Camping with Custodians
Embark on a journey that leads you to these remarkable outback campgrounds, where you’ll delve into ancient tunnels, explore breathtaking gorges, savor bush tucker tours, and immerse yourself in captivating campfire storytelling.
At Imintji Campground, a remarkable experience awaits as approximately 60% of its guests have their first Aboriginal interaction here. Located deep in the awe-inspiring Kimberley outback, with the rugged Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges as a backdrop along the renowned Gibb River Road, Imintji made history in 2017 by becoming Australia’s inaugural Camping with Custodians site. Today, numerous such sites are scattered across the Kimberley and the Pilbara.
This pioneering Australian initiative was conceived with a dual purpose: it grants travellers the unique privilege of camping on Aboriginal land while fostering connections with Western Australia’s traditional custodians. Simultaneously, the Aboriginal-run tourism business bolsters employment opportunities and income for remote communities, allowing them to remain connected to their ancestral homelands.
As part of a broader plan by the Western Australian Government to establish WA as the premier destination for Aboriginal tourism, this initiative not only forges unforgettable connections and enriches travel experiences but also provides visitors with a fresh and firsthand understanding of Western Australia’s Aboriginal people.
According to John Bennett, CEO of Imintji Corporation, this initiative has a profound impact on travelers. A study conducted during the inception of the Camping with Custodians program revealed that a significant majority of respondents, ranging from 80% to 90%, expressed a desire for interaction that would offer insights into Aboriginal stories and ways of life.
As day turns into night, visitors congregate at Imintji’s campsite cultural area to partake in captivating talks about Imintji (Ngarinyin) life. Knowledgeable rangers share the history of Imintji, delve into the culture of nearby landmarks like Bell Gorge, reveal the origins of Silent Grove, and provide insights into the modern-day lives of the Ngarinyin people. This engaging experience sparks enthusiasm and curiosity among visitors eager to learn more.
Spontaneous touring experiences
These campgrounds offer a mix of organized and spontaneous touring experiences. Imintji, for example, provides both options. A walking tour guided by an Aboriginal expert introduces tourists to the world of bush tucker and traditional medicines, including sugar bag, bush potato, and remedies for common ailments like sore throats or coughs. These tours are conducted spontaneously, once or twice a week, depending on interest, and are affordably priced at $5 per person.
Imintji Campground boasts a dedicated team of approximately five locals who manage the site, creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
Additionally, about 10 children often enjoy the grounds or nearby Sadler’s Springs, a community swimming hole, providing travelers with the chance to interact with local youngsters while taking a refreshing dip.
Having been part of the Camping with Custodians initiative for five years, John Bennett reflects on its significant impact on the community and beyond. The program has not only enriched Imintji’s cultural heritage but has also provided financial support to the community. Furthermore, it has inspired other Aboriginal communities to venture into tourism, fostering similar positive outcomes.
Peedamulla Station Campground
75km east of Onslow
Peedamulla Station Campground, located 75km east of Onslow in the Pilbara region, is the Pilbara’s premier Camping with Custodians campsite. Spanning 226,000 hectares, this Aboriginal-owned cattle station lies north of Exmouth and south of Karratha, making it a convenient stop for those exploring the iron-ore-rich landscape. The name “Peedamulla” translates to “plenty water,” reflecting its access to the Cane River. The site also features a collection of heritage-listed buildings and is home to the Jundaru community.
Peedamulla is a place where spontaneous encounters with Aboriginal people are commonplace. Members of the Parker family, who manage the station, and individuals from the Jundaru community often gather around the campground firepit to share stories of life on Peedamulla, a station with a history dating back to the 1880s.
If you visit in mid-July, you might have the unique opportunity to witness the annual cattle muster, where hundreds of cattle are herded up for market.
For those planning to stay at Peedamulla, bookings are essential for the five powered sites ($50 per night for 2 people) and 15 unpowered sites ($35 per night for 2 people). The campground offers amenities such as an artfully covered barbecue area, hot showers, unisex toilets, and drinking water. Plus, it’s a dog-friendly destination.
190km north of Broome
This campsite is part of the Djarindjin community, which is home to the saltwater people. The campground is accessible to both two-wheel drive vehicles and large RVs and caravans. It is situated just off the fully-paved Cape Leveque Road, towards the northern tip of the ochre-hued Dampier Peninsula.
Officially opened in June 2020, the fenced campground is conveniently positioned beside Djarindjin Roadhouse. This proximity allows for easy access to takeaway food, ice cream, fishing bait, basic groceries, and vehicle supplies. Travelers can enjoy a roomy camp kitchen, a sheltered barbecue area, a communal firepit, and hot showers. While shade over the 37 powered sites (starting from $50 per night for 2 adults) and 10 unpowered campsites (starting from $30 per night for 2 adults) is limited for now, the natural tree canopies are expected to expand in the future. It’s important to note that the maximum stay at this campground is three nights.
Both the campsite and roadhouse are owned and operated by the Djarindjin community, although the community itself is not open to tourists. At the roadhouse, you’ll find a tour office adorned with photographs of clear waters surrounded by mangroves, offering information and bookings for Bardi and Jawi Aboriginal cultural experiences.
These experiences include four-wheel drive and bush tucker tagalong tours led by traditional owner Brian Lee, opportunities to meet with an elder and their family on Bundy’s Cultural Tours, and spearfishing and foraging tagalong cultural experiences with custodian Bolo Angus.
220km east of Derby
Imintji Campground bears the Ngarinyin name “Imintji,” which means “a place to sit down.” In days gone by, it served as a crucial rest point for bullock drivers on the Gibb River Road. In 2017, it made history by becoming the first Camping with Custodians site. Nestled at the foot of the Wunaamin Miliwundi (formerly King Leopold) Ranges, this wilderness camp boasts stunning views, immersive Aboriginal cultural interactions, and proximity to must-see spots along the Gibb River Road, including Dalmanyi (Bell Gorge), Dimalurru (Tunnel Creek), and Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge).
Imintji Campground offers hot showers, a fire pit, and a barbecue shelter, and it is dog-friendly. The 20 shaded, unpowered campsites are arranged around a grassy area. By the end of the 2023 season, the number of campsites is set to more than double, pending approval from the Derby Shire for the campground’s expansion plans. Pricing is based on the composition of the group: adults pay $19 per night, pensioners pay $17 per night, and children aged 5 to 15 years are charged $15 per night. Family and group rates are also available, and there’s no need for advance bookings.
The Imintji Community Store, where visitors check in, offers various amenities, including diesel fuel, espresso coffee, free Wi-Fi, basic supplies, takeaway food, and an opportunity to explore the works of Iminjti artists at the onsite Aboriginal art center (open 10 am to 4 pm), where unique artworks can be viewed and purchased.
Jarlarloo Riwi Mimbi Campground
90km east of Fitzroy Crossing
Jarlarloo Riwi Mimbi Campground lies between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, positioned along the Great Northern Highway.
This campground serves as the ideal base for exploring the 350-million-year-old Mimbi Caves. Guided tours, led by Gooniyandi guides, lead visitors through the caves by torchlight. Along the way, you’ll encounter ancient rock art, marine fossils, and more.
Jarlarloo Riwi Mimbi Campground is fully Indigenous-owned and operated, offering 21 camping sites designed for self-drive travelers, tour groups, and special interest groups. Solar-powered facilities include sheltered outdoor barbecue stations, hot showers, and a communal firepit. Pricing is as follows: adults pay $18 per night, pensioners pay $17 per night, and children aged 5 to 15 years are charged $15 per night. Family and group rates are available, and you can make bookings just 24 hours in advance.
Violet Valley Campground
43km from Warmun
Violet Valley Campground offers a tranquil riverside setting along the Bow River. This campground features 14 shaded campsites, making it an ideal stop for those visiting UNESCO World Heritage Listed Purnululu National Park, home to the mesmerizing Bungle Bungle Range. Camping here, either before or after exploring this natural wonder, enhances your connection to the raw, grassland wilderness of the Gija people.
Opened in 2019 by the Baulu-Wah community, Violet Valley Campground provides hot showers, flushing toilets, a fire pit, a barbecue, and laundry facilities. It caters to four-wheel drives, off-road campers, and caravans. The pricing structure is as follows: adults pay $18 per night, pensioners pay $17 per night, and children aged 5 to 15 years are charged $15 per night. Special rates are available for families and groups, and it’s advisable to make bookings in advance.
Doon Doon caravan park and campground
110km south of Kununurra
Doon Doon Caravan Park and Campground is owned by the Woolah community. In 2019, it underwent a complete reconstruction under the Camping with Custodians initiative.
Conveniently situated just off the Great Northern Highway, this campground is adjacent to Doon Doon Roadhouse, where you can refuel with diesel and unleaded fuel, purchase pre-prepared meals, basic groceries, and coffee.
Doon Doon offers powered sites at $35 per night and unpowered sites at $25 per night. Additionally, there are four air-conditioned chalets available for $150 per night. All visitors have access to hot showers, gas barbecues, an undercover camp kitchen equipped with electric hot plates and cooktops, and a laundry facility. To secure your spot, be sure to call in for reservations.
195km north of Broome, Dampier Peninsula
Lastly, Lombadina offers a coastal paradise where you can stay by the beach at Thomas Bay, immersing yourself in the ancestral lands of the Bard People. This picturesque part of the Kimberley coast boasts some of Western Australia’s prime fishing grounds, inviting you to embark on fishing charters to discover the best spots or join mud crab tours in the nearby tidal estuary.
Lombadina is also home to an arts and crafts center where you can browse and purchase bracelets, pendants carved from local pearl shells, and other handcrafted wooden artifacts.
Accommodation options at Lombadina include self-contained cabins, budget rooms at IIdool Lodge, and a campground. The two-bedroom cabins start at $260 per night for four people, Lodge rooms accommodating up to five people are priced at $170 per night, and campsites are available from $45 per night.
Lombadina welcomes visitors year-round, and you can contact them at 9192 4936 to plan your visit.
Open: Year round
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