Arnhemland
Friday, 7th June 2002

Safari CampSafari Camp

Arnhemland is a vast tract of land handed back to the Aboriginal people. To get into this area you need a permit from an Aboriginal Land Council. I had the privilege of spending a couple of nights at Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris camp at Mount Borradaile. A great experience - one is off the beaten track, the Land Rovers drive over rocks and through forest, the electricity is shut off at night, but the feeling of community is intoxicating.

There is a lot of wildlife to be seen but I was again grateful to the guides pointing out what I would otherwise have missed. I almost saw and snapped a Northern quoll but I was just too slow. A monitor lizard shinned up a tree like greased lightning. I met spiders which don't weave webs - like the jumping spider which jumps on its prey. Saw the rarest animal I've seen in the wild - Leichardt's grasshoppers (children of Namargon IIRC.)

JacanaJacana

The bird life really gave me the feeling of being in the wild. What I might only hope to see in a cage in a zoo here was flying around in plain sight. Or walking on water like the jacana (so-called Jesus bird for this reason.) Being on a boat is a good way of seeing the birdlife. Only managed to snap the sulphur-crested cockatoos, not the red-tailed black cockatoos.

Saw a lot of Aboriginal Cave Art - though wall art is a better description as the Aborigines did their art on any suitable surface (including on top of older art - the impression I got was that as soon as the picture was painted it had served its purpose - these were not galleries.) Their art served so many purposes - as warnings to avoid waking the rainbow serpent, as history of encounters with Macassan traders, as memories of extinct animals like the thylacine or Tasmanian tigers, as magic.

The vegetation can be as lethal as the wildlife. Don't try making tea with the leaves from the ironwood tree.