I’d always thought a ‘safari’ was exclusively about spotting big cats and elephants amid the wild plains of Africa. It turns out I was wrong; a safari, from the Swahili word safar, refers to any adventurous journey or expedition.
Even so, I was intrigued to see a company called Lord’s Safaris operating out of Australia’s Northern Territory. A safari? In Australia? I had to check it out.
Lord’s Safaris have been running since 1990, and offers visitors the chance to discover some of Northern Australia’s most historic, unspoilt and naturally beautiful scenery and to meet the wonderful Aboriginal people who inhabit it. The outfit is the brainchild of Sab Lord, a guy who could eat Crocodile Dundee for breakfast and who knows the regions of Kimberley, Kakadu and Arnhem Land inside out. Sab’s intimate local knowledge and the strong relationships he and his team have forged with local Aboriginal folk guarantee an Australian safari that is as educational as it is spectacular.
I joined Lord’s Safaris for a one-day jaunt into Arnhem Land, which occupies the north eastern tip of Australia’s Northern Territory. Everything, including minibus pick-ups, is taken care of, and since Lord’s only cater for small groups we enjoyed personal service and a nice, laid-back atmosphere. After an early-ish start it wasn’t too long before we arrived at the starting point of our safari; the Cahills river crossing that would take us into Arnhem Land. ‘Keep your eyes peeled’ we were advised – ‘you might spot a crocodile or two in the vicinity…’
If the scenery had been great up until now, after the river crossing it was truly spectacular; great swathes of open grassland and scrub punctuated with lake-like billabongs and vast rock escarpments as far as the eye can see. After a brief stop at the Injalak Art and Culture Centre – a not-for-profit workshop in which Aboriginal artists produce fabulous paintings, etchings, jewellery and handicrafts, we picked up our guide and set off for Injalak Hill.
The leisurely climb up Injalik Hill, one of those reddish rock escarpments, is not particularly demanding (wear decent shoes rather than flip-flops) aside from a little clambering here and there, and the effort is well rewarded. The hill features authentic rock artworks dating back thousands of years and as our native guide led us to each he explained their significance and symbolism in respect to the Aboriginal ‘Dream Time’ theory of creation. In the heat of the day and after the climb, a picnic lunch on Injalak Hill gives the perfect opportunity to restore energy levels and drink in the fabulous panoramic views of the Gunbalanya region below. I was impressed by the spread Lord’s Safari’s laid on for us – lovely fresh picnic goodies and plenty of them!
In the afternoon we had time back at the Art and Culture Centre to spend as we pleased and it was fantastic to watch the Aboriginal artists at work and to learn more about their lifestyle and culture. Better still, you can buy you own unique and beautiful artwork safe in the knowledge that your money is benefitting the native community.
My journey to Arnhem Land with Lord’s Safaris was not a safari in the popularised sense of the world – although there is plenty of wildlife to spot on the trip, ranging from crocs to the crane-like Broga – but it was definitely a highlight of my travels in Australia’s Northern Territory. In the broader sense, a safari is an adventure or journey. For me, my day with Lord’s Safaris was an emotionally-stirring and unforgettable personal journey into the history, culture and nature of a fascinating land and its people.
In the first instance please feel free to contact me directly for advice about Sab Lord’s tours. Alternatively, contact London based Australia specialists Bridge & Wickers for a tailor-made exclusive Australia itinerary and booking on 020 36427962 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, contact Lords Safaris directly – www.lords-safaris.com