Indigenous Tourism In The Northern Territory
Author Inspiring Journeys
Date 22 Apr 2022
AUSTRALIA’S Indigenous custodians possess an impressive link to the land, an enviable connection that literally stretches back millenia and is more profound than the concept of linear time itself.
It is a profound bond with country – an intrinsic and spiritual relationship to the land and the water, stronger than religion and fundamental to identity – that’s explained by Dreamtime or Tjukurpa stories, defined by sacred sites, and celebrated through ancient songlines.
Over the centuries generations of First Australians, belonging to dozens of diverse and distinct tribal groups, have walked every kilometre of this majestic land to now be recognised as the world’s oldest surviving culture.
And, according to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, it is a culture that’s “continuing to be expressed in dynamic and contemporary ways”.
Just one of these ways is through Indigenous tourism, with Australia’s Aboriginals engaging with curious and careful travellers seeking a stronger attachment to the corners of the country they are exploring.
And during a year when sustainable tourism is coming to the fore, with holidaymakers wanting to walk softly as they emerge from isolation, there has never been more interest in seeing Australia’s ancient areas alongside the land’s traditional caretakers.
WHAT IS INDIGENOUS TOURISM?
The world’s Indigenous people are custodians of “some of the richest, most unique and diverse cultural expressions of humankind which have developed over thousands of years across our planet and are spiritually linked to Indigenous traditional lands”, according to the UNWTO. For travellers wishing to uncover the heart of a destination, Indigenous tourism represents an opportunity to experience natural and cultural heritage not only on a physical and intellectual level but to form an emotional connection with a place and its people.
Not only does Indigenous tourism enrich each travel experience to make it more meaningful but partnering with local communities to preserve culture and safeguard natural heritage also forms part of How We Tread Right, The TreadRight Foundation’s 5-year sustainability strategy, based on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs).
For Tourism Australia, it’s about engaging in encounters that are life changing, immersive and memorable with Aboriginal guides imparting insights into culture by offering “a real connection to the place and a new way of experiencing it”.
ABORIGINAL CULTURAL TOURS AND INSPIRING JOURNEYS
At Inspiring Journeys and sister brand AAT Kings, honouring Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori cultures is part of our commitment to supporting the traditions and arts of the communities we visit to thrive. In Australia it’s about walking country with local guides that are not only knowledgeable but invite vistors to listen to their stories told in their own words, to provide a powerful perspective.
Inspiring Journeys and AAT Kings have forged robust partnerships with Indigenous communities throughout Australia working in conjunction with Indigenous-owned travel businesses to offer our guests the chance to learn about the long history of this land and its original inhabitants.
INDIGENOUS TOURS NORTHERN TERRITORY
From the Tiwi Islands Aboriginal Culture Tour – a day trip from Darwin/Gulumerrdgen that ventures across the Arafura Sea to locations around the famed Island of Smiles not often seen by outsiders – to time with the folks from Nitmiluk Tours who promise to “share our country” during a Top End Highlights jaunt into Nitmiluk National Park, visitors to the Northern Territory have the opportunity to be welcomed to country and gain an understanding of the many nations and language groups who call the Territory home.
Even further south you'll find the rusty landscape surrounding Uluru and Kata Tjuta where the new Uluru Aboriginal Art & Cultural Experience is an engaging half-day outing where guests hear the Tjukurpa of the Anangu people, and sharing stories of culture and country with one of the artists from Maruku Arts. You'll spend time creating your own dot-painting with a local Anangu artist, learning about traditional art, symbols, tools and more.
But before you book your next epic Northern Territory adventure, discover some of the Indigenous experiences Inspiring Journeys and AAT Kings have incorporated into itineraries to help travellers examine the rich stories found all across the NT.
LEARN ABOUT BUSH TUCKER
Spending time with Indigenous guides from the Karrke Aboriginal Experience is a highlight of Outback Contrast – the six-day escape from Alice Springs that completes a loop of the state’s red centre to take in iconic locations like Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon – with the experience coming during the days spent inside Watarrka National Park.
Guests visit the Wanmarra Community on the third morning of the journey, after spending sunrise savouring the famed Kings Canyon Rim Walk, and learn more about the connection the local Luritja and Pertame people have with the land by discovering bush tucker and bush medicines used in healing.
MAKING MEMORABLE MUSIC
Kakadu’s Ancient Secrets is an Inspiring Journeys' itinerary that ventures outside the famous national park’s boundaries to visit other Northern Territory gems including Nitmiluk National Park where Manuel Pamkal – a proud member of the Dalabon people – welcomes guests with a spirited didgeridoo performance.
The meeting comes on the fourth morning of this five-day tour from Darwin, which also visits Litchfield National Park and Adelaide River, with the Indigenous guide sharing stories about growing up on the land surrounding the spectacular string of valleys that make up Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge before demonstrating the district’s rarrk painting style.
CRAFT AND CULTURE
AAT Kings’ Northern Territory Explorer is an 11-day expedition from the tropical Top End to sunbaked Red Centre that not only visits Nourlangie/Burrungkuy, Yellow Water Billabong, Nitmiluk National Park, Mataranka, Alice Springs and Uluru but incorporates the magical Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Experience while inside Kakadu National Park.
This is a family business that promises carefully curated cultural and nature-based encounters from the Adelaide River Flood Plains while on Limilngan-Wulna land with guests trying basket weaving and dilly-bag making as well as learning to play the didgeridoo, throw a speak, master the clapsticks and sample bush tucker.
Those fascinated by Aboriginal art can do no better than joining Australian Highlights, a two-week expedition from Melbourne to Sydney that dedicates three days to sightseeing the Territory's Red Centre.
Meet Anangu artists during the Maruku Arts Dot Art Experience – the group was created to “keep culture alive and accessible for future generations” while supporting artists living in remote communities – and investigate the intricacies of Western Desert Art while the Indigenous hosts explain ancient symbols and bygone techniques.
TERRITORY, TOP TO TOE
Northern Territory Dreaming is an 11-day tour that starts in Alice Springs and finishes in Darwin – with a flight between the Top End and Red Centre coming near the middle of the trip – allowing guests to soak in the region’s impressive Indigenous history.
There’s an excursion to Nourlangie to admire the ancient art of the Bininj and Mungguy people, a wander through Simpsons Gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges/Tjoritja, a visit to the Wanmarra Aboriginal Community while touring Watarrka National Park, a stay at Cicada Lodge, and a morning meeting with Dalabon elder Manuel Pamkal.