A year ago we wrote about the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation’s (BAC) involvement with replicable aquaculture in Aboriginal communities – community-initiated and operated mud crab farms at Maningrida and Darwin. Now we see that this entrepreneurial body – in only their third year of operation with the Barramundi Nature Lodge – has not only ridden out the downturn in international tourism after 9/11, and won two Territory Brolga Tourism Awards, but they are setting the standards for remote area fishing operations.
This tourism operation is located 20 kms outside Maningrida on the Liverpool River estuary, over 400km by road from Darwin. Maningrida township is roughly in the centre of coastal Arnhem Land.
Facilities include quality en suite cabins and safari tent accommodation. Fresh food that usually includes barra caught that day is a feature, plus the open air bar.
The development is set on a high escarpment overlooking the extensive Tomkinson and Liverpool Rivers floodplains.
16 different clans – each with their own language – formed the BAC, a regional development centre for advancing the people into economic enterprise, business, and employment opportunities.
In 2006 the Barramundi Nature Lodge won:
The Lodge was originally built for a 3 year trial buffalo hunting operation, started by the BAC. However 9/11 effectively finished the international safari hunting idea, so the BAC thought of outsourcing the buildings for ‘fishing tourism’ and contacted Darwin fishing entrepreneur Alex Julius and his partner Lindsay Mutimer, a long time tourism operator.
With Alex handling the marketing and bookings and Lindsay the actual fishing operations, a lease was developed that gave the partners exclusive fishing rights to six rivers, several billabongs as well as a couple of hundred kilomketres of coastline and islands.
As well as the fabulous fishing, cultural tours are also available, guided by one of Maningrida’s traditional owners, Stewart Ankin, who gives lessons on spearfishing the Aboriginal way, gathering yams and fishing with a castnet and handline.
Except for the few fish that are cooked all others are released – a decision reached after talking to community people so local stocks would remain strong.
Alex, now the Lodge’s Managing Director was 24 when he arrived in Darwin more than 25 years ago. He had been a budding teenage professional photographer and was a regular contributor to national fishing magazines by age 19. He is now one of Australia’s best-known fishing media identities and arguably the nation’s foremost authority on fishing tropical North Australia.
Alex publishes NAFA (National Australian Fishing Annual), the country’s biggest fishing magazine, and its sister publication, Barra & Bass Digest. His company also operates Hotspot Fishing Tours which organises NT fishing holidays for interstate and overseas visitors. For several years, Alex was fishing presenter for Channel Nine’s Wide World of Sports and he has won pretty well every major Northern Territory fishing tournament, including the famous NT Barra Classic and the Barra Nationals.
Using Alex’s connections bookings ‘took off’ and word of mouth promotion was very strong. The thought of catching the large prolific barra of this region lures fishermen from around the country at a cost of nearly a thousand dollars a day!
Caught any barra lately?