Communing with crocodiles
Plain sailing ... Mary River wetlands by airboat.
Robert Upe heads up north to commune with crocodiles on the Mary River.
Irritable buffalo with curled horns are to the side of my little bungalow; to the front is a wetland with opportunistic saltwater crocodiles; and out the back is never-ending savannah woodland.
In the only other direction, there's an infinity swimming pool with an open-air pavilion where risotto is being served for lunch with white wine.
Bungalows at Bamurru Plains.
Guess which way I'm going.
The pool water is so clear and blue you can imagine diving into the Aegean Sea at Mykonos, and the risotto is so smooth it could have come out of the kitchen of perfectionist chef-of-the-moment Marco Pierre White. But this is no Mediterranean holiday with whitewashed buildings and tanned bodies lying on the sand with exposed bum cheeks.
This is on the edge of Kakadu National Park, where the meat ants, and the sun, have bite. The dazzle here is in the ruggedness of the remote countryside and the formidable creatures that survive it. Luxury facilities and gourmet food don't go astray, either.
I've been dropped in by a noisy tin can of a plane on the dirt airstrip that services Bamurru Plains, an upmarket safari-style resort only 20 minutes' flight from Darwin.
There are just nine chic bungalows in the woodland here at Swim Creek Station, a working buffalo farm with 5000 of the beasts.
The key wildlife experience is exploring the Mary River wetlands in an airboat
powered by an aircraft-like propeller that easily pushes through the shallows and thickets of tall spike reed that would otherwise almost be impenetrable.
The V8 engine is ear-splitting and sends brumbies and buffalo dashing and splashing through the knee-deep water. Flocks of birds – magpie geese, brolgas, whistling ducks and jabiru – rise as one, while crocodiles slip below the surface.
We pause many times during our outings, cutting the engine and silently watching for crocodiles. We drift among purple, yellow and white water lilies that stretch beyond the eye line. And we open a bottle of champagne to celebrate sunset as the symphony of frogs starts up. Occasionally we hear the shriek of a bush stone-curlew. They are nicknamed "murder birds" because their call sounds like the scream of a woman being strangled.
Back at camp, privacy is assured in each of the bungalows that are well spaced among the pandanus. The bungalows are authentic Aussie, with corrugated tin, floor-to-ceiling flywire that allows clear views to the wetlands, timber floors, ceiling fans, a high-pressure rain shower and a flushing toilet. The bungalows are built for two, but an extra swag can be rolled out on the floor.
There's a nightly turn-down service that includes a lantern left outside your door so you can find your way back more easily from the dining lodge, a few hundred metres away.
New chefs are on the way this season, but last year the menu included barramundi and mud crab chowder, roast duck with pickled red cabbage, and lamb with wild mushrooms. Meals are served in the central lodge, where there's an all-hours open bar, a library and chairs and sofas for lounging.
At sunset, oysters and drinks are taken around the fire pit on the deck next to the pool, but the mosquitoes force us inside. Nature wins out here.
Robert Upe travelled courtesy of Tourism NT and Wild Bush Luxury.
Virgin has one-way fares from Melbourne to Darwin for $199 and Sydney for $239. Jetstar from Melbourne and Sydney is $209. Air transfers arranged through the resort are $650 one-way from Darwin, for up to four people. By road, it's a three-hour drive.
From $495 an adult a night, twin-share, with meals and drinks. Packages with activities are $875 a night an adult. Helicopter flights and Kakadu day trips cost extra. Prices valid May 1 to October 31. The resort operates as a fishing lodge until April 30 with three-night packages from $2350. See bamurruplains.com.