Holmes Jungle Nature Park
Directions - Located just out of Darwin, from the CBD take Tiger Brennan Drive east until you reach Amy Johnson Drive. Turn left and follow this road until you reach McMillans Road, turn right here and then left onto Vanderlin Drive. The Holmes Jungle Nature Park entry is signposted off Vanderlin Drive with parking at the Hilltop Picnic Area.
The Hike - With another family holiday planned to the NT, this time we would be heading south and staying in Katherine. Flying into Darwin and spending a full day there before driving to Katherine, I had one last walk that I wanted to do. For some reason I had missed seeing the Holmes Jungle Nature Park as a viable place to visit on our last trip in 2019, so this visit I was going to rectify that. Located a short drive from the centre of Darwin, I suggested to Caris that we make it a mid afternoon visit before heading to the famous Mindal Markets when they opened.
Arriving at the Hilltop Picnic Area, there were a few cars here already and after applying sunscreen, we headed to the gazebo to look at the information board. Having a bit of a giggle at the Spangled Drongo (a bird) that we might see, we set off to find the start of the Woodlands Walk that led down to the Jungle Picnic Area. This wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, even after locating a wooden sign pointing us in roughly the right direction. There didn't seem to be a visible trail and after exploring the edge of the mowed area of grass, we made our way back to the wooden sign and eventually found what looked like a trail. It wasn't a complete loss as we saw our only Turkey Bush of the walk and spotted a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo hiding in the bushes. The sort-of trail turned out to be the proper trail and soon we were walking through the dry savanna style woodlands that made up most of the area around Darwin before it was built over as the city expanded. There was plenty to enjoy through here with fruiting Cycads, Pandanus, an interesting looking Hübner's Wasp Moth and plenty of birds including a Striated Pardalote.
As we approached the Jungle Picnic Area, we noticed a lot of orange flowers on the ground and looking up, it was thanks to a flowering gum called the Woollybutt (Eucalyptus miniata). The fallen flowers were about as close as I could get for photos given they were high up in the canopy. Spotting a few large fruiting Pandanus was great and these large palms would be a mainstay of the holiday photos throughout our time in the NT. Arriving at the Jungle Picnic Area, we located the next part of the trail that leads into the Monsoon Forests surrounding Palm Creek and the various little waterways that feed into it. Although the Woodlands Walk had its own charm, I was looking forward to the Monsoon Forest. Passing through the open picnic area, there are some lovely smooth barked Eucalyptus trees providing some shade but the palm trees up ahead signalled the denser forest was not too far away. As we entered Monsoon Forest, the temperature dropped and the lighting became a bit of an issue thanks to the high contrast between the light and dark. Distracting me from the bad lighting conditions were the butterflies floating about, with a Swamp Tiger settling on a nearby leaf for me to photograph.
Popping out into a more open spot that I liked to call Dragonfly Alley, there were plenty of them flying around. I luckily had a few of them stay still long enough to get some photos, including two Painted Grasshawks that had landed on the same stick. Excited by a couple of cool sightings, we moved on towards a tributary of Palm Creek that was complete with Crocodile safety sign you get at every body of water in a public space. There was a shallow pool to the right that didn't show any signs of having a crocodile lurking and the flowing stream was much too small to fit a saltie or even a freshwater croc. Moving on, I spotted something I really wasn't expecting on my visit to the Northern Territory, some fungi. Although this is the coldest time of year in the Top End, I usually associate fungi with the winter months of the year back in Western Australia when it's wet and cold. Being dry and fairly warm at this time of the year, it was a surprise but I guess living within the wetter Monsoon Forest provides a climate it can survive in during this time of the year.
Moving on, the trail takes you through a denser part of the forest before popping out into a semi-open section of grassland. Spotting more Swamp Tigers, one thankfully landed in a sunny spot and I obliged by taking more photos. Arriving at the bridge over Palm Creek, this was a much bigger waterway, although being the middle of the dry season, possibly about as low as it would get. Again, there were more crocodile safety signs but the water didn't look very inviting to swim in anyway. It was a pretty looking creek in its own way with the dense jungle lining the water providing a dense canopy to shade us. I was intrigued by the sign on the other side of the bridge and closer inspection revealed the trail ahead to be closed for rehabilitation. Given the map above shows a loop trail and there is a corresponding sign at the Jungle Picnic Area, I would say this is just going to be an out and back trail from now on. With this point marking the end of our journey at Holmes Jungle, we turned around and headed back to the Hilltop Picnic Area, searching for different birds, bugs and flowers that we may have missed on the way out.