end of the first cruise came the bit that I had been concerned about – the walk to the second canyon as my walking capacity is limited due to a bad back. Although the walk is about 800 metres I found it to be very easy with a few concrete stairs for short distances, concrete paths over what would have been rocky areas, and short boardwalks in other sections. Noting how well all this had been done, I enquired of the guide how it had been performed in such a remote and inaccessible region to be advised that the concrete had been flown in by helicopter. Speaking with a fellow passenger who had taken this cruise for the first time about 12 years ago and she advised at that time they had to scramble over rocks to get between the two gorges. A big well done Nitmiluk National Park for what would have been a very difficult task.
Off on the second gorge cruise. I noted that there were four tour boats moored in a very protected section of the river. These must stay here for the duration of the dry season but would be able to move between the gorges in the wet when the water levels were high. These boats were configured slightly differently, and although all of the boats were set up for bow boarding, these ones had huge handrails sticking up which made it a bit tricky to photograph the natural wonders without having them obstruct the exposure.
The second gorge was even more spectacular than the first, but with the sun low on the horizon some of the beauty could not be captured on my basic camera (my better camera had run out of power shortly after arriving at Nitmiluk Chalets after taking photos of wallabies just outside our cabin door).
There are a lot of interesting geological features along this section, and the picture postcard view of the long narrow gorge section as seen in most of the publicity for this region. Gorgeous. At the end of the second gorge there appeared to only be a very short walk of about 20 metres to join the boat for the third gorge tour, which was not on our schedule, so we turned around and back to the transfer point where the boat set up for our dinner was waiting for us.
This boat, while almost the same as the others, had no permanent seating but eight round tables, six set with four places. As we entered from the bow the chef was standing to the right behind a reasonable size BBQ hot plate, and the bloke who had taken our order to the left and offered everyone boarding a small flute of sparkly wine. We were allocated seating and had the pleasure of sharing the table with two charming nurses from Melbourne, one of whom had been working in Katherine for the past two months and was able to provide us with some information on life up here which was very interesting.
The dinner boat departed with the sun sinking below the rim of the western facing sections of the gorge then it stopped in a wide section where the dying rays of the sun down gorge were clearly visible and provided great photo opportunities. All this time a wonderful variety of food courses were presented, starting with a small cup of cream of crocodile soup, which tasted like clam chowder to me, followed by lemon sorbet which was yummy, then the main course with some strange mixture of a side dish for all to share, but as the only effective lighting were the three candles on each table, I don’t know what was in that. The barramundi was a large steak, and not the nicest barra I have eaten on this trip, being a bit dry, but I suppose that is due to being cooked on the BBQ, almost in the dark by the chef I might add. The last course was a sweet of pancetta.
We then returned to the docking areas with the boat shining spotlights fore and port to perhaps sight some croc activity. Oh, we had sighted a small freshy in the second gorge on the way up but could not get anywhere close to it for a view other than through a powerful lens. The steward then came around to collect for the drinks, and this was a big whoops on my behalf. I thought the dinner cruise included drinks and had left my wallet in the Chalet, with my wife leaving her purse there also. Oh, well, it can be added to the bill tomorrow when we check out. I only had two beers.
The next whoops appeared very shortly also – no torch. It was very dark and no way could we have walked the path back to the Information office and the carpark where I had parked the car. Our dining companions had driven down to the nearby carpark and kindly offered to drive us up to the top area where our car was. One of them had a phone thing with a torch incorporated, and even then they nearly got lost. Thank you ladies for your assistance.
Is it worth it – my oath, if you enjoy wonderful scenery and a nice meal combined.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.