Experience the otherworldly beauty of the Flinders Ranges at Arkaba

Quite frankly, the place is looking a bit of a mess. On the grassy plain, the withered remains of dead acacia bushes lie on the rock-littered ground; spiky new growth shoots up through the desiccated fibres. It's a sight that makes Charlie Eager smile.

"You wouldn't have seen this back when this was a sheep station. All this land was cleared to allow for mustering," Eager says. He explains that, far from being a sign of decline, the presence of dead acacia is good news. Acacias have a live-fast-die-young mentality, and those withered remains are an important step in the land's regeneration.

"Acacia adds nitrogen to the soil and provides structure for everything else to follow," says the manager of Arkaba Homestead. He points to a new sapling springing out of the ground. "You can see how that shrubby rice flower bush is growing out of the remnants of the acacia."

As we drive through Arkaba, a 260 square kilometre conservancy overlooking the Flinders Ranges, it quickly becomes clear that a healthy landscape is often untidy. Take the band of mallee scrubs that unspools across the property. Bark peels in long strips from the trees' trunks, while semi-detached branches graze the ground. These are both good signs.

"The leaves leach carbon into the soil which creates an environment that insects love," Eager says. "Healthy insect life draws wildlife. You can often see the echidnas nosing around in there."

Since it opened 10 years ago, visitors to Arkaba Station have experienced the otherworldly beauty of the Flinders Ranges. Those towering walls of red rock, however, are just one of the diverse landscapes to be explored on the property. During our morning and evening activities, we discover many different aspects of Arkaba: the mighty red gums framing dry riverbeds, the pebbled slopes that pinch at your soles, the pine forests where a carpet of needles muffles your footfalls.

It is a landscape that is constantly changing. After years of grazing that denuded its terrain, the Arkaba team has spent years working to correct the damage. Plenty more work lies ahead. Depending on the day, the homestead team may be busy trapping feral animals or tearing down old fences.

"Removing fences has an immediate impact on the number of animals that we see caught and injured, but it's also about removing barriers to the natural movement of wildlife," Eager says.

Each of the guides that leads activities in and around the property brings their own perspective. Over pre-dinner hors d'ouevres one evening I chat with Mel Robertson, who worked as a graphic designer before she threw it all in for a guiding career. With an interest in geology, she says she finds something new to marvel at each time that she heads out.

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"It is phenomenal how many different areas of vegetation and geology there are," Robertson says. "One moment you are walking through a craggy rocky landscape, the next you are surrounded by spinifex or by green rolling hills."

Among her favourite places to walk is the slopes of the Elder Ranges that frame the sky to one side of the homestead and which guests can discover on a spectacular heli-hiking excursion. "The colours are really inspiring," Robertson says .

"The reds, the oranges, the purples – the colours change as you walk. It is not something you are looking at, it is something you become immersed in."

TRIP NOTES

Ute Junker travelled as a guest of Wild Bush Luxury.

MORE

traveller.com.au/flinders-ranges

southaustralia.com

STAY

Rates start from $1070 a person a night twin share including all meals, beverages and two daily activities. Options for getting there include a road transfer from Adelaide, via Clare Valley, with stops for lunch and wine tasting ($1700 for two, around seven hours) or a 90-minute air transfer ($2750 for two). See arkabaconservancy.com

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