INTO THE FAR AND WILD

Con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor Chris­tine McCabe presents fi­nal­ists in three more cat­e­gories in TheAus­tralian’s 2007 Travel & Tourism Awards

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Tourism Awards -

BEST ECO/WILDER­NESS EX­PE­RI­ENCE

ABCDLara­p­in­taEMari­aBa­murru Plains, North­ern Ter­ri­tory: This smart African-style bush camp has set pulses rac­ing among the sa­fari set. Lo­cated on the west­ern edge of Kakadu Na­tional Park, three hours’ drive from Dar­win, Ba­murru of­fers a wild bush lux­ury hith­erto un­known in the Top End. Nine raised sa­fari suites nes­tle among sa­vanna bush fring­ing the wildlife-rich Mary River flood plains. There’s no one within cooee — other than buf­falo, croc­o­diles and mag­pie geese — but ser­vice is top notch and the food first class. The flood plains rep­re­sent one of our rich­est ecosys­tems and guests have am­ple op­por­tu­nity to drop a line, bird­watch, ex­plore by four-wheel-drive ve­hi­cle or air­boat, even wit­ness the prop­erty’s thrilling buf­falo muster, then cool off in Ba­murru’s in­fin­ity pool. www.ba­mur­ru­plains.com Bay of Fires walk, Tas­ma­nia: Joint win­ner, with its as­so­ci­ated Cra­dle Moun­tain Huts Walk, of TheAus­tralian’s 2005 award in this cat­e­gory, this four-day guided tra­verse is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar in the coun­try. Track­ing rav­ish­ing white-sand beaches and wildlife-rich wood­land, the Bay of Fires walk in­cludes a stay in a beach camp and ac­com­mo­da­tion at a stylish eco-friendly lodge perched above the pound­ing sea and the only build­ing to be found in this re­mote wilder­ness set­ting at the edge of Mt William Na­tional Park. The re­laxed sched­ule al­lows am­ple time for snorkelling, kayak­ing or kick­ing back with a glass of Tas­ma­nian wine. www.bay­of­fires.com.au Bullo River Sta­tion, North­ern Ter­ri­tory: Made fa­mous by Sara Henderson, Bullo River Sta­tion is run by daugh­ter Mar­lee and her Aus­trian-born hus­band Franz Ranacher. Set near the West Aus­tralian border and ac­ces­si­ble only by four-wheel-drive ve­hi­cle or air char­ter, Bullo is dot­ted with boab trees and rich with wildlife (mi­gra­tory birds, buf­falo, din­goes and croc­o­diles). Guests are housed in 12 sim­ply fur­nished rooms but have the run of the main home­stead and swim­ming pool. Meals are in­for­mal (ex­pect bar­ra­mundi and or­ganic beef) and ac­tiv­i­ties are tai­lored to suit guests’ needs, from fish­ing and horse rid­ing to tour­ing rock art sites and ob­serv­ing wildlife. www.bul­loriver.com

Trail, North­ern Ter­ri­tory: Run­ning 232km from the west of Alice Springs to Mt Son­der (Rwe­tyepme), track­ing the dra­matic West MacDon­nell Ranges, the Lara­p­inta Trail of­fers vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia’s Red Cen­tre an un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore this haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful land­scape. Cross­ing a variety of ter­rain from craggy ridge lines to shel­tered gorges, the trail links pop­u­lar vis­i­tor at­trac­tions and can be eas­ily di­vided into one or two-day sec­tions. While some ar­eas of the trail are suit­able for novice bush­walk­ers, oth­ers are re­mote and should be tack­led only by fit, ex­pe­ri­enced tram­pers. Sev­eral op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing World Ex­pe­di­tions, of­fer guided treks along the trail.

www.nt.gov.au/nreta/parks/walks/ lara­p­inta Is­land Walk, Tas­ma­nia: This de­servedly pop­u­lar four-day walk com­bines the ben­e­fits of small-group trekking with a de­gree of com­fort — light packs and stand-out food and wine— that make it the per­fect soft eco-ad­ven­ture. With no more than eight trekkers (and two guides), the group crosses the de­serted beaches,

FVoy­agesAspec­tac­u­lar coastal paths and for­est hin­ter­land cuff­ing this beau­ti­ful is­land. Trekkers are ac­com­mo­dated in beach­front wilder­ness camps and the rather grander sur­rounds of Ber­nac­chi House, where a glass of wine proves a very fine way to end a day ex­plor­ing Maria Is­land. www.mari­ais­land­walk.com.au

Wil­son Is­land, Queens­land: Last year’s win­ner in this cat­e­gory, this be­guil­ing Great Bar­rier Reef coral cay couldn’t be more travel-poster per­fect. With tal­cum sands and clear wa­ters so rich in marine life you can snorkel from the beach, this eco-cer­ti­fied re­sort caters to only 12 guests and is lo­cated 15km from Voy­ages Heron Is­land (daily launch trans­fers con­nect the two). Ac­com­mo­da­tion takes the form of up-mar­ket tents with king beds and private ve­ran­das en­joy­ing reef and ocean views; so­lar power pro­vides hot show­ers and com­mu­nal meals are taken in the el­e­gant Long­house.

www.wilson­is­land.com

BEST AD­VEN­TURE TOUR OP­ER­A­TOR

Aurora Ex­pe­di­tions: Co-founded by moun­taineer Greg Mor­timer, this fam­i­ly­owned and op­er­ated com­pany has es­tab­lished a global rep­u­ta­tion for the qual­ity of its ex­pe­di­tion-style cruises. This sta­tus is due in large part to Aurora’s com­mit­ment to the en­vi­ron­ment and its pol­icy of em­ploy­ing highly qual­i­fied staff, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral­ists, his­to­ri­ans and earth sci­en­tists. Mor­timer and

BBal­loonCIn­trepid­com­pany co-owner Mar­garet Werner have ac­cu­mu­lated more than three decades of moun­taineer­ing and po­lar travel ex­pe­ri­ence. www.au­ro­ra­ex­pe­di­tions.com.au

Aloft, Hunter Val­ley, NSW: In 1980 Bal­loon Aloft in­au­gu­rated its hot-air bal­loon­ing ad­ven­tures in the pic­turesque Hunter Val­ley. Since then the com­pany has gone on to op­er­ate from lo­ca­tions in sev­eral states and last year was named win­ner of this hotly con­tested cat­e­gory. In the Hunter, sun­rise flights op­er­ate daily (launch sites vary and are dic­tated by pre­vail­ing weather con­di­tions) with the op­tion of a full break­fast at an ac­claimed val­ley restau­rant. The fourhour ad­ven­ture can be ex­panded to in­clude a range of ac­com­mo­da­tion pack­ages in­cor­po­rat­ing wine tour­ing and golf. www.bal­loon­aloft.com Travel: Founded in 1989 with a small port­fo­lio of off-the-beaten track ad­ven­tures in Asia, the award-win­ning In­trepid to­day of­fers small-group ad­ven­tures across the world. The road less trav­elled ethos re­mains but trav­ellers now choose from trip styles to suit ev­ery bud­get and level of com­fort, from small-group ad­ven­tures and low-cost back­packer jour­neys to be­spoke itin­er­ar­ies. In Aus­tralia the com­pany of­fers tours in Queens­land, the Red Cen­tre, Top End, Tas­ma­nia, the Kim­ber­ley and out­back South Aus­tralia.

www.in­trepid­travel.com

DLord’sEWilder­nessKakadu and Arn­hemland Sa­faris, North­ern Ter­ri­tory: The Lord fam­ily has been op­er­at­ing tours of the Top End for more than 16 years and to­day of­fers a se­ries of daytrips in air-con­di­tioned four­wheel-drive ve­hi­cles es­corted by Abo­rig­i­nal guides. Ex­tended tai­lor-made tours of Kakadu, Arn­hem Land and the Kim­ber­ley are also avail­able us­ing a range of ac­com­mo­da­tion from camp­ing to up-mar­ket lodges in­clud­ing Ba­murru Plains sa­fari camp. Lord’s is one of a hand­ful of op­er­a­tors granted ac­cess to Arn­hem Land by tra­di­tional own­ers and the com­pany pro­vides em­ploy­ment to Abo­rig­ines in their home­lands dur­ing the dry sea­son. www.lords-sa­faris.com Aus­tralia: Founded by for­mer Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways ex­ec­u­tive Charles Car­low, Wilder­ness Aus­tralia spe­cialises in tai­lored sa­faris us­ing some of Aus­tralia’s best hosted ac­com­mo­da­tion in some of our most beau­ti­ful and out-of-the­way lo­ca­tions. Lodges, bush camps and out­back homesteads are matched with private tour­ing fea­tur­ing lo­cal spe­cial­ist guides and an ar­ray of op­tions, from lux­ury city stays to scenic flights and char­ter boat tours. Sug­gested pre-set itin­er­ar­ies are avail­able but the com­pany’s ac­knowl­edged strength lies with or­gan­is­ing be­spoke pro­grams.

www.wilder­nes­saus­tralia.com.au

FWorldEx­pe­di­tions: This world-lead­ing ad­ven­ture out­fit may have its roots in the Hi­malayas where, in 1975, it be­came one of the first com­pa­nies to make trekking avail­able to non-moun­taineers, but to­day its port­fo­lio in­cludes ad­ven­ture hol­i­days on all con­ti­nents. From in­tro­duc­tory trekking to full-blown moun­taineer­ing, and ev­ery­thing in be­tween (cy­cling, kayak­ing, cruis­ing, even culi­nary tour­ing), World Ex­pe­di­tions con­tin­ues its role as a lead­ing travel in­no­va­tor. The com­pany’s Com­mu­nity Project pro­gram al­lows trav­ellers to com­bine a hol­i­day with vol­un­teer work in a range of needy com­mu­ni­ties.

www.world­ex­pe­di­tions.com

ABEST IN­DIGE­NOUS TOURISM EX­PE­RI­ENCE

Anangu Waai!, Uluru, North­ern Ter­ri­tory: Last year’s win­ner in this cat­e­gory, this ac­claimed com­pany is op­er­ated by the tra­di­tional own­ers of Uluru Na­tional Park and of­fers vis­i­tors a unique in­sight into lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture and the im­por­tance of the rock in their ev­ery­day lives. The com­pany’s se­lec­tion of tours cov­ers a smor­gas­bord of ac­tiv­i­ties, from sun­set view­ings and in­struc­tion in the re­gion’s fa­mous dot paint­ing to weapon mak­ing, camel trekking and cre­ation sto­ries.

www.anan­guwaai.com.au

BI­gaCKepaDKool­ja­manWarta, Flin­ders Ranges, South Aus­tralia: Sit­u­ated in the north­ern Flin­ders Ranges, the Abo­rig­i­nal owned, man­aged and staffed Iga Warta (place of the na­tive orange tree) in­tro­duces vis­i­tors to one of Aus­tralia’s most strik­ing en­vi­ron­ments and el­e­ments of the lo­cal Ad­nya­math­anha cul­ture through day tours, guided walks and overnight camps. Guide Cliff Coulthard, one of South Aus­tralia’s first Abo­rig­i­nal rangers, helps in­ter­pret tra­di­tional rock art dat­ing back 35,000 years and in­structs in el­e­ments of bush tucker and bush medicine. www.igawarta.com

Kurl Eco Dis­cov­ery Tours, Esper­ance, West­ern Aus­tralia: Kepa (wa­ter) kurl (boomerang) is the in­dige­nous name for the town of Esper­ance and a Kepa Kurl Eco Dis­cov­ery four-wheel-drive tour en­ables vis­i­tors to en­joy the pris­tine beaches of this re­gion with a tra­di­tional Noon­gar owner. Ex­plore the rugged coast­line and fa­mous Wave Rock to­gether with some of Aus­tralia’s south­ern­most rock art. Dream­time sto­ries, bush tucker and an un­der­stand­ing of tra­di­tional hunt­ing and gath­er­ing tech­niques are ex­plained dur­ing the course of a day. Fin­ish with a visit to the won­der­ful Abo­rig­i­nal art gallery and gift shop lo­cated in Esper­ance’s Mu­seum Vil­lage. www.kepakurl.com.au at Cape Leveque, West­ern Aus­tralia: This re­mote Abo­rig­i­nalowned wilder­ness camp, more than 200km north of Broome on the tip of the Dampier Penin­sula, pro­vides a rare op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore a beau­ti­ful, lit­tle-known cor­ner of Aus­tralia. Ac­com­mo­da­tion caters to all tastes from Robin­son Cru­soe-style beach shel­ters with sand floors and palm-frond ceil­ings to com­fort­able sa­fari tents com­plete with en­suites, large ve­ran­das with ocean views and fully equipped kitchens. (There is also a re­sort restau­rant.) Fish­ing, swim­ming and snorkelling are all on the agenda; there’s also the op­tion to join a fan­tas­tic day-long boat tour op­er­ated by a lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal fam­ily. www.kool­ja­man.com.au

Tours, North­ern Ter­ri­tory: This Abo­rig­i­nal-owned com­pany, op­er­at­ing on Bathurst Is­land, con­ducts cul­tur­ally based, day-long and ex­tended tours led by lo­cal guides, pro­vid­ing vis­i­tors with an op­por­tu­nity to learn first­hand about the lives of the Tiwi. Day tours fea­ture time with a range of artists (and the op­por­tu­nity to buy at is­land prices), billy tea and damper with the fa­mous Tiwi morn­ing tea ladies and a visit to one of sev­eral bush burial sites no­table for their strik­ing carved puka­mani poles. The day tour in­cludes lunch and a dip in a wa­ter­hole. Or camp overnight and join in a tra­di­tional hunt­ing and gath­er­ing ex­pe­di­tion. www.ti­wi­tours.com.au

Abo­rig­i­nal Cul­tural Park, Cairns, Queens­land: At Caravonica, north of Cairns, the Tjapukai Cul­tural Park is Aus­tralia’s best-known in­dige­nous at­trac­tion, of­fer­ing in­sights into the cul­ture of the rain­for­est peo­ple of north­ern Queens­land. Be­gin­ning life two decades ago as a dance troupe per­form­ing in the base­ment of a shop­ping cen­tre, Tjapukai is to­day a so­phis­ti­cated at­trac­tion fea­tur­ing seven are­nas, in­clud­ing the Cre­ation theatre, orig­i­nal dance theatre and an interactive camp vil­lage where vis­i­tors can try their hand at skills, such as didgeri­doo play­ing.

www.tjapukai.com.au Next week: Best Her­itage Tourism, Best Food Ex­pe­ri­ence, Best Win­ery Restau­rant

ETi­wiFT­japukai

Tjapukai pic­ture: Barry O’Brien

On the right track: Clock­wise from top left, Kool­ja­man; Bay of Fires walk; Arn­hem Land sa­fari; Bal­loon Aloft; Voy­ages Wil­son Is­land; Abo­rig­i­nal dancers at Tjapukai

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