Top 10 Indigenous experiences in the NT
Ten reasons why the Northern Territory is the best place to explore Australia’s ancient Indigenous cultures
Here is the first thing to know about Indigenous culture: it’s a lot more diverse than you realise. When Europeans arrived in Australia, more than 500 clan groups existed across the country. From saltwater people to desert dwellers, the tribes had their own languages, cultures and customs. So dip into the diversity of our First People with these fascinating Indigenous encounters.
Alice Springs: Angkerle Cultural Experience
Among Central Australia’s spectacular gorges, Standley Chasm is a real standout. Just 50km west of Alice Springs, the walls of this narrow defile protect a tranquil creek bed lined with cycads and ghost gums. Explore it with the Angkerle Cultural Experience, a half-day tour led by one of the area’s traditional custodians. It’s an opportunity to appreciate the deep understanding the Western Arrernte people have of the local flora and fauna, as well as understanding the site’s rich cultural symbolism. The tour also includes a painting workshop, which explains traditional dot painting techniques and gives you the chance to create your own work.
Darwin: Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours
Located 45 minutes outside Darwin on the lands of the Limilngan and Wulna people, Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours start with a traditional Welcome to Country. Afterwards guests are taken on a bush tucker tour that reveals how the local plants sustained the Indigenous inhabitants. The program also includes didgeridoo and clapstick performances, as well as demonstrations of basket weaving and dilly bag making. Your hosts are happy to answer any questions as you share a morning tea of billy tea and damper, fresh from the fire.
Katherine: Top Didj Cultural Experience
This tour uses Indigenous art as an entry point to understanding Indigenous culture. It is hosted by Manuel Pamkal, an award-winning guide and artist, who uses stories from his own life to explain tribal life, cultural differences and how Indigenous people live today. As well as instructing his guests in fire lighting and spear throwing, Manuel teaches the techniques of the Top End’s distinctive rarrk, or cross hatch, painting style. Guests can create their own artwork to take home with them, or invest in a piece by a local artist.
Rainbow Valley: Rainbow Valley Cultural Tour
Hidden amid the sandstone escarpments and desert oak forests south of Alice Springs, Rainbow Valley is one of the Red Centre’s best-kept secrets. Traditional custodian Ricky Orr’s tours open up the culture and traditions of this beautiful part of Central Australia. The tour includes the chance to explore some little-seen rock art sites before enjoying a spectacular sunset. Visitors who don’t want to tackle the 100km drive back to Alice Springs have the option of camping out; alternatively, transfers to and from Alice Springs can also be arranged.
Tiwi Islands: Aboriginal Cultural Experience
Located 100km offshore from Darwin, the Tiwi Islands are known for their distinctive culture. AAT Kings offers day tours to Bathurst Island, one of the archipelago’s two inhabited islands, which start with a 30 minute scenic flight. Your tour includes a smoking ceremony to welcome visitors, morning tea with Tiwi women as they work on their weaving and painting, and a visit to the local arts centres. After a picnic lunch at a scenic waterhole, visit a traditional burial site to learn more about the complex rituals associated with the traditional Tiwi burial poles.
Uluru: Desert Awakenings Tour
It is the essential Red Centre experience: watching Uluru change colour as the rising sun gradually transforms the desert landscape. That magical moment is included on the Desert Awakenings Tour, along with a guided tour at the base of Uluru, visiting Mutitjulu waterhole, where rock paintings depict stories about how the world was created. The final stop on this fascinating tour is the Cultural Centre, where you can delve deeper into the culture of the local Anangu people.
Multi day experiences
Arnhem Land: Garma Festival
There is no other festival quite like Garma, held every August in Arnhem Land. The event brings together Indigenous people, politicians, academics, business leaders and other Australians to celebrate Indigenous culture, as well as tackling the challenges facing Australia’s original inhabitants. Participants can choose between attending panel sessions on economic issues, checking out art exhibitions and taking part in traditional activities such as gathering bush tucker. Kick back at the nightly bunggul, featuring music and dance, before retiring to your tent and then doing it all again the next day.
Arnhem Land: Gay’Wu - The Dilly Bag Tour for Women
This unique tour, open only to women and girls, takes you deep to the heart of traditional women’s culture. Organised by the Indigenous-owned Lirrwi Tourism, this five-day Arnhem Land itinerary gives you extraordinary insights into the Yolngu people, their culture and their country. While activities vary according to the season, you may learn more about traditional crafts such as weaving and painting, undergo a healing ceremony or a crying ceremony, try your hand at gathering bush tucker such as oysters or mud crabs, and perhaps even learn a tribal dance or two.
Kakadu, Cobourg, Arnhem Peninsula: Venture North Tour
Venture North’s five-day Kakadu, Cobourg and Arnhem Peninsula tour packs a lot into a short amount of time. Cruise billabongs where saltwater crocodiles sun themselves on the shore, visit remote Indigenous communities and discover ancient rock art sites. There is also the opportunity to explore the Northern Territory’s largest marine park, home to turtle, dolphins, sharks and stingrays, mud crabs and plenty of fish. Forage for bush tucker, including yams, fish and water lilies, which are delicious when ground up and baked to form damper. You will be amazed at the tasty treats to be found right under your nose.