Top End Livin' Local winner takes on the Katherine River

  • 27 July 2022
image of woman in canoe on Katherine River

Last year Tourism NT ran a Livin’ Local photo competition for Territorians to showcase the Territory through a local’s eye. Harnessing the passion of locals to capture and share the NT through their social media, the competition aimed to show the rest of Australia what they were missing out on and encourage holiday visitation to the NT.

With more than 1,000 entries showcasing the natural beauty of the Territory Top End winner Sarsha Sherrif and Red Centre winner Becky Page-Wood submitted picture perfect entries winning a $4,000 NT holiday voucher. Top End winner Sarsha has shared her travel experience with Gecko Canoeing and Trekking’s Katherine River 3 Day Hiatus.

Katherine River Time, travel story by Livin' Local Top End winner Sarsha Sheriff.

If you seek different, this story is for you. I recently joined a three-day paddle safari with Gecko Canoeing and Trekking, a mob that has been operating Katherine River tours for 29 years. Gecko offers the perfect mix of nature immersion, exercise, adventure and fun for all ages.

While packing our camping gear into dry bags, my pre-departure nerves kicked in. Launch preparations were well underway, but I kept thinking would I go the distance paddling my own canoe? Is this safe? What am I doing? Snowy, our river guide soon quietened any anxious feelings I had about casting off into the unknown. He pointed out the route on a map, fitted us with buoyancy vests and explained everything we needed to know.

There was just one more little thing that had me concerned. Thankfully, my partner Adam asked the question on everyone's mind what’s the scoop with crocs? Snowy answered, “Plenty of’s a very healthy river system.” He reassured us it was very likely we would have no serious problems. The crocodiles stayed in the water due to cool overnight temperatures and were far more interested in the plentiful fish supply than us. “There is no need for a crocodile to expend an enormous amount of energy which it can’t replace easily. The available food resource for freshies (crocodiles) and salties (bigger crocodiles) is big and at this time of the year they are almost entirely focussed on keeping warm.” In other words, the crocodiles were sticking to the fish and nothing bigger and staying in the warm water overnight - away from our camping spots on the river’s sandy banks.

Over the next three days, I sat in the driver’s seat, challenging myself and honing my skills while reconnecting with nature. On day one I was getting to know my canoe, finding my sweet spot and working on my technique while taking in the beauty of the river. By day two I was slowly finding my rhythm with the river and my paddle style. Murmurs of the rapids brought out my inner explorer. The scenery was an ever-changing visual feast for the eyes. From ancient ferns and paperbark trees lining the riverbank to an eclectic mix of birds doing their thing as we gently paddled by.

Gecko Canoeing and Trekking focuses on designing leisurely and flexible experiences that are remote, wild and relaxing. Our trip was all that and more. Where else can you holiday and not see another soul for three days? Snowy has an expansive knowledge of, and a genuine affinity with the river. He made the journey fascinating and educational with his ever-affable delivery style. Every aspect was carefully considered, from the great-tasting meals to the comfortable, lightweight bedding. At lunchtime, the billy tea and sandwiches kept us fuelled while at night treats such as salmon parcels and roast lamb were cooked on the fire. We felt very special sipping wine and dining by candlelight under the stars.

On day three, with paddle gripped wider, I finally perfected my technique during our cone of silence morning canoe. A cone of silence means no one is allowed to speak while under its spell. Using hand signals to communicate we shared the world around us. We opened our ears to
every bird call and paddle swoosh, and observed wildlife carrying out their daily routines - a longneck turtle swimming between our boats, hundreds of Kites circling high and Yellow Winged butterflies drinking from mineral-rich freshwater springs along the river bank.

As we pulled our canoes up the bank one last time, I felt a tad sad the tour had come to an end. Having just found my river time I knew I would be planning a five-day canoe trip very soon. I returned home with a skip in my step and a great sense of accomplishment. Gecko Canoeing and Trekking delivered an unforgettable experience. I highly recommend their tours to anyone with a spirit of adventure and a love of nature. If you seek different, then this is for you. Do yourself a favour and book with these top-notch operators for a wild adventure.

Many thanks to Tourism NT for their generous prize which enabled me to go with Gecko Canoeing and Trekking on this adventure through the Livin’ Local NT photo competition for Territorians.

Page last updated on 27 July 2022