OFF THE GRID
Get lost to connect to Country
WORDS KIRSTIE BEDFORD
To truly appreciate how connected Australia’s Indigenous culture is to the land, you need to go bush. In the quiet corners, deep in bushland, rivers and the outback, Aboriginal guides will escort you through Country, and explain its significance to their culture.
Here, we find the top trips you can take that will leave you with an important understanding of that interconnection, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Some of the spectacular scenery you can expect on a tour with Kakadu Cultural Tours.
THE TOP END
If you’re serious about going bush, then this is the place for you. Arnhem Land in the northeast corner of Australia’s Northern Territory is about as wild as it gets. There are more than 97,000 square kilometres of rugged coastlines and rivers heaving with fish, and of course, saltwater crocodiles. The region is home to the Yolŋu people, and you can only visit with a permit. Our suggestion? Take a boat tour with Kakadu Cultural Tours where you can get out on the East Alligator River. There are ample croc-spotting opportunities and you’ll learn how the local people survive off the land. There are also multiple walking tracks around the river, and once you’re on the Arnhem Land side of the river, you can get a crash course in traditional hunting and gathering, and spear techniques.
Learn traditional spear techniques on a tour with Kakadu Cultural Tours.
You'll hear plenty of stories from your Kakadu Cultural Tours guide.
Johnny from Jarramali Rock Art Tours showing guests the Magnificent Gallery.
Kuku Yalanji man Johnny Murison was out bush with a cousin when they came across an astonishing discovery in North Queensland. The pair stumbled upon rock art thought to be 20,000-years-old. The find was so significant Murison decided right then to launch a tourism venture to the site, and Jarramali Rock Art Tours was born. For five years they’ve been guiding people into the site near the historic town of Laura, about 300-kilometres northwest of Cairns. Here you’ll find 450 works of rock art covering a 40-metre long swathe of sandstone including turtles, barramundi and kangaroos; fertility symbols, spirits and hunters. Either chopper in or jump on a 4WD along the historic Maytown-Laura Old Coach Road through savannah grasslands and open woodland. The overnight tour includes camping over a gorge while you listen to the sounds of a didgeridoo.
Seeing rock art for the first time is a moving experience with Jarramali Rock Art Tours.
Take in the vast surrounds of the Australian bush on Jarramali Rock Art tour.
To find the world’s highest concentration of Indigenous rock engravings, you need to head to the red rugged expanse that is Murujuga National Park on the Pilbara’s Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia. This vast landscape is best explored with a guide, and Clinton Walker from Ngurrangga Tours, a descendant of the Pilbara’s Traditional Owners, is just your ticket. Clinton will take you to some of the one million Aboriginal rock carvings, dating back 40,000 years. Those happy to get a little dirty can also head out on one of his bush-tucker tours where you'll make your way through mud, spinifex, scrub and wildflowers foraging for seasonal ingredients and then cook up a feast.
Nitmiluk National Park's 13 gorges provide dramatic scenery from the air.
With 13 gorges carved from ancient sandstone along 12 kilometres of sheer rock, it’s not surprising Nitmiluk National Park has become a Northern Territory drawcard. The 292,000-hectare park is a three-hour drive south of Darwin and deeply significant for the Jawoyn people, who own and operate Nitmiluk Tours. Take a boat cruise on the Katherine River, a maze of waterways where you’ll learn about the geology and geography of the gorge, or jump in a chopper and land near rock art sites and secluded swimming holes. If you want to base yourself here for longer, book into Cicada Lodge (open from April 2022) where all the rooms feature Aboriginal artwork and the restaurant combines traditional herbs and fruit with fresh local fare.
There's no mistaking you're in Australia when you're in the Nitmiluk National Park.
Lessons on the land with Nitmiluk Tours guides.
The scenery doesn't get much better than Mitchell Falls in the Kimberley region, best viewed with Kingfisher Tours. Image: Sarah-Duguid-Photography
The Bungle Bungle Range in the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park has to be seen to be believed. The region is remote — it’ll take you nine hours by car from the tourist town of Broome — so we reckon you’re best to jump on a scenic flight with Kingfisher Tours.
Here you can marvel at the 300-metre-high beehive-shaped domes, created by the erosion of sandstone over 20 million years. After a Welcome to Country, a Gija Custodian will lead you to Cathedral Gorge, pausing to smell medicinal plants and explain Indigenous Songlines. You can spend an afternoon or a few days here, but either way, you’ll leave educated in bush tucker, rock art, outback medicine, astrology and Aboriginal spirits. Don’t miss the sunset where the Bungle Bungles morph from deep red to purple in the fading light.
Kalumburu is the most remote permanent settlement in Western Australia. Visit there with Kingfisher Tours.
Take pause at the picturesque Little Mertens Falls, with Kingfisher Tours.
The vast and incredible Wilpena Pound in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Wilpena Pound Resort’s Aboriginal Cultural Tours will take you there.
One of the most incredible natural wonders in Australia has to be South Australia’s Wilpena Pound. The 800-million-year-old natural amphitheatre is an awe-inspiring ancient landscape in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, the traditional homeland of the Adnyamathanha people, and yet few people realise how significant it is. The area is huge - eight times the size of Uluru, and 300 metres higher. From the air, it looks like a giant crater, but the rim is actually made up of the stumps of huge mountains, home to 500-million-year-old fossils.
Learn how this incredible natural icon came to be according to a Dreamtime Creation story on one of Wilpena Pound Resort’s Aboriginal Cultural Tours. Lead by an Adnyamathanha guide, you’ll be shown sacred sites including 40,000-year-old rock paintings at Arkaroo Rock. At the end of the day, bunk down in a spacious safari tent at the solar-powered Wilpena Pound Resort, where kangaroos and emus graze just metres away.
Wilpena Pound Resort’s Aboriginal Cultural Tours.
Learn the medicinal purposes of plants on a food foraging tour at Wilpena Pound Resort.