Journey to Olkola Country

In late August 2019 I spent 5 days with traditional owners up on Olkola Country in Cape York. The warmth and hospitality and genuine care of our hosts made it an unforgettable experience.

The Olkola landscape changes from white sand to deep red soils.

Disconnected from the outside world

It was an incredible privilege to be able to travel to Olkola Country as one of a group of only 10 guests.

Our base was the remote Killarney Station, where all guests enjoyed a week of complete disconnection from the outside world. 

No phone or internet, just time to spend out bush, being guided by our hosts who showed us around their beautiful land.

Exploring the bush and getting distracted by flowers

It is a place of contrasts, with the landscape changing within a thirty minute drive from open grasslands to woody forests. 

There are natural fed springs where the water flows all year round, lagoons supporting wildlife (including freshwater crocodiles), swampy marshes and rugged escarpments.

Despite the landscape’s diversity and beauty there are problems to be dealt with.

White sand, shady trees, tranquil water and (baby) crocodiles...

Feral animals are a big problem

Decades of cattle farming have wrought damage, even up in the remoteness of Cape York, changing the landscape.

Cattle, horses and pigs have made their impact on the soil. Weeds have been introduced. Feral cats are also a big problem.

Brumbies are beautiful but they don't belong on this land

The cattle can be rounded up and sold to bring in income that can be invested in other parts of the business. (The Olkola people are focusing on a few industries, including tourism and carbon farming.)

The brumbies, as pretty as they are, have to be killed. So do the wild pigs who do an enormous amount of damage. At one waterhole we went to the pigs had eaten all the water lilies and damaged the area around the waterhole with their hooves.

The feral cats are even more difficult to get rid of. They’re  a real danger to awal (the endangered golden shouldered parrot), which is one of the Olkola’s totems.

The Traditional Owners are continuing to explore rocky escarpments for ancient art galleries

Caring for country

The traditional owners and working with National Parks and Wildlife and other partners on ways to trap and kill the feral cats without accidentally injuring or killing native animals.

It’s a tough balancing act. But they’re persevering in ways to bring the land back to its natural state and care for the native wildlife.

This image doesn't come close to capturing the intense colours of this sunset

My trip to Olkola Country was incredible. 

I loved hearing the guides’ stories and learning about the land and how it provides everything we need to live. 

If I can, I’d love to go back there in a few years and see how the Olkola are progressing with their plans.

The marshy wetlands also known as Dancing Ground

Many thanks to our drivers Jo, Kalvin and Michael, to our guides and Olkola elders Johnny and Jack, to our fabulous cook Betty and the gorgeous girls of the support team, Kathy and Shania. You are all amazing.

Find out more about Olkola Country.

The whole gang