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When I think of Australia, I always think of the bush. No visit Down Under would be complete without exploring the Australian wilderness, and a great place to do that is in the Northern Territory. Darwin, perched at the Top End of the island nation, is an excellent place to start a journey into the bush. Its rugged landscape is filled with wild species from the rare black wallaroo to the common crocodile.
On a recent visit to the Northern Territory, my journey took me to the Wildman Wilderness Lodge, which provides guests with a wetlands safari experience in and around Kakadu National Park. The Wildman Wilderness Lodge is really the ultimate eco lodge — its cabins were completely recycled from another resort. Now located on the Mary River wetlands, the cabins traveled to the lodge form Far North Queensland and were reconstructed to form almost half of the lodging facilities at the resort. At present, there are 10 cabins, called habitats, complemented by 15 safari-style, tented cabins.
In addition to the habitats, the main lodge, itself, was also reconstructed — with some new additions, as well. It now features a bar and lounge area, an infinity pool, an outdoor viewing deck with a firepit and a small, intimate restaurant. Dining at the lodge is luxurious while still capturing the homestyle feeling visitors might expect at a small property in the bush. While high levels of service are maintained, the small, friendly staff is welcoming and invites guests into their everyday lives. Guides are often found on the viewing deck in the evenings, helping visitors spot various bird species that are often seen in the wetlands as well as discussing the day’s activities.
During my visit, I stayed in one of the habitats. They are tastefully furnished and are kept virtually critter-free, which — I admit — was my greatest worry upon arrival. Each cabin features one room with a king-size bed, as well as a bathroom equipped with a large shower. Rooms aren’t huge, but are certainly good sized, especially when considering the amount of time guests will be spending in them. The view is the most important aspect. Floor-to-ceiling, sliding-glass doors open onto the wetlands. The cabins are located side-by-side along a straight pathway, and each one has the same view. It gets dark at night, so if your clients are older, it would be a good idea to request one closer to the lodge. That being said, each room has its own flashlight for guests as well as an emergency kit and bug spray.
A key feature of the property, apart from its scenic location, is its wealth of activities. My stay, at the end of April, was toward the tail end of the rainy season. Much of the wetlands had yet to recede substantially enough to allow for off-road tours of Kakadu, which is unusual for that time of year. While I wasn’t able to off-road, we were able to go on several other tours, which were equally amazing and adventurous.
My first outing was a boat ride on the Wildman Wilderness Lodge’s own billabong. The sunset cruise was peaceful and full of wildlife sightings. We kept our eyes peeled for crocodiles and saw a variety of birds including a white-bellied sea eagle. The amount of wildlife teeming in the wetlands is sensational and, since it was the beginning of the dry season, the billabong was filled to its maximum capacity.
The next adventure was Kakadu National Park, where clients can immerse themselves in Aboriginal culture at the Waradjin Cultural Centre, view ancient rock art at Burrunggui, view the Arnhem Land escarpment from Gunwarddehwardde lookout and more. The lodge offers full-day tours of Kakadu that include a stop for morning tea and a lunchtime picnic.
Following Kakadu, I headed out into the wetlands via airboat. Since airboats are noisy by design, there wasn’t much talking during the ride, but just speeding over the primordial vegetation was transfixing. Again, we kept an eye out for a crocodiles, but we didn’t’ have much luck. Due to the fact that the water was still warm, the crocs didn’t feel the need to leave and sunbathe on their most popular plateaus. While this might be seen as a disadvantage to some guests, I loved the fact that, since it was so early in the season and the water was still abundant, we were able to travel far out into the wetlands to see watery forests that later guests would not have the chance to see.
Several other tours are available to guests at the lodge including off-road adventures, ATV rides, sundowner tours and more. The lodge also offers helicopter tours of the area as well as private tours.
This April will be the lodge’s second season of operation and, if its first season is any indication, the Wildman Wilderness Lodge will have plenty of adventure in store.