Some rain in Kakadu last few nights means the ‘wet’ season is here! Let’s hope for a big one! Lot’s of storms with ‘Narmargon‘ Lightning Man doing his thing. It’s Gunumeleng season! Check our Twitter for constant updates on road conditions and things to do in Kakadu!
Well it’s been a good start to Gudjewg (the ‘wet’) so far with plenty of rain right around the Park, with all the usual indicators of an average wet season. The East Alligator River flooded by early December, Magela Creek flowing by Christmas AND our shower block a metre deep by January!
That said I’ve been in Kakadu over 20 years now I can tell you that every monsoon season is different, some start early, some have a big ending, and others struggle to start at all. However as I type we’re on track for around 2000mm (80 inches) which will be good for Kakadu after half that amount last year. Global warming wasn’t top of mind a decade ago but it will be of great interest when we compare notes 10 years down the track to see what early indications Climate Change may bring to Kakadu.
I’ve been part of a few ‘actions’ over my time in Kakadu; most notably with Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation’s Jabiluka Uranium Mine campaign; and last year with ‘green’ group Australian Conservation Foundation’s Australia’s Special Places project where I wrote about what Kakadu means to me, and my concerns for the future. More recently I co-authored a report for University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre. The report, Climate Change Impact on Yellow Water, is soon to be published and highlights the fears we all have for Kakadu’s Ramsar Listed Wetlands. If predictions prove correct, a 30-60cm (1-2ft) sea-rise will severely affect a large chunk of the World Heritage area. Our floodplains are hardly above sea-level now, so any significant increase could have catastrophic impact on Kakadu’s environmental and cultural values.
There’s different arguments around whether global warming is cyclical, or due to man’s hand. One thing’s for sure, leaving the climate change agenda for politicians to sort out isn’t going to work; threre’s no doubt we are going to have to rely on Joe Average (millions of us hopefully!) to promote the awareness required for change! Whichever way, I think it’s best if local issues are highlighted, and then applied to a global context. At the moment it seems discussions are directed at the bigger picture, and need to be ‘bought home’ to be effective.
One way individuals can make a difference is by aligning themselves with organisations that not only promote awareness of climate change, but also deal with a range of environmental issues across the board. Some are localised, others cover the globe but are equally important. The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The UN invites us to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.
Actions can be many and varied; it’s not all about sorting plastics from cans or walking to work. Some can even be done in front of your computer! One interesting project that we’re involved in is the Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award. It’s a collaborative effort between Planeta.com and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity/UNEP (CBD) with the generous support of the Heidehof Foundation. The award is aimed at private tourism services from around the world, owned and operated by indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles, and its main objectives are to motivate candidates to improve their online communication on biological and cultural diversity, to highlight their best practices in managing tourism and to raise operators and public’s awareness on biodiversity. It’s a fantastic project where nominees can learn from each other, and see what works online for some, and not others. Over the past month our young daughter Catherine has learnt a lot about Google and how to cut & past web links onto our home page. The rate she’s going there will be more links than text on our site!
Jenny’s already got a bit of publicity in our local Northern Territory News and Kakadu Community Noticeboard and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the local school or captains of industry; it’s all about spreading the word! Winners will receive the award in April 2010 at a tourism trade fair, the Reisepavillon in Berlin, Germany. Since 1991, the Reisepavillon has been a global focal point for responsible tourism.
Winners will also receive technical support and participate in a workshop on innovative Web-based tools for marketing and communications, facilitated by webmaster Ron Mader. A publication on the award, its nominees and winners and the lessons learned, will be distributed at event.
In my mind it’s all a part of our overall package, the way we think, the way we operate, and the way we promote biodiversity in our own backyard, and it’s all got to add up! We could all have the greatest show on earth but without extensive and informative (and responsible!) online communication, who’ll know about it?
The ITBW competition features some sensational tours and some very, very good websites from around the planet. Check them all out and cast your vote for the at http://planeta.wikispaces.com/itbw. The small part you play by voting in the competition will ensure the best of the best end up at Reisepavillon in Berlin; and the rest? Well, we’ve already learnt a lot from just being part of it!
Hey, the Culture Camp’s all closed up and we’re having a big holiday. I wish! Jenny and Fred have gone back to work as Kakadu Park Rangers over the ‘wet’ season, Douglas is working as a carpenter on houses out bush, and I’ve been driving the school bus around Kakadu’s remote Aboriginal communities. I’ve also been busy touring in our new Toyota 4WD with quite a few Europeans coming through, and I guided a lovely family from New Zealand around Kakadu on Boxing Day. Yesterday my 7 year old daughter Catherine and I went to Darwin to work for the luxury cruise ship Nautica. In port for only six hours before the boat headed off to Thursday Island, they loaded eight big buses and headed in all directions. We were tour guides on the coach that was booked on the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile cruise and we all had great fun, especially Catherine who got a US$10 tip! We’ve had a huge year in 2009. As well as being flat out with the tour, we’ve worked with heaps of film crews and journalists; then Jenny won the 2009 Indigenous Tour Guide in Australia, and the Camp won Ecotourism 2009 Indigenous Culture Tour, and a few others as well! Apart from that we’ve been busy servicing all our gear so we’re all ready to set up the camp again in 2010. One thing we can’t stop is our bath room/shower block at Muirella Park Campground going under water for the next four months. One thing about Kakadu is if you want to live right next to the water in the ‘dry’ season (May-October), then you will be under water in the ‘wet’ season! Meantime we’ve moved back to our small community on Kakadu’s Bowali Creek. It’s New Years Eve tomorrow night and Jenny’s going to cook the turkey she didn’t get to cook over Christmas! She’s been on a ten day straight roster with the Kakadu Park Service and it’ll be her first chance to put her feet up over the festive season. We’re all looking forward to 2010, especially our new 3 day tour in partnership with Aussie Adventure, “Kakadu Culture Camp 4WD Safari”. There’s 3 departures a week from Darwin, which is great if you want to stay at our camp but don’t have a vehicle, and you really want to be looked after (I’m the cook!). You’ll get to do our Kakadu by Night tour and a heap of other great Kakadu sites as well, including Yellow Water and JimJim Falls. Stay tuned for details on how to book the new tour which starts in May next year. We are starting to book tours for Kakadu by Night and safari tent accommodation for 2010 and it’s looking busy so if you want to enquire or even just say G’Day e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org Happy New Year! Cheers, Andy.
Happy New Year! We’re taking a break from the culture camp for a few months while the wet season kicks in. Our campground in Kakadu is starting to flood and the shower block will be under water soon! Jenny and Fred are back working as Kakadu Park Rangers, Douglas is flat out making new bamboo spears for our guests to throw around, and I’ve been busy doing all the administrative work I tried to ignore during the tourist season! On January 14 we are off to the G’Day USA Roadshow. Jenny, Catherine and I are joining 10 other Aboriginal tour operators from around OZ for the Tourism Australia promotion that highlights Australia as a destination to hundred’s of USA travel wholesale agents across North America. Cities on the schedule include Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, and will involve media events, public promos and trade shows. Our main job is to pitch our tour to international buyers of Aussie product in the hope of generating more North American interest in Down Under. This is a very important trip for us; we are entering our third year of operation and are keen to expand our client base and attract international travellers with genuine interest in the Aboriginal culture and wildlife of northern Australia.
On the USA tour Jenny will be giving basket weaving demonstrations while six year old Catherine is taking her soft toys to help act out Kakadu’s ‘turtle and the echidna’ story, do her colour-in art activity and tell the story of Warramurrunggundji Creation Mother. Catherine says she will give a free Culture Camp sticker to anyone in America who will listen to her stories; I can tell you they will earn it for once she gets going she can be hard to stop, they’ll probably prefer earplugs over a sticker!
Of course at the moment the tourism industry is fully focused on the current global economic downturn and what it will mean for operators, especially those in the top end of Australia. Personally I think I’m well placed to deal with it, I’ve been going through my own financial crisis for years!
All jokes aside, Canada is off to their coldest start to winter in 40 years and in the midst of a deep freeze which is causing a few problems over there. Toronto looks like being a bit chilly (-15c max, dare not think about the min) and Niagara Falls are likely to be frozen over, a far cry from Kakadu’s JimJim Falls which are roaring at the moment! As Kakadu is 35c just abut all year I never wear long pants, so I’ll grab a few pairs of RMW jeans on the way to the airport. Luckily we have already bought our thermal underwear from NT General Store! This will be the first time we’ve ever seen snow. Wish us luck!
P.S. We just hit LA on the G’Day USA Roadshow, see photos of us on the People page in our photo album!
Cheers, Andy Ralph-Camp Coordinator
The world movie premiere to Rogue will be screened at the deck chair cinema on Saturday 11 August. The movie features our boat “The Suzanne” as pictured above.
We will kick off our tourist season on 12-15 April (Yegge) 2007 when we host the Savannah Guide tour guide school. The theme is “Connecting with the Cultural Landscape” , and is sponsored by local mining company based in Jabiru, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA). Kakadu Culture Camp will be put to the test during the school and if successful, will become the first acredited Savannah Guide Site in Kakadu National Park. ERA are also sponsoring 6 Aboriginal (Bininj) tour guides for the school, with some already working at Kakadu Culture Camp.
Guides from all over northern Australia will gather at Kakadu Culture Camp for a 4 day intensive that will feature expert tuition in various fields including geology, rock art interpretation and preservation, as well as traditional fire regime, crocodile management, world heritage tourism etc. A two day remote area first aid course will precede the guide school. A major focus is on Aboriginal (Bininj) cultural tourism and special tours will be conducted by Mududjurl Art Centre, Yellow Water Cruises, and of course Kakadu Culture Camp. We are also cooking for the event with ground ovens of Buffalo and Barramundi.
You don’t have to be a tour guide to come to the school, so if you are interested, contact our Coordinator for details, or check out www.savannah-guides.com.au.
We also cater for tour groups coming to Kakadu who wish to add an Aboriginal culture component to their itinerary. Apart from our regular tours we also offer short or long guided walks, Nourlangie Rock art tours, and 1 or 2 hour cultural experiences including spear throwing, story telling, didgeridoo and basket weaving.
We can also offer safari tent accommodation, use of our well appointed camp kitchen, as well as conference facilities (meeting area, data projector, large screen, full catering etc.) for up to 60 people.
In April 07 we commence a one hour cultural experience every morning with tour groups from Wilderness 4WD Adventures. Wilderness 4WD operate 3,4 and 5 day camping tours from Darwin through Kakadu and they cater for the 18-40 fit, active market. Check them out at www.wildernessadventures.com.au
Fred Hunter, holding the spotlight in the above photo, and his sister Jenny, driving the boat and weaving below, have gone back to working as Kakadu Park Rangers during the wet.
Jenny is working in the Nourlangie District while Fred has been busy with the Natural Resource Management section harpooning crocodiles in Kakadu and fitting satellites to their backs to track them. This is part of a project to see how far/where saltwater crocodiles travel.
Discovery Channel have been filming the croc survey in Kakadu so you can see the boys at work when the show goes to air later this year. Johnny has been involved with the new Kakadu advertising campaign, with photos of him about to go around the world! He’s also helping Andy and Doug get the new safari tents ready for the tourist season.
We also employ other Bininj people at our camp. Some are also park rangers, and others like Ningoldie and Mary Blyth have their own business, West Arnhem Cultural and Tourism Services. Violet Alderson from Wurreng Cultural Walk also helps us out when we get busy. We are also trying to involve lots of Bininj people, young or old, who want to learn more about tourism.