Moungibi (Burketown), a small town in the Gulf of Carpentaria with a population of fewer than 300 people, may surprise you with its depth of experiences – Indigenous-owned & operated Yagurli Tours offers a collection of tours run by the Gangalidda-Garawa Traditional Custodians.
The Savannah Way is testament to the old adage, “it’s the not the destination, it’s the journey”. Scattered along the 3,700km drive is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Yagurli Tours unearths the history, culture and landscapes of Moungibi (Burketown) from the night skies to the river systems and the plains of the largest aggregate of salt pans in Australia.
Stargazing with a twist
The confident voice of 7-year-old Giles proudly proclaims, “I can teach you about the stars because I’m a Gangalidda-Garawa boy and I’m an Aboriginal”. Learning from his family on Australia’s largest aggregate of salt pans, Giles points out his favourite constellations including the lesser-known “trampoline” and “surfboard”, while his uncle draws the outline of the emu in the Milkyway with his laser pointer. He explains that his people have used the stars for thousands of years guided by the southern cross so they don’t get lost, and watching out for Wanggurduma (shooting stars), the spirits of their people who have passed.
It’s a surreal experience, in the middle of sparse yet beautiful land, on a moonless night with only the stars and a small fire to light the surroundings. Ancient stories are told and constellations and stars are pointed out before everyone is invited to look through a pair of state-of-the-art telescopes at the world millions of lightyears away. It’s a moment to feel connected to country and Indigenous culture like never before.
Marrija 4WD Cultural Tour
It’s post Wet Season in Moungibi and from above the rivers and creeks carve through the landscape like the blood vessels of the earth. Islands of brown and green fringed with a ring of pure white giveaway that these are, in fact, boundless salt pans extending to the shallow seas of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Wet Season transforms this landscape into the largest wetland area in Australia exceeding 2,000,000ha, but when the water levels subside, visitors can follow a Traditional Owner guide to visit natural, cultural and historical sites on a Marrija 4WD Cultural Tour.
Follow the footsteps of early explorers, visit the artesian bore that flows from over 700m deep at a balmy 68ºC, and discover the abundance of bush tucker and medicines that grow in the area on this self-drive tag-along. You’ll traverse from the salt pans, through eucalypt woodlands to wrap up the tour with a billy tea and bush tucker on the banks of the Nicholson River – the perfect place to reflect on the deep history and strong relationships the Gangalidda-Garawa People have had with the land for thousands of years.
Aloft Hot Air Balloon
One of the most impressive parts of Burketown is the view from above, so unless you’re one of the minorities who have flown in, you won’t have been able to appreciate the sight. Take to the skies at either sunset or sunrise, and admire from the salt pans to the sea to the snaking rivers of Moungibi. Gangalidda and Garawa guides provide commentary of the cultural heritage of the land to intimate groups between 2-8 people.
Malara Fishing Charter
Venture from dry land to the Gambumanda (Albert River) aboard the Malara Fishing Charter. This is the Barramundi capital of Australia, and Yagurli means fish in the local dialect, so you know you’re in for a treat. The waterways are teeming with fish so if you’ve never been a successful angler before, this is your chance to shine; if you’re more experienced, it’s your chance to reel in your most prized catch, from barramundi to king salmon. The Gangalidda-Garawa People have been fishing this river system for generation upon generation, so your guide is no amateur when it comes to the best fishing spots on the river.
It’s not all about what’s in the water though, an abundance of birdlife, including sea eagles, brolgas and egrets, grace the skies and the surrounding shorelines, while the river royalty – saltwater crocodiles – can be spotted sunning themselves on the banks.
Gambumanda Sunset Cruise
It’s a well-known fact that outback sunsets are among the most incredible in the world, casting golden light across the endless plains and through the leaves of the gumtrees. On the river, light flares punch through the mangroves, while the wildlife awakens and a sense of peace and calm overtakes your senses.
Aboard the Mabuntha Yipippee (the Morning Glory cloud) boat, on the Gambumanda Sunset Cruise, enjoy a gourmet food platter whilst learning traditional knowledge and unique insights into the local river system, as well as Dreamtime stories of the Gangalidda-Garawa People. There’s no better place to witness the last light of the day fade than on the waters of Gambumanda (Albert River) with the Traditional Owners of Moungibi.