It’s hook, line and sim­ple at Banubanu

A tiny is­land fish­ing re­treat just off Gove lures guests with its easy charm

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JOHN BORTH­WICK

‘‘NEVER change this beau­ti­ful place . . . keep it a se­cret,’’ pleads a guest in the com­ments book.

But how not to talk about a tiny, pri­vate fish­ing re­treat tucked amid sil­ver dunes where the Ara­fura Sea meets the Gulf of Car­pen­taria? An is­land nook whose sub­stance is drift­wood dreams and salt-air tang no less than it is tim­ber, glass and can­vas?

Banubanu Wilder­ness Re­treat, on lit­tle Bre­mer Is­land just off Gove in north­east Arn­hem Land, is a sim­ple place. A large liv­ing-din­ing-loung­ing area opens straight on to the dunes; ac­com­mo­da­tion is in the aptly-named Hide­away suite or one of five sub­stan­tial tents; and a sun­set-fac­ing cock­tail deck lures your day­dreams to in­fin­ity, or at least to Pa­pua.

Add two de­serted beaches, whistling kites in the she-oaks and tur­tle tracks on the sand, and you have the ba­sics of Banubanu.

The sum of the parts is, of course, some­thing greater, more mag­i­cal.

‘‘Where else can you wan­der the beach and find that the only foot­print is your own?’’ won­ders an­other guest. If Robin­son Cru­soe were ma­rooned on this beach and came across Man Fri­day’s foot­print, he’d prob­a­bly think that two’s a crowd. Cer­tainly nei­ther Cru­soe nor Fri­day had the plea­sure of hang­ing out with Banubanu hosts Trevor Hosie and He­len Martin, who es­tab­lished the re­treat six years ago with per­mis­sion from the is­land’s Gut­jan­gan com­mu­nity.

Banubanu is a 40-minute boat ride or 15-minute flight from the Gove-Nhu­lun­buy main­land. It might as well be a cen­tury away.

Com­ing ashore and drop­ping my bags in the self-con­tained Hide­away suite, I im­me­di­ately feel at home with Hosie and Martin as they pre­pare din­ner and we share a sun­downer.

Banubanu is both their home and their vi­sion. They, and their eco-friendly get­away, seem per­fectly paired with this land­scape of dunes and shade trees, sea ea­gles and weath­er­worn gran­ites. Martin is of Cen­tral Aus­tralian Ar­rente de­scent and Hosie might rea­son­ably be called a salt­wa­ter peo­ple white­fella, hav­ing spent decades in the north as a char­ter skip­per and map­ping Abo­rig­i­nal ar­eas of sig­nif­i­cance, as well as en­joy­ing an hon­orary clan re­la­tion­ship with Bre­mer Is­land’s in­dige­nous ma­tri­arch, Lak Lak Marika. Martin is a trained chef and when a fel­low guest ac­claims her as ‘‘Bush MasterChef’’ he’s not think­ing about bush tucker.

Her dessert tonight is a dev­as­tat­ing choco­late vol­cano with chan­tilly cream. It fol­lows Hosie’s equally flash main course of freshly caught red em­peror in le­mon sauce. All this is com­ple­mented by wine, port and good con­ver­sa­tion, which ranges across fish­ing, colo­nial ex­plor­ers and lo­cal Yol­ngu cul­ture.

Play­ing softly in the back­ground is the nu­mi­nous mu­sic of neigh­bour­ing El­cho Is­lander Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu, singing the spirit of place.

Come morn­ing, Hosie and I and his mate Shane hop aboard MVNo­mad, his well-equipped, 8m alu­minium fish­ing launch.

With fixed rods we trawl among turquoise wa­ters, jagged lime­stone islets and sandy shores peo­pled only by a pair of sea ea­gles. The reefs teem with trevally, queen­fish, red em­peror, jew­fish and coral trout but, his­tor­i­cally, I’m a jinx when it comes to fish­ing — ig­nored, hook, line and sinker — so I am hardly sur­prised that, even in these pelagic-thronged wa­ters, we are catch­ing al­most noth­ing.

Then, off Veron­ica Is­land, my line sud­denly comes alive. I grab the rod and start reel­ing in some­thing feisty. Soon enough, the one that didn’t get away is slap­ping on the deck, a glis­ten­ing, 10kg span­ish mack­erel. It will be tonight’s din­ner. John Borth­wick was a guest of Banubanu Wilder­ness Re­treat.

Catch of the day at Banubanu Wilder­ness Re­treat

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