Introducing Gunbalanya (Oenpelli)
Gunbalanya is a small Aboriginal community 17km into Arnhem Land across the East Alligator River from the Border Store in Kakadu. The drive in itself is worth it with brilliant green wetlands and spectacular escarpments all around. Road access is only possible between May and October: check the tides at Cahill's Crossing on the East Alligator River before setting out so you don't get stuck on the other side.
A permit is required to visit the town, usually issued for visits to the Injalak Arts & Crafts Centre. At this centre, artists and craftspeople produce traditional paintings on bark and paper, plus didgeridoos, pandanus weavings and baskets, and screen-printed fabrics, either at the arts centre or on remote outstations throughout Arnhem Land.
As you walk around the verandah of the arts centre to see the artists at work (morning only), peer out over the wetland at the rear to the escarpment and Injalak Hill (Long Tom Dreaming). Knowledgeable local guides lead tours to see the fine rock-art galleries here. The three-hour tours (bookings essential) cost from $150 per group. Although it may be possible to join a tour as a walk-in, it's generally best to book a tour from Jabiru or Darwin.
The Northern Land Council issues permits (adult/child $16.50/free) to visit Injalak, usually on the spot. It also provides tide times for the East Alligator River, which is impassable at high tide.