Guests in an Ancient Land
A vast area five times the size of Great Britain, Arnhem Land is a special place of pristine bush, eucalyptus forests, coastal wilderness, and abundant wildlife, owned and managed by the Gummulkbun Aboriginal people, whose home it has been for 65,000 years.
It is one of Australia’s most restricted areas, only recently opened to tourism (via Aboriginal-owned and -operated tour agencies). Cultural safaris allow small groups of visitors to share the wonders of the rich indigenous heritage, and to understand the meanings and mythology behind the ancient rock art that adorns the walls and ceilings of the caves and rock shelters throughout the area.
Your hosts are Brian Rooke, an Aborigine from the Bass Strait Islands, and his wife, Phyllis. He has lived in the Arnhem Land region for twenty-five years and has an intimate knowledge of the country and culture. Home is a traditional safari-style tent deep in the Mudjeegarrdart bush, a quarter of a million acres that belongs to Phyllis’s tribal family.
The seasons and guests’ interests determine your activities, whether it’s a day trip or an extended camping tour. Identify traditional foods and medicines, visit the sites of cave paintings, explore the abundant bird life, cool off with a swim in a billibong (a natural water hole), or go fishing or crab spearing and have your catch prepared for dinner.
The operative word is “tradition,” which you will observe and appreciate in the company of local guides with a natural affinity for their ancestral homeland and its people.