Walkabout Cultural Adventures owner Juan Walker has been guiding tours through Tropical North Queensland for more than 15 years, but his link to the land extends back much longer than that – Kuku Yalanji have lived here for tens of thousands of years.
Walker’s parents and grandparents (and many generations before them) were born in the region – he will point out where – making this area a deeply personal, and deeply sacred, part of the world for his mob. And he grew up here learning ancestral hunting and gathering techniques, and myths and legends of the land.
It’s this intimate connection with the community and the decades’ worth of accumulated Dreamtime stories, that make Walker the ideal guide for tours highlighting the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Mossman and Cooya Beach.
Walker offers half-day, full-day and private journeys – whichever you choose, you’ll find yourself immersed in Kuku Yalanji traditions. You’ll cruise mangroves scanning for mud crabs in tidal flats, you’ll forage for pipis in the shallows, and you’ll learn how to throw a spear to catch your next meal. Back at Walker’s grandmother’s house, you can enjoy a tasting of your catch!
You’ll cover a lot of ground with your guide, enjoying easy ambles through the world’s oldest living rainforest and sampling bush tucker as you go, discovering where two World Heritage sites meet – the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef – and learning about the environment and wildlife from an Aboriginal perspective. You may wish to cool off in one of the freshwater streams.
Tjapukai Cultural Park has grown out of a short outback play about an ancient spirit into an expansive showcase of Aboriginal culture and community, more than 30 years after its first performance.
You’ll have the chance to find out more in the museum which houses artefacts once used by the Tjapukai people. Afterwards watch the signature show: an entertaining and educational play that combines the latest in theatre to spotlight traditions of the Tjapukai, traditional landowners who have inhabited Tropical North Queensland from Cairns to Port Douglas and inland to Kuranda from the Dreamtime through to the present day.
The facilities are expansive: in addition to the main theatre and museum, there’s a movie theatre, dance space and gallery, as well as a restaurant with an emphasis on native foods and Tjapukai Cultural Village, where you can learn to throw a boomerang, play the didgeridoo and sample bush tucker.
By night, you’ll journey into the legends of the Dreamtime, with Tjapukai people performing traditional dances, music, face painting and storytelling around a fire to offer a powerful insight into Australian culture. Dinner follows, with dishes highlighting bush tucker and native ingredients.
….a place where the Kuku Yalanji people have lived for centuries amid the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest; and where cool streams and soaring mountains are only outshone by the drama of the gorge itself. Twenty minutes’ drive north of Port Douglas, it’s also a pilgrimage site for the many who come here to feel both humbled by history, and insignificant – but in a good way.
This part of the southern Daintree is one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet; just one hectare of the 120,000-hectare forest can contain more than 30,000 species of plants and animals. About 500 types of native Australian plants grow here, creating the perfect home for a diverse range of fauna, including one-third of the country’s mammal species such as unique green possums, tree kangaroos and the rare antechinus (a marsupial mouse).
It’s easy to understand why the region is so important to Aboriginal Australians, who traditionally relied on the diversity of the plants and animals for sustenance. You’ll learn all about the ecosystems the Kuku Yalanji use for food and medicine, as well as the traditions that tie them to the land, on the Mossman Gorge Centre’s guided walks, which are led by Aboriginal guides.
The 90-minute Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk begins with a traditional “smoking” ceremony to welcome you to the land and ward off bad spirits. Afterwards, wandering along gentle tracks under a canopy of ancient trees, you’ll visit Aboriginal bark shelters and other culturally significant sites with plenty of stories about why they are considered important.
You’ll learn which plants you can eat, which you should avoid and which can be used as medicine, and will also pick up new skills, such as how to make bush soap and create ochre paints for body and face decoration. The guided experience ends with bush tea and damper, but don’t let that stop you from jumping in a waterhole to cool off before catching a shuttle bus back to the centre.