Nature and wildlife
Experience unique wildlife, enjoy great fishing and see Australia’s incredible landscapes through different eyes.
Bremer Island Banubanu Beach Retreat
Bremer Island Banubanu Beach Retreat is located on Arnhem Land’s Bremer Island – one of Australia’s most remote and untouched wilderness areas. Home to pristine beaches, scores of sea turtles and flocks of colourful birds, this truly is the place to unwind and reconnect with nature, with a retreat experience designed around an appreciation of the therapeutic and uplifting benefits of stepping away from the hustle. Choose from guided experiences showcasing local marine life, fishing and Aboriginal art and customs; take chartered fishing voyages in seas teeming with mackerel, red emperor, jewfish and coral trout; experience traditional, immersive mud-crabbing with spears; or enjoy cultural encounters with local Aboriginal guides via a three-hour 4WD journey around the island. Only 20 guests stay on the island at any given time, ensuring a memorably intimate experience.
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.
Intrepid Travel, Journey into East Arnhem Land
East Arnhem Land was inaccessible to visitors until a 2017 partnership was forged between Aboriginal Australians and adventure company Intrepid Travel. Ideal for open-minded, adventurous travellers, the special and distinctive seven-day Journey into East Arnhem Land has an immersive focus on the belief systems, art and traditions of the Aboriginal Yolngu people’s Nyinyikay lands. Stay in a mix of camping, beach cabin and lodge accommodation and spend time absorbing local cultural lessons and workshops before travelling onward to the immaculate Bremer Island. Here, you’ll embark on a chilled-out retreat of unplugged relaxation, paired with a discovery of the island’s rich assembly of wildlife, including nesting sea turtles, water birds and schools of tropical fish.
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, paired with meals and two atmosphere-laden cruises through a landscape believed to have been ‘sung’ into existence by the rainbow serpent during the Dreamtime. This company offers guests the ability to travel 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. 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.
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.
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 chalets, 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.
Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours
Focused entirely on introducing you to the traditional Aboriginal way of life, Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours’ signature two-hour immersion journey offers intimate lessons in local bush tucker and medicine, making baskets and bags, throwing spears and playing instruments such as the clap sticks and didgeridoo, a short drive from Darwin. The family-run business enjoys strong ancestral ties to the area. Afterwards, relax and chat over shared damper (traditional bush bread, cooked on an open fire) and a cup of tea. Further deepen your experience with a trip to the Northern Coastal Wetlands, where you’ll learn about the family’s connection to the water and its animal inhabitants, while also absorbing the scenic, fertile surrounds.
RT Tours Australia
Step away from the mainstream tourist scene, and embark on a richer, quieter journey through Central Australia on a lunch or dinner experience with RT Tours Australia, both of which whisk you beyond the township of Alice Springs through to the grand, red cliffs of the MacDonnell Ranges. It’s here that Aboriginal Australian man Bob Taylor – founder of RT Tours Australia, and a member of the Aboriginal Arrernte nation – sets up his bush barbecue and invites you for a relaxed chat about his culture. Your host also leads extended tours with an art, birdwatching and bushwalking focus. In addition to homing in on the Alice Springs region, Bob’s longer journeys travel through Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park.
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. In particular, SEIT’s Cave Hill day tour, led by an Aboriginal guide, shines a spotlight on the Songlines (stories) of creation ancestors, as well as the cave paintings that bring them to life. Equally powerful is the Patji tour, which 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.
Venture North Safaris
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.
Adventure North Australia – Daintree Dreaming Tour
Adventure North Australia offers close to a dozen experiences departing from Cairns and Port Douglas, from day trips to three-day journeys that take you to hard-to-access areas of Cape Tribulation. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to spear fish, catch a crab or fossick for bush tucker, here is your chance. After learning these techniques with guidance from Kubirri-Warra brothers Linc or Brandon Walker, you’ll cook up your haul and enjoy it with damper, a traditional bread. Go off-road in 4WDs to access some of the most important sights Tropical North Queensland has to offer, including excursions to far-flung corners of the state. The Walkers share their knowledge of the environment and traditional foods while following in the footsteps of their ancestors. Full-day and multi-day trips take you through the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, to sacred Aboriginal beaches and ancient rock formations.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel
Queensland’s Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel experience offers guests a rare opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef accompanied by Aboriginal guides from the region, whose traditional ownership of sea country stretches from the Frankland Islands south of Cairns to Port Douglas in its north. Departing from Cairns, guests embark on a day-long adventure of guided snorkel tours and learning about the ancient relationships between man, marine creatures and the ecosystem they’ve shared for tens of thousands of years. Launched in late 2018 by Reef Magic Cruises, it is the first – and only – experience that celebrates north Queensland’s Aboriginal maritime heritage.
Flames of the Forest – Aboriginal Cultural Experience
Flames of the Forest’s Aboriginal Cultural Experience involves heading into the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics rainforest, near Cairns, for a seven-dish banquet dinner served under a silk canopy illuminated by hand-made crystal chandeliers. Cultural experiences are interwoven with the dinner, as your Kuku Yalanji hosts share music, ceremony and storytelling, as well as inviting guests to spend some time sitting quietly, listening to the sounds of the rainforest at night. The food is modern Australian, locally sourced where possible, and features plenty of bush tucker ingredients: the night’s signature dish is a lemon myrtle-infused kangaroo loin, served on a bed of wild rocket and toasted macadamia nuts garnished with homemade fig chutney.
Rainforestation Nature Park – Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience
If you’re keen on learning to throw a boomerang or want advice from experts on how to play the didgeridoo, Cairns’ Rainforestation Nature Park is the place to come. Set amid 40 hectares of World Heritage-listed rainforest, a 30-minute drive north of Cairns city, this eco-friendly, family-owned nature park has called the jungle home since 1974, working with Aboriginal communities to develop tours and performances inspired by the land that has sustained them for thousands of years. Their signature offering, the one-hour Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience, stands out for its dedication to preserving and sharing the stories of the Pamagirri people. During the activity, you’ll be led into the Daintree to attend a ceremonial dance in a rainforest amphitheatre, where the tropical trees, vines and fauna act as the theatre’s living walls.
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia – Mossman Gorge Centre
Aboriginal-owned Mossman Gorge Centre is located 20 minutes’ drive north of Port Douglas in the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, where the Kuku Yalanji people have lived for centuries. It is also the starting point for their multi-award-winning signature experience, the Ngadiku Indigenous Guided Dreamtime Walks. Ngadiku means ‘stories and legends from long ago’ in local Kuku Yalanji language, and that’s exactly what you can expect on this memorable rainforest exploration. Learn about bush foods and bush medicine, pick up skills such as how to make ‘bush soap’, and experience a traditional smoking ceremony. The guided experience ends with bush tea and damper.
Walkabout Cultural Adventures
Discover where two World Heritage sites meet – the Wet Tropics Rainforest (home of World Heritage-listed Daintree) and the Great Barrier Reef – and learn about the environment and wildlife from an Aboriginal perspective on tour with owner of Walkabout Cultural Adventures, Juan Walker. Walker’s parents and grandparents (and many generations before them) were born in the region – he will point out where – making this a deeply personal, intimate experience. Cruise mangroves scanning for mud crabs in tidal flats, forage for pipis in the shallows, and learn how to throw a spear to catch your next meal. Juan is the ideal guide for tours highlighting the Daintree Rainforest region. Half-day, full-day and private journeys are all available.
Cape Cultural Tours
Cape Cultural Tours offers explorations of one the world’s major biodiversity hotspots, the bucolic Margaret River region. Gain insight into the land’s natural history from two perspectives: through millions of years of ecology, and through generations of Aboriginal eyes. See rare wildflowers, taste fragrant native plants such as bush celery, learn the purpose of the six Aboriginal seasons, and hear Dreaming stories that bring the past and present together. You might choose to hike around the rocky tip of Cape Naturaliste, explore Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and its surrounds, or go fishing for salmon, herring and bream inside spectacular Meelup Regional Park, where whales and dolphins often bob in glass-clear waters. Some tours begin with a ‘welcome to country’ ceremony and include a mesmerising didgeridoo performance and interpretation of Aboriginal artefacts such as hand-carved boomerangs and firesticks.
Kooljaman at Cape Leveque
Solar-powered wilderness retreat Kooljaman is run by the Bardi Jawi people. It is found on a 4WD-only road in the vast Kimberley region, on tip of Western Australia’s saffron-hued Dampier Peninsula. Accommodation offerings include the rustic comfort of ocean-facing cabins, or large hillside safari tents blessed with far-reaching views. Cultural and nature-based experiences on offer range from four-hour coastal walks through mangroves, mud-crabbing and fish-trapping adventures, to meeting with local Aboriginal people, and day-long fishing cruises to nearby Sunday Island, where traditional owners will show you an old mission settlement and tell stories over billy tea.
Koomal Dreaming adds another dimension to Margaret River’s winemaking and gastronomic appeal by connecting you to the Noongar culture, which stretches across the southern third of Western Australia. Short tours for groups of up to 30 people run from 90 minutes to three hours, or there’s the option of a private, full-day tour. Guests may learn the art of rubbing sticks together to make fire, savour seared kangaroo meat cooked in a tranquil bush setting, learn how to make Aboriginal tools or ascend Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse for ocean views that stretch to the horizon. All experiences include a walk through Ngilgi Cave, where tour guide Josh Whiteland plays the didgeridoo, and run from January to June and September to December.
Learn generational knowledge and ancient stories of Broome’s saltwater Yawuru people through the fascinating daily tours with Narlijia Cultural Tours. Sample bush tucker, visit significant sites such Didirrgun, see a massive shell midden or trail 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints; founder (and local Yawuru man) Bart Pigram has created a range of unique experiences that offer fascinating insight into the past and present of this beautiful outback beach town. Sail a 42-foot catamaran at sunset, explore a mangrove forest or take a comfortable walking tour through the town centre as Bart recreates a timeline of Aboriginal way of life, the pearling industry and Broome’s morphosis from a lively frontier settlement to the diverse and multicultural town it is today.
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-listed 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.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens – Aboriginal Heritage Walk
Long before Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846, these lands were used as a camping and meeting place by the local Boon wurrung and Woi wurrung people. To learn more about the traditions that have been passed down through countless generations, the daily Aboriginal Heritage Walk explores the ways that spirit, connection and land intertwine in Aboriginal culture. The 90-minute experience includes a traditional smoking ceremony, an introduction to bush medicines and samples of native bush foods. Understanding which plants were best suited for which purpose and when was the best time to harvest them was essential knowledge for Australia’s earliest inhabitants; this is an excellent opportunity to gain insight into the traditional way of life.
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.
Wilpena Pound Resort
If you want to understand the outback, Wilpena Pound Resort in the dramatic Flinders Ranges is a good place to start. The only accommodation within the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, the resort is owned and operated by the Adnyamathanha people, offering a range of activities from fossil hunting in the area’s canyons to visiting ancient rock art sites. Found 430 kilometres (six hours’ drive) north of Adelaide, this is the dramatic home of Wilpena Pound, an extraordinary 800 million-year-old natural amphitheatre that is part of the homeland of the Adnyamathanha, or Yura, people. Choose from a range of accommodation options, from hotel rooms and safari-style tents to no-frills powered or unpowered campsites.
The guided multi-day wukalina walk combines culture, nature and luxury in one of Australia’s most scenic landscapes, Tasmania’s magnificent Bay of Fires wilderness area. Stay in bespoke luxury accommodation, meet palawa elders, hear creation stories and learn about traditional medicines and foods, feast on mutton bird, wallaby and doughboy dumplings (as well as plenty of seafood and some of Tasmania’s finest wines), try your hand at kelp and reed basket-making, learn how to belt out a tune on the clap sticks, and see kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums, whales, dolphins, and birdlife including black swans, sea eagles and arctic terns. The only group of humans to evolve in isolation for over 10,000 years, the culture and heritage of the palawa people is distinctly different from mainland Aboriginal cultures. Tours include guides, accommodation, meals and Tasmanian wines, and depart from the centre of Launceston.
New South Wales
Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness – Gulaga Creation Tour
See some of the prettiest coastal scenery of New South Wales while gaining an insight into traditional culture, on a two-night Aboriginal experience with Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness. The two-day, two-night Gulaga Creation Tour offers guests the opportunity of climbing a sacred mountain in the company of a cultural custodian willing to share an ancient way of knowing – a privilege indeed. Enjoy resort-style accommodation and Aboriginal cuisine, including local seafood and kangaroo with a range of native spices, followed by a traditional ‘yarning circle’ listening to the yidaki (similar to the didgeridoo) and sharing stories with Yuin elders and community members. This tour is based in Narooma and the neighbouring village of Tilba – about four-and-a-half hours’ drive south of Sydney. Transfers are available from Moruya, Sydney and Canberra airports.
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – Aboriginal Heritage Tour
The 90-minute Aboriginal Heritage Tour through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is located just behind the Sydney Opera House. It explores the garden’s rich Aboriginal heritage through the many uses of the plants that grow here. Forage for and taste Australian bush foods as you walk and talk, and identify plants used for medicines and shelter. Collect seasonal fruits, berries and seeds in a traditional coolamon (a shallow dish made of bark), learn traditional methods of cooking and how to incorporate the bush foods into your own meals at home, as well as tasting some recipes inspired by bush foods. The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney also holds Aboriginal art classes where you can discover how to use the plants and other elements of the garden – sticks, ochre, grasses and bark, as well as paints and natural brushes – to create the ultimate souvenir, a unique piece of art to take home with you.
Sand Dune Adventures – Quad Bike Tour
Enjoy exclusive access to a sandy adventure wonderland on this exhilarating quad bike tour of the largest mobile sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Sand Dune Adventures, located at Port Stephens, is run by the local Aboriginal Land Council, so while there’s plenty of action, there’s also lots of bush tucker and cultural lore thrown in as well, and all proceeds go back into the local community. Learn about the history of the Worimi people who called this area home for thousands of years. Guides will point out huge middens – mountainous piles of pipi shells and animal bones – half-buried by the sands that move between one and four metres (three and 13 feet) every year.