DAY 5 – Darwin to Bamurru
This morning was fairly relaxed, so we took advantage of the hotel coin laundry while we had breakfast. We only had to walk a couple of blocks before coming across a busy (and delicious) breakfast spot called Ducks Nuts…a rather odd name for a restaurant, and a logo to match!
We walked around town a bit more, getting a feel for Darwin. There are quite a few shops and restaurants on the main streets of town, plus lots of WWII historical sites, and a few entertainment spots like Crocosaurus Cove.
In the afternoon, we taxied out to the Air Frontier office at Darwin Airport, and boarded our Cessna 270 for the 30-minute scenic flight across the floodplains and rivers of the north coast to our landing spot at Swim Creek. We were met by Riley, our classic Aussie outback guide, in the 4WD vehicle that would get us to the lodge site at Bamurru Plains in about 30 minutes. The drive was unpaved, but not at all rough, since we were traveling at a leisurely pace. We were immediately greeted by buffalo, just meandering and grazing about…so the photo safari begins, before we even get there! Riley was fantastic, answering our many questions and pointing out the different types of buffalo they have on the property.
On arrival at Bamurru, we are greeted by Martika with a cool eucalyptus towel and glass of chilled rosemary and thyme water…perfectly refreshing! We were escorted to our bungalow, which is stilted above ground, with sweeping views out to the floodplains. There is a low king-sized bed, and a single mattress in the screened-in porch area for Skylar. The bathroom is probably the best part…it’s a separate room without A/C, and has the feeling of being outside, with a huge/open shower that features a rain shower head. The use of stone, metal siding, and wood beams gives it a very rustic and outdoorsy feel. The property operates on solar power and generator, so we still have the convenience of in-room lighting and A/C.
The main lodge is a cozy central gathering place. The deck is stunning…padded bench seats with overhead tin roofing line both sides, while an infinity pool takes front and center. The view from the deck is of wide open space that gradually turns into wetland a few hundred yards away (at least this time of year…as the dry season continues, the water will recede). There are buffalos, wallabies, termite mounds, and birds all over the place. The pandanus trees add a Dr Suess-on-safari look, and are great for photographs.
We went on an afternoon 4WD trip to the nursery area, since they are just finishing up the calving season, and there are dozens and dozens of baby buffalo huddling close to their mothers. Wallabies are everywhere! They are skittish, and take off in a horizontal hop/run as the truck approaches, and then pause to look back and evaluate us, once they feel that they are safely out of our reach….their tiny little mouths still munching on the snack that we just interrupted. We even saw one wallaroo. There are tons of birds, including cockatoos, egrets, jabarus, kites, etc…all chattering at once.
We made it back to the lodge just in time for a stunning sunset, as the fiery red globe slipped quickly beyond the wetlands and distant tree line.
After a fire and canapes on the deck, we sat down to dinner in the main lodge with the other guests (Bill and Kim from Perth; a hunter from Texas and his guide, and Riley). We enjoyed an entrée of smoked salmon and cream cheese; a main course of duck with carrot and broccolini on the side, and dessert of homemade ice cream and berries. Beverages are included, so local Aussie wine and beer accompanied the meal. With very full bellies, we walked back to our rooms, dodging frogs along the way, and settled in for a night amongst the wildlife.
DAY 6 – Bamurru
We awoke to the sounds of buffalo and bird chatter this morning…and looked out of our room to see them meandering and grazing, just feet away. Even the wild horses made it to our doorstep. We had a hearty breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, spinach, and bacon, along with a selection of fruit, breads/muffins, and cereals.
At about 9:00am, we headed out on our first adventure of the day…taking the airboat to the Kingfisher area. What an amazing experience! As we motored across the floodplains, we saw birds scattering left and right, and buffalo hustling out of the way. One moment we were on the wide open plain, and the next amongst the paper bark trees with colorful water lilies in all directions, and dragonflies zipping about. Riley turned the motor off periodically, and we just took in the sounds of nature, and enjoyed the light breeze. It was absolutely beautiful…seemingly a world away from civilization. One of the most majestic views was of the Jaburu taking flight, with its massive wingspan. Bamurru (the magpie goose) were absolutely everywhere, scattering in flight at the sound of the boat approaching, or scuttling along the reeds with their young in tow.
Back to the lodge for a dip in the pool, a delicious chicken salad lunch, and some down time during the peak heat of the day. The kerala (cockatoos) were on a rampage this afternoon…squawking and talking, and rolling around on the grass. Hard to believe how noisy it was for several hours! Gotta love the sounds of nature.
Our afternoon 4WD started at 4:00pm, and was guided by Estelle…a young gal originally from Tasmania, who has a vast knowledge of the local Northern Territory wildlife, including visual ID and behaviors. We headed out to Pandanus Point, stopping many times along the way to learn about the local trees, vegetation, birds, ants, mammals…anything and everything that crossed our path. We even tasted the tangy green rear ends of the green ants. As the sun set, we enjoyed canapes and wine/beer at the point, surrounded by buffalo, wallabies, and birds.
Dinner was served around 7:30pm, and started with a salmon tartare, followed by rack of lamb with potatoes and broccoli and ending with a delectable chocolate mousse. After learning more about Estelle’s Tasmania background and tourist recommendations, we called it a night…watching for roaming buffalo and frogs/toads in our path.
DAY 7 – Bamurru to Darwin
We got an earlier start today, since we have to leave at 11:00am. Breakfast at 7:30am, and then off on the airboat with Estelle driving/guiding. We started out heading toward Pandanus Point, where we spotted a number of unique birds…including the Comb-Crested Jacana (jesus bird), that seemingly walks on water. We spotted the dad with two little chicks…dad’s crest turns from bright red to yellow in a time of stress, and he plays decoy while the young chicks drop below water for safety, just leaving their tiny beaks out of the water for air. We also spotted the White Bellied Sea Eagle nest, with one of the eagles resting inside. The nest is massive, typically up to 2 meters or so in diameter, and located high up in a tree.
Estelle drove us as far out over the wetland as possible, until it started to get too shallow for even the airboat. Then with the motor off, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the birds and buffalo while enjoying a nibble (fruit, muffins, juice, and water). Such a peaceful place, and stunningly beautiful, as far as the eye can see.
We bid the staff and guests farewell, and rode out on the 4WD with Riley to the airstrip, where we were picked up for the bumpy flight back to Darwin. There has been unusual cloud cover these last few days, which raised the heat/humidity and made the flight a bit bouncy.
Back in Darwin, we taxied to the DoubleTree by Hilton Esplanade, and grabbed a quick bite to eat before our AAT Kings City Sights tour. It was a great overview of the area in a small coach with about 15-20 other tourists. The driver gave commentary as we drove around the city, and we stopped at several historic sites, including Survivors Lookout, East Point, and the Botanic Gardens (with a nice rainforest walk). Unfortunately our Sunset Fish & Chips Cruise was cancelled due to boat issues, so we just ventured into town for dinner instead. The city was bustling with visitors for the V8 Supercars event, so I suspect it was a livelier Friday night than usual.