One of the things I love about family life in Darwin are the unique opportunities we get to experience Aboriginal culture. It's rich and vibrant and part of the fabric of life here. Darwin is a melting pot where you meet Aboriginal people from all over - remote Arnhem Land, the Tiwi Islands and so on. Just listen and you'll hear Aboriginal languages from all over the Top End.
Whether it's heading to an Aboriginal community festival, soaking up the hip and happening music scene, taking an Aboriginal cultural tour in Kakadu, or experiencing Arnhem Land's spectacular rock art galleries on a tour with an Aboriginal custodian, there's lots going on.
If you spend time with Aboriginal people on their traditional Country another world awaits you. These are some amazing Aboriginal cultural tours and experiences that are Aboriginal owned and operated, so the experience you'll get is authentic.
By Libby Larsen
The Injalak Rock Art Tour is a "must do" side trip from Kakadu National Park. It operates out of Gunbalayna Aboriginal community, about 40 minutes drive on a dirt road from the northern section of Kakadu. The Aboriginal cultural tour takes you to some mind blowing rock art galleries and dreamy vistas of the breath taking escarpment and the wetlands below. It involves some hiking up the hill but there’s also some easy paced walking through breezy, shaded and sheltered walkways. Make sure you have a good look around Injalak Art Centre. The fabrics, weavings, baskets, bags and cushion covers are to die for!
The spectacular Litchfield National Park is a popular day trip from Darwin. Tess from Northern Territory Indigenous Tours grew up in the area and learnt about the land from her elders. She'll take you to some special family places that are off limits to the general public and share her stories, insights and culture. Her Aboriginal tours are small, relaxed, personal and always heaps of fun. You won't go hungry. These guys cook up an amazing BBQ feast with barramundi, kangaroo, crocodile and much more. Yum!
The Tiwi Islands 80km north of Darwin are known as 'the islands of smiles' and are renowned for their art and footy! Tiwi Designs Art Centre runs an awesome Aboriginal cultural tour. A local Tiwi guide meets you when you arrive on the islands and takes you to Tiwi Designs for a smoking welcome ceremony - great way to arrive don't you think? My favourite part of the day is the 'behind-the-scenes' screen printing session. The Aboriginal tour includes the boat trip which is 2.5 hours each way from Darwin. Sure, it's long, but it's an amazing day trip.
There's lots to love about this small family run business with Lynette, Graham and their welcoming family. You'll find these guys only 50 minutes drive from Darwin near the Adelaide River and Mary River Floodplains. They operate a range of Aboriginal cultural tours. Personally, I loved the basket weaving demonstration and learning about bush tucker and medicine on their cultural tour. My boys loved having a go at playing the yidaki (didgeridoo), spear throwing and making twine from pandanus leaves that are used for weaving baskets.
If a boat cruise down the East Alligator River in Kakadu National Park with a local Aboriginal guide, spotting crocs, learning about bush food and medicine, hunting and Aboriginal culture sounds interesting, I'd highly recommend the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise. As a Darwin local, it's one of our favourite things to do in Kakadu and something we always recommend to friends. My boys still wax lyrical about Hilton (our guide) and his masterful spear throwing techniques. He's way cool.
Liwrri Tours operate in beautiful North East Arnhem Land, home of the Yolgnu people who are world renowned for their art, vibrant culture, and contemporary music - think Yothu Yindi and Gurrumal. This is definitely not mass tourism. When you visit a Yolgnu community on a Lirrwi tour you'll become part of a small family community and get opportunities to participate in activities like weaving, spear fishing, collecting bush foods and medicine and dance (Bunggul). Sure, it's a bit of an undertaking to get out to this unique and remote part of the Northern Territory, but if you do, it'll be the experience of a lifetime, trust me.
Victor is a former Aboriginal park ranger and runs cultural tours in Kakadu National Park. His extensive knowledge and understanding of Kakadu National Park, the history and cultural knowledge of the plants, animals and rock art are what make his tours so unique and special. Spending a day with Victor in Kakadu doing one of his Aboriginal cultural tours is the perfect way to appreciate this awe-inspiring World Heritage listed national park.
The Jawoyn people, are the Aboriginal custodians of awe-inspiring Katherine Gorge and run Nitmuluk Tours. They run gorge cruises, Aboriginal cultural tours, canoe trips, rock art tours and even helicopter rides. They also own the luxury Cicada Lodge in the park if you want to live it up. The three gorge tour is what we usually do and I'd totally recommend it. I've never managed to do the dawn tour - Im not a morning person, but people say it's amazing.
Are you interested in other Aboriginal Cultural Tours and Experiences?
Image Credits: Top of the page - Top left: Pudukal Aboriginal Tours, Top Middle: John Skuja, Top Rights: Tourism NT. Bottom left: Kakadu National Park Facebook Page, Bottom middle: Tourism NT, Bottom Right John Skuja. Main text - Injalak Aboriginal Arts photo - Rebecca Bartley, Aboriginal Guide Tess: Northern Territory Indigenous Tours. Pudakul Aboriginal Tours, Tourism NT, Ayal Aboriginal Tours.
Libby Larsen - Growing up Troppo
Growing up Troppo provides honest travel advice tips and inspiration from parents about special and unique places to stay, play and eat with kids that parents love too! Travel is and has always been, Libby's passion and she believes this shouldn't stop when you have kids. Libby has published in Holidays With Kids Magazine and writes a monthly column for Off The Leash - the Darwin Entertainment Guide and is the Northern Territory "Experience Expert" for Experience Oz + NZ.