Garig Gunak Barlu National Park and Marine Park covers an area of (mostly uninhabited) 5000 square kilometres and is located about 570 km (by road) northeast of Darwin on the Cobourg Peninsula. Access is via air, sea or an unsealed road (four-wheel drive only) through Arnhem Land, usually open in the dry season (May-October), depending on the rains. To protect and minimise the environmental impact on this pristine area, Traditional Owners have agreed to allow 20 vehicles into the Park at any time, and permits are required to visit. Therefore, there will be no crowds here, and you will have this magnificent location virtually to yourself.
The Park lies within the clan estates of the Iwaidja speaking peoples of Cobourg Peninsula. Custodianship is shared between Aboriginal clan groups. These clans have continual spiritual links with the land and sea as their ancestors from the Creation Era (Dreamtime) created the land and all it contains. As a result, the Park includes cultural landscapes shaped and managed by traditions. Its name is translated as Garig (a local language name), Gunak (land), Barlu (deep water).
The area has fascinating ancient and contemporary history. Archaeologists generally agree that Aboriginal people have lived in the area for over 40,000 years. In addition, Macassan traders visited the area regularly for centuries.
Cobourg offers a unique historical opportunity to view the remains of early settlement attempts by the British. Many remains can still be seen today at Victoria Settlement, the third failed attempt by the British to colonise the North of Australia.
The settlement was intended to protect the north of Australia from foreign invasion and create a vital trading route to the Indonesian archipelago. However, it survived for only 11 years (1838 to 1849) before it was abandoned. Isolation and disease accounted for 60 deaths from a population high of 200. The eerie ruins of Victoria Settlement's buildings, with their distinct Cornish rounded chimneys, stand as a monument to the hardships faced by the early colonists.
It supports over 800 plant species, 64 species of coral, 406 species of marine invertebrate from the coral reef or the intertidal zone, 35 mammals, 71 reptiles, 19 frogs and 236 bird species.
The Park protects the first wetland to be recognised as a Wetland of International Importance under 'The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance' commonly known as RAMSAR. It was registered on 8 May 1974. Sixty-five sites in Australia are registered with Ramsar, including wetlands in Kakadu National Park. The wetland is a major destination for migratory birds to Australia. In addition, it makes for some spectacular birdwatching and photography experiences.
The Marine Park is well known amongst keen anglers and heralded as a world-class fishing destination. However, the marine park predominantly provides a habitat for many other amazing aquatic creatures. Six of the seven species of marine turtles inhabit the waters, along with dugong, dolphins, sharks, crocodiles, stingrays, mud crabs, and plenty of fish. Low tides provide great opportunities to explore exposed coral reefs and rock pools which are home to various interesting and unusual sea anemones. Many of the beaches are also commonly used as turtle nesting areas and covered in a wide range of shells.
At Venture North, we have developed strong relationships with Traditional Owners who have permitted us to enter Arnhem Land with our tour guests. Specifically, we are incredibly privileged to have been granted permission by the Madjunbalmi clan to operate our unique safari-style camp (Cobourg Coastal Camp) in the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.
Cobourg Fishing Safari's unique safari-style camp is nestled amongst savannah bushland overlooking the bay of Port Essington. Operating from early April to the end of November, the camp caters to just 12 guests at any time, ensuring a personalised experience. Enjoy professional yet relaxed Top End hospitality in an unbeatable location.
A large, undercover, open-air dining area is where meals are served. This is complemented by a small lounge area which is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the serenity after a big day of exploration. Permanent canvas safari tents provide very comfortable nights' accommodation. The tents are strategically arranged along the cliff top overlooking the water. Each tent is twin-share and contains two single beds (all linen is included), a bedside table, light and a fan. Bathroom facilities are located just a short walk from your tent. They include our popular outdoor monsoonal hot-water showers with fantastic bushland views!
Each sunset nibbles are served on the cliff top, the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset over the bay. Dinners of a high standard are prepared in the camp kitchen nightly and incorporate your freshly caught fish, fresh vegetables and a variety of local produce.
****Please note; if you would like to visit Cobourg Coastal Camp you must either join a Venture North tour or a fishing charter with Cobourg Fishing Safaris - self-drive is not available****