January 30, 2014 | By Rosie Holliday
I visited Australia in September 2013 to attend Luxperience, a conference that was held in Sydney. Sydney turned on some fabulous early autumn weather and with the scent of jasmine in the air, it was a wonderful time to be there. The conference was both interesting and informative, with travel suppliers from all over the South Pacific, Asia, Europe and South America attending. It truly is amazing how many varied and different travel experiences are available these days. As a native of Australia, of course I made time to visit my family and friends while in the area, but I was also able to experience two wonderful Australia locales.
Bamurru Plains is part of a group of properties owned by a lovely Australian/English gentleman (rumored to be a Viscount!), who had a vision of creating ecofriendly, inspirational and quintessential Australian experiences in the Australian bush. His aim is to provoke, inspire and reconnect guests to the bush through exclusive and natural experiences and ultimately conserve the environment that sustains us. Bamurru Plains is located just west of Kakadu National Park on the Mary River flood plains in the Northern Territory/Australia’s Top End. We flew in from Darwin on a small four-seater plane, which to me is half the fun! And then traveled by jeep to the “camp”. With just 9 safari suites built amongst the savanna bush fringing the floodplains, the camp is exclusive and guests will not see other tourists on the property.
Each safari suite has an ensuite raised on a timber platform, with space for sitting out the heat of day with a good book or watching the local wildlife. Waking up in the early morning and looking out over the floodplain and only seeing water buffalo, agile wallabies (no kangaroos up there) and thousands of birds was a magical start to the morning! Probably the most comfortable bed of my trip too! Just be aware that wildlife (i.e. the wallabies) may also make camp under your “tent” so it can be somewhat noisy!
We did an airboat tour (shades of the Florida Everglades) and saw some, if not all, of the 236 species of birds that live here: magpie geese (from which the name Bamurru Plains is taken), plumed whistling ducks, egrets, and cockatoos galore. This area is a bird watchers paradise. The 2013 wet season was somewhat nonexistent this year so water levels were very low, which necessitated more driving to get to where the water was, but normally it is right out the “back door”. We also saw crocodiles on our river cruise of the Sampan River, and water buffaloes everywhere. This area is also host to an immense variety of wildlife. Species that you might encounter include Agile Wallabies, Antilopine Wallaroos, Dingos, Estuarine Crocodiles, wild pigs and buffalo. Other species appear at night and include a variety of reptiles, possums, water monitors and other amphibians. Oh, and for any avid fisherman out there, Bamurru is now open on selected dates for Barrumundi fishing during the wet season.
After two great days in the Bamurru Plains, I was enroute to El Questro and super excited! El Questro is in the Kimberly region (just voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top regions to visit in 2014!!) and is over one million acres in size – most of which has never been explored! There are three types of accommodation here: tented cabins at Emma Gorge, bungalows or riverside camping at the “station”, or the superlative Homestead.
I am happy to say that I was staying at the Homestead – what can I say? It was amazing!! A gorgeous setting in the middle of the Australian Outback; it is perched high on the Chamberlain Gorge with dramatic views whichever way you look. My room was two doors down from the Chamberlain Suite which is where Nicole Kidman wanted to stay during the filming of the movie “Australia”. Unfortunately, it was already booked, and I think it speaks to the character of this place that they did not boot those guests out for Nicole! And yes, this is the area that a lot of the movie was filmed, so those of you who saw the movie can picture some of the landscape.
We did the obligatory boat cruise down the Chamberlain Gorge, croc spotting and just soaking up the scenery as the sun set on the red rocks all around us. We also took a Bush culture history and nature tour and even though I have done these in the past, this one was really interesting as the National Parks guides who do this are very well-informed, and know the area like the back of their hands. Learning how the aboriginal people used the local flora and fauna for food and medicine is always an eye opener.
And then just for a complete surprise, there is Zebedee Springs! Set amongst a backdrop of sheer cliffs, Livistoina palms and tropical vegetation, these natural hot springs are a delightful oasis in the middle of the Outback – very “Jurassic Park”-like. The guests at the Homestead have private access to this with no one else around. I soaked for over an hour just gazing up at the cliffs, and deep blue sky with palm trees all around me.
Other activities that I didn’t have time for include all manner of hiking (including heli-hiking), fishing, four wheel-driving, bird watching and taking a helicopter to Miri Miri Waterfall (unreachable by any other means), where you can be left with a picnic lunch to enjoy your own private swimming hole. Very romantic! Or you could just sit by the pool and enjoy the very relaxing ambiance of the Homestead. By the way, the food was fantastic; I don’t know how these remote places pull this off!
All in all, these were two of the many wonderful experiences that Australia has to offer, and I would not hesitate to recommend both.