Seven things we learned from Travel Geeks: adventure, cities and natural icons in Australia’s Northern Territory
On May 11, a digital National Geographic Traveller (UK) Travel Geeks event sponsored by Tourism NT saw a panel of experts come together to discuss how best to explore this Australian region. National Geographic Traveller Food assistant editor, Farida Zeynalova, was joined by travel writers Nori Jemil, David Whitley and Justin Meneguzzi, as well as Fleur Sainsbury of Tourism NT. Here are seven key takeaways:
1 The landscapes are epic
The Northern Territory is six times the size of Great Britain, with incredibly diverse landscapes. “It’s what you imagine when you’re thinking of the sandstone escarpments, the red deserts and the vest open spaces,” said David. “But there’s so much more to it. The Aboriginal culture is so closely linked to that landscape that you can’t separate them. When you start travelling through it, you realise you’re travelling through a big story book.”
2 Don’t miss out Darwin
This tropical city tends to be a destination for repeat visitors, but it’s a great place to start a trip through the Northern Territory. It’s around four hours from Singapore and two hours from Bali, which cuts a chunk of time off flying to the east coast. “It’s a place that doesn’t feel like anywhere else,” said David. “There’s an Asian vibe to it, there’s a bit of a bohemian vibe to it as well, and they all mix in a place that’s manageable and has got loads of attractions.”
3 You don’t have to rent a car
“I went on the train from Alice to Darwin, and it’s such an amazing experience,” said Nori. “You can get off and go to Katherine and do all kinds of trips on the way. There are a lot of interesting people on the train itself, so you have that experience while you see the landscapes go by.”
4 A very active destination
“The territory has got a really great climate,” said Fleur, “so, for people who love the outdoors, it’s an absolutely perfect place to be.” There are mountain bike trails all around Alice Springs; hot air ballooning and quad biking across the Red Centre; walking routes across the territory — including the Jatbula Trail out of Katherine, the Larapinta Trail out of Alice Springs, and several shorter walks in Kakadu; plus kayaking in Katherine Gorge.
5 Take a walking tour around Uluru
“Everyone knows that one picture of Uluru, but it changes vastly as you walk around it,” said David. “There are gullies where the waterfalls have been, there are little outcrops of plants, there are places where wildlife lives, it looks so different. For anyone who’s thinking of not going because you can’t climb it anymore, don’t worry about that — it’s far more interesting to walk around it.”
6 Check out the Aboriginal art scene
Justin recommended visiting the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs. “They display art from a variety of different Aboriginal tribes and cultures in the area; it’s really quite interesting to see how diverse they all are.” Elsewhere, in Kakadu and Arnhem Land, there’s centuries-old rock art that serves as an historical record, and visitors can also take dot painting workshops with Indigenous teachers at Uluru.
7 The food is diverse
The Northern Territory has a multicultural soul, and a place such as Todd Mall Markets in Alice Springs are a great way to experience it through a plate of fried noodles, stew or curry. Justin highlighted Kungkas Can Cook, too — an Aboriginal-owned and operated café in Alice Springs that serves ethically sourced, organic bush food. “We’re still building up our native food experiences, but that’s a really good place if you want to know what a bush plant or a finger lime taste like.”
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