Mt Borradaile ~ an authentic nature and art lovers paradise
Mt Borradaile (Awunbarna) is a registered Aboriginal sacred site in northwest Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (NT) Australia. This area is owned and managed by its traditional custodians of the land, the Amurdak people who have lived in this area for over 50,000 years.
The indigenous people of this area have documented their lives in the rock art which is feature in the many rock caves, shelters and catacombs dating back to their first arrival. Many of the rock art sites have sacred burial remains which can be viewed but not photographed. All tours must be accompanied by trained, experienced local guides from Davidsons Arnhemland Safaris, which is also the only place that offers accommodation and permits to enter this area.
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris
Davidson’s was started by Max Davidson in 1986, who, with permission from the local traditional custodians of the land, the Bunidj people, created this amazing camp. The camp is situated on a 700km² of leased land area near Mt Borradaile. It consists of 20 very comfortable cabins, all with ensuite bathrooms all of which face outwards to maximise privacy and provide views of the lush bushland. The cabins surround the main lounge area, which consists of a very comfortable lounge, dining room, well stocked bar and swimming pool for guests to enjoy anytime of the day or evening.
The camp is very welcoming and comfortable. Food is amazing and is prepared by their in-house highly experienced chef. The guides are very knowledgeable, obliging and work hard to ensure that everyone has the best experience at Davidsons’s.
getting to davidson’s arnhemland safaris
There are only two ways to get to Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari camp.
Car: a 350km drive from Darwin, which is only possible during the dry season. In the wet season the flood waters cover the roads, including the well known ‘Cahill’s Crossing’, which provides the only road access point into Arnhem Land.
Air: a 50 minute flight from Darwin or a 20 minute flight from Jabiru. Most people choose the flight option as it is quicker and no car is needed at the camp.
Activities at Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris
There is so much to see and do at Davidson’s. A variety of interesting and fun tours are available for all visitors. All tours are carefully coordinated between the guides to ensure they don’t overlap with other tours, which gives one the feeling that they are on their own private tour of the land.
The wonders of Mt Borradaile are endless … be it the wildlife, landscapes, billabongs, over 200 species of birds, saltwater crocodiles, jumping barramundi, incredible sunrises and sunsets, escarpments, caves and shelters heavily painted with ancient Aboriginal rock art, and of course my favourite … water lilies by the thousands. There is so much to see and do at at Mt Borradaile.
aboriginal rock art galleries
One of the most significant of all the rock art at Mt Borradaile is the ‘Rainbow Serpent’. This is thought to have originated in the Dreamtime era and travelled throughout the land creating mountains, rivers, valleys, lakes and plains, as it passed through ending up at Mt Borradaile. The Aboriginal rock art at Mt Borradaile has been there for thousands of years. The richness of the paint colour is well preserved, due to the rock paintings all being in sheltered caves and catacombs. There are so many areas with amazing rock art, one could spend a whole week there to see and appreciate them all.
The Northern Territory waterways are heavily populated with saltwater crocodiles (or estuarine crocodile). It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 in this area. These crocodiles are one of the most aggressive and dangerous crocodiles in the world and are the largest living reptile. They have large heads, with their eyes, ears and nostrils located in same area allowing for good sight, hearing and breathing while they are almost fully submerged. These crocodiles grow up to 7 metres in length and have around 66 teeth which are visible when their mouth is closed. Saltwater crocodiles spend most of their life in the water and usually only come on to land to bask in the sun to warm up. Their main diet is fish but they will eat whatever is in from of them such as; turtles, goannas, birds, cattle, buffalo, small reptiles, mud crabs etc. They were once hunted to almost extinction and with only 300 left in the wild they were put on the protected species in 1970. It is now illegal to hunt crocodiles in Australia.
Merton’s water monitors
These water monitors are a type of lizard found in coastal and inland waters, and are endemic to NT of Australia. They are excellent swimmers and are rarely found far from their water habitats. They average around 1 metre long. Their main diet consists of frogs, fish, small mammals and insects. They have become a vulnerable species in the NT due to the introduction of the pestly cane toads. When water monitors eat the cane toads, they die from the cane toads poison.
Agile wallabies are the most common wallaby in NT, Australia. They can grow up to 65 – 80 cm tall, sandy coloured with a dark stripe that runs from their head down towards their nose, and black tips at the end of their ears and tail. The agile wallaby is a protected species in NT. Numbers are decreasing due to the illegal commercial trade and hunting. It is illegal to hunt, keep or trade wallabies without a permit.
BLACK-FOOTED ROCK WALLABY
Black-footed rock wallabies are a smallish wallaby weighing up to around 4.5kg. Their tails (56cm) are longer than their bodies (49cm). They have very thick brown fur with a grey stripe on their shoulders, and a light brown stripe across their cheeks. Their habitat is in the rocky and steep slopes of escarpments and mountains. With a vegetarian diet consisting of leaves and fruits, they can survive without drinking water. Major threats to this species are feral foxes, cats and wedge tailed eagles. Numbers are declining which has placed these very cute macropods on the ‘threatened species’ list. They are hard to find and photograph as they are very timid and don’t sit for long, therefore when looking for these animals keep your camera poised!
Nankeen night-herons are solid bird of up to 60cm in length, with a 1 metre wingspan and large eyes which are well adapted for night vision. This bird is identified by its black cap and chestnut back. Found throughout Australia in particular very close to water ways, swamps and billabongs. Feeding primarily at night in shallow waters on insects, crustaceans, fish, frogs and beetles in their local habitats but often can be found out scouting for food during the day.
Brolgas are from the crane family and are the only crane species that are native to Australia. They are one of Australia’s largest flying birds and are non migratory. Standing at around 1.3 metre tall with a wingspan of up to 2.4 metres and very long legs. Brolgas are very skilled foragers and can hunt for food with their heads under water. Their diet consists of both vegetation and small animals, such as, wetland plants, insects, frogs and mice. They can be found in open wetlands, billabongs and rivers. Brolgas are a threatened species mainly due to the loss of their wetland habitats and the introduction of feral foxes who prey on young brolga chicks and eggs.
The blue-winged kookaburra is a large kingfisher with a large head, long bill and a pale eye. Their preferred habitat is tropical and sub-tropical open woodlands, paperbark swamps, and wetlands in coastal areas. Diet is varied and consists of insects, frogs, lizards, fish, spiders, snakes, worms, small birds and mammals. I just managed to get a shot of this blue-winged kookaburra having snared itself a lizard!
Sometimes called a snakebird due to its long snake like neck. These birds live in freshwater wetlands and can swim with their bodies submerged under the water as in the second image where the darter just came up for air. They can dive to depths of up to 60 cm in search of food using their long, thin, spear-like beak to impale fish. Once they have finished fishing in the water they will often be seen perched on top of a high branch with their wings outstretched to dry.
The black-necked stork is the only species of stork that lives in Australia. Despite the name ‘black-necked’ this stork often is seen with a green iridescent neck. With its long orange coloured legs, these birds stand at 1.3 metres tall and have a wingspan of around 2 metres. Their long beaks are very useful for hunting for snakes, frogs, turtles, eels and fish in wetland marshes. It is a wading bird that spends much of its life in wetlands, floodplains and swamps.
red-tailed black cockatoo
These birds are very active, friendly, nosy and noisy birds which are often seen in large flocks. They are very flighty and once they are aware of people, will swiftly take off. It is due to the illegal bird smuggling trade that these birds are now on the protected bird species list.
Beautiful birds with their multi coloured plumage of green, blue, chestnut and yellow. They are medium sized birds with a long curved bill and long tail streamers and red eyes. Their main diet consists of insects, in particular ‘bees’ but will feast on butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, and moths. I was lucky to capture one of these rainbow bee-eaters with a freshly caught bee!
Crimson finches are chirpy little birds with short star beaks. Their main habitat is amongst the pandanus and paperbark trees in the swamps and wetlands of NT. Very flighty birds they don’t hang around long to have their photos taken, so one has to be very quick!
The olive-backed oriole is a medium sized songbird with an orange bill, red eye and olive green and yellow plumage. Their habitat is in the damp tropical areas of NT.
Magpie geese are very noisy birds living in large flocks of up to a thousand birds. They live in wetlands and flood plains of NT, Australia.
The sacred kingfisher is a medium sized bird around 20 – 23 cm long that lives in wetlands and mangroves. It is called ‘sacred’ as it is a holy bird for Polynesians. Their diet consists of insects, bugs, spiders, frogs and small fish.
The comb-crested jacana is also known as the lotus bird as it spends much of its time walking around on lily pads. These birds live in coastal and sub coastal regions of Australia’s wetlands, lagoons, billabongs, swamps, rivers and lakes as long as there is enough floating vegetation for them. They have very long toes which allows for walking across lily pads and other floating vegetation.
The white-bellied sea-eagle is the second largest raptor (bird of prey) in Australia. Weighing in at around 2 – 4 kg with a wingspan of around 2 metres. Commonly seen in coastal regions of Australia, often perched high up in trees or soaring over waterways and wetlands. They are very skilled opportunistic hunters that hunt near water and will prey on aquatic animals such as; fish, turtles and sea snakes, but will go after birds often as big as a swan and small mammals. They also feed on carrion such as dead sheep, birds and dead fish.
mt borradaile landscapes
The scenery is pristine and stunningly beautiful. Rivers, billabongs, waterways, wetlands provide endless vistas as far as the eye can see. Below are a few of my favourite images which I hope will give the reader some idea of the immense beauty of Mt Borradaile.
Water lilies are aquatic plants and are considered to be the ‘quiet beauty of the pond or lake’. There are over 58 species of water lilies which are native to temperate and tropical parts of the world. Water lilies are an important spiritual symbol and mean many things in different parts of the world. In Buddhism and Hinduism the water lily symbolises resurrection because these flowers close up at night and reopen in the morning. Buddhists also believe that the water lily represents enlightenment because the flower emerges from the dark and muddy water. The water lily is the star of the art world as Claude Monet often used waterlilies in his artwork, of which he painted 250 pieces, these became his most famous art works. Mt Borradaile billabongs are overflowing with these magnificent aquatic flowers…. I spent hours photographing them which was the highlight of my trip to Davidson’s!
I spent three days at Davidson’s and while I saw a lot, I did not see everything they have to offer. I hope you have enjoyed the selection of images I took while staying at Davidson’s. I will definitely return to this amazing place and hope to see it all over again, and also the places I missed the first time. I am also looking forward to their warm hospitality.
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