Mt Borradaile ~ nature and art paradise

Mt Borradaile (Awunbarna) is a registered Aboriginal sacred site in northwest Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (NT) Australia. The traditional owners and custodians of the land have lived at Mt Borradiale for over 50,000 years.

Map of Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris location
Map of Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris location
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris

Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Lodge is located on a 700km² leased land area near Mt Borradaile. Davidsons is the only place to stay when visiting this remote area of Arnhem Land.  The camp was constructed by Max Davidson in 1986. With the permission of the traditional local landowners, the Bunidj indigenous tribe, he started a stunning safari camp in the bush.

The Camp

The camp is very comfortable and well-appointed. The 20 cabins are set out in a circle around the main lounge area and designed to face outwards into the bush. The food was excellent, and a new and exciting three-course meal appeared every night. The guides are very knowledgeable, obliging and work hard to ensure that everyone has the best experience at Davidsons’s.

Main lounge area and pool
Main lounge area and pool (photo courtesy of Davidsons Arnhemland Safaris)
Dining room at Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris
Dining room
Davidson's Arnhemland Safari cabin
Beautiful outlook from every cabin into the bush
Beautiful outlook into the bush from every
getting to davidson’s arnhemland safaris

There are only two ways to get to Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari camp. One is to fly 50 mins via Air Charter from Darwin or Jabiru. During this flight, one will see the vastness of Arnhemland, which is home to around 16,000 Indigenous Australians.

The other option is to drive. It is a 350km drive from Darwin during the dry season only. In the wet season, waters flood the roads, notably the well-known Cahills Crossing, the only way to access Arnhem Land. 

Most people choose the flight option as it is quicker.

Famous Cahill's Crossing which floods in the wet season with no vehicular access to Arnhem Land
Famous Cahill’s Crossing, which floods in the wet season with no vehicular access to Arnhem Land
Chartair flight landing on Mt Borradaile airstrip
Chart Air flight landing at Mt Borradaile airstrip
Activities at Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris

There is so much to see and do at Davidson’s. A variety of exciting and fun tours await. All tours are carefully coordinated between the guides to ensure they don’t overlap with other tours.

Here is a list of some of the activities that are offered at Davidsons Camp

  • Bushwalking
  • Land safaris
  • Aboriginal rock art
  • Billabong cruises
  • Swimming
  • Barramundi fishing
  • Birdwatching
  • Sunrise and sunsets
  • Thousands of waterlilies
aboriginal rock art galleries

Mt Borradaile has an incredible array of Aboriginal Rock Art which has been there for thousands of years. The richness is due to the sheltered caves and catacombs. There are so many areas with fantastic rock art; one could spend a whole week there to see and appreciate them all.

In addition, many rock art sites have sacred burial remains that can be viewed but not photographed. Therefore, trained, experienced local guides must accompany all tours from Davidsons Arnhemland Safaris, the only place that offers accommodation and permits to enter this area.

Rainbow Serpent

One of the most significant rock art is the Rainbow Serpent. The origins of the Rainbow Serpent dates back to the Dreamtime Era. It then travelled through the land while creating mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and arrived in Central Australia.

The most famous Rainbow Serpent rock art
The most famous Rainbow Serpent rock art
Rainbow Serpent rock art
Rainbow Serpent rock art
Two rock art sailing ships under Mt Borradaile
Two rock art sailing ships under Mt Borradaile (above and below).
Aboriginal rock art sailing ship
a selection of Aboriginal rock art
A selection of rock art
Sacred rocks
Sacred rocks
Catacombs at Mt Borradaile
Catacombs at Mt Borradaile
Saltwater crocodiles

The Northern Territory waterways are heavily populated with saltwater crocodiles (or estuarine crocodiles). There are more than 100,000 crocodiles in this area. These crocodiles are the most aggressive and dangerous globally and are the largest living reptile. They have large heads, with their eyes, ears, and nostrils in the same area, allowing for good sight, hearing, and breathing while almost entirely submerged. These crocodiles grow up to 7 metres in length and have around 66 teeth 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 primary diet is fish, but they will eat whatever is in from them, such as; turtles, goannas, birds, cattle, buffalo, small reptiles, mud crabs etc. Once hunted to almost extinction with only 300 left in the wild, they have deemed a protected species in 1970. It is now illegal to hunt crocodiles in Australia.

Saltwater crocodile basking in the sun
Saltwater crocodile basking in the sun
Saltwater crocodile gliding through the billabong
Saltwater crocodile gliding through the billabong
Merton’s water monitors

Water monitors are a lizard found in coastal and inland waters and endemic to Australia’s NT. They are around one metre long, excellent swimmers and rarely venture far from their water habitats. Their primary diet consists of frogs, fish, small mammals and insects. However, they have become a vulnerable species in the NT due to the introduction of pesky cane toads. When water monitors eat the cane toads, they die from the poison.

Merten's water monitor cooling off in the billabong.
Mt Borradaile
Merten’s water monitor cooling off in the billabong
Merten's water monitor basking in the sun.
Mt Borradaile
Merten’s water monitor basking in the sun
agile wallaby

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. However, numbers are decreasing due to the illegal commercial trade and hunting. It is unlawful to hunt, keep or trade wallabies without a permit.

Agile wallabies at dusk.
Mt Borradaile.
A pair of agile wallabies at dusk

Black-footed rock wallabies are smallish wallabies weighing up to around 4.5kg. Their tails (56cm) are longer than their bodies (49cm). They have 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. A vegetarian diet consisting of leaves and fruits can survive without drinking water.

These species’ major threats are feral foxes, cats, and wedge-tailed eagles. Numbers are declining, placing 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, keep your camera poised when looking for these animals!

Black-footed rock wallaby
Black-footed Rock Wallaby
Black-footed rock wallaby.
Mt Borradaile.
Black-footed rock-wallaby
nankeen night-heron

Nankeen night-herons are solid birds of up to 60cm in length, with a 1-metre wingspan and large eyes well adapted for night vision. This bird is identified by its black cap and chestnut back. Found throughout Australia, particularly very close to waterways, 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.

Nankeen night-heron
Nankeen night-heron

Brolgas are from the crane family and are the only crane species native to Australia. They are one of Australia’s largest flying birds and are non-migratory. They are standing at around 1.3 metres 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 underwater. Their diet consists of vegetation and small animals, such as wetland plants, insects, frogs and mice.

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.

A pair of brolgas at Mt Borradaile.
A pair of brolgas
blue-winged kookaburra

The blue-winged kookaburra is a large kingfisher with a large head, long bill and a pale eye. Their preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical 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!

Blue-winged kookaburra at Mt Borradaile.
Blue-winged kookaburra
australasian darter

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 fishing in the water, they often perched on a high branch with their wings outstretched to dry.

Australasian darter
Australasian Darter
Australasian darter coming up for air at Mt Borradaile.
Australasian darter coming up for air
Black-necked stork

The black-necked stork is the only species of stork that lives in Australia. Despite the name black-necked, this stork often has a green iridescent neck. With their long orange coloured legs, these birds stand at 1.3 metres tall and have a wingspan of around 2 metres. Their long beaks help hunt 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.

Black-necked stork at Mt Borradaile.
Black-necked stork
red-tailed black cockatoo

These birds are very active, friendly, nosy and noisy birds often seen in large flocks. They are very flighty and will swiftly take off once they know people are nearby. Due to the illegal bird smuggling trade, these birds are now on the protected bird species list.

Red-tailed black cockatoos
A pair of red-tailed black cockatoos
Rainbow bee-eater

They are beautiful birds with their multi-coloured plumage of green, blue, chestnut and yellow. They are medium-sized birds with a long curved bill, long tail streamers, and red eyes. Their diet consists of insects, particularly ‘bees’, but feast on butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, and moths. I was lucky to capture one of these rainbow bee-eaters with a freshly caught bee!

Rainbow bee-eaters at Mt Borradaile.
A pair of rainbow bee-eaters with a bee in its beak
crimson finch

Crimson finches are chirpy little birds with short star beaks. Their primary habitat is amongst the pandanus and paperbark trees in the swamps and wetlands of NT. Very flighty birds, and they don’t hang around long to have their photos taken, so one has to be very quick!

Crimson finch on pandanus tree foliage
Crimson finch on pandanus tree foliage
olive-backed oriole

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.

olive-backed oriole at Mt Borradaile.
Olive-backed oriole
Magpie geese

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.

Magpie goose
Magpie goose
sacred kingfisher

The sacred kingfisher is a medium-sized bird around 20 – 23 cm long that lives in wetlands and mangroves. They are called sacred as it is holy bird for Polynesians. Their diet consists of insects, bugs, spiders, frogs and small fish.

Sacred kingfisher at Mt Borradaile
Sacred kingfisher
comb-crested jacana

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. Their long toes allow for walking across lily pads and other floating vegetation.

comb-crested jacana
Comb-crested jacacana
white-bellied sea-eagle

The white-bellied sea-eagle is the second largest raptor (bird of prey). Weighing in at around 2 – 4 kg with a wingspan of about 2 metres. They live 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.

White-bellied sea eagle
White-bellied sea-eagle
White-bellied sea-eagle with a freshly caught fish in its talons
White-bellied sea-eagle with a freshly caught fish in its talons
A collection of Cormorants and Australasian Darters perched on an old pandanus tree at Mt Borradaile
A collection of Cormorants and Australasian Darters perched on an old pandanus tree
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.

Mt Borradaile billabong
Mt Borradaile billabong
Mt Borradaile billabong 

At Mt Borradaile
Mt Borradaile billabong
Incredible billabongs at Mt Borradaile
Incredible billabongs at Mt Borradaile
Stunning landscapes at Mt Borradaile
Stunning landscapes at Mt Borradaile
Landscapes as far as the eye can see at Mt Borradaile.
Landscapes as far as the eye can see!
Sunrise on the floodplains of Mt Borradaile
Sunrise on the floodplains of Mt Borradaile
Sunrise on billabong at Mt Borradaile
Sunrise on billabong at Mt Borradaile
Flora at Mt Borradaile
Pristine rivers at Mt Borradaile
Pristine rivers
Pristine river surrounded by red rock formation at Mt Borradaile
Pristine river surrounded by the red rock formation
Stunning rock flats one can see on a bush walk at Mt Borradaile
Stunning rock flats one can see on a bushwalk
Red dragonfly at Mt Borradaile
Red dragonfly
Dragon fly at Mt Borradaile
Blue dragonfly
water lilies

Water lilies are aquatic plants and are the quiet beauty of the pond or lake. There are over 58 water lilies species 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 artworks. Mt Borradaile billabongs are overflowing with these magnificent aquatic flowers.

Waterlilies at Mt Borradaile
A trio of waterlilies at Mt Borradaile
Waterlilies at Mt Borradaile
Beautiful waterlily at Mt Borradaile
Waterlilies, jewels of the pond at Mt Borradaile
Purple waterlilies at Mt Borradaile

Having spent three days at Davidson’s, and while I saw a lot, I did not see everything they have to offer. This blog post is a brief summary of what I saw and experienced at Davidsons. I will return to this fantastic place and expect to see it all over again and the places I missed the first time. I am also looking forward to their warm hospitality.


%d bloggers like this: