Embracing Adventure in Australia’s Northern Territory

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Embracing Adventure in Australia’s Northern Territory
Often regarded as Australia’s last frontier, the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory is a large region with loose borders and rich history. Roughly ranging from west of the capital city of Darwin to the outer stretches of Arnhem Land in the east, the Top End is a place where cracked patches of blistered earth meet towering stone escarpments, and a maze of rock art repositories lie hidden within the tropical savannah. Crocodiles splash in rivers fringed with white sands, and Aboriginal culture continues to flourish—50,000 years and counting. See for yourself the beauty and adventure that awaits in the Top End in these vivid images that AFAR Ambassador Michaela Trimble captured during a recent visit.
Sponsored by Tourism Northern Territory
Michaela Trimble
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    Wildman Wilderness Lodge
    For a warm welcome to the Northern Territory, it’s hard to beat Wildman Wilderness Lodge, a 10-cabin, 15-tent luxury property located midway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park. I found the location within Mary River wetlands both inspiring and convenient for starting to explore the region.
    Michaela Trimble
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    Kakadu National Park
    Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, and Maguk, a waterfall that descends into a crystal clear rock pool makes a great first stop. Within Barramundi Gorge, winding paths of sun-drenched land lead to this pristine waterfall, one of the few in the national park that flows during the dry season. Just below the falls are hidden pathways to stone escarpments harboring ancient rock wall galleries.
    Michaela Trimble
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    The South Alligator River
    One of my favorite experiences at Kakadu was wildlife-spotting from the vantage point of a Yellow Water Cruise, the best way to see native species along the South Alligator River. Indigenous guides from the Bininj people lead travelers through the landscape, revealing secrets to the flora and fauna, including Jabirus (black necked stork) and buffalos.
    Michaela Trimble
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    West Arnhem Land
    One of the greatest privileges of making it to Australia’s Top End is being able to explore West Arnhem Land, an Aboriginal land reserve where access is allowed by permit only. The landscapes here deliver the kinds of panoramas I was daydreaming of—floodplains, billabongs, and the Arnhem Land escarpment—along with opportunities to interact with the indigenous community.
    Michaela Trimble
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    Injalak Arts
    At Gunbalanya, an Aboriginal community in West Arnhem Land, you can meet and observe local artists in action at the Injalak Arts and Craft. They produce works inspired by ancient dreamtime stories, and images from the nearby rock art galleries suggest the unbroken link between the present generation and their ancestors.
    Michaela Trimble
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    Injalak Hill
    After spending time with artisans at Injalak Arts and Craft, I recommend enlisting a local guide who can help decipher the wonder of Injalak Hill, a sandstone plateau rising over 650 feet above the plains. This stone escarpment harbors the best rock art galleries in West Arnhem Land, with images depicting traditional Kunwinjku culture set under extensive shelters featuring layered paintings created thousands of years ago.
    Michaela Trimble
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    Ubirr UNESCO World Heritage Site
    You’ll trade the wetlands for solid ground when you get to Ubirr, a group of rock outcrops featuring a rock art gallery believe to date back more than 20,000 years. Open from dawn till dusk to avoid disturbing the ancient creation spirits, this cultural monument and stone escarpment features cultural stories still integral in present-day Aboriginal life.
    Michaela Trimble
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    The East Alligator River
    Compare and contrast river cruise experiences by boarding a Guluyambi Cruise down East Alligator River, where the focus is on the cultural traditions of the local Aboriginal people, including their hunting techniques. Then disembark for a peek at Australian saltwater crocodiles…. from the safe distance of the white-sand shoreline of course!
    Michaela Trimble
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    Tiwi Islands
    It’s a two-and-a-half-hour cruise from Darwin to the Tiwi Islands, though the contrast between landscapes and cultures can make it feel much further. On Bathurst Island most residents are of Aboriginal decent and part of the Wurrumiyanga community. They have distinctive traditions to share, perhaps most visibly, their Pukumani poles—elaborate wooden burial posts erected once a loved one has passed to ensure the deceased’s soul crosses into the spirit realm. Don’t leave without picking up an authentic souvenir from the Tiwi arts and crafts co-operatives, known for their screen-printed fabrics, pottery, and ochre paintings on both bark and canvas.
    Michaela Trimble
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    Adelaide River
    I captured one awesome photo-op after another as I cruised along the Adelaide River, including crocodiles jumping into the air and fighting off hawks for scraps of meat. It’s just 90 minutes outside of Darwin, and the experience offers up a true taste of the Northern Territory’s wilderness culture and rounds out any visit to this fascinating region.
    Michaela Trimble