Thousands of years of history
Learn and explore the ancient history and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the best way – by visiting their lands and meeting the people
ime is relative in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region. Why? Turn the clocks back a millennium or ten. Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture stands as one of the oldest living societies in the world, and here in the rainforest-draped north there are thousands of years of human history to be discovered.
The region grants travellers rich insight into the Indigenous way of life. Take, as an example, Flight Centre’s full day Cape Tribulation, Daintree & Mossman tour (prices from £135pp), which combines the crystal-clear pools and towering trees of the gorge itself with rich insight from its Indigenous people.
But for those keen to explore more areas steeped in tradition and heritage, the region provides plenty of opportunity to wander further: you can catch mud crab at the aeons-old fishing grounds of Cooya Beach, near Port Douglas, or head up to the tip of Cape York to take a trip across the Torres Strait to Thursday Island. Meanwhile there’s the opportunity to experience Night Fire, the pulsating, flames-and-dance evening activity laid on by the Indigenous Djabugay people at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, near Cairns. If you’re keen to learn more about the layers and nuances of Aboriginal culture, try joining one of the guided tours through the Bama Way. As well as short tours, they also offer two- or three-day excursions across linked cultural sites, with an emphasis on rock art.
To get a sense of the mind-boggling timespan of the Indigenous presence here, head to Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park in the far west of the region, where estimates of human occupation stretch beyond 30,000 years. If your focus is more on pampering than the past, stick to the coast to enjoy the Indigenous spa treatments on offer in the Daintree Rainforest.
Whether you’re camping beside a shimmering creek with an Aboriginal guide or witnessing the performance of a custom that’s been handed down through numberless generations, the region holds some incredible cultural rewards – and holds them carefully.