Tourism Australia’s Signature Experiences of Australia Famil

Discover Aboriginal Experiences Australia | Aboriginal Culture Northern Territory

Kate McLean – June 2021

Escaping the Sydney winter to discover the Northern Territory outback was an incredibly appealing proposition.  And ever more so after having been invited to take part in a famil organised by Tourism Australia’s Signature Experiences of Australia programme with a focus on Aboriginal culture (Discover Aboriginal Experiences Australia).

Top Didj Cultural Experience and Workshop

Our first stop was Darwin for the night before joining our private charter flight to Katherine to take part in the Top Didj Cultural Experience and Workshop.

This wonderful experience includes a talk by Manuel Pamkal, the winner of Tourism Northern Territory’s Brolga award in 2013, for outstanding interpretive guide.  Manuel shared his story of growing up in Dalabon Country in remote bush land, and the journey he has been on ever since.   Manuel takes great pride in sharing traditional techniques, like lighting a fire with sticks and even Woomera and Spear throwing, fortunately the kangaroo we were aiming at was made of metal and didn’t move.  He also played his beautiful Didgeridoo (Morlo) for us.

Manuel taught us the technique of Rarrk painting and we even created our own artwork to take home.

Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Workshop

Kate at the Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Workshop

After a very enjoyable and informative morning, it was time to board our charter flight, this time direct to Bullo River Station.

Bullo River Station

 

Bullo River Station is a working cattle station and homestead covering 500,000 acres of the Northern Territory. It’s recognised as one of the most breathtakingly beautiful cattle stations in Australia, with the Victoria and Bullo Rivers, pristine landscape, gorges and waterfalls.  The owners strive to run their business in harmony with the land and balance sustainable farming methods with best-practice land management.

While it’s possible to drive into Bullo River Station, arriving to and from by air is spectacular.  You best see the enormity of the station from the air, and then land right next to the homestead.

arriving at Bullo River Station

Arriving at Bullo River Station

There’s 12 guest rooms, all the same.  Half face the pool area and look out across the station (these have stunning sunset views), with the other half looking onto the house yards where you can hear cows mooing gently and see the occasional horse passing by.

The rooms open out onto the shady lawns and are inviting, cool and comfortable.  Each room has an outside porch, beautiful to relax on after a day of excursions, or you can laze by the pool or in a hammock amongst the palm trees if you prefer.

All meals are included at Bullo River Station and are delicious – and there’s an open bar too.  Breakfast was served at 8am each morning at the communal table, and lunch was a pre prepared picnic for when we were out exploring, but can also be enjoyed at the homestead.

Sundowners at Bullo River Station

Sundowners at Bullo River Station watching the stunning outback sunset

At the end of the day sundowners  watching the sunset with a g&t in hand were truly special, followed by a communal dinner with the other guests.  I really loved the evenings meeting other guests and chatting about what everyone had been up to for the day.  It’s possible though to request private dining if you would prefer.

dinner at Bullo River Station

Dinner at Bullo River Station. A great way to meet the other guests and hear about their adventures.

There’s a wonderful array of excursions on offer and most are included in your stay.   Each group does their own activity (if you’re a couple you have your own guide, if you’re a family/group of friends travelling together you have a guide).  So room availability can sometimes be based on number of guides rather than rooms available.

The first day our guide Mick took us for a drive through the station so we could witness the muster taking  place.  Following this we were shown some of the Aboriginal rock art sites that have been found hidden in the station’s rugged red cliffs and ridgelines.  They are thought to be the work from the Miriuwung-Gajerrong people who lived on and managed the land.   The owners of Bullo River Station are currently working with a local elder to interpret and record some of the stories that are being told on these rocks.

driving on the station

Driving through the station with our guide Mick

Day two’s excursion was by helicopter to Bullo River Gorge.  The helicopter ride offers incredible views of the station from the air, then lands right by the river for a private swim.   This excursion is a real highlight and absolute must-do while at Bullo River Station, however it does come at an additional cost.

Landing right next to Bullo River Gorge on our helicopter excursion

Our final day included a boat ride on the river, complete with picnic lunch and a spot of fishing.  And not the usual “come up empty” type fishing and a very impressive barra was amongst our catch for the day.

fishing on the Bullo River

Our boat to take us fishing on the Bullo River

Bullo River Station offers a really special Australian outback experience.  Guests are really given the chance to immerse themselves in station life and with warm hospitality, fabulous meals and truly exceptional experiences a visit to Bullo River Station is definitely one for your Australian bucket list.

The Tiwi Islands

The final leg of my famil was an excursion to the Tiwi Islands.
The Tiwi Islands comprise of two main islands – Bathurst and Melville, which are 80 kilometres north of Darwin and most of the residents are of Aboriginal descent.

Arriving at Bathurst Island by air was spectacular with wonderful views of the coastline and islands.  We were met by the manager of Tiwi Design who escorted us to their studio where we were welcomed by a traditional smoking ceremony.  Tiwi Design is one of the oldest and most artistically diverse art centres in Australia.  The art centre produces ochre paintings on canvas and bark, ironwood carvings, screen printed fabrics, ceramics, bronze and glass sculptures as well as limited edition prints.  The aim is to promote, preserve and enrich Tiwi culture. Our experience included a screen printing workshop which was great fun, informative and a bit messy too!

The finished product from my screen printing workshop

It was a bit of a whirlwind visit and before long we were back on the ferry bound for Darwin.  I desperately want to return to see more and have been looking into some fabulous private touring options.

The Northern Territory is such an incredible destination and is a must do for every Australian.  Ticking just about every box, there really is something for everyone.  Art and culture, stunning scenery, outback experiences, nature and wildlife and some fabulous luxury accommodations to top it off.  Let me know if you’d like to find out more…

Other articles of interest:
Abercrombie & Kent Australia’s Top End
New South Wales Outback Self Drive Holiday