Taking the time to learn about the Aboriginal culture is just as much an important experience as visiting the Great Barrier Reef or exploring the outback when taking a trip Down Under. Tropical North Queensland just so happens to be a part of the country that hosts a number of Aboriginal tours and experiences that enchant visitors and teach the ways of the native Australians. As a participant in a few Aboriginal tours now in the area, I can honestly say that seeing first-hand the resourcefulness of the tribes is inspiring to someone living in a very modern and convenient world.
Located in the far north Queensland town of Cooktown, Guurrbi Tours offers visitors willing to get off-the-beaten path an insight into a personal Aboriginal story through the eyes and life of Willie Gordon, a Nugul-warra Elder. Guurrbi literally means a personal and special place, one that Willie introduces to participants in an excursion of discovery to his ancestral rock art sites where he explains the story behind each piece. It doesn’t stop there, however. The Guurrbi tour appears to be a reflection on birth, death and life in general.
Guurrbi runs two tours from Cooktown: The Rainbow Serpent Tour and The Great Emu Tour. Each tour operates each day of the week besides Sunday with The Rainbow Serpent Tour in the mornings and The Great Emu Tour in the evenings. If interested in the tour, be sure to read about my personal experience on the Guurrbi morning tour last year.
Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours
Led by Linc and Brandon Walker, two brothers of the Kuku Yalanji heritage, this small tour company is making a mark with tourists. Starting from Cooya Beach, about 10 minutes from Port Douglas, there are a couple of tour options that can either take you for beach and mangrove walks or spear hunting/fishing at night. The Kuku Yalanji tribe has had close ties to the region and its most precious natural landmarks for thousands of years, such as the Daintree River, Mossman Gorge and the Great Barrier Reef.
Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours offers 3 tour options: cultural beach walks, night spearing and overnight cultural camps. The night spearing tour is limited to 3 people while the overnight cultural camps allow a maximum of 10.
Walker Family Tours
Also members of the Kuku Yalanji clan, the Walker family women introduce visitors to a beautiful part of the far north Queensland area: Bloomfield Falls. The Walker women lead bush walks to the area deep in the rainforest, allowing participants the opportunity to listen and learn from the family that lives there. Bloomfield Falls is a 40 meter waterfall right smack in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest where time almost seems irrelevant.
Walker Family Tours offers two tour options: the Bloomfield Falls 30 minute tour and the Rainforest Walk 2 hour tour. The second tour option only runs from April to September, which is smart seeing how the rainy season can be both muggy and slippery in the rainforest.
Guurrbi Tours, Walker Family Tours and Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours are all part of The Bama Way.
Flames of the Forest
From a personal standpoint, the Flames of the Forest experience is one of the most unforgettable dinners one might ever have. Imagine walking through the rainforest by candlelight to a clearing where appetizers and bubbly is served. Imagine then being met by an Aboriginal tour leader who then takes you to an even more impressive outdoor dining setup in the middle of another clearing. A six course dinner is served as Aboriginal music and storytelling fills the air.
The Flames of the Forest experience offers two dining options: an Aboriginal Cultural Experience on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and a Rainforest Dining Experience on Saturdays. The tickets are inclusive of drinks, appetizers, dinner and transfers to nearby hotels making it a truly value-packed evening.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park
The Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park allows visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Aboriginal culture through shows of dance and storytelling, face-painting, didgeridoo playing and spear throwing. Enjoy talks with an local Aboriginal person explaining the art of the boomerang or the unique ways of collecting food, all of which had a purpose focused on survival in the harsh lands of north Queensland.
The Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park offers day and night experiences. Day tours can be combined with other packages in the area, such as a Kuranda experience (see the article on getting to and from Kuranda for more information). Night tours include campfire dancing and a dinner buffet.
Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Walks
The Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Walks are 1.5 hour guided tours through the rainforest by an Aboriginal local who takes the time to explain the significance of the place in relation to his or her heritage. See paperbark homes, learn of the plants and natural substances used for plants and washing, and listen to dreamtime legends.
The walks are conducted 4 times per day, lasting 1.5 hours, and end with a tea and damper session. For more information on the dreamtime walks, which are easily integrated into other tour options, visit the official website.
All photos by Brooke Schoenman except for the Bloomfield Falls. I was able to experience the Tjakupai Aboriginal Culture Park, Flames of the Forest and Kuku Yalanji dreamtime walks as part of a media trip.