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Connecting with Country: An interview with award-winning guide Darren 'Capes' Capewell

Wula Gura Nyinda means ‘you come this way’. Darren 'Capes' Capewell, owner and operator of Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures, says it’s a traditional term for the sharing of stories – both between generations and between cultures. And that’s what Capes does.

Wula Gura Nyinda means ‘you come this way’. Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell, owner and operator of Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures, says it’s a traditional term for the sharing of stories – both between generations and between cultures. And that’s what Capes does.

He takes visitors on a range of On Country tours through Gutharraguda (Shark Bay) in Western Australia that gives visitors rare insights and understanding of the natural land, wildlife, stories and traditions of the region from the perspective of the world’s oldest living culture.

Karryon caught up with Capes, a proud descendant of the Nhanda and Malgana peoples, to talk about his hope to deepen visitors’ understanding of the region and its very living culture. 

How do you incorporate traditional stories and knowledge of Country into your tours?

Storytelling is an integral part of our Aboriginal Culture and we ensure that we provide a hands-on experience for our guests to be involved in the experiences which we create. 

We draw on our cultural knowledge, which has been learned over time to explain what it means to have ‘connection to Country’. We create interactive experiences and encourage our guests to ‘own’ the experience. We incorporate our senses of: listening,  smelling, tasting, feeling and seeing to learn the different ways in which Country (nature) can ‘talk to us’. For us, it’s not what Country looks like but, it’s how ‘Country feels’.

You were named ‘Indigenous Tour Guide of the Year’ in 2006 and since Wula Gura Nyinda has been continually recognised for its excellence. What makes your tours special and stand out?

Our job is not tourism. Our job is for us to ‘care for Country’ and our tourism business is a way for us to do this. We extend this responsibility to all of our guests. We are grateful that we get the opportunity to lead our guests through this place we call Gutharraguda (The place of Two Waters) and for them to understand what it means to have ‘connection to Country’.

Connecting with Country with Darren 'Capes' Capewell of Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures

What drew you to this career and what continues to inspire you to stay?

Our job is to ‘look after Country’ and we are born into this responsibility. This is a lifetime responsibility. 

Our business was established as a way for us to do this and it combines my two greatest passions (apart from family), and that is Culture and Country. Our job sustains us culturally, spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. We want to share this with our guests because we say that Country is ‘good medicine’.

What is the most important thing you want visitors to take away from their experience with Wula Gura Nyinda?

We like to make ‘nature our classroom’. The take home message for our guests is that we all have a connection to Country and it is our innate responsibility to ‘look after Country’. Also, it is not how Country looks but how ‘Country feels’. 

Balancing cultural sensitivity with giving tourists a memorable experience can be tricky. How do you navigate this balance in your tours?

We are always mindful of our cultural responsibilities and each experience we create incorporates our three universal principles of Education, Understanding and Respect. All our cultural experiences are journeys of learning and we like to make ‘nature our classroom’. We won’t create any experiences which will have a negative impact on our cultural responsibilities.

How long have you been partnering with AAT Kings and what does the partnership bring Wula Gura Nyinda?

We have partnered with AAT Kings since we started our cultural tourism business almost 20 years ago. We value our partnership with AAT Kings because it’s a wonderful way for us to continue to provide On-Country educational experiences for guests who want to learn more about Aboriginal Culture and History.

For more information about Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures, visit its website wulagura.com.au.