Just Got Back: Australia

Judith Kitzes, Leisure Travel Agent and Premier Aussie Specialist

Where did you Just Get Back from? Australia’s Northern Territory, Top End, then Sydney

When were you in Australia? September 2015.

Words to describe what you felt when you first arrived: This was my 36th trip to Australia, and the Top End feels like my Spiritual Home. I felt like I’d come home.

Where did you stay? My first stop was on the grounds of Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). Cicada Lodge, a small (18 room), eco-lodge which is 50% owned by the local traditional landowners, the Jawoyan People. From there, I went to Bamurru Plains, on the outskirts of Kakadu National Park on the Mary River Floodplains. The lodge is located on a working water buffalo and cattle station. And ended up in one of my favorite cities, Sydney, at The Langham Hotel.

With whom would you recommend staying at this hotel / resort? The Northern Territory is an amazing outback experience. It’s perfect for people who want both an authentic Indigenous People experience, and wildlife.  Cicada has modern conveniences (internet, cell phone reception) but Bamurru Plains does not. This is perfect for people who truly want to unwind and fully immerse themselves in the landscape. It is also a bird-lover’s paradise. The permanent floodplain means there is a year round population of birds. By the end of my trip, I had started making my list, and in Sydney, wound up downloading a Bird Book App, Native Birds of Australia. I’m hooked.

Tempt us- Name the most special place you discovered on this trip:

  • Cicada Lodge was a complete surprise. It’s been open only three years, and I wasn’t expecting much. I was beyond surprised, it exceeded my expectations completely.  All the rooms face out onto the bush land. They are all situated for privacy, so I left my curtains open and let the sunrise wake me.  And I was greeted by two Agile Wallabies browsing just under my balcony. The highlight at Nitmiluk, however, was the Helicopter flight over all thirteen of the gorges in the park. The first three are accessible by boat; then the next three by hiking or kayak. After that, only helicopters. Truly breathtaking experience. I got to sit in front, next to the pilot – no doors on the side of the helicopter – thrilling.
  • Bamurru Plains is made up of Safari Tents, and they are all situated for privacy but open. There is no canvas to interrupt the view. And the view is astonishing.  It looks like African savannah, similar to what you’d find in Botswana. But the animals are all Aussie. Because it’s so wet, none of the burrowing animals like Wombats are there; they have Agile Wallabies and Wallaroos, dingoes, and the Water Buffalo and Brahman Cattle. On our sundowner cruise on the Mary River, we were crocodile spotting – there’s a croc almost every 100 meters – and I saw a croc take down a Little Bittern, a small bird standing on the bank. It was instantaneous. The tents are spacious. The bathrooms are delightful – showers mounted on tree trunks. It’s rustic luxury and truly amazing. My biggest thrill, though, was a pair of Jabiru Storks – now named black necked storks. Their necks are teal blue, luminous, graceful.
  • The Langham used to be called The Observatory, and Langham took it over two years ago (my last trip). They did a major overhaul, and it looks fantastic.  Fresh, warm, unstuffy. The neighborhood is perfect for repeaters to Sydney as there aren’t really views, but it’s a residential neighborhood so you feel like you’re part of regular life. A block down from one of my favorite restaurants, Fish in the Rocks, perfect location.  No surprises here in Sydney this trip, it is still the city I love to call my home away from home.

What’s the best time of year to go in your opinion?  Australia is a year around destination, but the Top End is subject to weather. Bamurru closes for three months starting January, for the wet season. Best time for weather is June through August, but for birds, I would go with September through mid-December. This is the build-up, when it gets hotter, and more humid, before the monsoonal rains come. The birds are active, and the sky is breathtaking.

Anything else to add?  I think I’m in love with Bamurru Plains. I wish I’d been able to stay longer, because the lack of connection to the outside world and the communal dining makes for a lovely relaxing experience. People talk to strangers, and become friends. My first morning, I woke up to the sound of munching, and hopping, and kind of snuffling. The Buffalo and the Wallabies were moving out to the water for the day and decided to walk on either side of my tent. I got out of bed to watch them, and it felt like I was part of the landscape. The next morning, just before breakfast, all the Wallabies stampeded back toward camp. A minute later, two dingoes loped into view. They were hunting for either a baby, or an older animal. There was such a sense of place, of being part of place. It was one of the moments when I know how lucky we are to travel.

Intrigued? Contact Judith at judith.kitzes@altour.com or 310-683-0149 and she’ll get you set up on your own Australian adventure!

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