Kakadu National Park is packed with treasures, so the fact that Ubirr is considered one of its unmissable gems is really saying something. Only accessible via a 39km sealed road, this is a thought-provoking and highly spiritual spot deep in the Aussie countryside which will bowl you over with its serene stillness.
Found in the East Alligator region of the Northern Territory national park, Ubirr might not look much at first glance – a group of rocky outcrops far from civilisation doesn’t typically attract this much attention – but this sacred site is home to a unique slice of history.
The reason for Ubirr’s worldwide fame is a collection of ancient aboriginal art which is said to date back to 40,000 BCE. There are three galleries of art here, and the subjects depicted include animals from the area such as barramundi, catfish, mullet, turtles, possums and wallabies.
Predating the animals are images of mimi spirits: long and thin figures who can slip in and out of the rock. One of the mysteries that adds to the air of otherworldliness at Ubirr is how the artists managed to create these particular images, high up as they are on the rock. Legend has it that the spirits painted the pictures themselves, bringing the rock down to ground level to do so. Listening to the National Park rangers (many of whom are indigenous themselves) talk about the art is very inspiring.
Once you have taken in the majesty of the art on show at Ubirr, it is worth heading up to the Nardab Lookout, an elevated viewpoint which is reached by a 250m climb. Watching the sun set in the west from this magical spot is a wonderfully calming experience. You’ll take in a panoramic view of the flood plains which stretch out before you and feel a wave of serenity wash over you.
The most sacred site for the indigenous people at Ubirr, though, is the Rainbow Serpent Gallery, an area traditionally reserved for women only (although tourists are allowed exemption from the rule). Its sacred status comes from the visit of the Rainbow Serpent during the Dreaming, when she travelled across the top end of Australia.
Make sure to pack a camera to capture your experience - often the true power of the images’ history and significance is only fully revealed when you look at the photos back at home and realise just how long ago they were created!