A tropical wetland on a working cattle and buffalo station provides the perfect place for a luxurious African-style safari.
Story By Peter Solness
In February 2005 three campers arrived on the edge of a tropical wetland 10 kilometres west of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The trio had come to this 80-hectare block set on the buffalo pastoral property Swim Creek Station to assess the viability of creating a luxury tourist camp aimed at the top end of the travel market.
The three campers included Charles Carlow, the project’s financier, who had long dreamed of building a world-class African safari-style tourism lodge in Australia’s north, reminiscent of operations he had seen in Africa where tourism and conservation go hand in hand. Accompanying him was Peter Hamilton, an ex-helicopter tour operator from Queensland who was the resort’s designer, and project manager and his partner Roberta Fraser.
They had timed their arrival to enjoy the sunset and proceeded to set up their swags for the night. The tropical sky lit up brilliantly as great squadrons of magpie geese drifted past in the fading light. For Charlie, the scene was reminiscent of the Okavango Delta in Africa and the three were elated. But the euphoria was brief. Out of the darkness a great wall of ravenous mosquitoes descended.
“We were feeling on top of the world when this audible sound of mozzies set upon us like a horrendous swarm,” Peter says. But rather than pack up the car and go home, the trio decided to stick it out, determined to find a solution. It was tough work for Peter and Roberta, who returned for the construction phase only to face cyclones, flooded roads, unreliable contractors, lost building materials and cost blow-outs during the 10 months it took to complete construction. Their efforts were clearly worth it.
The camp, which opened earlier this year, consists of a main lodge and three (soon to be nine) safari bungalows, which float above the surrounding wetlands like glorified bird hides scattered among pandanus palms and grazing wallabies. All the buildings are built on pier-like pylons (safe from crocodiles and buffalo) and are wrapped in gossamer-thin insect screen. It gives the sensation of living spaces that breathe and sigh in harmony with the landscape.
Roberta describes the character of Bamurru Plains as a place of “wild bush luxury”. The main pavilion houses the dining and lounge areas, with chunky tables and a cinematic view looking north across a green sweep of grasslands. Out on the front deck there is a barbecue fire pit, and scattered pillows for lounging about beside a jade-coloured pool.
This story excerpt is from Issue #54
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2007