The Tiwi Islands are at the very top left of the Northern Territory, comprised of the Bathurst and Melville Islands. Together they are known as the Tiwi Islands, and present Australian’s the ability to visit an untouched Indigenous land to learn more of their culture and lifestyle. Right here in Australia.
As a family we visited the Tiwi Islands, staying with a respected Elder and his family. His lands were owned by his Father and Grand Father’s before him. They are buried there today, and one day these lands will pass to his own children.
Teddy has worked on mainland Australia, working as a teacher in Victoria, and travelling more widely. His wife Theresia has travelled too, meaning they have a solid understanding of our lifestyle on the mainland, helping us to come to terms with and understand theirs.
To get to the Tiwi Islands you take the Sealink Northern Territory ferry, departing from Cullen Bay for a 2 hour ferry ride across generally calm waters. The ferry service is excellent, a café operates on board supplying coffee, drinks and snacks. There are plenty of seats and the ferry is mainly frequented by commuters to and from Tiwi Islands to Darwin for shopping or visiting friends, and day tourists to the Tiwi capital, Wurrumiyanga.
Wurrumiyanga has two shops, supplying frozen meat and vegetables, snacks and all of the basics. To visit Tiwi it is probably best to bring your own food and supplies, as pricing does reflect the remoteness of the location. There is a bakery and café as well, a museum and an art store. All of these could be visited in a day trip over, although spending time there provides a very unique lifestyle experience.
We stayed on the Tiwi Islands via the Tarntipi Bush Camp, organized with Michael through their website. Michael worked with Teddy in Australia, and work together today in an Aboriginal Corporation to operate the bush camp. Their main business has been corporates, nurses and teachers, those who plan to work in Aboriginal communities and need an understanding into their culture. It is a lot different to what we are used to as a western civilization.
Michael will work out a rate for you and your family to attend Tiwi, and also organize the best time to visit with Teddy. Through the dry season they are busy, although families are new to them. We were the second to attend. Teddy’s passion is in preserving and sharing his Indigenous culture, hence he is very keen to welcome more families to join him and his family at their bush camp.
The bush camp has had considerable government funding. They have installed an outdoor camp kitchen, showers and toilets. As a guest you have access to tents, mattresses, cooking equipment and an Engel fridge to store your food. Upon arrival on Tiwi you will be picked up in their new Land Cruiser Troopy, enough seating for 5 or 6 people with seatbelts.
The camp is approximately 10 or 15 minutes out of town, and Teddy and Theresia now live there full time. They do have solar power and inverters, so we did have access to plug in devices for charging. The beauty of the stay however is immersion in their culture and the reception isn’t the greatest. If you need to make a call you can hop on one leg up near their hut, or head into town for something more reliable.
We spent 3 nights and 4 days on the Tiwi Islands with Teddy and his family. We shared meals (bring extra and be prepared to share with some or many!), doing most of the cooking and preparation. You are living as part of the family and in their culture everything is shared and everyone is expected to help and be involved.
We would highly recommend this to other families. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and we and our children have learnt so much about the Tiwi and Indigenous way.