Celebrating Australia's Colonial Birthday -- with an Indigenous Twist  

Posted by: shilpz in ,

Today, January 26 is Australia Day, a national holiday down under, celebrating the country's hundred plus years of nationhood and 221 years since it was first discovered by Captain Cook. Although Australia Day technically commemorates white settlement, it is Australia's indigenous culture and history that offers some of the country's most attractive and unique tourism opportunities. Here are a select few tours, educational programs, and accommodation options that specialize in giving visitors a sneak peak into the fascinating and unique culture of Australia's original inhabitants. They also offer access to some of the most remote and pristine parts of the country.

Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris (tel. +61/8-8927-5240; www.arnhemland-safaris.com) runs Mt. Borradaile, a remote safari camp in northern Arnhemland (Aboriginal tribal land) accessed by twin-engine plane from Darwin or Kakadu National Park all the year round, or in the dry season by 4WD vehicle from Kakadu. Mt. Borradaile and the surrounding sandstone hills feature caves filled with well preserved rock paintings in an area inhabited by Aboriginal tribes who have lived in Arnhemland for more than 40,000 years. Owner Max Davidson has been an expert guide in this region for over 25 years and received special permission to establish the camp in Arnhemland. Although there is no set itinerary for visitors, a three-, four- or five-day safari staying at Mt. Borradaile can include activities for the entire family, like 4WD adventures, bush tucker appreciation, photography, bird watching, billabong cruises, visiting rock art galleries, swimming in crocodile-free rock holes, barramundi fishing, bush walking, exploring catacombs, investigating paperbark swamps, rainforest walks, wildlife spotting, and viewing the exotic flora in this fascinating ecosystem.

Accommodations are in comfortable twin-share tents with bathroom facilities including hot showers nearby. Safari rates include round-trip air transportation to Mt. Borradaile, all meals, touring, activities and services of guides. Please note that the nearest shop is 60 miles away and luggage is limited to a small overnight bag of 22 pounds. A three-night safari including flights is priced from A$2,824 based on double occupancy or A$2,231 per person if there a four people traveling together. Four nights are A$3,373 or A$2,313 and a five day safari is A$3,909 or A$3,288 per person.

Bookabee Tours (tel. +61/8-8235-9954; www.bookabee.com.au) offers a five-day Flinders Ranges tour of South Australia led by experienced Aboriginal tour guides who have extensive local knowledge of the area. The tour departs from Adelaide and costs A$2,380 per person twin share plus a 1.5% credit card using fee (children's prices on application). The tour includes chauffeured transfers from Adelaide; two nights' accommodations in the Northern Flinders Ranges; two nights' accommodations at Wilpena Pound Resort; all cultural tours, activities and interpretations with an Aboriginal tour guide; entry fees to Wadlata Outback Centre, Flinders Ranges National Park, Old Wilpena Station and Wilpena Panorama Gallery; all meals on tour (breakfast, lunch, dinner); and native bush foods.

Highlights visits to spectacular and secluded Aboriginal engraving, rock painting and etching sites; learning about the early history of the Adnyamathanha people; tour of a local Ochre Pit; visiting the Nepabunna Community and meeting the locals; learning about native bush foods at Ithala Awi; Balcanoona; encounters with endangered yellow-footed rock wallabies and other wildlife; a tour of Old Wilpena Station; the historic town of Hawker; and a final stop for wine tastings in the Clare Valley. Prices are valid until March 31, 2009.

Kooljaman (tel. +61/8-9192-4970; www.kooljaman.com.au) at Cape Leveque is an award-winning Aboriginal owned wilderness camp. Located about 137 miles north of Broome (on the Dampier Peninsula on the Indian Ocean), in the Western Australian Kimberley region, Kooljaman -- the Bardi Aboriginal tribal name for this area -- is accessible either by air charter (A$200 round-trip per person on King Leopold Air +61/8/9193-7155) or by four wheel drive vehicle (a three hour drive) from Broome. It is a remote paradise offering fishing, swimming, snorkeling and informal bush tucker/Aboriginal cultural tours.

The beaches here offer perhaps the warmest, clearest and most unspoiled turquoise waters you will ever swim in. From mid July to October there is plenty of whale activity just off shore with humpback whales making their southward journey and clearly visible from the beaches. Accommodation ranges from basic beach shelters for A$60 per night to stunning safari tents on raised timber decking with private facilities for A$250 for two. In between you can stay in ensuite log cabins for A$160 or campground units for A$100 for two people. These are peak season rates (from November through March) but you can contact Kooljaman for reduced priced at other times of the year. From here, Goombading Aboriginal Boat Tours operate the "Ultimate Experience" charter vessel, offering day trips to the Sunday Island, part of the Buccaneer Archipelago. The trip is a full-day and includes activities such as swimming, snorkeling, fishing, reef walking, and visiting the remains of the Sunday Island mission. Boat tours cost A$143 per adult and A$88 per child daily from April to November. Desert Tracks (tel. +61/ 8/8956-2563; www.deserttracks.com.au) is an Aboriginal owned company that operates tours led by Pitjantjatjara tribal members in Central Australia. Their five-day Angatja Bush College trip starts from Uluru (Ayers Rock) and includes four nights' camping; all camping equipment, most meals, Anangu guides, permits, and entry fees. A minimum of six people is required for a tour to run but private charters can be arranged. The tour costs A$1,950 for adults and A$975 for children. Travel to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Homelands and Cave Hill to meet the traditional land owners, your hosts, and then visit The Seven Sisters Cave to hear the Tjukurpa -- a creation story depicted in the rock art. The view from the top of Cave Hill provides a 360 degree desert panorama that takes in Uluru, Mt Conner and the Musgrave Ranges.

The unfortunately named "Black Pages" (www.aboriginaltouroperators.com.au/blackpages/blackpages.htm) is an online directory of Aboriginal tour operators and cultural sites owned and operated by indigenous people.

George Hobica gave a great round-up of current Australia airfare deals in his Frommer's Airfare Watchdog article,

This entry was posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 and is filed under , . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .


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