Termites

Litchfield National Park Travel Blog

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We started with a 6:30am drive to Litchfield National Park. Our group was almost all Europeans, with one Canadian and we were the only Australians. We asked the tour organiser and only 25% of the tourists they get in the NT are from Australia.

The land up here is beautiful. Oddly enough, it looks a lot like the Red Centre, but coated with a layer of verdent green grasses and ferns for the wet season. How strange to see fire-blackened gum trees in a landscape as green as European fields, instead of surrounded by the olive greens and innumerable shades of brown of the South Australian landscape. The termite mounds were beautiful. In addition to the small mounds we get around Adelaide there were Cathedral mounds and Magnetic mounds. The Cathedral mounds are built by a species that needs well drained soils, and they keep the colony cool by building towering chimneys up to five metres tall.

The Magnetic mounds are built by a species that lives on the flood plains, and can tolerate the water. This species of termite is able to sense the magnetic field, and they build very tall, wide and thin mounds, aligned on the north-south axis, to reduce the amount of light heating the mound. Depending on the local conditions, slight deviations from the north-south axis are more suited, but the termites are genetically programmed for a particular degree deviation, so that natural selection wipes out the unsuited colonies and only leaves those with the degree of deviation suited for the local conditions. With the flood plain bare of trees and hundreds of termite slabs standing, it looked like an overgrown graveyard.

We have been seeing a lot of wildlife, Short-eared Rock Wallabies, Agile Wallabies, Kangaroos, Kites, emus, waterbuffalo, Owls, frogs, goannas, geese, wrens, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Blue-faced Honeyeaters, and many more we can't name.

We drove down to Florence Falls, where we swam in the pool at the bottom of the falls. It was such an iconic Northern Territory moment - after the humid heat sapping our strength we were able to relax in the delicously cool water, surrounded by ferns and with a light mist falling on us from the falls. we also drove to, and swam at, Buley Rockhole, and then looked out over Tolmer Falls. We didn't swim there, because Tolmer is home to one of the most important colonies of the very rare Orange Horseshoe bat. This species of bat is very bad at thermoreglation when at rest, and therefore only a few caves in northern Australia are at just the right temperature and humidity for it.

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Litchfield National Park
photo by: Morle