Keen to switch off and check out? Maybe it’s time for a trip to outer space. Well, not outer outer space, but to the gorgeous space outback that Outback Spirit has carved for its guests on the stunning Kimberley Mitchell Plateau / Ngauwudu. As part of my Jewels the Kimberley explorations, I checked out its exclusive Ngauwudu Safari Lodge.
Outer space: check-in & beyond
Kilometres from any town, a 17-hour drive from Darwin, and so far from any of Australia’s major metropolises, Ngauwudu Safari Lodge might well be in outer space, it’s that far removed from your problems.
Located on Wunambal Gaambera country, guests reach Ngauwudu (Nar-woo-do) one of two ways – road or air. Always with Outback Spirit, though, as their lodge is exclusively for their guests. There’s not even a sign to tell passersby where Ngauwudu is!
Luckily, we were in the know and arrived on a 2-hour flight from Darwin on Outback Spirit’s private Cessna plane. As you do. The 20-minute bus ride from the landing strip was fuelled with much excitement and anticipation, thanks to the reputation Ngauwudu has garnered.
Personal space: the rooms
Picture all the trimmings of a fancy hotel – plush mattress, perfectly fluffy pillows, leather armchair, rainforest shower – and none of the bricks. One of Ngauwudu’s 22 en-suite glamping safari tents was my home for two nights, offering the comfort and space of a 5-star hotel – in the middle of nature.
When was the last time you popped the roof during a hotel stay? Never, right? At Ngauwudu, I popped three of my safari tent’s roof vents to enjoy the oh-so-cosy duvet and the cool night breeze. A morning chorus of native birds is the best kind of alarm clock.
While the big loungers on my cabin’s deck beckoned and called, I didn’t spend any time there. Blame the dreamy bed set up and the inviting creek!
Out of space: food & drinks
The one place that Ngauwudu Safari Lodge is NOT giving you any space is in the belly department. Expect the opposite as there is no lack in the food department here.
One of the most common exclamations while at Ngauwudu was how the chefs managed to create masterpieces in the middle of nowhere. There’s no Aldi to run to for supplies. No neighbour to pop to for sugar. And every feast – including the best lamb I’ve ever tasted – is prepared with only six burners and an oven!
Native ingredients dial up the flavours on the evening meals, like wattleseeds, Geraldton wax, and native herb oils. And vibrant fresh fruit platters and bite-sized sweet treats fill in the spaces when a nibble might just do.
And the best bit? As Outback Spirit’s tours are all-inclusive, we didn’t need to touch our wallets or tap our phones at the end of the meal. Even for booze.
Spaced out: facilities
No need for pool services at Ngauwudu Safari Lodge – or chemicals – as the palm-fringed creek that runs through the grounds is the lodge’s pool – and it’s perfect!
An idyllic antidote to the Kimberley’s heat, the creek was our unofficial end-of-day hangout. There’s also a campfire for evening chit-chats.
About three weeks prior to our arrival, Wi-Fi was installed. Surprisingly, I felt I could have gone without it as the space that Ngauwudu gives you is enhanced with no connection to your outside life. Fortunately, it didn’t reach our glamping tents.
BTW, if you’d like some Aboriginal artwork from the Kandiwal community down the road, bring cash, there’s a small collection at the lodge.
Deep space: the extras
People visit Mitchell Platea because of the 4-tiered wonder of the stunning Mitchell Falls / Punamii-unpuu. It’s one of the Kimberley’s most spectacular natural wonders and a place of cultural and spiritual significance for the Wunambal Gaambera people.
Our day of adventure did not disappoint; kicking off with a 4-hour hike to the Mitchell Falls lookout area, led by our Ngauwudu Safari Lodge guides, including Kandiwal local and apprentice, Wyatt.
Along the way, we were treated to our first glimpse of the ancient Aboriginal rock art this region is so famous for. We stood awestruck in front of the thousands-year-old paintings depicting the Wandjina dreamtime story.
The 80-metre high powerhouse that is Mitchell Falls cannot be prepared for. After unusual rainfall, Punamii-unpuu gushed at a pace and volume that surprised for the Outback. Seeing the falls from our off-door helicopter ride back to the bus was a perfect end to an epic Kimberley day out.
Space age: the verdict
If this was actually outer space, I’d happily sign up for an alien encounter so I could come again. The exclusivity, inclusivity, feasts, staff, and fancy-pants glamping tents made this more than just accommodation.
I arrived on tour frazzled with a backlog of missed sleep. Ngauwudu Safari Lodge gave me the breathing space and peace to re-correct and rebalance.
You can travel both ways on the 13-day Jewels of the Kimberley. For me, however, the decision to go in reverse, from Darwin to Broome, set me up for the rest of the tour, thanks to my Ngauwudu stay.
Watch this space: the deets
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