Aboriginal History: Australia’s Aboriginal People have lived and hunted beside Lake Mungo for 50,000 years. In the mid 1900’s ancient camps and burial sites were exposed by erosion, creating tremendous excitement throughout the scientific world. Aboriginal occupation of Australia was pushed back many thousands of years by the discovery of ritual burials sites that are evidence of the oldest organised human culture on earth and the reason the region was proclaimed a World Heritage Area. Mungo National Park is also home to many arid land animals and birds including kangaroos, rare species of parrots and cockatoos, birds of prey, reptiles and many others. Skeletal remains of extinct marsupials, the forebears of Australia’s unique suite of wildlife, are another example of the huge significance of Lake Mungo.
Wildlife: Many native Australian birds & animals inhabit the beautiful dune fields and saltbush plains of Mungo. At dawn and dusk Red and Western Grey Kangaroos graze together in the low vegetation – heads raising and lowering silently in the solitude of the vast dry lake-bed. Bird life at Mungo is both rich and rare – resident Wedge-tailed Eagles soar overhead and nest in the few desert trees, giant flightless Emus swagger about the plains in small bands. Falcons & Kestrels hunt low flying birds and insects. Most beautiful of all is the Pink Cockatoo with its fabulous multicoloured crest – a remarkable bird to see in this arid land. Some of Australia’s most vividly colourful parrots are seen at Mungo, often in the desert pines where noisy Babblers also live & make their large communal nests. Shingleback & Bearded Dragon lizards are often seen basking in the sun in these delicate arid ecosystems. Our Wildlife Guide will place you in locations at the right time to see many of these creatures.
Accommodation and Geography: For two nights you will stay in the town of Wentworth in well appointed (en suites) 3 star accommodation overlooking bird-filled Thegoa Lagoon. Across the road the Darling River nears its final junction with the Murray River. These two rivers drain a third of the Australian continent – much of their courses travel though semi-arid land. The dramatically contrasting interface between the riverine and arid land ecosystems around Wentworth means we often view wildly differing and unexpected species. Because of this - although our journey focuses on Lake Mungo - we also visit other important wildlife and Aboriginal sites in the region. Wentworth is the perfect base to explore this magnificent area on foot & by vehicle, escorted by your personal guides. Meals are traditional Australian bush fare – a genuine taste of Australia.
Day by Day Description: Depart Melbourne airport in the morning on a short flight (flight by others) to Mildura on the edge of the Outback. Upon arrival you will meet your M18697 Guide and begin your private Outback journey. Your first stop will be at the junction of Australia's two great rivers - the Murray and the Darling - where they meet in the Outback. This is a very significant place to both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. It is surprising to see so much water flowing through this semi-arid region.
We have lunch then drop your gear at your accommodation located overlooking Thegoa Lagoon, a major billabong of the Murray River and home to many birds. Next we drive away from civilisation into the arid country searching for wildlife and birds along the billabongs. Often extraordinary numbers of water birds are seen here as they arrive out of the desert looking for food and water near the rivers. This is a very important place for the local Aboriginal People. At the end of the day we head back to your accommodation to prepare for tomorrow's journey to Mungo then on to dinner in the town of Wentworth. This morning we depart for our special day at Lake Mungo.
After breakfast you will meet your Aboriginal Guide from the local Paakantyi Tribe who will travel with us for the rest of the day to interpret the culture of this region. We drive across the dry bed of Lake Mungo to lunettes (wind-curved sand dunes) to begin a “story line” through 50,000 years of Aboriginal History beginning at the lake bed and rising high into the eroded dunes. You will learn about the people who lived at this place, see evidence of their camp sites, view the remains of their cooking fires and, depending on the movement of the sand and soil, you may even help with the discovery of new sites! Your Guide will also point out evidence of extinct fauna. It will become obvious that this now dry arid area was once a thriving wetland where large numbers of waterbirds and animals coexisted beside a vibrant population of Aboriginal People for tens of thousands of years. Where people lived they also died and not far from where you will be walking is the oldest recorded human cremation in the world. Burial sites continue to be exposed throughout the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area and are monitored carefully by local Aboriginal People to minimise disturbance and engender respect for their ancestors. We cannot take you to these sacred areas but it is wonderful to know that the person who is guiding you is a descendant of these enduring people whose culture is the oldest in world. (NB: Australian Federal and State laws forbid collection or removal of Aboriginal Artefacts)
We then begin a circumnavigation of Lake Mungo by vehicle and on foot. This afternoon our Wildlife Guide and Aboriginal Guide collaborate in a unique cross cultural interpretation of the land and its wildlife. You will travel through 4 ecosystems ranging from dry lakebeds to rich sandy bush country. As we travel we’ll stop often to search for birds and animals and learn about the vegetation in this constantly changing landscape. You will learn how the Willandra Lakes System dried out over thousands of years as the climate warmed. Because the country is flat, any rise places you on top of a world that stretches from you direct to an endless 360 degree horizon – a profound peace emanates from the ancient land. As the day subsides we re-cross Lake Mungo and spend time walking in the saltbush with the kangaroos of Mungo. On cloudless evenings the coats of male Red Kangaroos vibrate in the sunlight. Your Wildlife Guide will point out the distinctive white ear marks of the Western Grey kangaroos. Vivid parrots and Cockatoos may join us. This is also the perfect time to serenade the evening with the evocative vibrations of the Didgeridoo – your Aboriginal Guide will share this unique instrument with you before we have a barbecue dinner in the bush.
After dinner we'll head back through the desert to your accommodation. On clear evenings we'll stop to study the stars of the Southern Hemisphere - including the Southern Cross. The stars in the Outback on a clear night shine so brightly you can almost reach out and touch them! Many of the constellations have great meaning to the Aboriginal People.
Take a relaxing morning walk at your accommodation and enjoy the birds that are constantly on the move about Thegoa Lagoon. One of the real surprises here are the Blue-faced honeyeaters that live and breed in the trees surrounding the motel.
As a grand finale we head out to one of Australia's signature emblems - the red sand dunes of the Outback. They sweep in endless moving waves across vast areas of the country engulfing all before them, sometimes settling when vegetation ties them down. Just out of Wentorth a large meandering dune has been caught up by a stand of eucalyptus trees and as the sand has increased in height the trees have grown taller to keep above the advancing sands. Some of the trees are massive representatives of their species, they may be up to 400 years old. All sorts of birds use these trees as feeding and resting places in the arid zone. We walk the dune field discovering the plants and wildlife that inhabit these remarkable systems and your Guide explains how these magnificent icons of Australia are formed.
Minimum cost is per person for 6-8 people.
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