Australia Aboriginal tourism: Six of the best indigenous day tours

MBANTUA DINNER TOUR ALICE SPRINGS, NORTHERN TERRITORY

This tour provides the best of both worlds: a late afternoon bush-tucker tour of the western MacDonnell Ranges followed by a three-course barbecue dinner cooked under the stars. Owned and operated by local Arrernte man Bob (Penunka) Taylor,  the Mbantua dinner is a culinary journey that teaches guests about food, culture and country. While pointing out plump bush figs and native lemon grass Taylor explains that the bush is a pharmacy  (medicine), hardware store (building materials) and pantry (food). A trained gourmet chef, Taylor is just as likely to serve yam fritters and kangaroo fillets as white chocolate, apricot and wattle seed steamed pudding. Cost $160 per person (alcohol not included).

See rttoursaustralia.com.au

SALTWATER DREAMING KAYAK ADVENTURE – DENHAM, WESTERN AUSTRALIA 

Shark Bay is best known for the dolphins at Monkey Mia, but on the other side of the waterway (five minutes from Denham) Darren "Capes'' Capewell introduces visitors to the region's indigenous history on a full-day kayak and snorkel adventure. While exploring the calm waters of Big Lagoon, Capes talks about the spiritual connection the Nhanda and Malgana people have with this ancient land, where the red sands of the desert meet the white sands bordering the Indian Ocean. Expect to see dugongs, Olive Ridley turtles, stingrays and cormorants and dine on freshly caught seafood. Cost $185 per adult/$135 per child.

See wulaguda.com.au

BLUE MOUNTAINS WALKABOUT – FAULCONBRIDGE, NSW

This is a tour like no other – confronting, challenging, life-changing. Evan Yanna Muru leads small numbers of guests on a walkabout through a secluded rainforest following ancient song lines. During the six-hour tour Muru reveals snippets about local Darug culture, gradually unfurling more information depending on his guests' readiness and willingness to learn. If you open your "eyes, ears, hearts and minds" Muru will uncover ceremonial sites, rock art and artefacts. While introducing Earth Mother and Sky Father Muru asks three things; to tread softly, to touch gently and to let the spiritual energy flow through your body. A picnic lunch in a hidden cave is a highlight. Cost $95 per person (BYO lunch and drink).

See bluemountainswalkabout.com

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KUKU YALANJI CULTURAL HABITAT TOUR - CAIRNS, QUEENSLAND

The coastal waters around Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu) are considered spiritually powerful to the local Kuku Yalanji people, because the site represents the meeting point of three connected habitats – beach, mangrove and coastal reef. Linc and Brandon Walker follow the traditions of their ancestors who, for thousands of years, fished and thrived here. On a two-hour tour the brothers teach guests how to throw a spear, track coastal resources and observe wildlife. Tiptoeing through the tidal lagoons and squelching through mud, the brothers share their knowledge and explain the importance of caring for country.  Afterwards guests are invited back to the Walker family home to cook their catch (crabs, oysters, mussels, long bums). This tour can be linked to the Bama Way, a multi-day road trip from Cairns to Cooktown taking in three Aboriginal-owned tours. Cost $75 per adult/$45 per child.

See bamaway.com.au/kuku-yalanji-cultural-habitat-tours

ANIMAL TRACKS – KAKADU, NORTHERN TERRITORY

There are many ways to "do'' Kakadu, but a tour with Animal Tracks would rate as one of the best. The seven-hour tour starts at 1pm (so civilised for holiday makers) with an emphasis on small group touring in open-sided, 4WD safari vehicles. Accompanied by an expert Aboriginal guide, guests are offered exclusive access to parts of Kakadu National Park not available to the masses. From wildlife-rich wetlands to tropical savannah woodlands the focus is on hands-on learning. The tour concludes with a traditional Aboriginal campfire bush food cookout at sunset. Cost $205 per adult/$105 per child (runs daily May-October)

See animaltracks.com.au

ABORIGINAL HERITAGE WALK – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

Proving that not all Aboriginal tours are conducted in remote areas, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne offers an Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Led by Aboriginal guides the 1.5-hour tour journeys into the ancestral lands of the Koolin nation while exploring their rich culture. The tour includes a traditional smoking ceremony, a guided walk through important areas of the Gardens, discussion about the traditional uses of food, tools and medicine, and finishes with a refreshing cup of lemon myrtle tea. It is a gentle reminder that the cities we now call home were once home to a thriving indigenous culture. Cost $25 per adult/$10 per child (11.00am-12.30pm every Sunday to Thursday).

See rbg.vic.gov.au

The writer was a guest of Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism, Tourism and Events Queensland, Tourism NT, Australia's Coral Coast and Tourism WA.

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