Arnhemland
Saturday, 11th October 2003

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After arriving in Darwin by air I drove to Jabiru where I stayed at the Gagadju Crocodile Hotel

  • I have a weakness for staying in hotels designed like crocodiles. After some slight confusion the next morning I flew sitting next to the Gunbalanya pilot to a safari camp at Mount Borradaile run by Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris. This for me was the highlight of the holiday even though it was my second visit to the camp.

There isn't anywhere else similar to this camp I know of that lets you see Aboriginal rock art without boardwalks or rope barriers. That lets you be an explorer in the heart of the wilderness seeing jacanas and their chicks walking on water. That lets you clamber over rocks to see Aboriginal dwellings and squeeze through crevices into caves to be mobbed by ghost bats. That lets you see terrains from the rock country to the rain forest and learn about the animals and plants and how man interacted with them.

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For me the being taken by aged Land Rovers over sand and rock, having picnics sitting on rock boulders rather than comfy chairs, having no power in one's tent when the generator is turned off, even the pit toilet adds to the feeling you are out of civilisation, are face to face with the wilderness as much as is possible for someone like me. You're fed and looked after well, and by the end of a few days you almost feel part of the place. (They're replacing the pit toilets by the way.)

The guides really know their stuff. Be it spotting Northern Dwarf Reed Frogs as they drive along (2cm of green hiding in green fronds), or noticing the head of a file snake pop out of water (I got to hold one of these non-venomous serpents), or digging up red roots the Aborigines used to colour baskets they're constantly telling you background lore. If this kind of experience appeals to you then this place is a must.

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The file snake day was a glorious experience. We chased after a feral pig in the Land Rover, saw Crabs Eye (a bean used by the Aborigines as an abortifacient to keep the population down,) lit firecracker plant to see the seeds disseminated (the plant needs fire to live.) The Aborigines used Reckitts Blue for colour in their wall art - they adapted.