Trip(s): Sydney to Darwin; Darwin to Wildman Wilderness Lodge
Airline: Virgin Australia; Direct Air
Aircraft: 737-800; Cessna
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:55am; Charter flight
Push Back from Gate: 9:53am; 2pm
Actual Departure Time: 10:10am; 2:05pm
Actual Arrival Time: 12:55p; 2:40pm
Announced Flight time: 4:18; 25minutes
Miles: 1,960; 130
Seat: 13E; Backseat
Cost: $340; Tourism Australia flipped the bill
Getting to The Wildman Wilderness Lodge in Australia’s Northern Territory is an adventure in itself. First of all, you have to fly halfway around the world to get to Darwin from North America. Then travel 130 miles by plane (35 minutes) or car (1:45). I recommend the latter because the plane is tiny and doesn’t save you that much time once you do all the paperwork.
My cameraman and I did both (plane in, car out) and when we touched down in the backyard of the lodge on their bush airstrip I felt like we were in another world, or a Crocodile Dundee movie. From the lush Top End of Australia that’s filled with wildlife—including wallabies and crocs, mesmerizing scenery, and the lodge’s service and accommodations, everything felt surreal.
Good to know: If you do drive from Darwin good places to stop to use the loo are the Barkhut Inn and Humpty Doo Hotel.
I visited The Wildman Wilderness Lodge in mid-October and here are nine reasons why I loved it.
- Location. The Wildman Wilderness Lodge opened almost a year ago and is located half way between Darwin and Kakadu National Park. Flying in I could see there’s nothing around. The closest neighbor is a park ranger 40KM (30 minutes away). It’s so far out that the cell service ceased halfway into the flight.
- Glamping. I’m not much of a camper, but I’m totally into glamping which you do when you stay at The Wildman Wilderness Lodge. The lodge has 10 ‘Habitats’ and 15 African safari style tents. The ‘Habitats’ are free-standing cabins that are beautifully designed with luxury bedding, furnishings, bathrooms and air-conditioning. Rates begin at $315 a night, per person. The other type of room is a safari tent for those who seek a bit more adventure. The big difference between the safari tents and the ‘Habitats’ are the appearance and the safari tents don’t have air conditioning – just a fan. Prices for the safari tents begin at $245.
- Wildlife. The area is teeming with wildlife. Right outside my door were mobs of wallabies and flocks of birds. Most of which I’ve never seen or heard of. And of course there were crocodiles but you only see them while on tour. When the manager said they recommend visitors use a torch (flashlight) when walking around at night, and to be careful of snakes and water buffalo I gulped. But my fear eased when all the dainty female workers told me they rarely see them. I didn’t see them either. FYI: The lodge uses the eco-friendly wind up flashlights which are really cool.
- Tours. The lodge offers a variety of environmentally sensitive tours – including to Kakadu National Park and cruising on the Mary River. We did a one hour cruise and saw a ton of prehistoric looking crocodiles, an amazing array of birdlife and an abundance of wildflowers (see our video above).
I also went on a Quad Bike Tour and saw tons of birds and wallabies but no buffalo. And I caught the tail end of the lodge’s free culture walk by one of their traditional land owners (Aboriginals). Guests walk around the property with him including through fields of termite mounds.
- Food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the rate (as are most excursions) so you don’t need to worry about where to get food. All of our meals were delicious and the service was friendly but slow at times. FYI: When it rains it’s so loud hitting the tin roof that it’s difficult to have a conversation, but it sure is soothing.
- People. All of the people working at the lodge were super friendly and my favorite was Daryl the traditional land owner.
- Pool. On hot days there’s nothing like taking a dip in the lodge’s pool. It’s a great way to unwind.
- Sundowners. Most of the guests grab a drink from the bar and sit out on the deck to watch the sunset. If it’s too hot they can sit in the air conditioned bar to drink and watch sports on the lone TV. Can you believe I was watching NFL football during lunch one afternoon?
- Disconnect. I’m one of those people that not only doesn’t like to disconnect but I fear it until it actually happens. However, once I’m forced and after a few hours of going cold turkey I always seem to appreciate it. The good news is you are not entirely disconnected as there is free satellite internet that’s available in the main building – just not in the rooms.
Good to know: They have five tents that are designed to cater to families with two additional single beds. I slept well in the bug free room.
Good to know: The lodge is only open for part of the year because when the rainy season comes in at the end of November to the end of March they have to close as the whole area gets flooded. June, July and August are the busy months. The lodge is perfect for honeymooners and families.