Discover East Arnhem Land and the Wessel Islands – a raw, rugged, ribbon like archipelago off the Northern Territory, so untouched and remote, it is very likely you will have this secluded reach of Australia all to yourself as you explore by water.
Your arrival in Gove will allow you to disregard traditional maps, follow ancient songlines and delve into Yolngu land. Spearfish with locals for mud crabs, gather bush medicine and foods as you are educated on Yolngu kinship, traditional lore and language. Board the M/Y Wildcard, home of the Davey family, for 6 days exploring deep into Australia’s backyard and into one of the country’s greatest untouched wilderness areas. Your mind will boggle as you become family with your crew and embrace their lifestyle of barefoot luxury on the water. Sail between virgin islands, hike on stunning sand bars and off-piste trails, kayak through cascading waterfalls that tumble straight into the ocean. Be absorbed in the wilderness.
Meals prepared by our onboard cook, who takes delight in exceeding your culinary expectations. Our mouth-watering meals are not complicated, but the quality of the food will have you feeling as though you were being served at a top restaurant. They understand that you are not escaping the hustle and bustle of the real world to then encounter complicated food.
The vast tidal rivers, mangrove lined estuaries and rich coastal waters will show you a side to the Australian wilderness that you did not know existed. Your experience will move you beyond words. Primitive, uninhabited, crystal blue ocean explored in a unique style.
Eight guests maximum per departure (minimum six guests)
2 x Lower Deck Queen Cabins:
$9,900AUD per person twin share
2 x Upper Deck Penthouse Cabins:
$12,995AUD per person twin share
Welcome to East Arnhem Land! You will begin your adventures by flying from Darwin into Gove (flight not included). This flight will be a great introduction to your East Arnhem Land experience as you take in birds eye views of spectacular landscapes below.
Be met on arrival at the airport or picked up from your Nhulunbuy hotel if you have arrived early by your guide as you set off to visit culturally significant sites within the Dhimurru Recreation Area with an overview of Yolngu culture and history provided by your Yolngu guide. Embrace the culture – unchanged for over 40,000 years. Your mind will boggle as you learn that each homeland has its own creation story, personality and landscape. To be immersed in the most culturally intact Aboriginal nation in Australia is such a rare privilege.
Visit the world-renowned Aboriginal Art Centre – Buki-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, located in the Yirrkala community, which is one of the oldest and most respected Aboriginal Art centres in Australia. Enjoy exploring the interpretation of the historical Aboriginal Land Rights Bark Petitions and Church panels. There is also the opportunity to purchase some local works unique to this particular region for those who are keen to take home (or send home) some keepsakes.
Visit Daliwoi Bay and Macassan Beach which has a fascinating historical link with the Macassan sea traders. On the way to Macassan Beach, make a stop at a tree where the bark has been removed. Here your guide will explain the process of bark painting to you, and the other uses of the tree in bush medicine and daily life.
Now it’s time to get hands on! Men may try their hands at spear fishing or catching mud crabs before you enjoy a picnic lunch and a chance to taste fresh fish cooked on the fire depending on the success of the men spearing a fish.
After lunch, walk through the Maccassan’s stone sculptures with commentary by your Yolngu guide. Explore Turtle Beach & Little Bondi before transferring to the Gove Yacht Club where you will make your way aboard the M/Y Wildcard where you will meet the crew – your family at sea, for the next few days.
Dinner will be served on board as you cruise towards Elizabeth Bay. Weave between virgin islands spotted throughout the turquoise waters. Depending on the tides, there may be an opportunity to go a walk along one of the remote beaches for sunset where we will set up for drinks and nibbles. If the tides are not in our favour, we will enjoy the sunset from our deck. (B,L,D)
NOTE: Activities and the order in which they are undertaken may change depending on the season, tides, weather conditions and cultural matters. We are guided by our Yolngu guides as this is their land.
5 nights M/Y Wildcard
**Please note due to COVID restrictions in the region, it may not be possible to visit the pearl farm.**
After breakfast, you will cruise towards a local pearl farm for a guided tour. This pearl farm is so remote, that it is only accessible by water. Enjoy learning about the pearling process and see the stunning pearls grown in these waters. If the carver is on site, there may be an opportunity to witness the intricate carvings that are hand carved into the pearl shell. There will be ample opportunity to purchase some pearls or carvings for those interested. Return to the Wildcard for lunch.
If it is not possible to visit the pearl farm, instead you will delve into a taste of Australian history. Visit the region where Mathew Flinders first referred to the Indigenous people as Australians. Enjoy an in-depth chat about history before visiting some traditional Indigenous fishing traps still in the area and learn about how they were used.
This afternoon, we will anchor at our anchorage point in Elizabeth Bay where we can go ashore for a relaxing beach walk. You will also have the chance to feed the Lemon Sharks and catch fresh squid from the back deck which our crew will cook for your dinner. (B,L,D)
This morning following breakfast, you will set off on a scenic voyage towards Mystery Bay through a scattering of islands and islets.
This is an experience of a lifetime. Venture into a gorgeous bay tucked away between three large islands. A long, pristine white sand beach will greet you, an almost secretive tidal lagoon will lure you. Cruise into the lagoon where you will be dropped off to the entrance of a gorge. Hike to the top and be greeted with a spectacular panoramic view over the entire island. Following on, you will be lead across to a beautiful set of caves all influenced by a nearby freshwater spring. During the wet season, this is a spectacular waterfall. Admire the wild gallery, with timeless art etched into cave walls. Take a dip in the fresh spring water lagoon which also enters the mouth of the cave. It really feels like time has simply stopped here. Enjoy a mini wildlife experience where you can find yabbies, and fish you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Before setting off, enjoy a delicious meal served on the beach.
Now we start entering the Wessel Islands. The Wessel Islands constituted the homelands of the Nango or Yan-nhangu people. The islands were mapped and named by a Dutch expedition that sailed from Banda Neira to explore the coasts of Papua New Guinea and the South Land following up on discoveries made in 1623 by Jan Carstensz and Willem van Colster (who named Arnhem Land after his ship Arnhem). The islands were named after one of the two small vessels used on discovery voyages of the coastline, the Wesel. Learn from your crew about the fascinating history of the area you will spend the next few days exploring. (B,L,D)
Today, cruise to Picture Bay. Explore on foot as you follow a locally etched island track to reach a secret and private lagoon. Witness a picturesque waterfall flowing into the bay. The surrounding escarpment is influenced by rainforest – the backdrop is unexpected, yet spectacular. Follow the edge trail along the side of the cliffs leading to another waterfall and freshwater lagoon, where you can take a refreshing dip. Please note to reach the swimming hole, it is steep in parts and a high level of fitness is required. Spend the afternoon relaxing on board Wildcard, cruising through the beautiful sapphire waters. The sky this evening will be unlike anything you have ever seen. A true blanket of stars, more vivid than anywhere else you may have been. Take the time to star gaze and reflect upon the incredible journey you have just experienced. (B,L,D)
Enjoy breakfast on board before heading to the unique Finger Falls, which tumbles directly into the ocean. Follow a steep track to the top of the falls where you will be surprised with a scattering of natural infinity pools. For those feeling like a buzz, you may sit in the pools as the water rushes over you and falls into the ocean below. Continue across Cumberland Strait, a tidal split between two islands, and over to Hopeful Bay which opens out into the Arafura Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. Visit Australia Bay and learn about the significant historical moment which took place here. This is the location where Matthew Flinders first referred to the Indigenous people as Australian. Here, there is also a traditional Indigenous stone fish trap. The horseshoe-shaped stone walls were built in the tidal zones to trap fish as water receded allowing easy access to the next meal. The traps traditionally caught fish, dugong, turtle, stingray, shellfish and mud crabs. (B,L,D)
Breathe in as you squeeze through the Gulgari Rip, also known as ‘Hole in the Wall’. Gape at the narrowness of the passage, the birdlife and the large white paint graffiti on the rock walls which has been left by previous ships. Our resident crocodile lives in these waters, and if he’s feeling social, he may put on a show to allow our guests an incredible close up look. This wild prehistoric creature is truly something beautiful to witness. Farewell your incredible crew as you head back to Gove. Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
** An itinerary may at times be altered by our guides due to local conditions, the skill of participants and other unexpected circumstances such as homelands families moving around and weather. Our priority is always the experience and safety of our clients.**
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 6 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of 25% per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.