A day in the Top End
Photography: Shaana McNaught
One of the planet's oldest classrooms is found atop a rocky escarpment called Ubirr. Aboriginal elders have used the place for millennia, passing knowledge to young acolytes using ochre, charcoal and clay to depict animals and spirits. Today, Ubirr is a highlight of Kakadu National Park, and the custodians of Arnhem Land still gather in the shadows of the ancient rocks to share culture - albeit with acolytes from around the world.
Just outside the stone country of Kakadu is Bamurru Plains, a Wild Bush Luxury property. This small wilderness retreat is an island of safari-lodge luxury overlooking classic Territory wetlands. A main lodge, nine stilted bungalows and an infinity pool (aptly named here) face an epic tableau of stillness, occasionally stirred by wild horses, buffalo and flocks of magpie geese.
Earlier this year Wild Bush Luxury founder Charles Carlow decided to bring the two worlds together. "Our guests are always wanting to access Aboriginal culture," says Carlow, "so it made sense for us to properly immerse them in the Indigenous treasures of Kakadu National Park."
The retreat's full-day Kakadu Experience begins with a scenic flight from Bamurru's airstrip to Jabiru. From there a field guide drives guests deep into Kakadu. "We take them to explore the stone country - the escarpments, the overhangs and the caves of Kakadu that give people a sense of just how far Australia's culture reaches back," says Carlow.
"And at Ubirr they get to see some of the country's best examples of Aboriginal rock art."
After a bush-picnic lunch (perhaps chicken and fennel salad with roasted macadamia nuts), guests are joined by an Aboriginal guide for a Guluyambi cultural cruise on the East Alligator River. It's a chance to hear about ancestral knowledge and seasonal bush tucker, before returning to Bamurru for sundowners and canapés on the pool deck.
"It's a complete experience that takes in a lot of spectacular landscape and wildlife, and guests love that," says Carlow.
"But connecting them with not only Aboriginal culture but also the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land - that, for many, is the most important and rewarding part."
Bamurru Plains, Northern Territory, from $620.