Hear traditional stories around a campfire, try bush tucker and get a feel for the Aboriginal people’s unique connection with the land on an Indigenous tour in Broome.
The Manbana Discovery Centre, established in 2002 near Broome’s deep-water port, was originally built to showcase the relationship that is shared between the Aboriginal people and the waterways of the area. Luckily for visitors, the centre has gown to become so much more.
Manbana means “first” in the local Yawru language and was so-named because it’s the first Indigenous-owned aquaculture and discovery centre of its type in Australia. The interpretive display, aquarium and native gardens are brought to life through tours, lead by Aboriginal guides.
The one-hour tours, held at 10am and 1.30pm, provide a unique insight into how the local people depended on the ocean and fresh water rivers to provide food, and also demonstrates how items such as pearl and trochus shells were used as trading items by the Indigenous community. “Pearl shell was a significant ceremonial item but was also a very valuable trade item,” explains Justin, a guide at Manbana. “The local shell was traded as far as Victoria and South Australia, well before Europeans came to these shores.”
Manbana features an interactive aquarium tunnel with a variety of fish including the beautiful clownfish, or “nemo fish” as they have become known. A touch tank allows children to feel and hold various safe species of marine animal including beche de mer, or sea cucumbers. Raised aquariums display other more fearsome creatures such as stingrays, spiney sea urchins, blue ringed octopus and sometimes sea snakes. And at the 18,000-litre barramundi tank, guides hand feed the giant fish while visitors look on in awe as they dart out of the water, splashing the unsuspecting onlooker.
Just north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula, some of the local families have developed unique micro-tourism experiences. One to two-day four-wheel packages are available from Broome, visiting select locations on the way up to the Peninsula. However, since most of the more unique overnight experiences require visitors to have their own vehicle, self-drive packages organised by local company Best of the Kimberley are also available.
While there are about 10 different experiences to choose from, the Maddarr package is one of the most popular. Maddarr, or Barramundi Moon, is about 180km from Broome on the eastern side of the Peninsula overlooking King Sound and the islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. Once you’ve arrived at Maddarr, escorted walking tours of the isolated beaches are available and take you to amazing ochre cliffs, bat caves and ancient fish traps. Traditional owners, the Manado family, share their unique stories, often around the campfire, and also offer personally escorted activities such as beach and bush walks, reef exploration (depending upon tides) and fishing. Simple beach shelters with their own outdoor cooking area including wood fire, running water, sink, table and chairs, and communal ablutions are available to travellers.
For a completely different cultural experience, you might like to look into the Djugarargyn Bush Retreat and Cultural Tour. Taking visitors to the east side of the Peninsula, about 170km from Broome, this package offers the rare opportunity to visit historic cattle yards built in the 1930s that have survived tidal surges, searing heat and cyclones. There are surprises at every turn on this tour. It could be a flock of red-tailed black cockatoos screeching past, or the brilliant blue waterlilies in an unexpected oasis. Owner Debbie Sibosado is a Bardi woman who provides easy bushwalking tours and gives a traditional insight into the bush tucker and the uses and medicines of the plants in her “backyard”.
Other experiences include the well-known Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, which offers a range of accommodation as well as cultural tours to surrounding communities and outstations. Pre-booking the touring packages is essential.
Manbana is open Monday to Saturday between 9am and 4pm. Tours cost $19 for adults, $15 for concession cardholders and $10 for children. Call (08) 9192 3844 or visit manbana.com.au.
Dampier Peninsula 4WD Tours can be booked through the Broome Visitor Centre on (08) 9192 2222 or visit broomevisitorcentre.com.au.
Maddarr and Djugarargyn Bush Retreat self-drive packages are available from Best of the Kimberley. The three-day/two-night and five-day/four-night packages include an option for those who need to hire a 4WD from Broome. Call 1800 450 850 for more information.
Kooljaman at Cape Leveque accommodation starts at $14 per person for camping, $30 per person twin share for beach shelters and dome tents, and $105 per person twin share for safari tents. Call (08) 9192 4970 or visit kooljaman.com.au.
A good insight into Indigenous tourism activities in WA can be found at waitoc.com