The East Alligator river is the boundary between Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land. Kakadu is about 20,000 square kilometres and Arnhem Land is approx 150,000 square kilometres. We have been slowly travelling around Kakadu for 5 days and now we are going to join a 2 hour Aboriginal cultural cruise along this crocodile infested waterway.
Arnhem Land is Aboriginal traditional tribal country and to enter it is necessary to have a permit. This area is shrouded in mystery for me and the stories and accounts I have heard is that the Aboriginal communities that live here are in limbo between their ancient, traditional, tribal lifestyle of hunting and gathering and modern-day society supported by benefits and living in houses supplied by the government. The standards of health, education, living standards and job opportunities are well below the rest of Australia.
One community, the Gulumyambi people have created an opportunity for themselves by taking tourists for a cruise along the East Alligator River and inviting them onto Arnhem Land.
The Aboriginal guides told us stories of their culture and pointed out trees and plants that could be eaten or used for medicinal purposes. Of course they took us close up and personal to any crocodiles that were basking on the banks. There are hundreds more that we couldn’t see lurking around in the muddy coloured murky waters of the river.
We passed a couple of “tinnies” with brave blokes fishing. The size of the boats are smaller than some of the crocodiles and notices warn fishermen to always use nets with long handles to bring their catch into the boat. The barramundi is the prize fish in these waters and I have heard it will put up a good fight. If I was that man in the boat I don’t think I would sit with my bottom hanging over the side….
The boat we are in is a good solid size and we keep all parts of our bodies well inside.
We embarked and were welcomed onto their home-land. One of the guides was a traditional owner of this part of Arnhem Land. They had a collection of stone tools that were used in the past and they demonstrated the art of spear throwing using a “woomera”, a holder that gives more distance to the throw. We had a short walk to a billabong before it was time to go back along the river.