Our final morning on the Tiwi Islands is greeted with strong emotions as we say goodbye to new friends and a landscape that is still largely untouched by mainstream Australians. It is bitter sweet as our adventure that took many months of planing finally comes to an end where its sight and sounds will fade into a clouded memory. The highlights such as the vibrant blue waters, mangroves on the water edges and smiles of the Tiwi people will always remain a part of us. As Bushy said on our last day ‘you are part of me now and part of the Bush family forever’. Equally we will forever be connected in our hearts to these magical islands, Bushy and family, and every other soul that we met in our expedition.
Our departure from Tiwi Islands was via a turbo prop plane which I have to say is never my favorite form of transport, as I have a fear of flying which has never been resolved. Nevertheless this time I felt a sense of peace despite my pending trepidation waiting for the plane. As I sit in the container, our check-in lounge waiting for the plane to land I began to reflect. I know without a doubt that our time on Tiwi Islands has been a privilege, as its not always a destination open to tourist wanting to access the islands without being part of a tour group. I would personally like to thank all the Tiwi Islander community for their heartfelt generosity and particularly our host Bushy, Mark Pollard (Tiwi Islands Regional Council) and the Tiwi Land Council for making a dream possible. We would also like to thank Seaswift and staff for transporting our 4WD and boat (River Spirit) safely to and from Melville Island by barge – a truly unique mode of transport to such a remote area.
Stay tuned for some homeward bound photos and some highlight photos from the Tiwi Islands when we get home and organise all video and photo footage of this remarkable place.
With the right tides, we managed to cruise around Snake Bay. We explored Johnson Point looking for porpoises but found schools of bone fish surrounding our boat. It was a spectacular sight just drifting with them (literally a few metres away from us) on a very glassy calm sea.
We explored beautiful creeks filled with mangroves. It was so serene, calm and so rich with life in these areas. With the tides quickly receding (tides can vary between 7 meters here) we head back to Milikapiti but had to stop over at a reef to try to catch our dinner. A few big huge bites were missed but eventually Kiam landed a shark.
Cape Lavery is one of our favorite places. In this area you can see the ”Pukumani poles” around the grave of an elder of the Mungatopi clan in Karslake. Karslake is the Island off Cape Lavery (Purrampunali) and this is where the Tiwi people first encounter Europeans; the Dutch in 1705. Karslake is also a place to see turtles and collect big oysters.
Heat, rain and humidity is something we constantly battle every day. While crocs are always on our mind, attacks from sandflies and mosquitoes are a daily occurrence and cause much pain and itch round the clock. Relief came from our visits to Taracumbi Falls; a magical place with cool water and small pools above the falls. We also spend some time looking for dugongs at Pretty Flower a known sea grass feeding area for dugongs. Did not see any but saw a large shark swimming near the surface.
Our friend and host Bushy and Tommy, Andrew (aka Wolfie) and Emma with both their kids took us fishing near our camp during upcoming tide. At one stage it became very hairy as the tide came in and cornered us. Bushy had to round us up as we wade through croc infested waters to get to high ground. We got some large mullet and some whiting. On two occasions, Bushy’s line was practically pulled into the water and while fighting the fish, the line snapped on both occasions. Monsters must be lurking in the mangroves.
Self-sufficient living has kept us busy hence why our blogging is so delayed. Not to mention that we were off the grid for the first few days. We have since moved from Goose Creek to Milikapiti. Bushy felt he would feel more comfortable having us closer to his home so he can keep an eye on us. I equally feel safer knowing he is now a shorter distance away. We are now camping by the sea with a whole new landscape to enjoy. Nevertheless we are still sharing our days and nights near crocs as now we see them swimming by our camp site with eyes glowing in the evenings.
Anyway stay turned as more adventure to come once we are home and have our film night sharing our experiences on the Tiwi Islands. This night will be a fundraiser for Kiss Goodbye to MS showcasing all the highlights of the Tiwi Islands. So our blogs this time around will be shorter in duration and less descriptive than the Murray River expedition last year. So please enjoy some of our photos as a taster to this incredible journey. See photos for descriptions of our locations and the wonderful people we have met thus far. Until we write again in a few days enjoy Kiam’s amazing photography.
Wow our arrival on Tiwi was more than we expected in so many ways. The land was more pristine than I had imagined and the Tiwi people extremely generous in welcoming us on to their land.
Our first few nights saw us in an extremely remote location on Melville Island at Goose Creek. The land where we pitched our tent for the first few nights was on our host’s country. Bushy has become both our friend and family looking out for us from day one as we adjust to life on virgin land. Goose Creek is teaming with crocodiles, buffalo, wild geese, fish, dingos, wild horses and bird life. Words escape me to express the shock of coming from the suburbs in Melbourne to a life that still appears to be wild and free. On day one all my fears that I would be in close contact with Crocs came to fruition. Our camp site only meters from the river edge where Bushy nieces camped close by for the first couple of night saw seven crocs just off the banks. In the evenings the family after a day of hunting would feed the crocs the geese wings and necks on the banks in the hope that they would not venture up to our camp site. One evening the girls took us to the river’s edge to look for crocs with touches as their eyes light up orange from the light. In the moon lit sky we could see two crocs fighting and hear their powerful jaws crunching as they were thrashing around. Thank goodness we have a roof tent is all I could think. Our evenings would be filled with the occasional sounds of a croc splashing and their jaws coming together as they eat their prey. As I said Wow is the best description to use when expressing my introduction to the Tiwi Islands. Please see picture below.
Relaxing days in Darwin and surrounds. We spend quite a lot of time in Berry Springs (about 50kms from Darwin) just swimming and floating in the pools. The springs are quite special with 3 main pools that are clear and with lots of fish and freshwater turtles. The water is warm with a turquoise colour and relatively safe from crocodiles as they are patrolled twice daily by park rangers and with a crocodile management plan in place.
We also spend a night out watching a movie under the stars in the Deckchair Cinema. A must-do if in Darwin for this unique experience.
This is our last night before we head off to Tiwi Islands tomorrow morning. Our last feed at a restaurant in Cullen Bay as food could be scarce in the next 2 weeks especially with stormy days expected in the next few days; which could hinder gathering and fishing for food.
We are unsure if there will be reception at our campsite but will post as much as possible when at Pirlangimpi.
We farewell our 4WD and River Spirit at Sea Swift’s depot in Darwin; destination Pirlangimpi in Melville Island. There is an unexpected delay in our passenger ferry service and we will only be able to go to Melville Island on Friday. Thank goodness our 4WD and boat will be in the good hands of the Tiwi Islands Regional Council’s depot waiting for us on Friday.
This gives us time to explore Darwin in greater depth. Below are some pictures of our time in Darwin. To get a better perspective and in preparation for croc awareness and safety, we head to a crocodile ‘farm’ to see first-hand what they can look like and what they are capable of. They do look menacing especially the giant ones. We will definitely keep a minimum 5 meters from any water way and watch where we are going as they camouflage very easily into the natural surroundings.
There were so many raptors on this journey. Most common is the Black Kite, flying so effortlessly and scooping down on prey. Even the magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle was seen many times and once Kiam had to brake and toot the car horn to scare it off from the centre of the road (it was eating road kill). They are not as agile and fast as the Black Kite due to their size and its no wonder we saw the remnants of one on the road. Drivers should slow down but the speed limits on the Stuart Hwy are limitless on some stretches and 130km/hr for most of the way; making it difficult and dangerous to swerve or brake suddenly.
We arrived at our final leg on the Explorer’s Way (Stuart Hwy) in Darwin. We took the opportunity to head to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market and watched the sun go down over the horizon.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to our trusty 4WD and our boat as they head off first via a barge to the Tiwi Islands. Our passenger ferry will take us there in the next few days. Our survival on the island starts then. Stay tuned in the next few days.
This leg of our journey is one of the longest with over 6 hours of driving. There are now more road kills along the road as we head further up north. It was surprising that there were so little wildlife along the way up to Tennant Creek. But there is more activity now with raptors gliding up around the road waiting for the opportunity to get road kills; which are now mainly kangaroos and wallabies. At a small town, we encountered flying foxes on trees just off the road. We just had to stop to take some photos of them. They are just so cute.
It is also getting consistently hotter and it was a relief when we arrived at Mataranka. This place is known for its thermal springs and we took the opportunity to soak in the pools to sooth our achy bones. Dianne (with her MS) does not travel well with constant pain and cramps in a siting position. The weightlessness of the thermal pools was such a welcome relief for her.
Interesting drive up from Alice Springs. We stopped Aileron to see the giant the Anmatjere Man but was treated with another giant sculpture the Anmatjere Woman and Child both created by artist Mark Egan.
We later stopped at Australia’s very own UFO center at Wycliffe Well. Very interesting artwork and news articles.
Our last stop before Tennant Creek is Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve. Kiam and Dianne showed off their supernatural skills acquired after the alien encounter. We will leave the pictures to tell the story. Tomorrow we head to Mataranka – another long drive.