Labelle Downs is a Top End cattle operation that offers guests the chance to revel in a stunning natural environment, catch big fish and share in station life.
Story By Mark Muller
The cool, green water of the Reynolds River is as clear as cut glass. In the shade of a massive melaleuca, the warm Northern Territory air is gently punctuated by birdsong, banter and the rhythmic whip and whirr of lines being cast out towards a group of snags on the opposite bank. For the past hour or so small barramundi and the occasional sooty grunter are all that have been tempted by the lures. “There’ll be a big one in there, just by that log,” guide Martin Pearse says with equal measures of optimism and assurance. There are nodded heads and murmurs of careless agreement. A big barra would be nice, but the lack of one will barely dent the pleasure of a tranquil afternoon on Labelle Downs.
Then the shout goes out, “WAHEEYY – here we go!” and idle thoughts of lovely scenery are knocked into the sand by the spectacle of a fat, fighting barra smashing the lure and leaping clear out of the river. Martin’s rod takes the strain and his hand is a blur on the reel as he plays the fish to the river’s edge and lifts it out of the water for photographs, before releasing her back into the depths. “We can pretty much guarantee good fish,” Martin says through a grin. The tourism operation on Labelle Downs offers that, and more.
The property, along with the adjoining Welltree Station, has been owned and operated by R.M.Williams Agricultural Holdings (RMWAH) since 2009. It covers close to 1000 square kilometres of country stretching from the western boundary of Litchfield National Park to the waters of Anson Bay on the Timor Sea. Stunning floodplains cover 70 percent of the holding, with rocky high country, woodlands and improved pasture making up the rest. It can comfortably carry 30,000 head of cattle, is the site of trial plantations of Pongamia Pinnata – the legumes of which can be processed to produce bio-diesel, and is the hub of RMWAH’s nascent tourism business. “We’re only 150km from Darwin, on a good road,” Martin says. “That, combined with the environmental richness of the property, make it ideal for tourism – whether you want to fish, watch birds or experience life on a working cattle station in the Top End.” Also on offer are wetland safaris, walking tours and helicopter tours.
This story excerpt is from Issue #84
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012