Below, we’ve compiled an ever-evolving list of incredible and unique Indigenous travel experiences around Australia that will open your eyes to the world’s oldest living culture and its First Nations people, the traditional custodians.
Ayers Rock Resort Galleries
A series of galleries scattered throughout popular hotels and resorts that include the Desert Gardens Hotel, Sails in the Desert, the ARR source original dot-paintings, plus hand-crafted glassware, jewellery, pottery, textiles, metal sculpture and leather-work, adhering to strict ethical guidelines that ensure artists and marked are compensated upon a sale.
The Ayers Rock Resort also has a sponsorship program in place for emerging Indigenous artists visiting the Resort to take up temporary artists residence in the Wintijiri Gallery.
Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds
Not for the fainthearted, The Valley of the Winds walk presents visitors with an opportunity to experience Kata Tjuta’s domes, the Red Centre’s hidden secret.
The challenging walk is steep, lengthy at 7.5km, and takes around four hours, however, the views from Karu and Karingana lookout points and stunning landscapes are well worth it.
Entry to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park costs $25, with the funds going toward maintaining the park’s facilities, preserving its World Heritage sites and supporting traditional owners and their community.
Maruku Arts dot-painting workshop
Spend an afternoon taking part in an organic dot-painting workshop held by a local Anangu artist. Learn about the ancient symbols used within traditional artworks that depict Creation Time (Tjukurpa) stories, plus some Pitjantjatjara words.
Maruku Arts is a not-for-profit art and craft corporation that since 1984, has been 100% owned and operated by Anangu. “Approximately 900 Aboriginal artists belonging to over 20 remote communities across the Central and Western Deserts, make up the collective that is Maruku. Our purpose is to keep culture strong and alive, through art, craft and organic experiences,” Maruku Arts says on its site.
Translating to ‘beautiful dune’ in local Anagu language, Tali Wiru is a premium fine dining experience held under the Southern Desert stars and backdropped by Uluru.
Accompanied by the sounds of the Didgeridoo and the nature surroundings, diners feast upon four courses infused with ancient native herbs and locally sourced ingredients, while an Indigenous storyteller shares stories of culture, history and the land. The event is often held during the Field of Light, making for a truly spectacular sight and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Laura Dance Festival
Held every second year near the town of Laura, some 300km north of Cairns, the Laura Dance Festival brings a number of communities together for three days of cultural celebration.
“The dance festival grounds at Laura occupy the site of a very old, traditional Bora ground. It’s a respected and sacred site. Here, people from about 20 different communities located across the Cape come together to celebrate with music, dance, singing and cultural performances,” the Laura Dance Festival site explains.
Due to COVID-19, the Laura Dance Festival has been postponed from 2020 to 2021 on July 2-4.
Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel
Perhaps one of the most special experiences one can have in Queensland, a day trip with Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel involves heading out to two Great Barrier Reef with Indigenous sea rangers.
“Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel is a unique reef educational Great Barrier Reef experience incorporating the world’s oldest living culture and the stories Traditional Owners have passed down over tens of thousands of years,” the tour site reads.
Tours are currently on pause during COVID-19, but will hopefully resume in time for summer.
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SEIT Cultural Tours: Cave Hill and Patji Tours
Under the SEIT Outback Australia company, the Cave Hill and Patji cultural tours are conducted by Indigenous guides and offer a true learning experience about Aboriginal culture and history.
Cave Hill tour is an Indigenous cultural experience designed to provide insight into everyday Aboriginal life. Through the desert of the Pitjantjatjara Lands, you’ll venture by FWD with your Anangu host to visit ancient cave paintings and climb to the top of Cave Hill to view Uluru, Mount Conner, and the Musgrave Ranges.
“The Anangu are the traditional owners of Cave Hill, which is the site of the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa (creation time), and are responsible for maintaining only that chapter of the Songline lying within the boundaries of their traditional homeland – a story that has been maintained since the beginning of time,” the tour information reads.
Described as an authentic cultural experience, the Patji tour involves travellers accompanying the Traditional Uluru Family to their Patji homelands.
“Explore this extraordinary environment by 4WD with your Aboriginal guide, stopping along the journey to hear stories such as how Paddy Uluru fought for Aboriginal Lands rights to where Uluru is today.”
You’ll hear of how the Indigenous people survived in the desert landscape before finishing the tour on a private sand dune overlooking Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Held in Far North Queensland, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is the state’s biggest gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The event is dedicated to “supporting the careers of Queensland Indigenous artists by providing a platform for exposure and income generation”, the event’s site reads.
“CIAF is committed to strengthening and celebrating culture, creating professional development opportunities for artists, and cultural exchange between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and visitors.”
This year, the ethical marketplace is moving its offering online with virtual galleries and exhibitions, plus a fashion showcase and a online performance. The event kicks off on August 14.