Australia’s Northern Territory is a huge region, equivalent in size to France, Italy and Spain combined, where natural environments from deserts and rocky mountain ranges to mangroves and tropical forests abound. If you’re seeking a tour experience that allows an intimate connection with vast, unspoilt natural environments, the Northern Territory is definitely one of the premier destinations on the planet.
The contrasts and colours of the Northern Territory’s rich environment ebb and flow with the seasons, nowhere more evident than in the World Heritage National Parks of Uluru-Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia and Kakadu in the tropical north. The Northern Territory’s flora and fauna are as diverse as fleeting desert wildflowers and sumptuous lotus lilies, and tiny gecko lizards and giant saltwater crocodiles.
The indigenous people of the Northern Territory continue to hold a profoundly spiritual, unbroken connection to the land that reaches back tens of thousands of years, yet is still accessible today. Aboriginal people are becoming increasingly involved in the Northern Territory tourism industry, and now operate a range of authentic tour businesses that include activities ranging from desert walks in search of bush tucker to visits to ancient rock art galleries.
The Northern Territory is famous for its diverse, colourful characters. Uncomplicated, larger than life characters are easy to find in the Territory’s legendary outback pubs, cattle stations and country towns. At the same time, the Northern Territory today is also home to a diverse, multicultural mix of people all of whom are only too willing to share a yarn or two. It’s hard not to fall in love with Territorians’ open, down-to-earth, can-do attitude, whatever their background.
Kakadu National Park is located 250 kilometres east of Darwin. Plunging gorges, rugged escarpments, lush wetlands and cascading waterfalls abound in Kakadu, covering an area the size of Wales or the US state of West Virginia. Renowned for the richness of its natural and cultural wonders, Kakadu has one of the highest concentrations in the world of publicly accessible Aboriginal rock art sites. Closer to Darwin are the unspoiled wetlands of Mary River National Park which is home to millions of birds, many crocodiles and plentiful fish including the mighty barramundi. The Litchfield National Park is located about 100 kilometres south of Darwin and is home to an impressive array of natural wonders including waterfalls, rock pools and towering gorges.
Arnhem Land, to the east of Kakadu National Park, covers some 91,000 square kilometres and is home to many Aboriginal people, most of whom continue to speak their traditional languages and practice their traditional cultures. To visit Arnhem Land, a permit must be obtained from the Northern Land Council in Darwin. The stunning beauty and cultural significance of areas such as Oenpelli, Mt Borradaile, and the Cobourg and Gove peninsulas make a visit to Arnhem Land an unforgettable experience.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) rises from the surrounding desert in the red centre of Australia and is undoubtedly Australia’s most recognisable natural icon. The famous sandstone monolith, which stands 348 metres high, is located about 440 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. 40 kilometres to the west of Uluru is Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), a fantastic collection of red rock domes dating back some 500 million years. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta hold great cultural significance for the traditional Aboriginal landowners, who lead walking tours that explore the local flora and fauna, bush foods and Dreamtime legends of the area.
Watarrka National Park, which encompasses the spectacular Kings Canyon, is located 300 kilometres north-east of Uluru and 310 kilometres west of Alice Springs. Kings Canyon is an enormous gorge with 300-metre-high red sandstone walls, palm-filled crevices, walking tracks and stunning views across the Central Australian desert.