Above: Lirrwi - credit Tourism Australia
Why an Indigenous Cultural Immersions should be on your travel bucket list
As Australians, how, where and why we travel has changed dramatically in the last 18 months with lockdowns, border closures, ever-changing rules and hotspots.
We have started travelling again and are increasingly looking to have more connected and authentic travel experiences, however it can be challenging to find a genuine and grounded experience in an unfamiliar place or culture.
Visiting a new place is exciting, but you are often inexperienced with the basics, like how to get around, speak the language and find the best activities and authentic local food. A cultural immersion is an easy and deeply satisfying way to go beyond the generic, chintzy tourist experience and connect with the soul of a place, its culture and people.
Above: Culture Connect. Image courtesy of Tourism Australia.
A cultural immersion is the act of surrounding yourself with the culture of a place. An immersion can be staying with a family in a community or sharing a meal with locals – listening, laughing and learning. An Indigenous cultural immersion will leave you with a completely new perspective and experience of Australia. Although seemingly simple, an Indigenous immersive experience creates a deeper understanding of a place and people, leaving the traveller with a meaningful connection.
Immersive experiences not only benefit the traveller but also the places, cultures or communities visited. These benefits go far beyond the simple tourism dollar: Sharing in a culture preserves it, creating cross-cultural respect and opening dialogues of understanding and change.
Above: Ngaran Ngaran ceremony. Image courtesy of Tourism Australia.
Australia offers a huge variety of Indigenous immersions from the Cape to the Bight, each unique to the local Indigenous culture and the spectacular Australian landscape. New South Wales is home to Australia’s largest Aboriginal population; more than 80 unique Aboriginal groups are represented, and with such cultural diversity available, New South Wales offers you some of the most accessible and remarkable Aboriginal immersive experiences in Australia.
Explore Yuin Country on the South Coast of New South Wales with Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness and immerse yourself in the region’s culture. On this two-night, one-day experience you will learn about the significance of Gulaga Mountain and the surrounding Country, experience Yuin culture and hear the dreaming. Some highlights of the experience include a traditional sound healing workshop, cooking demonstration and cultural explanation of regional bush foods and traditional healing techniques.
Go beyond the cellar door and see the Hunter Valley with fresh eyes thanks to Wollombi Aboriginal Cultural Experiences. Visit Wollombi the Country of the Darkinjung people and learn how Mount Yengo is as sacred to the peoples of the East as Uluru to those of the Red Centre. Learn about Wollombi culture, Country and lore on this three-day camping immersion. Wollombi has been, for millennia, an important meeting place to which Aboriginal people would travel great distances for trade, social gatherings and ceremony.
Above: Wilpena from above. Image courtesy of South Australia Tourism.
In South Australia, the premium Ikara Flinders Ranges experience from Wilpena Pound Resort offers two nights of cultural glamping. Enjoy scenic flights, luxury 4WD tours and walking tours of spectacular Wilpena Pound and the surrounding gorges and ranges. The cultural tours available at the resort explain the Adnyamathanha story of how the Akurra (serpents) formed Ikara Wilpena Pound and the history of European and Aboriginal interaction in the region.
Go to where the forest meets the sea with Culture Connect, seeing Country in Far North Queensland and experiencing Kuku Yalanji and Balnggarrawarra culture in intimate and personalised Homeland experiences. Culture Connect specialises in immersive cultural experiences with multiple Traditional Owners on Country. Their vision is to connect people of different cultural backgrounds through unique and unforgettable Indigenous cultural experiences.
Above: Wukalina Walk. Image courtesy of Tourism Tasmania.
Wukalina Walk is an incredible four-day Aboriginal guided walk of the larapuna and wukalina areas of Tasmania, incorporating the famous Bay of Fires area – the cultural homeland of the palawa. The journey will deepen your understanding of palawa culture and community as well as immerse you in the natural and rugged beauty of Tasmania. You will walk with palawa guides in the footsteps of their traditional people on their cultural homeland, hear the palawa creation story and participate in cultural practices that have been passed down for hundreds of generations.
Kakadu and Arnhem Land in the North Territory, thanks to their scale and remoteness, boast some premier immersive Indigenous experiences.
Living in a remote Aboriginal community in East Arnhem Land is a life-changing experience. Join Lirriwi Tourism to experience Country most Australian’s never see and make lifelong friendships with the Yolŋu (image of immersion at top of story).
Above: Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours. Image courtesy of Tourism Australia.
Spend five incredible days living as part of a small family on a Yolŋu Homeland, learning about Yolŋu culture and participating in a range of traditional activities from weaving to traditional spearfishing, gathering bush foods and medicine, dance (Bunggul), and even how the Yidaki (didgeridoo) is made and played.
Time is slow on the homelands and days are flexible, a whole afternoon might be dedicated to preparing and eating freshly caught fish, gathering mud crabs from the bay or sitting talking sharing stories.
For a family-friendly immersion, Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours offers a variety of shorter immersions. Discover Kakadu and Litchfield on a three day or two day, hands-on educational experience. Experiences are delivered by the local people of the Adelaide and Mary River Region and feature art sessions, cultural tours and bush food and wildlife tours.
Above: Venture North. Image courtesy of Tourism Australia.
Venture North offers luxury small group five day experiences exploring Kakadu, Litchfield, Arnhem Land and the Cobourg Peninsula. These premium experiences include scenic flights, wetland and river cruises, glamping and luxury accommodation. And the local Indigenous guides provide in-depth knowledge of the history and culture as well as taking you to the best waterfalls, swimming holes and rock art sites of the region.
Indigenous cultural immersions celebrate the people and traditions that make each place special and unique. They create connections between travellers and locals, and foster the exchange of ideas and experiences. Making travel better for everyone and creating true connections.
This piece was made in partnership with welcometocountry.com, your guide to experiencing Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Australia.