Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris, Mount Borradaile, Northern Territory © Tourism Australia
Bush and outback
Explore working cattle stations, outback gorges, ancient rock art galleries and waterholes with an Aboriginal guide.
New South Wales
Bundyi Cultural Tours
The Riverina region of New South Wales holds millennia-old Aboriginal secrets, many of which are revealed on a Bundyi Cultural tour with local Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler. Experiences can last from a couple of hours to a full day – whichever one you choose, you’ll gain eye-opening insights into the Aboriginal communities who hail from the Wagga Wagga region, around a five-hour drive south-west of Sydney. Discover “scar trees” and ancient shell middens, and then glimpse sacred sites including Galore Hill Scenic Reserve and The Rock Nature Reserve – Kengal Aboriginal Place. This spiritual Dreaming and ceremonial location is believed to be where the Creator of all things, Baiame, left his dingoes before ascending to the sky. Your adventure will also give you a taste for bush tucker, whether in its raw form (try saltbush) or infused in Mark’s wattleseed damper; pick a longer tour and he’ll also prepare a delicious barbecue lunch.
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris is located at Mount Borradaile (a 50-minute flight east of Darwin). This iconic eco-lodge, and its accompanying suite of activities are sanctioned by the area’s Traditional Owners, whose link to the area dates back 50,000 years. Tailored tours capitalise on the immense splendour and tranquillity of this pocket of Arnhem Land, especially its water-filled features such as the billabong beneath Mount Borradaile and nearby wetlands, alive with crocodiles and long-legged water birds. Your stay includes all meals, tours and activities, as well as permit fees (this land cannot be accessed publicly, so all visitors must have a permit). The lodge serves fine-dining fare in a relaxed communal space fringed by a serene pool.
Kakadu Cultural Tours
Kakadu Cultural Tours specialise in the broader Ubirr region, including one of the most sacred and stunning sites at Kakadu National Park, Ubirr itself. In the company of predominantly Aboriginal guides, guests can take a cultural cruise along Alligator River; embark on a one-day 4WD culture and heritage tour of Arnhem Land and Northern Kakadu; or take a two- or three-day stay at Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge, a beautiful abode in an otherwise restricted area of northern Kakadu National Park, or Anbinik Kakadu Resort, architecturally designed accommodation in Jabiru township. Kakadu Cultural Tours take guests beyond the main ‘galleries’ (large conglomerations of outdoor rock art) to restricted-access billabongs, secret art sites and living floodplains.
Brimming with thunderous waterfalls, verdant wetlands and ochre-toned escarpments, Kakadu is the world’s largest terrestrial national park, equal in size to the nation of Switzerland. Amplifying the power of Kakadu’s natural beauty are its Aboriginal culture and traditions, as nurtured by Traditional Owners. Kakadu Tourism, a collective of accommodation and tour offerings including two excellently positioned hotels and several tour options, offers guests the ability to tap into these twin features of the park. The signature experience is Kakadu’s must-do Yellow Waters Billabong cruise. Mostly led by Bininj Aboriginal guides, this experience puts you face-to-face with the magnificent wetlands, home to 60 species of birds and a plethora of buffaloes and crocodiles.
Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience & Tours
The breathtaking Kings Canyon, located in Australia’s Red Centre provides the ultimate backdrop for the one-hour Aboriginal Cultural Tour, by Karrke. Learn about dot painting, tools, weapons, bush tucker and medicinal plants used by the Central Australia desert people during this hands-on experience; be introduced to native foods such as bush tomato, discover the significance of dot painting, and see how mulga wood is shaped into tools such as spears, hunting clubs and boomerangs. There is also opportunity to ask as many questions as you can about Luritja and Pertame (Southern Arrernte) language and culture, and how people have thrived in this extreme but often bountiful landscape for tens of thousands of years.
Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris
Swim in clear pools serenaded by waterfalls, trek through ancient rock art galleries, and uncover Aboriginal cultural stories of the Northern Territory’s Top End, alongside one of the state’s most lauded and experienced guides. Among many other sites, Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris takes in Arnhem Land, gems within Kakadu including the lesser-known Koolpin Gorge, and indulgent retreats such as Bamurru Plains, Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris’ eco lodge and the 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and operated Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park. Lords also incorporates its own accommodation into trips with an exclusive ‘bush camp’ for 12 guests set within Kakadu. It’s furnished with comfortable beds and a fire pit for night-time meals and tale-telling.
Uluru-based art collective Maruku Arts runs gallery spaces and outdoor painting workshops in one of Australia’s most iconic landscapes. Participate in a dot-painting or punu-making workshop (punu is a woodcarving practice, involving decoration with lines created through a burn technique), during which you’ll discover a suite of art-making tools, learn a handful of words in the artist’s Aboriginal language and be invited to represent something of personal significance within your own artwork. Classes are run by established, knowledgeable and warm Aboriginal artists, with the aide of an interpreter. Alternatively, view the organisation’s impressive array of art and wooden sculpture in the nearby Maruku Arts Gallery. The organisation also performs ‘inma’ – meaning ceremonial dance and song.
Three hours south-east of Darwin lies a network of 13 towering gorges, through which snakes the Katherine River. This is Nitmiluk National Park: home to the Jawoyn people and a riot of rugged beauty. Nitmiluk Tours, a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned company, lets you enjoy the best of Jawoyn country and culture via its smorgasbord of cruises, hikes, cave tours, swims, canoeing trips and scenic helicopter flights – not to mention its accommodation offerings, which include everything from a camping ground and cabins, through to the luxurious Cicada Lodge. Be sure to walk to the first gorge lookout point for sunset or sunrise – or, if you find yourself closer to Katherine, join one of Nitmiluk Tours’ guided walks through the fascinating Cutta Cutta Caves.
SEIT Outback Australia
Uluru’s Traditional Owners, the Aboriginal Anangu, have called the park home for 60,000 years. SEIT – which stands for Spirit, Emotion, Intellect and Task – serves to share this heritage with visitors via small group tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences. SEIT’s powerful Patji tour takes you beyond the main park’s boundaries to the homelands of Uluru’s traditional family. Over afternoon tea, sit with Aboriginal people to hear stories of their epic fight for land rights in Central Australia, plus other intimate accounts of Aboriginal life in the region.
Top Didj Cultural Experience & Art Gallery
Take in the plentiful art, didgeridoos, artefacts, gifts and books in the Top Didj art gallery, before joining a morning or afternoon Aboriginal artist-led cultural experience. Located in the town of Katherine, three hours south of Darwin, the organisation runs the popular Top Didj cultural experience, a two-and-a-half hour session led by charismatic Aboriginal artist, Manuel Pamkal. Enrich your practical understanding of local customs, hunting practices and art-making over the course of this uplifting morning or afternoon – and return home having painted your own work of art. Alternatively, browse the outstanding array of Jawoyn and Dagoman work, as well as that from Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and the Central Western Desert.
Venture North Australia
Design a private trip, or join a four- or five-day safari in luxury 4WD vehicles: Venture North offers multi-award-winning luxury 4WD safaris, which travel to Arnhem Land, Kakadu and Garig Gunak Barlu National Park from Darwin. Take in a visit to the art-mad Aboriginal community of Gunbalanya, where you’ll embark on a moving rock art tour with an Aboriginal guide, traverse the stone country and wetlands of Kakadu, and stay at Venture North’s exclusive bush bungalow campsite, which features views across the clear waters of Cobourg Marine Park, plus rustic, comfortable rooms dotted among native foliage.
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia – Ayers Rock Resort
In the sand dunes beside Uluṟu, rests Ayers Rock Resort, an accommodation and cultural experience collective comprising five different stays and more than 65 tours. The resort offers a restful base from which to explore the awe-inspiring Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and its famous monoliths (both 860-metre high Uluru and the lofty domes of Kata Tjuta), as well as to connect you more fervently with the rich Aboriginal culture and landscape of the Red Centre. Take a camel ride into the sunset; meander through the lush greenery at Uluru’s base – viewing rock art illustrating the site’s creation stories as you walk; or dine under a canopy of stars at a Sounds of Silence dinner, an atmosphere-laden evening of food, culture and astronomy, held amid sand dunes and silent surrounds.
Jarramali Rock Art Tours
When Kuku Yalanji man Johnny Murison stumbled across a gallery of Aboriginal rock art while four-wheel driving in outback Queensland a few years ago, his life changed forever. The former carpenter set up Jarramali Rock Art Tours in 2017 to show visitors the so-called “Magnificent Gallery,” part of the world-renowned Quinkan rock art outside the tiny town of Laura in far north Queensland. “I can show you the whole structure of our society by looking at that gallery,” says Murison, who is just as interesting as the 20,000-year-old rock art he loves showing off to the world. Guests travel to the Magnificent Gallery in his four-wheel drive, nicknamed The Beast, along one of the wildest roads in the country and, if they’re on the overnight tour, get to sit around the campfire listening to his yarns and listening to the sounds of the didgeridoo echoing in the night.
Wilpena Pound Resort
If you want to visit one of the oldest landscapes on Earth, a good place to start is Wilpena Pound Resort in South Australia’s dramatic Flinders Ranges, the only accommodation within the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. The Resort, owned and operated by the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners, offers a range of guided Aboriginal cultural tours that include 4WD tours to visit 550-million-year-old fossil sites and ancient rock engravings, walking tours to Old Wilpena Station and scenic flights over extraordinary Wilpena Pound, an 800-million-year-old natural amphitheatre. Located 430 kilometres (267 miles) north of Adelaide, the Resort provides a range of accommodation options from motel rooms and safari-style 'glamping' tents, as well as powered and unpowered bush campsites.
Worn Gundidj @ Tower Hill
Ever wanted to try your hand at throwing a returning boomerang? That is just one of the skills you may pick up on a 90-minute walking tour at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, run by local Aboriginal cooperative, WG Enterprises. Found along Australia’s most scenic drive, the Great Ocean Road (near Melbourne), the reserve is known as a wonderful place to get up close with local wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, echidnas, possums and sugar gliders, as well as approximately 160 different species of bird. Examine artefacts from axe handles to possum cloaks and perhaps enjoy a didgeridoo performance, as well as getting an introduction to local bush foods. There will also be the opportunity to learn more about the area’s many histories, from the turbulent forces that shaped its geology to the Aboriginal era, right through to European settlement.
No-one knows Western Australia’s ruggedly beautiful Kimberley region quite like its Traditional Custodians. Kingfisher Tours only uses local Aboriginal guides to lead its single and multi-day explorations of this extraordinary wilderness area in the state’s north-west. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of its key places, from the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park with its beehive-shaped Bungle Bungle Range, to the jaw-dropping four-tiered Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls), and the lonely islands scattered along the wild Kalumburu Coast. Tours typically depart from Broome, Kununurra or Darwin and most begin with a scenic flight over the spectacular Kimberley landscape, followed by a traditional Welcome to Country ceremony. The greeting sets the tone for meaningful hikes to rock art, 4WD adventures to a remote Aboriginal community, and forging unforgettable connections around the campfire. These all-inclusive, small group experiences run from April to September.
Ngurrangga Tours’ Clinton Walker is a descendant of the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi people, Traditional Owners of the West Pilbara in the north of Western Australia. And there’s no better tour guide to this vast swathe of red dirt than Walker, who holds deep knowledge of his country – ngurra – passed down from Elders and is passionate about bringing visitors to the Pilbara in general, but to the Birrup Peninsula in particular. The peninsula is virtually unknown yet is home to an estimated million Aboriginal rock carvings, some dating back as far as 40,000 years. He’s also armed with lightning-quick humour: on Ngurrangga’s Instagram feed, he describes a goanna scurrying away from the sound of his boots as “fast food”.
Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures
Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures offers a terrific array of tours ranging from two-hour to multi-day experiences in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Owner Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell offers an insider’s view of local Aboriginal culture through animal tracking, tasting bush tucker and traditionally caught seafood, and identifying the uses of various medicine plants, as well as didgeridoo lessons and Dreamtime stories. More active experiences include bush-tucker walks, kayaking and snorkelling adventures, stand-up paddleboard tours, camping safaris and fly/drive expeditions.