Northern Territory – Australia
I spent three nights in Sydney at the Four Seasons Hotel. This was a beautiful hotel in a great location to walk to the Rocks, the Quay, restaurants and activities. I had a spectacular view of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House from my room. A harbor cruise during the day is a great way to see the different areas of Sydney and to get around. There are lunch cruises, afternoon cruises and evening cruises. The harbor bridge climb is great to do either for the sunrise or sunset. You cannot take anything with you on the climb, but they do take pictures. Luna Park, across the Bridge, is a carnival area with rides and places to eat. This is a fun place to spend time and relax, especially for a family. I ate at Deedees on Pier 2-3, as well as at Morrisson’s down the street from the Four Seasons. They were both very good.
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Darwin is a four hour flight from Sydney on the Top End. We stayed at the Skycity Hotel and Casino. This is a beach front property, but you cannot swim in the ocean because of the crocs, but they do have two pool areas. The downtown area is very compact and easy to get around. If you take the hop on/hop off bus, the ticket is good for all day. I recommend that you ride one full loop and see where everything is, then on the second time around, you can hop off and see sites and then hop on to the next. The Museum and Art Gallery of the NT is a free museum with many examples of Top End Aboriginal Art. It is on the bus line, so a great place to spend some time. There is also The Cornucopia Café which offers very good food at the Museum.
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From Darwin we flew on an eight seat airplane to Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Camp on the east side of Kakadu National Park, about a one hour flight. We were met and taken to the camp and shown our cabins. There are twenty cabins, but they feel that 40 people are too many, so they are restricting the number of guests that they have for a better experience, unless it is a family gathering. There is no air conditioning, but there are ceiling fans with screens on three sides of the cabin except for the bathroom/shower area. The nights cooled down, so it was beautiful sleeping with wonderful sunrises. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, and the food was excellent. We ate in the lodge for all of our meals. Coffee, tea, juice and water come with the meals, but all other drinks are purchased. They have a very nice selection of sodas, beer and wines.
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris at Mt Borradaile is a registered aboriginal sacred site in a remote 700 sq-km, exclusively leased area nestled against the Arnhem Land escarpment. This is a landscape of rugged ranges fringed by idyllic billabongs, flood plains, paper bark swamps and monsoonal rainforests, an amazingly beautiful wilderness. Mt Borradaile is still owned and managed by its traditional custodians the Amurdak people whose inhabitation of the area dates back for 50,000 years. Visitors of all ages have the opportunity to access this very special, protected and highly restricted region via the honorary custodian status conferred on Max Davidson and his staff by the traditional landowners. Today the story of their ancestry is evident in the many tools, ceremonial grounds and rock art paintings – still being uncovered today.
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During the day, our guide, Locky, took us out to see the Aboriginal Rock Art which is thousands of years old. Locky told us about the Dream Time and the stories that they have been told by the only man left alive who lived on this land. The rock art was unbelievable! We also saw areas where the Aboriginals used to live. In one cave area, there was a cache of some of the tools that they had used which were found there.
We saw wallabies, wild boars, saltwater and fresh water crocs and lots of bird life. The fresh water crocs are smaller than the saltwater crocs. We took a sunset cruise on Cooper Creek, a part of the East Alligator River where they served wine and hors devours. It used to be thought that these were alligators in this area, but then they discovered that they were really crocodiles. We ate with the other guests at the Camp, some nights at separate tables and other nights all together. It was very pleasant. There was a wide variety of foods from fish, steak, lamb, salads, potatoes and desserts.
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Following our stay, we took two four seat airplanes to Bamarru Plains on the west side of Kakadu National Park which was a 20 minute flight. I flew in the co-pilots seats, which was very exciting. However, I made sure that I kept my feet away from the pedals and my hands away from the controls. We landed on a short dirt airstrip, where we were met by the staff of the lodge. Bamarru Plains (Bamarru means Magpie Geese) is a water buffalo station (ranch) of 76,000 acres where they raise water buffalo and ship them to Asia.
We drove to the lodge and were shown our cabins. There are nine cabins at this all-inclusive property, with two cabins having air conditioning. With the screens on the three sides, there really was no need for air conditioning. From the cabin, you can hear and see the wallabies, all the birds, geese and water buffalo. It is unnerving at first, but it is so-o-o-o cool. In the cabin there are a few chairs to sit and view the animals. At this property, the screens on the cabins and the lodge you can see out, but no one can see in. The bathroom is very large, with a huge open shower with a tree in it. The lighting is very subdued, so as not to attract bugs. You cannot use hair dryers at this property as they are very eco-friendly.
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The manager of the property, John Cooper, took us out on air boats on the flood plains to see the water buffalo, geese, 260 species of birds and saltwater crocs. It was amazing. I am not a fan of boats that bounce on the water, but these air boats just glide across the water. When the motor is shut off, it is perfectly quiet except for the natural sounds of the flood plains. It is so hard to explain. One morning we went to the other side of the flood plains into a grove area and when the motor was shut off, we just drifted for about twenty minutes and no one said a word. It was so beautiful as we listened to the natural sounds and watched the changing of light as the sun came up. This lodge offers fishing, photography, and pure relaxation.
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The meals here were prepared by Chef Lee and the evening meal included wine pairings. We had fish, duck, lamb, kangaroo, croc, veggies, salads, desserts and wines. You could help yourself anytime at the beverage area for sodas, waters, beer, wine and snacks. The staff was extremely friendly and engaging.
Two of the staff was caring for an orphaned wallaby and they brought him over for us to see and hold. He was very cute and they were taking extremely good care of him. The wallaby was 12 months old and they would be releasing him back to the wild at eighteen months, which is the normal time they leave the mother’s pouch.
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One evening we took a drive around the station to an area to watch the sunset, where they served hors devours, wine, beer and water. We also took a cruise on the Mary River where we saw many types of birds and saltwater crocs, again they served hors devours and beverages. These were great experiences.
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It was hard to leave Bamarru Plains, but we took the two four seat airplanes back to Darwin, a 20 minute flight. We stayed this time at the Mantra Pandanas Hotel, in a good area to be able to walk to everything. We had time to do a little shopping and then we took a catamaran out in the harbor area for a tour and a four course dinner on board of prosciutto, oysters, Territory caught fish, scotch fillet steak, salad, potato salad, rolls, dessert and wine. It was a very smooth ride and we were able to watch the sun set from the catamaran. The next day we ate at the II Lido Waterfront Kitchen and Tapas Lounge for lunch. I had fish (ocean salmon) and chips and finished the meal with an Affogatto for dessert. This is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso and a shot of liquor, I had Bailey’s. You pour both over the ice cream and enjoy!
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It was time to leave Darwin and fly back to Sydney. We stayed at Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel. The next morning we were able to walk over to the terminal and catch our flight back to the states.
What an unbelievable adventure! We saw so many fascinating sites and met many wonderful people. This is definitely a great trip for anyone looking for something different. There are many areas throughout Australia that offer these types of adventures – these were just a few.
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