The Northern Territory is the place to delve deeper into Indigenous Australia with an impressive number of Aboriginal tours available. We know it can be hard to choose the right one though, so here’s our pick of the top cultural experiences to further your understanding of Australia’s first peoples.
You don’t have to head into the wilds of the Northern Territory to experience a great Aboriginal cultural tour, with Larrakia descendent and guide Trent Lee catering to Darwin-based visitors. Whether you want to try the art of lighting a fire the traditional way, learn how to play the didgeridoo or simply sit back and enjoy storytelling, Saltwater Cultural Tours Darwin has you covered with its ‘3-Hour Tour’. If you’re not short on time, the company also runs a one-day ‘Out on Country’ tour that introduces tourists to the local language and cultural artefacts.
Why we love it: Being based in Darwin, the 3-Hour Tour is a super simple option for travellers on a quick city break.
Hear what it’s like growing up in ‘the bush’ and learn the art of rarrk painting (cross-hatch) during the twice-daily Top Didj Cultural Experience, in Katherine (May to October). You’ll spend around 2.5 hours with Top End Aboriginal artist Manuel Pamkal, who, along with the painting, will also teach holidaymakers how to throw a spear and light a fire with only two sticks. Afterwards, it’s worth having a look through the art gallery to pick up a souvenir or two.
Why we love it: The tours are suitable for children as young as three, so you can start their Indigenous Australia education early. How cool is that?
Promising more than your typical Aboriginal tour, Karrke offers an in-depth experience that focuses on bush tucker and bush medicine. The one-hour Aboriginal Cultural Tour from Watarrka National Park (February to October) will educate visitors on the traditions of the Luritja and Pertame (Southern Aranda) people, particularly when it comes to seasonal food such as edible tree and grass seeds.
Why we love it: There are two reasons – it’s based out of the majestic Watarrka National Park, and you will learn all about the witchetty grub, and may even get to taste one.
For an Uluru experience like no other, join SEIT Outback Australia for tours from the sprawling Ayers Rock Resort. The tours educate visitors on the history of the ‘big red rock’, the fight for land rights around it, Creation stories and rock art – and that’s just the Uluru excursions. The SEIT Patji tour – A True Aboriginal Experience is a seven-hour cultural tour open to anyone aged five and above.
Why we love it: It will open your eyes to what the region was like before Uluru became one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks.
Located at Uluru, Maruku Arts is owned and operated by Anangu, with some 900 Aboriginal artists from more than 20 remote communities in the Central and Western Deserts represented in the not-for-profit collective. The centre runs tours and workshops, and you can take part in a 90-minute dot painting experience under the tutelage of a local artist and try your hand at panu (woodcarving). There is also the opportunity to walk with an artist to Mutitjulu Waterhole, at the base of Uluru, and hear about the connection between art and the land, before taking part in a painting session.
Why we love it: One, you’ll be taught some of the local language, and two, it’s great value for tourists, with adult tickets costing only $72. Did we mention there are interpreters, too?
This Aboriginal-owned-and-operated family business, based on the Adelaide River Flood Plains on Limilngan-Wulna Land, offers a number of cultural tours, including a Kakadu Rock Art day tour taking in the famed Noulangie Rock Art. The tour starts with a ‘Welcome to Country’ at Pudakul, includes a stop at Cahills Crossing to see the resident saltwater crocodiles (keep your distance), and ends with a healthy lunch before returning to Darwin.
Why we love it: There is also a two-hour Aboriginal Tour that’s a great introduction to local customs, and damper is served before the tour kicks off, so don’t be late.
Owned and managed by the traditional owners, Kakadu Cultural Tours showcases the best Aboriginal experiences in the national park. We love the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise (May to November) along the beautiful East Alligator River. Passengers learn about ancient mythology, the flora and fauna (no doubt the local crocs), and bush survival skills over one hour and 45 minutes.
Why we love it: There is also the Arnhemlander Cultural & Heritage 4WD Tour, which takes tourists into northern Kakadu and remote Arnhem Land.
Join the half-day Kakadu Historical Buffalo Camp and Wildlife Tour to escape the crowds and see a different side of Kakadu National Park. Go off the beaten track on a walk around Gabarlgu Billabong and the South Alligator mangrove forest as you learn about wildlife, bush foods and the cultural connection to the land. Ayal Aboriginal Tours also run half-day private charter (4WD or 2WD bus) wetlands, rock art and wildlife tours. Check in with the company for up-to-date departures.
Why we love it: The history of buffalo hunting isn’t something you hear a lot of when visiting the park, and that’s why we rate the camp tour.
Don’t forget to read our guide to choosing the right Aboriginal tour.