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A Final Hurrah From Porters’ Progress UK

All good things have to come to an end and with big achievements since its inception in 2005, Porters’ Progress UK have now reached that time. Their closure didn’t go quietly though, as they have shared their final funds to our Lend a Hand Appeal and that way we have been able to support 317 porters and their families in Nepal. It marks a very welcome and thankful final positive hurrah during these unprecedented times. 

 

Priceless Nepali smile upon receiving a 'Lend A Hand Appeal' food package

 

Many World Expeditions travellers have supported the charity over the years and you will be happy learn that the aim of Porters’ Progress UK, “to support trekking porters in Nepal who, back in 2005, experienced acutely poor welfare and working conditions and often were exploited by trekking companies” has been realised effectively. 

Although examples for improvement still exist, over the years conditions for porters in Nepal have improved slowly. They now benefit from a Government-directed minimum wage and the majority of trekking companies have followed our lead and now take responsibility to look after the porters they hire by ensuring they are properly clothed and have health insurance. On top of that, local training sessions are more common and porters are made aware of their rights when trekking and have a greater awareness of their own health and safety at altitude. Fantastic achievements that Porters’ Progress UK have made with their partners and we like to congratulate them on that! 

 

World Expeditions representatives distributing food packages in Rasuwa area Distribution of food packages in the Bandipur area of Nepal Porter families in Nepal receiving our 'Lend a Hand Appeal' food packages
 

Thanks to the generosity of Porters’ Progress UK, we are pleased to inform you that their donation carefully distributed to 317 porters in Nepal and their families. The porters come from 7 different districts and they work as porters in areas like the Annapurna region, Langtang, Makalu and Everest.

    

>> If you are keen to learn more about the closure of the charity, have a look here.

>> Our Lend a Hand Appeal is on-going, and if you have the means to also support our people in Nepal, Peru, India, Tanzania and Kenya, you can do so via our fundraising page. 

Lend A Hand Appeal: distribution update

Thanks to the generosity of supporters for our recent Lend a Hand Appeal we've been able to distribute hundreds of emergency food packages to stricken communities in Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, India and Peru.

When COVID-19 struck, our travellers responded quickly to our Lend a Hand Appeal through our charity arm, the World Expeditions Foundation, raising over AUD$37,900. 

The first round of food and hygiene packages have now been distributed to the recipients intended, with no administration fees withheld. Although packages vary in each recipient country (see below for exact breakdown), they are designed to last a family of five for one month and typically contain: rice, flour, cooking kerosene or oil, tea, lentils, pasta as well as body and laundry soap.

Recipients include horsemen, kitchen staff, guides, assistant guides, cooks and porters, many of whom have no means of earning income, with travel restrictions in place. We asked our partners in each country to nominate staff members who were most in need of support.

 

World Expeditions CEO, Sue Badyari, said that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the international travel and tourism industry, particularly those in poorer countries, where there are literally no safety nets for those who find themselves without work, including contractors such as mountain porters, drivers and camp hands.

“It's heartbreaking to hear of the suffering in our partner communities in Nepal, Tanzania, India, Kenya and Peru who are facing an uncertain future with travel halted,” Ms Badyari said.

“The trickle-down effect on their families and broader communities is truly devastating. Sadly, there is no JobKeeper for these people.”

“I am confident that many travellers who remember with fondness the guides and support crews who helped make their overseas adventures so memorable will be keen to show support now,” she said.  

You can still help Lend A Hand

While the COVID pandemic continues, we are committed to continue sending care packages to our team in need. 

Australian residents who donate more than $2 will receive a tax-deductible receipt and 100% of funds go to recipients in Kenya, Tanzania, Nepal, India and Peru, with no administration fees withheld.

You can still support our campaign, visit the Lend a Hand fundraising page to make a donation.

Distribution breakdown

NEPAL: 139 employees (office staff and field staff) and their families received the following food package that is expected to last a family of five people for one month.

  • 30kgs rice
  • 2 litres of cooking oil
  • 2kgs red lentils
  • 2kgs black lentils
  • 1kg salt
  • 5kg flour


PERU: 125 employees and their families from Paucartambo, Tito Grande - Calca, San Salvador, Porters from Huilloc, Cooks/Drivers, received the following food & hygiene package that is expected to last a family of five, seven days (food) and one month (hygiene).

  • 2kgs sugar
  • 5kgs rice
  • 1 litre cooking oil
  • 1 kg salt
  • 2.5kgs spaghetti
  • 7 cans tuna
  • 3.5kgs lentils
  • 5kg varied pasta noodles
  • 5 x body soap
  • 5 x (210 grams each) of laundry soap
  • 5 x face masks

 
KENYA: 45 porters received the following food packages that are expected to last a family of five for three months.

  • 10kgs cooking oil
  • 10kgs wheat flour
  • 15kgs maize flour
  • 1kg tea
  • Soap, toilet paper and masks
  • KSV5000 to pay for Health Insurance and electricity for 3 months


TANZANIA: 160 employees (guides, assistant guides, cooks and porters) will receive the following food packages that are expected to last a family of five people one week.

  • 5kgs maize flour
  • 5kgs rice
  • 3 litres cooking oil 
  • 3kgs sugar
  • 100 grams tea
  • 6kgs cooking gas
  • 1 litre liquid soap  
  • 100 mls hand sanitiser
  • 2 pieces re-usable masks 

INDIA: 9 horsemen, 5 kitchen staff and 2 local guides received the following food packages that are expected to last a family of five for one month.

  • 40kgs rice
  • 10kgs flour
  • 7 litres of cooking oil
  • 7 kgs lentils
  • 1kg of tea
  • 7 kgs of sugar
  • 4 tins of milk 
  • 1 litre hand sanitiser
  • 6 x masks
  • 1 x liquid soap (750 ml)
  • 10 bars of soap
  • 20 litres of kerosene
  • 3 x carry bags


Post last updated 12 Oct 2020.
5 new places to visit in New Zealand’s South Island

With travel to far off exotic destinations off the cards for a little while, the message is clear – explore New Zealand and travel local.  Facebook, TV and social media are currently filled with images of Kiwis doing just that, travelling local, with many ticking off a multitude of bucket list items.  But have they ticked them all off??

Here are 5 destinations that are well worth the visit, and a little off the beaten track.

 

1.    Nydia Bay – Pelorus Sound

Located in Pelorus Sound, a 4-5 hour walk will take you to Nydia Bay, smack bang in the middle of the Nydia Track.

The bay itself offers stunning views across the sound to Kenepuru Inlet, whose peninsulas fold into the distance, and provides a picturesque place to relax.

More than a century ago, steam-powered haulers dragged timber from the bush to Nydia Bay for milling, with remnants still visible of the railway line that carried timber to a 300m wharf for shipment by barge

Nydia Track Hike sees you exploring the Nydia Track and bay and allows you to stay at the fabulous On the Track Lodge - offering a number of chalets, cabins and a yurt for your overnight options.

 
The Nydia Bay Jetty almost looks like a scene straight out of a movie |  <i>Janet Oldham</i>

 

2.    Stewart Island – Rakiura

It's NZ's third largest island, yet it's surprising how many people are yet to tick a hike on Stewart Island off their bucket list.

Over 85% of the island is National Park and is any hiker or birdwatcher’s paradise. With just 28km of road, the 280km of walking tracks are a welcome substitute, suited to short walks, day walks and multi-day hikes.

Whether you enjoy wildlife, walking, boating, fishing, diving, kayaking, hunting or just relaxing, we'd recommend moving it to the top of your bucket list asap.

The island is easily accessible by ferry from Bluff, or by plane from Invercargill.

 

3.     Ben Lomond Station

Located just a short drive from Queenstown, Ben Lomond Station is one of the few remaining high- country stations owned and operated by New Zealanders. The private land is filled with old gold mining pack tracks, diverse landscapes and comfortable lodges making it the perfect place for hiking, relaxing and appreciating NZ's stunning beauty.

Moonlight Lodge easily makes the list as one of NZ's most comfortable and secluded back-country lodges, located deep in the Moonlight Valley. A most comfortable place to spend the night after a day’s walking through Queenstown backcountry on our Moonlight Valley & Ben Lomond hike.

To top things off, you'll experience true local hospitality with a delicious meal prepared by station owners, John and Ginny.

Heaven's Door - there must be a story behind the name, but amazing views nonetheless |  <i>Janet Oldham</i> Hopefully no goblins end up jumping out of Goblin Forest |  <i>Jase Blair (Tourism New Zealand)</i> Blue Jacket Hut - an old musterer's hut on Ben Lomond Station |  <i>Janet Oldham</i>

 

4.    Old Ghost Road

A ghost has awakened in the north western corner of the South Island.  Part of New Zealand’s rich gold-mining history, this old gold miner’s road has been revived as a challenging mountain biking and walking trail.

The 85km Old Ghost trail traverse’s majestic native forest, river flats, valleys and open tussock-land. Along the way, the trail is like an open-air museum, filled with old relics from the mining era, signs allowing you to stop and read about the history of the region and the trail as well as some amazing views and photographic opportunities.

Great for history buffs and avid walkers alike as well as for those that love flora and fauna with the opportunity to spot the rare blue duck along the trail.

 

5.     Paparoa Track

We are sure most Kiwis would not have ticked this one off the list yet, seeing as the Paparoa Track is one of the newest trails and Great Walks of New Zealand – but one to add to the bucket list for the coming summer season.

Found near the iconic Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) along the rough and rugged west coast, where the wilderness is just that, ‘wild’, the Paparoa Track is a custom-built track, recently completed and opened, 55 kilometres in length and taking in limestone karst landscapes, rich and luscious rainforests, breathtaking views and a chance to once again explore NZ history.

Diverse eco-systems, rare wildlife, gold rush history of the 1800’s along with old farming tracks dot this trail and the remoteness and newness of it give it that extra little something special.

It is also part of NZ’s tragic recent history, created as a memorial to the men that lost their lives in the Pike River Mine and a thank you to New Zealander’s for their support of the families.

 
Rediscovering Cuba on an Adventure To Remember

Rediscovering Cuba on an Adventure To Remember


Jane went on a World Expeditions tour to Cuba, her birthplace, where she had a fascinating adventure rediscovering the history, culture, and passions of Cuba. Enjoy her story.
 

I don’t think I would have ever gone to Cuba….if I hadn’t already been there!

I was, in fact, born in Cuba, many decades ago, in what the Cubans call “the American Period”, to two British parents who decided that Cuba, with its’ warmth and a tropical lifestyle, suited them better than dreary, rationed, post-war Britain, and we left to come to Australia when I was only 4 years old. So as tourism began to open up in Cuba some years ago, it became time to revisit and rediscover this vibrant and unique island that was my birthplace.

Explore the photogenic streets of Havana in Cuba

World Expeditions has a great 12 day Cuba Adventure tour, and my sister (also Cuban born) and I planned to arrive a couple of days early. Our first evening we strolled down the wide pedestrian footpath in the middle of the Paseo de Marti, accompanied by couples walking hand in hand, young people whizzing by on skates, the older generation taking a rest on strategically placed benches, down to the iconic Malecon. Havana’s seafront was heaving - everyone was out and about in the late afternoon sun. We ended up having dinner nearby in a small cafe, complete with a salsa band and dance floor. We were to discover bands and dance
floors everywhere!!

The next day was magic! We had come armed with a number of addresses of homes we had lived in as tiny children, and so we set off in the hands of an obliging taxi driver to see them for ourselves. We had lived in a flat close to the vast El Cemeterio de Cristobal Colon in Vedado, above a flower shop. The cemetery had been our playground and a flower shop was still there. We drove through the suburban (non-tourist) streets, encountering people lining up outside the small local markets to pick up their rations, with kids playing baseball in the narrow laneways, dilapidated buildings everywhere. There was music in the air and dancing in the streets. We purchased bright, naive style paintings in the local market. 

Local girls in Trinidad, Cuba |  <i>Carlie Ballard</i>

For lunch, we enjoyed our favourite childhood meal, Cristianos y Moros - black beans and rice. We rode the elevator to the top of the fabulous Art Deco Bacardi building to see the length and breadth of Havana spread out below us. We admired the huge American vintage cars (many stopped in the middle of the road, with a pair of legs protruding as the driver tweaked an ailing and aging engine). We arrived sorrowfully at a large square, hundreds of locals dispersing, after a music concert - we had just missed it - but the music buzz was still there. We visited an art museum - Cuban art is bright, exciting, full of life, much of it also outside on the walls of crumbling buildings, alongside the propaganda slogans.

Our hotel room in Havana Vieja, Old Havana, was above a narrow pedestrian lane, crowded with locals that Saturday night, shouting, singing, dancing, drumming, making music till the early hours of the morning. So, what with jet lag plus the party outside, and a non-functioning alarm clock, we slept past our tour group meeting time, to be woken by loud banging on the door from hotel management! Not a good way to start a tour! (we made sure we were always on time from then on). However, once we had got our act together, it was a great day visiting magnificently restored buildings and experiencing all that Havana could offer us, including the huge Plaza Revolution, which was being prepared for the huge crowds of people, come to hear Fidel Castro as they celebrated the Bay of Pigs 50th anniversary soon after.

Local Cuban man riding his bike down the street |  <i>Vanessa Dean</i>

The next day, in our fabulous minivan (supplied by China), we set off for the western end of Cuba. Suddenly, there was a screech and a crashing sound - we had collided with a vehicle hurrying to work. OK, so not heading west just yet then! Our driver spent the whole day at the police station while we did a quick whip around to help pay for the repairs. Our tour guide took us to Plaza Vieja, treated us to a hot beverage and went off to find a new vehicle and driver. And we had a fascinating few hours seeing how Havana residents lived!

First, the older ladies came to do their outdoor exercises - being so isolated from the rest of the gym obsessed world, there seemed to be a lot of floating around. So a couple of us joined in and showed them a few more up-to-date moves. They reciprocated by singing Happy Birthday, Cuban style, to my fellow passenger. Then came the kids doing their PE class, running up and down the square, jumping and shouting and generally having fun. All the time there were noisy road works, and water tankers buzzing around and nearby, a smelly public toilet, where, for a price, one could receive 2 small pieces of toilet paper to use. All in all, an experience so valued...and one we could so easily have missed!
Young boy sitting in a car in Havana |  <i>Vanessa Dean</i>

When we did get going, I loved the beautiful Vinales area with its unusual topography, and tobacco farms…we visited a most interesting hand rolled cigar making factory, Cuban cigars being state of the art! We enjoyed the best meal we had in Cuba - fresh lobster, in a tomato based sauce, salads, the inevitable beans and rice, in the front room of someone’s home, now turned “cafe” (we had been warned that you don’t go to Cuba for the food, and they were generally speaking, correct!). We went offshore for a day to an island resort where I snorkelled amidst dying coral in choppy seas, and later kayaked in fresh winds that threatened to blow me out to sea….no life saving equipment in sight! And we climbed a very steep path up to a cave which we explored with headlamps.

In the centre of the island we were enchanted by beautiful countryside, including lots of sugarcane, coming to a national park (complete with its own band and mojito stand). In the hot humid sun, we set out on a long hike, accompanied by our local National Park guide, who filled us in with all the wonders of the natural world there- birds, plants, animals, butterflies etc. I was to have a first-hand experience of some of these wonders, as I fell heavily, and my knee swelled up alarmingly. He ran into the forest and returned with several large green leaves and lengths of vine, and proceeded to bandage my knee while telling me of the leaves’ therapeutic qualities. I have to say I inwardly rolled my eyes - but he was right and I was wrong. That bandage stayed put for the next two hours as we trudged on, and the swelling reduced.

The crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea on the road to Trinidad |  <i>Carlie Ballard</i>

Trinidad, on the coast, with its cobbled streets, colourful buildings, markets, and ancient squares were fabulous. In spite of my crook knee, we danced the night way at an outdoor dance party, the music loud and insistent. Cienfuegos was a more dignified town, wide streets, old elegant palaces, shady squares - loved it. We swam at the Bay of Pigs while learning of its history and the upcoming anniversary. We visited another area of natural beauty for lunch and sighting of some spectacular hummingbirds. And we stopped at the shrine of the Virgen de la Calidad del Cobre, seen as the “Protectress of Cuba”, full of locals leaving treasured gifts in thanksgiving.

We came finally to Santiago de Cuba, one of my favourite towns. Huge statues commemorating Cuba’s long and turbulent history (Australia’s short history since colonial settlement seemed so boring in contrast); streets teeming with people, eating, playing dominoes, dancing to the ubiquitous music; a museum with bullet ridden walls, where the revolution started; walls covered in propaganda graffiti; the huge Castillo San Pedro de la Roca fortress guarding the bay; trucks, long buses, horses pulling their carts - all full of life, all vibrant, colourful, loud.

Cuban man enjoying a Cuban cigar |  <i>Vanessa Dean</i>

Our last night in Havana, my sister and I decided to walk, one last time, down to the Malecon, to see the sunset. There we were serenaded (for a price...but we didn’t care!) by another pair of musos….of course! A fitting end, I thought, to our return visit to a fascinating country and culture, our birthplace.

By Jane Irwin.
 
 
Read more of Jane's writing about her travels:
 
Have you explored Cuba? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comment section below.
 
  
Top birding spots in Australia: where to go and when

Heading out to discover alluring natural settings drives many of us into wilderness areas – and spotting its animated birdlife adds to the adventure. Whether you're a 'birder' or simply enjoy nature and wildlife viewing, the various bird families and endemic species of Australia make this country a bird watcher's paradise. 

Fellow birders probably know about the popular areas at the Daintree Rainforest, Atherton Tablelands and the Iron Ranges of Far North Queensland. We thought to expand your birding 'life list' to regions you may not have considered, whilst giving you the chance to actively explore the beauty of the land Down Under. 

This guide showcases noteworthy birdwatching hotspots across Australia and how to best see them. Get ready to add these to your checklist!

Kakadu National Park & Nitmiluk National Park – Northern Territory


What makes it great for birding?
Its habitat allow good transition zones for biodiversity – from grasslands to the billabong and tropical forests. There are a number of remote microhabitats throughout the area which some birds, like the White-throated Grasswren, are restricted to and found nowhere else. Other species, like the Gouldian Finch, are nomadic throughout their range making it extra special when you do find them. However, it can be hard to predict where they will be as they follow the seeding grasses they feed on.

Keep your ears peeled for the raucous calls of Blue-winged Kookaburras |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i> Kakadu is a wonderful area for birdwatchers |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i>Masked Finch, Kakadu National Park |  <i>Nicolas Cary</i> Sandstone Shrikethrush, Kakadu National Park
 

Target species: Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Northern Rosella, Hooded Parrot, Rainbow Pitta, Great Bowerbird, Black-tailed Treecreeper, White-throated Grasswren, Green-backed Gerygone, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Sandstone Shrike-Thrush, Silver-backed Butcherbird, Northern Fantail, Paperbark Flycatcher, Buff-sided Robin, Masked Finch, Gouldian Finch, Yellow-rumped Finch and Crimson Finch.

Best season and getting there: The best time of year to go is between May and September. A number of trips in the Top End guide you in true wilderness for a chance to see these wonderful species. Our Kakadu Explorer, Jatbula Trail, Katherine River Canoeing and Kakadu Stone Country Adventure offer beautiful wildlife experiences in NT's tropical paradise.

Don't forget to look up when walking through Kakadu National Park |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i>Kakadu is home to a huge range of birds including the Forest Kingfisher |  <i>Rhys Clarke</i> Bird life is abundant in Kakadu |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i> Spot plenty of birdlife perching on tree branches |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i>

Bonus stop: Keep an eye out or make a quick pit-stop in Pine Creek to see the Hooded Parrots – it's the best spot to see these birds, who are unlikely to be seen in the national park itself.

Bibbulmun Track & Margaret River Region – Western Australia


What makes it great for birding?
Coastal Heath, ancient Karri forest, grasslands and rocky outcroppings make for interesting landscapes and habitats to explore. There have been some great conservation efforts to the important habitats in this region, such as in Albany, which is one of the only places to find the Western Bristlebird. In addition to being a great birding region, you can combine your love of nature with great food and outstanding wine to make a great day of birdwatching even better.

Target species: Baudin’s Black Cockatoo, Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo, Western Corella, Red-capped Parrot, Regent Parrot, Western Rosella, Western Bristlebird, Rufous Treecreeper, Red-winged Fairywren, Western Thornbill, Western Gerygone, Gilbert’s Honeyeater, Western Spinebill, Western Wattlebird, White-breasted Robin and Red-eared Firetail.

Australian Shelduck, Cape Leeuwin WA |  <i>Nicolas Cary</i>

Best season and getting there: You can see most of the above-listed birds year-round, but springtime (September to October) will provide a chance to see courtships in action. Between September and May, the majority of the flowering trees will be blooming which provides lots of food for the birds making them easier to find.

Some of the trips for this region that offer a chance to see these great species are the Bibbulmun Track Albany to Denmark, Bibbulmun Track Walpole to Denmark, Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun in Luxury, Cape to Cape in Luxury and Munda Biddi Cycling Adventure.

Bonus stop: While in the region, don’t forget to take some time to explore Kings Park in Perth or take the ferry to Rottnest Island for a chance to see extra birdlife.

Tasmania


What makes it great for birding?
The isolation of Tasmania has meant that several species have evolved separately from their mainland counterparts into separate species with eccentric colourations and behaviours. Plus, the many pristine and wild areas of the Apple Isle provides plenty of ways to have an adventure while birdwatching, whether it’s rafting, cycling, or trekking.

While you can see most of these species throughout the region, some species have very restricted habitats, like that of the Forty-spotted Pardalote which is restricted to Bruny Island and Maria Island.

The birdlife on Bruny Island include numerous Shearwaters and Petrels

One of the biggest conservation efforts for birds in Australia is the Orange-bellied Parrot which breeds down in Tasmania where loss of habitat is its biggest threats. Birdwatching in this area can help with its conservation for reporting numbers and distribution, as well as helping local economies understand the importance of eco-tourism.  

Target species: Tasmanian Native-hen, Green Rosella, Orange-bellied Parrot, Tasmanian Thornbill, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Scrubtit, Forty-spotted Pardalote, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Yellow Wattlebird, Black Currawong, Forest Raven and Dusky Robin.

Best season and getting there: The best time for birdwatching in Tasmania is during summer (November to March) when it is warm and some of the birds have migrated back from their overwintering territories in mainland Australia. There are a lot of combinations of the different trips we offer down in Tasmania that would enable you to make it a truly great birding trip but are also great if you are travelling with non-birdwatching companions.

Orange-bellied Parrots |  <i>Sylvia Ernst</i>

The Overland Track and the Walls of Jerusalem are some of the most popular where you camp deep in World Heritage-listed wilderness for an abundance of up-close opportunities with the park's birdlife. Other trips like the Cycle, Kayak and Walk Tasmania, the Great Tasmanian Traverse, Freycinet Circuit Walk, Franklin River and Frenchman’s Cap, Port Davey Track (for the best chance of seeing Orange-bellied Parrots) or the Bruny Island Food, Bike & Hike are other equally fun ways to explore the birds of Tasmania.

West McDonnell Ranges – Northern Territory


What makes it great for birding?
Heading to Australia's Red Centre offers highly specialised species which have adapted to the many different microclimates separated by vast areas of arid desert habitat. Many of these outback birds are highly nomadic covering large ranges which can make them a challenge to see.

Birds of the outback in the Red Centre are highly specialised species. These are Spinifex Pigeons |  <i>Gavin Yeates</i>

Other species are highly concentrated within one microhabitat and found nowhere else. With changes to the climate, some of these microclimates are becoming harder to find, so nomadic species like the Princess Parrot have become endangered along with a few other species.

While birding in this region can be challenging, it is definitely rewarding. Plus, you can do your bit by uploading your checklists of birds found to citizen science-based websites to help scientists track these specialised species. Read more about the ecology of Central Australia, home to over 180 unique species of birds.

Target species: Spinifex Pigeon, Dusky Grasswren, Spinifexbird, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Princess Parrot, Bourke’s Parrot, Western Bowerbird, White-browed Treecreeper, Redthroat, Slaty-backed Thornbill, Grey-headed Honeyeater, Chiming Wedgebill and Painted Firetail.

The Larapinta is home to many fascinating species |  <i>Gavin Yeates</i> Finches and other birds gather around the desert waterholes |  <i>Graham Michael Freeman</i> A birds eye view of the Larapinta Trail |  <i>Peter Walton</i>
 

Best season and getting there: The best time to visit this region is in the autumn and winter from April to September, so you have access to the remote habitats at comfortable temperatures. There are many comfortable or hardier walks of the Larapinta Trail available, and the more space you cover, the more chances you will have to see more species.

Flinders Ranges – South Australia


What makes it great for birding?
The iconic Australian outback scenery of the Flinders Range makes it a novel habitat for wildlife. Many microclimates within this region support species which cannot be found elsewhere, as well as being a large transition area that supports many migratory species. When water reaches this region, you can also make a side trip up to Lake Eyre to experience an amazing spectacle of bird gatherings you won’t see anywhere else.

Target species: Mulga Parrot, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Short-tailed Grasswren, Redthroat, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Cinnamon Quail-Thrush and Malleefowl.

A Red-capped Robin along the Murray River Walk

Best season and getting there: The best time to birdwatch in the region is between March and October. Heysen Trail and the Flinders Ranges, Arkaba Walk, Remote Northern Flinders Camel Trek and Flinders Ranges to the Murray River are some of the trips that can get you to this remote area to tick off these great species from your life lists.

While the chance to see these species can be high for each of the areas, wildlife viewings can never be guaranteed. However, this list includes the most accessible areas for ideal chances of birdwatching. Happy birding!

Words by fellow birder Nicolas Cary.

Have a favourite birdwatching location? Share them in the comments below.

Camino Walks: Introducing Europe’s Pilgrimage Routes

From Ireland to Spain and Switzerland to Italy, for centuries people have been congregating to places of worship like Santiago de Compostela and St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Coming from all directions, this has led to an extensive network of pilgrimage routes across Europe. 

Today, walkers and cyclists alike can enjoy these Camino walks, known as some of the world’s great active travel experiences. To help you find your way amongst all the options you have, we are introducing below the most famous Camino trails and how you can enjoy them. 

 

Spanish Camino de Santiago 

The end point of many Camino journeys is the city of Santiago de Compostela, which is the capital of an autonomous community in Spain's northwest. Naturally, Spain has a large network of Camino routes snaking their way through the countryside to reach this spiritual destination. The most famous one takes you from St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees via famous places like Leon and Sarria to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela. 

 
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral |  <i>Janet Oldham</i>

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Via Francigena in Italy & Switzerland

Ancient history and Roman ruins, romantic cities and rustic villages, world-famous cuisine, rich culture and mind-blowing natural beauty – all of this is present along the Via Francigena in Italy. The trail culminates at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, where walkers & cyclists obtain the final stamp in their credenziale. Begin your walk in Switzerland or follow the Italian section of this pilgrimage route that starts at the St Bernard Pass on the border with Switzerland and travels via the Apennine Mountains and Tuscany to Rome. 

 
Pilgrim walking into St Peters in Rome at the end of the Via Francigena |  <i>Tim Charody</i>

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Camino Portuguese

For many pilgrims, the Camino Portuguese is more spiritually connected to the Camino than any other way as in Portugal, it is said, is where St James first preached. It is also believed that his final journey to Santiago was via Portugal when his bones were brought back from Jerusalem following his beheading. There Portuguese Camino routes typically starts in Lisbon and takes walkers and cyclists via Porto and Tui to Santiago.

 
Happy cyclists on the Porto to Santiago self guided cycle |  <i>Pat Rochon</i>

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The French Way of St James

The French Way of St James, also known as the Via Podiensis or Camino Le Puy Way, is often called the most beautiful of all the Camino pilgrimages. It takes walkers and cyclists alike from the ancient town of Le Puy en Velay to the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port. The route passes a multitude of churches and monasteries, resembling a travelling museum of Romanesque art.

 
On the Way of St James in the Haute Provence near St Privat |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

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St Francis Way (Italy)

The St Francis Way is an Italian Camino route inspired by the life of St Francis of Assisi and links Florence to Rome. Walk through the “green heart” of Italy on this scenic and historic pilgrimage in eastern Tuscany and northern Umbria.

 
Walking on the open landscapes of western Tuscany on the St Francis Way

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Other Camino Trails in Spain

There are numerous more Camino pilgrimage routes in Spain such as the Camino Primitivo – the original trail from Oviedo and via Lugo; the Camino del Norte – along the north coast of Spain and considered the safest option during the time of the Moors; the English Way – that starts in Ferrol on the Atlantic Sea where the English arrived; or the Camino Finisterre – an extension to Cape Finisterre (historically considered the edge of the world known) after having reached Santiago de Compostela. 

 

2021 is an important year for the Camino de Santiago: it is a Jacobean Holy Year, and a Camino pilgrimage during this time is even more symbolic, as well as there being other special experiences to encounter. Read the Definitive Guide to the Jacobean Holy Year Camino Pilgrimage by our friends at UTracks. 

 

Did you know? You can obtain Dual Pilgrimage status if you complete both the Camino de Santiago and the Kumano Kodo trail in Japan. 


Contact our team to choose one of the spectacular European pilgrimage route to walk or cycle.
 
Lend a Hand Appeal: support local staff, guides & porters

Our friends in Nepal, Peru, India, Tanzania and Kenya – the guides, porters and administration staff that were the backbone of your last World Expeditions adventure – are in need.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on all of us who derive an income from travel and tourism, equating to millions of jobs lost or at risk in an industry that was just a short time ago a global economic and social force.

During a pandemic the marginalised are not only at greater risk of catching the virus but they are also most likely to suffer the worst effects of the economic downturn.

It's heartbreaking to hear how, for most of those nations, there has been little to no government support and this has impacted the livelihoods of guides, drivers, porters, cooks and staff members behind the scenes.

The trickle down effect on their community and families has caused much fear and anxiety for what many will see as a bleak future ahead while COVID-19 plays out.

The wonderful individuals who have given us so much joy in our travels, are soon to be without income.

You can help by donating to the World Expeditions Foundation’s Lend a Hand Appeal and 100% of funds distributed to the recipients intended and no administration fees withheld.

Who will your donations support?

In line with the mandate of the World Expeditions Foundation, 100% of donations from the appeal will be dispersed to our local partners and their employees in Nepal, Peru, India, Tanzania and Kenya.

These individuals include the field and office team – the guides, porters, drivers, cooks and administration staff.

Please lend a hand today and help make a difference. World Expeditions has kicked off the fundraising with a $AUD1000 donation. 

*Donations over $2 made by Australian residents will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

UPDATE: So far more than 600 food and hygiene care packages have been distributed since October 2020 to stricken communities in Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, India and Peru. Read more about how the first round of funds were distributed here.

Post last updated 13 October 2020.

The Larapinta Trail: a spotlight on ancient Australia

Celebrating 25 years guiding award-winning walks on Northern Territory's Larapinta Trail, one of the Great Walks of Australia and named in National Geographic’s 100 Hikes of a Lifetime.

Most people lucky enough to have walked all or part of the 223km Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges, near Alice Springs, would agree it’s the combination of stunning scenery and the rich Indigenous history which make the Larapinta one of the most popular multi-day walks in Australia today.

There's the physical beauty of the many waterholes and gorges. The spectacular mountain ranges that contrast so sharply with the endless flat nothingness that we traditionally associate with a desert landscape.

Then there's the palpable feeling of ancientness and the knowledge that you are walking in the footsteps of people belonging to one of the longest continuing cultures on the planet.

Home to the Arrernte (pronounced Ah-runda) people, whose ancestors have inhabited the region for around 40,000 years, the Larapinta is part of Tyurrentye (as the area is known to the Traditional Owners) and is a living landscape with deep spiritual significance to the 16 traditional estates that make up the area.

The whole area abounds with sacred sites, archaeological sites and many dreaming tracks (or 'songlines' as they are commonly known), such as the taye (moon man) dreaming that takes place between Mt Sonder and Glen Helen Gorge.

Guide explaining some of the history of the Larapinta Trail |  <i>Linda Murden</i> The breathtaking Glen Helen Gorge on the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia. |  <i>Ayla Rowe</i> The Ochre Pits are a special site where Aboriginal people quarried ochre for trade and traditional artist use |  <i>Graham Michael Freeman</i> Sunrise on Mt Sonder from Fearless's Camp |  <i>Rachel Imber</i> Ellery Creek swimmimg hole |  <i>Latonia Crockett</i>
 

Perhaps it’s the echo of those Dreamtime stories, told so often over thousands of years that have permeated the landscape, but there’s a palpable ancientness that many find quite moving. Many marine fossils found high on the West MacDonnell Ranges prove that an inland sea once covered Central Australia and provide geological evidence of this ancientness.

There’s no doubt that the connection with the land is a big part of what’s special about the Larapinta and leading tour operator, World Expeditions, is a strong supporter of collaborating with the local Indigenous community to help clients gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture.

The Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort, for example, allow trekkers to sample delicious locally grown food and learn about their traditional uses by local Indigenous chef, Rayleen Brown, from Kungkas Can Cook. There’s also a chance to hear Dreamtime stories told by a member of the local Indigenous community in a “Cultural Conversation Experience” on some departures.

But how did the Larapinta become one of the Great Walks of Australia and named in National Geographic’s 100 Hikes of a Lifetime when, less than 25 years ago, it was largely unknown to non-Indigenous people?

A walk to remember

The transition began with a visit from a humble Himalayan guide by the name of Charlie Holmes, who first visited the region during the early ’90s.  Charlie was mesmerized with the beauty of the Larapinta Trail and immediately recognized its commercial potential. His enthusiasm for the trail was infectious and, fortuitously, he was well respected by the adventure travel company, World Expeditions, for whom he’d guided in Nepal.

World Expeditions has a long-established history of pioneering new trips, introducing to the Australian market firsts such as cycling holidays in India (1977) and China (1978) and trekking trips in Mongolia (1980). It didn’t hesitate to support Charlie’s vision to begin operating guided trekking expeditions to the Larapinta in 1995.

While Charlie and World Expeditions nutted out logistics of operating those first treks in the remote desert environment, the Trail was still being developed by the forward-looking Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT, initially to establish a long-distance trail along the spine of the elongated West MacDonnell National Park.

By the time the full length of the 223km trail was completed in 2002, many sections by low-security prisoners from the NT Correctional Services, the route had been adapted to take the modern route – and Charlie knew it well.

From day one, the Larapinta was popular amongst trekkers, with word of mouth recommendations driving growth. By 2005, the Larapinta Trail had become World Expeditions’ highest-selling itinerary worldwide, establishing a base in Alice Springs and employing a team of professional guides.

LARAPINTA TRAIL HIGHLIGHTS:
  •  Counts Point – a 5km ridgeline walk that offers extensive views of 100km in every direction
  •  The Ochre Pits – a traditional Aboriginal quarry for ceremonial Ochre, in a range of colours from white to yellow, orange and red.
  •  Serpentine Gorge – a stunning gorge cut in the red quartzite cliffs near Charlie’s Camp.
  •  Ormiston Gorge – widely considered the most spectacular in the West Macs. (The 10km Gorge walk is not officially part of the Larapinta Trail but is one of the best short walks in the NT)
  •  Mt Sonder – the summit of which is a wonderful place to witness the sunrise as the sun’s rays spread across the vast folds of the ranges.

 

Get comfy

The idea of establishing a network of semi-permanent, eco campsites to sustainably manage the increasing demand was first floated around this time but, with so many stakeholders involved, the idea remained on the back burner for several years, until the ownership of the West MacDonnell National Park was returned to the Aboriginal Traditional Owners in 2012.

With the Park being jointly managed by NT Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Traditional owners, negotiation of an exclusive sub-lease agreement progressed and the eco camps were completed in 2013, allowing World Expeditions’ Larapinta product to meet the criteria to become one of the founding seven “Great Walks of Australia”, supported by Tourism Australia and the state Tourism bodies.

Designed by the late Nick Murcutt of Neeson-Murcutt Architects, the eco campsites set a new international benchmark by providing superior standards of service and comfort for trekkers in outback regions, thereby opening the experience to greater numbers of people, who may not have been ready to take on a wilderness camping based trek.

The design incorporates sustainable technologies such as water-free composting toilets, solar lighting systems and a hybrid grey water disposal system designed for the arid environment.

The stars of the desert sky are a stunning backdrop to our unique Semi-Permanent Campsites |  <i>Graham Michael Freeman</i> Soak up the sounds of the desert around our campfire |  <i>Shaana McNaught</i> Trekkers relaxing on the porch of their campsites |  <i>Shaana McNaught</i>

The camps are semi-permanent and are dismantled in the off-season, to allow the land to recover, maintaining the idyllic natural setting of these wilderness sites.

The lounge is designed to keep occupants comfortable in a climate known for extremes, with a moveable stretch canopy providing a cool shady open-sided haven, while also offering a warm shelter during cool nights with the sides pulled down. Cafe style gas burners along with open fire provide heating at night and a commercial standard cooking area allows guides to prepare delicious meals. Hot showers give trekkers a welcome way to wash away the dust of a good days walk on the Larapinta Trail.

The next step

Today, the Larapinta campsites are operated by Australian Walking Holidays, the domestic brand of World Expeditions and, this year, the company celebrates 25 years on the Larapinta Trail. A testament to the quality of the guiding team and the experience itself, the Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort remains the company’s top-selling trip.

According to Australian Walking Holidays’ General Manager, Michael Buggy, long-term partnerships remain at the heart of the Larapinta experience:

As well as the ongoing collaborations with the Arrernte people and with the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT that underpin the whole operation, there have been some very significant contributions from individuals along the way that helped shape the Larapinta experience that we are able to share with people today.

“The camps have been named Charlie’s Camp, Nick’s Camp and Fearless Camp as a tribute to some of these wonderful people who played a pivotal role in their inception,” says Michael.

“Fearless Camp, close to Mount Sonder, seemed a very apt commemoration of the late Sue Fear and her life as a mountaineer and guide, and the fourth and newest of the camps is Sonder Camp, named for its sweeping views of the mountain.”

The four eco-camps are positioned along the trail, as a kind of moving basecamp, which allows walkers to carry only a day pack, with luggage transported by 4WD vehicles between camps.

Last season, Australian Walking Holidays employed 23 guides on the Larapinta Trail – 12 women and 11 men, each of whom bring a love of the land and a warmth that empowers people who walk the trail with them.

“As a participant on the walk, you can expect to have the luxury of being fully present in a way that is not possible in our usual lives; to engage all your senses and be humbled by the beauty of your surrounds and the knowledge that people have preceded you on this walk for millennia,” Michael says.

In addition to being a three times recipient of the NT Tourism’s Brolga Award for best eco-tourism product, the Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort is a 100% carbon offset trip, with emissions offset by Australian Walking Holidays, as part of our ongoing commitment to sustainable travel.

“We remain mindful that it’s thanks to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Central and Western Arrernte Country, that we have the opportunity to explore and enjoy this ancient landscape,” says Michael, “and we hope that the experience ultimately helps build understanding and respect for their place as Custodians of the land.”

This edited article was originally published in Great Walks Magazine, April-May 2020.

Should I hire an electric bike?

Once a rare alternative, electric bicycles – or e-bikes – are growing in popularity, especially for those looking to ride cycle trails with confidence, and often without all the sweat.

Having first offered cycling in India in 1978 and pioneering the first commercial cycling adventures in both China and Vietnam, we know a thing or two about opening up a world of adventure and self-discovery by bike. The great thing about opting for this style of travel is that you don’t need to be a super fit cyclist to explore destinations on two wheels – thanks to the e-bike's battery-powered pedalling ‘boost’.

The growing availability of e-bikes on cycling holidays, which kicked off in Europe, has now expanded to destinations in Vietnam, China, New Zealand, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos and Japan, giving less able cyclists the confidence to enjoy backroads and picturesque cycle trails they may otherwise have considered too tough for their capabilities.

E-bikes are perfect for cyclists that may require a little assistance on their adventure travels, so you can enjoy every enchanting side road you pass without physical limitations. But are electric bikes worth it, and how do they work? Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions on e-bikes and the benefits they offer.

Jump to a section:
What the difference between an electric bike and a regular bike?
How does an electric bike work? 
Who would most benefit from using an electric bike?
What are the advantages of riding an e-bike?
Why are e-bikes more expensive than a regular bike?
Should I still train for my cycling trip even though I will have an e-bike?
 

What's the difference between an electric bike and a regular bike?

An electric bike has all the features of a regular bicycle with the addition of an electrical drive system.

They are slightly bigger and heavier than the ordinary bike due to its motor, however, don't get them confused a scooter or electric motorcycle; they are quite different. E-bikes still need to be pedalled, shifted, and steered like you would any other bike, only with the added benefit of having a small engine to assist with your pedalling. So having reasonable handling to hold up an e-bike and the ability to balance on a bicycle is a basic requirement.

How does an electric bike work?

Designed to make cycling easier, electric bikes enable people of all different fitness levels to cycle together and tackle routes that previously would have been too difficult.

It consists of a battery, a motor, a way to integrate the motor’s power into the drivetrain, and a way to control that power.

The motor is your friend as it adds a speed boost when pedalling up that steep incline or taking on a more lengthy cycling distance. It won't leave you exhausted halfway with that extra push.

When riding an e-bike, the display will show you how fast you are going and the distance you've ridden. Depending on the model, e-bikes can provide up to 80 kilometres of pedal assistance before requiring recharging. Simple charge the battery, attach it to your e-bike, turn on the power and adjust the pedal assist level to how much or how little 'boost' you would like on your journey.

Each e-bike has a range of pedal-assist levels (eco, normal and high) and can be easily charged up at night by your guide. Our guides will also demonstrate how to operate the bike so you're set to go. Easy!

Who would most benefit from using an electric bike?

Built with comfort and simple operation in mind, and with unisex frames available, an e-bike makes it easy for anyone looking to enjoy the ride without the physical strain. This makes cycling trips around the world a viable option, regardless of one's fitness level.

Aren't an avid cyclist, new to road cycling and cycling holidays or nervous about your endurance on the trail? Upgrading to an e-bike can help you feel more confident.

Want to tackle tougher climbs? An e-bike allows for that extra boost.

Have joint issues or recovering from an injury and not quite back to full physical capacity? The added support from an e-bike takes it easy on your legs and knees than when riding a traditional bike.

Choosing an electric bike is a great solution for those who are concerned about their fitness or physical capabilities, allowing people with varying levels of cycling experience, health and fitness levels the opportunity to cycle together.

What are the advantages of riding an e-bike?

Apart from the above-mentioned points, there are many additional benefits of using an electric bike.

•  They are eco-friendly and efficient.

•  Easy to use. E-bikes are quick to master and make active holidays physically easier without taking away from the adventurous spirit of the trip.

•  Make a great equaliser when different members of the family or friends have different strength and stamina levels. No longer will you have to worry about keeping up, but simply focus on spending quality time together. With a little extra power, rough terrain is no longer an issue, and daunting headwinds won’t slow you down.

•  Can mean a more fun ride. For many, choosing an e-bike can mean a more relaxed journey where you can spend more time enjoying your surroundings than huffing and puffing. You can better enjoy your surrounds with electric assistance to minimise the physical challenges, so you focus more on taking in new places and welcoming new experiences. It just adds that extra comfort and ease on the trail.

•  Are an added safety net. With less impact on your joints and reducing much of the cycling strain on your legs than a regular bike, if you have injuries or physical conditions, an electric bike allows you to still have a fun and active time. It also won't make you feel like the odd one out.

•  Get you achieving bigger goals! Tougher cycling routes seem more achievable and if you're a newcomer to cycling trips, you can enjoy the benefits of an e-bike at handlebar level.

Why are e-bikes more expensive than a regular bike?

The added motor and the fact that an e-bike will require more maintenance means hiring an electric bike will cost more than an ordinary bike. So if the support and added ease of an electric pedal assist on your travels appeals to you, it may well be worth the investment.

Should I still train for my cycling trip even though I will have an e-bike?

Yes. If you're looking to complete a multi-day e-bike ride, we still recommend riding practice on a variety of terrains and cycling regularly to make your trip more enjoyable.

So perhaps you can do that New Zealand cycling trip your friends want to do?

If you’re curious about being able to ride through stunning landscapes that you may otherwise steer clear of, we have a number of cycle tours with e-bike options available.

 

Traveller stories: Walking in Kakadu

Although we’re collected from various hotels around Darwin early in the morning of Day 1 of our 6-day Kakadu Explorer, it’s not until mid-morning – during the traditional welcome by the indigenous Wulna Aboriginal elders – that I wake up fully and excitement builds about the adventure ahead.

As each of my trekking buddies bows their head to be sprayed with water, I feel like we’re experiencing something special together.

As we get off the sealed roads travelling east in our specially modified 4WD van along the old Jim Jim Road, we pass wetlands, such as Red Lily Billabong. The anticipation builds as we arrive in the midst of Australia's largest land national park, about to see some of what makes Kakadu a World Heritage-listed international attraction.

I’m impressed with my travelling buddies as, one by one, we prove our canvas tent covers on our pre-setup tents to allow a clear view of what promises to be star-studded skies. Even a dreaded cane toad hiding in the deep shade of one of the tents fails to bring on even a mild panic attack amongst our happy camper community.

The afternoon's sunset cruise on the nearby Yellow Water billabong is the perfect way for us to see the wealth of wildlife all around us. We see brumbies, wallabies, salt water crocodiles (big ones!) and thousands of birds. There are magpie geese, brolgas, cormorants, pelicans and jabiru, Australia's largest flying bird. Our expert wildlife guide managed to convey his rapture in the surrounds, infecting us all with his enthusiasm.

Home to our cosy campfire and a dinner of fresh, wild-caught, local barramundi on the BBQ, the biggest dilemma of the day looms – do we get to bed early to rest up for the long trek tomorrow or stay by the fire to watch for even more shooting stars?

Most of us opt for the early night and we feel strangely alert and awake when the birds wake us much earlier than the traffic does in whatever city we've come from.

After a relaxed breakfast, we drive to Nourlangie massif. This is where we begin our walk across the crest of the plateau. The walk reveals a diversity of habitats, from cool monsoon vine forests to rugged stone country. It gives us a view of what the landscape was like in ancient times. The escarpment we see today is the less eroded part of the original range.

It's an active day – and hot – though no-one's bothered by it, we all look for some shade when we stop to hear about the rock art and what it signifies.

As the day continues, the stunning waterfalls and gorges of Kakadu are welcomed by group with enthusiasm. Barramundi Falls is reached by walking through the monsoon forest, which opens out to deep plunge pool lined with blonde quartzite cliffs.

I can't help thinking that the Gunlom plunge pools on top of the escarpment are better than any exclusive resort's infinity pool anywhere in the world. It's a stunning series of rock pools and waterfalls with views over some of the most amazing scenery in the Northern Territory.

I skip showers on the last two days because I was in so much water that another water fix would have been redundant! It's a sure sign that I'm adjusting to life away from the city.

I go to bed earlier than I do at home, get plenty of exercise and eat fresh, delicious food that I don't have to shop for or cook. All the while, I'm surrounded by a fun, interesting bunch of people in the surrounds of a world-class natural attraction.

Hiking the Jatbula Trail: Northern Territory's must-do trek

Looking for an active adventure in the Top End? The Jatbula Trail in the Northern Territory's Nitmiluk National Park makes for the perfect tropical trek. Travel writer, Andrew Bain, shares his account.

This story was originally published by Traveller.

Three steps from my bed, the river has ballooned into a virtual billabong. Lilies bloom in purple glory around its banks and goanna tracks lead through the sand to the water.

As evening approaches, the river settles to be as still as a painting. We're at a place called Sandy Camp and it's everything the name on the tin suggests – a soft bed of sand beside the Edith River that's home to one of the Northern Territory's most idyllic campsites. It's also a camp that's exclusive to bushwalkers because it can be accessed only by hiking the 62-kilometre Jatbula Trail through Nitmiluk National Park.

It's our final night on the trail and tomorrow we have 14 kilometres and three swims still ahead. It's about as good as it gets on foot.

Our journey on the Jatbula Trail began four days earlier, at the mouth of Katherine Gorge. As an armada of tourist canoes headed into the gorge, we were walking away from it, stepping through the savannah woodland that characterises so much of the Top End.

Running north from the gorge, the Jatbula Trail follows a course used by generations of Jawoyn people, tracing the line of the Arnhem Land Escarpment to Leliyn (Edith Falls). It's a trail that lives in the shadow of the famed Larapinta Trail out of Alice Springs, but has its own very distinctive appeals.

The trail's ascending scale of campsite beauty culminates at Sandy Camp.

Relax in the splendid isolation of Sandy Camp Pool |  <i>Larissa Duncombe</i>

As Katherine Gorge falls behind us, the trail weaves between small rocky peaks. Fallen billygoat plums – a native fruit said to have more than 20 times the vitamin C of an orange – litter the track and the midday heat on the open savannah is intense.

Within an hour, however, the trail turns into a break in the escarpment, where a large pool, Northern Rockhole, lies limpid beneath the cliffs.

If the Jatbula Trail has a theme, it is this: hot walking and cool swimming. Water is its defining feature.

You think about it during the blazing-hot hours on foot, and you luxuriate in it each afternoon, with every campsite set beside a cooling (and crocodile-free) stream or pool.

From Northern Rockhole, the trail ascends slowly through the escarpment, rising onto the "stone country" that so typifies Arnhem Land. Outcrops of sandstone run like welts through the dry land, and ancient rock art peeps from beneath overhangs and boulders. All around us are the orange flares of the woollybutt flowers – in the trees, where the flowers' appearance heralds the arrival of the dry season, and underfoot, where they've been shredded and tossed by t red-tailed black cockatoos.

Days aren't long on the Jatbula Trail – campsites are typically 10 or 11 kilometres apart – and by mid-afternoon we're at our first camp beside Biddlecombe Cascades. Here, a creek falls towards the plain in a series of surges, creating a range of pools as it goes.

The afternoon passes with cold water pouring over my shoulders. We sleep out beneath mosquito nets, savouring the fresh night air after the heat of the day. The sound of the cascades drifts through camp, and the near-full moon is like a reading lamp swivelling across the sky.

Natural gallery
 

Jawoyn Aboriginal Rock Art is found throughout the escarpment |  <i>Anne Jordan</i>

Each day we rise before dawn and walk early, mitigating the heat. For long periods, the trail stays near the escarpment edge, cutting through savannah woodland that is at once beautiful and nondescript, with the orangey-pink trunks of salmon gums beaming in the sunlight.

For 11 kilometres there's not a sign of water, until the trail descends to Crystal Falls, where a stream rushes through a gorge cut deep into the plateau.

It's 1pm – the full heat of the day – and we are done. This is camp and there are hours to idle away in the cascades. By morning the creek resembles a cauldron, as steam pipes from its surface into the chill of the dawn air.

As we splash across in our bare feet, we're setting off into a day with a familiar theme – the siren call of water – but also one with a difference.

After two hours of walking, we come to the top of a gorge sliced into the escarpment. Known as the Amphitheatre, it's one of Nitmiluk National Park's prime rock-art sites and can only be reached on the Jatbula Trail. A set of metal stairs descends into the Amphitheatre, where a stream meanders through monsoon rainforest.

Butterflies drift about and ferns feather down from the shaded walls. It's a cool natural shelter in a hot land, almost like a pocket of temperate Australia inserted into the Top End. Along the base of the cliffs striped with ochre deposits, a line of rock art depicts a trio of emus and human figures, including a woman dressed in her finery to attract a man.

Exploring the magnificent Jatbula Trail

Saving the best till last

Each day the setting for the campsites gets gradually more impressive and dramatic. This night, one hour of walking beyond the Amphitheatre, we camp at the head of 17 Mile Falls, where 17 Mile Creek plunges over 30 metres of sheer cliffs before meandering out of sight in a dark line of greenery.

From the cliff edge, a few metres from camp, it's like looking at a snapshot of nearby Kakadu National Park: red cliffs, a torrent of water, the yellow savannah plains below, the distant dark gulch of the Amphitheatre. And we have it to ourselves.

For three days we've not seen another person. Nor will we see anybody the next day as we walk on to Sandy Camp. Not that we're entirely alone, for there are regular encounters with wildlife.

Approaching lunch the next day we come to Edith River, our guiding line to the Jatbula Trail's finish, 20 kilometres away.

A wild pig snoozes in the long grass beside the track, scuttling away as we pass. Goannas soak up the heat of the day at the river's edge. In the middle of the track there's a buffalo turd the size of several house bricks, so fresh I now find myself walking with one eye cast watchfully over my shoulder.

Along the banks of the river, the bush thickens. Pandanus leaves rustle in the wind, paperbark trees tower out of the swampy ground and a canopy finally shields us from the sun.

After almost four days in the open grasslands of the savannah, it feels like stepping into a jungle. The Jatbula Trail's ascending scale of campsite beauty culminates at Sandy Camp, where the Edith River widens into its mercury-smooth lagoon.

As I sit in the shallows, soaking the day from my body and mind, hundreds of tiny rainbowfish swirl around me. An egret perches on a nearby log.

Tomorrow we will walk on, away from this Top End paradise and back towards civilisation. But tomorrow can wait.

Experience it yourself

Our 6-day full-pack expedition is ideal for both first-time and experienced bushwalkers. View trek > 

Combine the Jatbula Trail with a Katherine River Canoeing trip for the ultimate Top End wilderness experience.

 

Rafting Tasmania's Franklin River: why it's so special

The quick answer: because you almost lost the opportunity to do it. Though, there is plenty more appeal when seeking a rafting adventure along Tasmania's iconic Franklin River.

In the late 70s, Tasmania’s hydroelectric scheme had its sights on building a dam on the Franklin River. The very name ‘Franklin River’ was dividing the community – the country – between those who wanted the dam and those who didn’t. Bob Hawke didn’t want the dam. Hawke won the election.

Since that period, it seems that the ‘Franklin River’ has been synonymous with bringing people together. Experiences shared on the Franklin are memories entrenched for life between you and the crew on your trip. Not only does the wild and remote beauty draw you in, but also the stories of how this special part of the world might not have been here today – with thanks to the ‘No Dams’ campaign and figureheads in the movement, like Bob Brown, David Bellamy and Geoff Law.

In 2012, Outside magazine in the US listed a trip on Tasmania’s Franklin River as the ‘Best white-water rafting journey on earth’, nudging out other contenders from Tibet, the US, Bhutan, Peru and Zambia. In the same year, the Editor of the Australia’s Outdoor magazine, Justin Walker, went down the river and proclaimed, “The Franklin River trip was probably the best trip I have done since being Editor of Outdoor – I would do it all again tomorrow!”

So, why this river? 

Its pure, unspoiled wilderness. Despite commercial rafting on the Franklin starting in the late 70s, those who raft it today will agree that the river is in fine shape – better than ever, perhaps. You can still drink the tannin-stained water straight from the boat; not many river journeys can boast that simple pleasure. 

Then there’s the genuine expedition feeling of being somewhere truly remote. Packed with everything you need for the trip in barrels and dry bags – typically over nine days, once you drop-in there’s pretty much no way out. As you forge your way through the rugged southwest of Tasmania, through deep gorges, quiet pools and magnificent temperate rainforest, the sense of isolation becomes apparent. It dawns on you that, apart from the Aboriginal paintings in the Kutikina Cave, you will have seen very little evidence of human impact along the river.

And, of course, the history. Named after the early explorer Sir John Franklin, The Franklin River holds a special place in Australian history. From lost convicts to modern day politics, the river has inspired a conservation movement, best-selling books, iconic images and of course all those who experienced her unique beauty on a rafting expedition.

It doesn’t hurt having a bit of ‘cool’ factor as well. Slipping out names like Thunderrush, The Sanctum, Jaw Breaker, Sidewinder and the Great Ravine, The Cauldron, The Churn and Nasty Notch, will only add to your epic holiday tales!

Only the bravest, or most foolish, souls would ever consider tackling the Franklin on their own. Safety should be considered above all else and it pays to travel on the river with someone who knows the difference between their eddy and their river right. 

Too little water, you can’t raft, too much and you’ll be getting the kit out to portage around tricky sections and rapids that really should be avoided by anyone who has no river knowledge. Lose your luggage because it’s not properly secured and you’ll be shivering for the rest of the trip. 

We offer a 9 day Franklin trip as well as an 11 day version that includes a 2 day side-trip to Frenchmans Cap. It’s an iconic Australian trip that everyone should do at least once.

When to visit Kakadu National Park

Not sure when to go to Kakadu? Find information on the region's climate and weather to help you decide the best season to explore one of Australia's biggest and most diverse national parks.

Seasons and Weather Conditions in Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park has varied seasons that can see the terrain experience monsoon rains, storms, humidity and cool weather. With such varied extremes, the park's Aboriginal inhabitants have divided the year into six distinct seasons. 

Mid October - late December: Gunumeleng – Pre-Monsoon Storm Season

Gunumeleng is a pre-monsoon season that can last from a few weeks to a few months. From mid-October to late December, visitors can expect hot weather that becomes more and more humid. With thunderstorms in the afternoons and scattered showers throughout the day, the rain brings life to the landscape and new growth from the plants becomes more widespread.

Sometimes, as the streams begin to run, acidic water rushes down from the floodplains and into the billabongs, decreasing the oxygen levels in the water and causing fish to die. You may begin to notice waterbirds in abundance as new growth becomes more widespread and barramundi begin to migrate from waterholes to the estuaries downstream to breed. 

January - March: Gudjewg – Monsoon Season

Kakadu's true wet season occurs between January and March when the land is drenched with regular thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding. Plant and animal life during these months thrive thanks to the increase in water, heat and humidity. Speargrass in the national park can grow up to two metres tall throughout the woodlands. 

April: Banggereng – Storm Season

Also referred to as "knock 'em down" season, Banggerreng is characterised by early, strong windy storms that roll through and flatten the speargrass that has been thriving between January and March. From mid-April, rain clouds disperse and with it, the vast expanses of floodwater and streams begin to run clear. With clear skies and sunny days, this is a time when plants begin to fruit and animals care for their young.

May - Mid June: Yegge – Cooler but still Humid Season

While the southern states of Australia shiver through winter, Yegge in Kakadu is relatively cool with low humidity. During this time, waterlilies carpet billabongs and shallow wetlands, providing picture-perfect scenes in areas such as the Yellow Water Billabong.

Spend your mornings gazing over the misty plains and waterholes in the early hours, or your afternoons admiring the flowering woolly butt flowers in bloom. 

Mid-June - Mid-August: Wurrgeng – Cold Weather Season

The 'coldest' months in Kakadu are not considered cold by any stretch of the imagination, as daytime temperatures hover around 30°C and evenings dip to 17°C. This is prime walking season in Kakadu or on the Jatbula Trail, thanks to its clear blue skies, sunny days and manageable temperatures. You're more likely to see an abundance of waterbirds around billabongs, as the waterholes begin to drink after months of no rain. 

Mid-August - Mid-October: Gurrung – Hot Dry Weather

Typically hot and dry, the early spring months are pleasant and can offer travellers a chance to see wildlife, such as long-necked turtles laying their eggs on some of Kakadu's sandy beaches.

Towards mid-October, temperatures build alongside the thunderclouds, signalling the approaching pre-monsoon season.

Temperatures in Kakadu National Park

The following charts provide an indication of rainfall, temperatures and humidity within the Kakadu region. Data for the charts were sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology, Darwin.
 

Temperature Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
Mean maximum temperature (°C) 33.6 33.3 33.7 34.5 33.6 31.8 32 33.8 36.3 37.6 36.9 35 34.3
Mean minimum temperature (°C) 24.7 24.5 24.4 23.6 21.9 19.4 18.7 19.1 21.6 23.9 25 24.9 22.6

Sunny Days vs Cloud Coverage in Kakadu

 
Other daily elements Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
Mean daily sunshine (hours) 6.4 6.6 6.1 8.6 9.3 9.4 9.7 10 9.4 9.4 8.4 7.3 8.4
Mean number of clear days 0.3 1.2 1.5 3.2 7.9 9.9 10.8 15 11.1 5.4 1.2 0.2 67.7
Mean number of cloudy days 13.8 12.8 11.7 5.5 2.9 1.8 2.1 1.8 1.8 3.4 8.8 12.5 78.9
 

Rainfall in Kakadu 

The best time to visit Kakadu National Park is in the winter season, where the rainfall is minimal. Summer is known for the 'West Season' with afternoon showers cooling the hot temperature down to the early thirties.

 
Rainfall Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
Mean rainfall (mm) 357.3 359.0 313.1 89.1 16.0 1 3.2 2.6 12.0 39.6 139.9 225.6 1564.9
Mean number of days of rain ≥ 1 mm 18.6 18 17.5 6 1.6 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.5 2.6 9.4 13.6 88.4



While the above information indicates average temperature, rainfall and other weather factors, we recommend visiting the Bureau of Meteorology for up-to-date weather information before your visit to Kakadu.

Kakadu video diary: day-to-day itinerary

Discover Australia's largest terrestrial national park: Kakadu National Park. At almost half the size of Switzerland, the World Heritage Area is huge, covering some 20,000 square kilometres.

Our full-day video itineraries below showcase the park's must-visits while taking you beyond the main tourist sites to reveal's magic – perfect for wildlife lovers and active travellers alike.

The highlights

Head away from the crowds on our walking based itinerary, which include a cruise on the Yellow Waters (a favourite haunt of saltwater crocodiles), chasing waterfalls at the red cliffs off the Arnhem Land escarpment, visiting tranquil wetlands teem with animal and birdlife; while 40,000 years of Aboriginal cultural heritage is on display in the numerous hidden rock art galleries.

And, after venturing into remote gorges, enjoy overnight stays in scenically located, semi-permanent campsites where you can relax in idyllic tropical surrounds – exclusive to only you and your group.

If you're planning a visit to Kakadu, here's how to get the most out of it over four days.

Day 1: Traditional welcome to country & Yellow Water Billabong cruise


Meet with Wulna Aboriginal elders for a traditional welcome to country; followed by morning tea, damper and a chance to discuss culture, tradition or walk by the billabong. We then get off the sealed roads and travel east by 4WD along the old Jim Jim Road, passing some of the great wetlands such as Red Lily Billabong.

In the afternoon, after settling in at our permanent safari camp at Djarradjin Billabong in the heart of Kakadu. During the evening, experience a cruise on the nearby Yellow Water billabong, home to an astounding variety of wildlife. Here you may encounter brumbies, wallabies and goannas drinking from the waterside, salt water crocodile and thousands of birds including Magpie Geese, Brolgas, Cormorants, Pelicans and Jabiru, Australia’s largest flying bird. The flat-bottomed boat is guided by an expert wildlife guide.

Day 2: Massif & sandstone walk


This morning we will experience the extraordinary sunrise over the wetlands with the option to join the famous Yellow Water cruise or just relax around camp. After a relaxed breakfast we drive to Nourlangie massif and begin our stunning walk traversing the crest of this quartzite plateau.

The walk reveals the extraordinary diversity of habitats of the escarpment, from cool Monsoon Vine Forest to the rugged stone country on top. This is an active day so be prepared for a 13 km+ walking adventure. We then return to our group campsite at Djarradjin Billabong.

Day 3: Barramundi (Maguk) Falls & Gunlom Plunge Pool


Heading south we will explore some of the most stunning waterfalls and gorges of Kakadu. Barramundi Falls is reached via a walk through the monsoon forest, opening out to deep plunge pool lined with blonde quartzite cliffs.

In the afternoon we travel on to the far south of Kakadu and our semi-permanent campsite near Gunlom. This iconic waterfall and plunge pool is ringed by sandy beaches and pandanus palms, the perfect spot to relax. The sunset views from the swimming pool on top of the Gunlom Waterfall are some of the most remarkable views of the NT.

Our accommodation is another semi-permanent safari camp adjacent to the main campground. We are just a short stroll from the beach and plunge pool.

Day 4: Southern Kakadu wilderness walk


We head deep in to Southern Kakadu, Buladjang Country to take a 14km walk and pay a visit to visit Motorcar Creek Falls areas. The highlight is rock scrambling through spectacular gorges to reach crystal clear, unspoilt rock pools of remarkable beauty and some outstanding views of the surrounding hills and woodland. The pace of the walk and the distance covered is up to the mood of the group on the day.

On the way, there are often limpid rock pools lined with ferns and Livistonia palms and within the walls of the gorge, birds and animals find water and shelter from the heat of the plains. It is a wonderful opportunity to explore this magical environment and once again the day can be as strenuous as the group prefers.

This is an area that only very few people are privileged to experience, and for many, this day is one of the highlights of the trip.

Feeling inspired? Experience this and more on our guided Kakadu walking adventures, which take in national park’s best secret spots, while staying at our exclusive and comfortable campsites. The itinerary may vary to make the most of the season by choosing the best walks and times to visit waterfalls as the wet season floodwaters recede and access opens up.

 

3 reasons for an Australian family holiday

This summer, why not escape the typical family holiday and have a family adventure instead? These adventures are the perfect way to excite, educate and entertain all of the family. Explore some of the most stunning, rugged and remote areas of Australia and Tasmania on a multi-day walking adventure, spending evenings camping under the moonlight, sharing stories and making memories.

Travelling is more than just sight-seeing, so our family trips have been crafted to immerse you deep into the wilderness. Most are tailored with a young traveller in mind and the minimum age is typically 8-11 years old. The pace of these holidays is more relaxed, giving you time to explore a destination, spending your days walking in stunning locations off the beaten track.

For families with younger children who are yearning for adventure, we also offer tours as private groups, which cater for children between 2-10 and are customisable to your needs. All you need to do is contact us and speak to one of our friendly consultants, and we can work with you on an adventure perfectly suited for your family.

Check out some of the benefits of embarking on a family adventure.

The family that plays together, stays together

Most families have busy schedules, full of work, school, extra curricular activities, friends parties, the list goes on... So how can you spend time as a family and really get to know each other during the holidays? Simple! Make use of your holidays and have a family adventure instead! Find an activity that allows you to spend time as a family and get to know each other - without the daily distractions. Better yet, combine this activity while exploring some of the most stunning landscapes that Australia has to offer.

An education like no other

School may teach your children about maths, science and English, but when it comes to gaining a real-world appreciation of nature and the environment, some things are better experienced than taught. Trekking gives your children the opportunity to learn first hand about things they may have learnt in school, creating an interactive learning experience that will teach children about geography, climate, the environment, history and so much more. The cherry on the top? Learning through experience is way more fun for them than learning it through homework.

An adventure is just around the corner... literally.

One of the best things about our family adventures is that you don’t even need to leave the country to have one! Australia’s safe, remote and rugged wilderness is perfectly explorable, and teaching your children from a young range how diverse, stunning and beautiful their own back yard will give them a newfound appreciation for their home land and champion for its conservation in later years!

Top Family Adventures

Cradle Mountain Short Escape

Family enjoying a walk in Cradle Mountain National Park |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>

What better way to explore the rich diversity of Tasmania’s Cradle mountain National Park than with your family on a short escape? This three day adventure involves carrying just a day pack, with achievable challenges like a summit of Cradle Mountain, exploring the fascinating caves of the Mole Creek Karst National Park, and best of all, the whole family will enjoy it! With a level 2 grading, and priced at great value for children, the Cradle Mountain short escape is a family favourite. View trip >

Family Kakadu Explorer

Create memories in Kakadu's idyllic tropical surrounds and dramatic escarpments Enjoy a complete adventure that's active and educational Family fun in the Top End waterholes |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

Explore the Top End's secret spots on a 6-day walking tour that reveals the magic of Kakadu. Wander past sparkling waterfalls, remote gorges and ancient indigenous rock art sites on this series of day walks that combine active adventure with comfortable wilderness camping in our semi-permanent campsites. Throw in a river cruise down the Yellow Waters to spot saltwater crocodiles and wild brumbies and you have a family adventure that everyone will love! This trip is a must for any active family looking for a great summer adventure! View trip >

Larapinta Trek Family Adventure

Enjoy a family focused trip of Australia's iconic desert trek. Fully supported and enjoying many outback comforts, you walk with just a day pack to explore the best sections of the Larapinta brimming with history, ancient rock art and incredible landscapes. From the dramatic colour changes in the rock formations at Simpsons Gap to the vast plains atop of Mt Sonder to watch the sunrise, it makes for an incredible family adventure.

But the best part is that at the end of each day, the whole family can relax in comfort at our architect-designed camps – including hot showers, comfortable lounges and heated dining shelter – as our guides prepare gourmet 3-course dinners around the campfire. View trip >

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