Robinson Crusoe could only dream of the luxuries found at Banubanu Beach Retreat in the Northern Territory’s East Arnhem Land.
On my 15-minute light aircraft flight from Gove Airport, I see masses of emerald and white rings of uninhabited islands looking like exquisite gems floating on the brilliant turquoise Arafura Sea waters. I instinctively know my destination will be unique.
There’s only one island retreat off the Northern Territory’s East Arnhem Land coast – Banubanu Eco-Beach Retreat. Sitting at the northernmost tip of tranquil Bremer Island (Dhambaliya in Yolgnu), it’s a diamond in one of Australia’s most unexplored regions.
After landing on the 600-metre airstrip, the island’s peacefulness and seclusion immediately wash over me, and I become one with the natural environment.
Owner Trevor Hosie dreamed of Banubanu after he first set eyes on Bremer Island in 1983 while working for the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority surveying Sacred Sites within the NT that classified the island as a protected zone. Twenty years later, with his wife, Alice Springs Arrente woman Helen Martin, they approached the traditional land owners who remembered Trevor.
In 2005, their dream began as a humble fishing camp. In 2014, they secured a 25-year Land Use Agreement lease with the Northern Land Council. Since then, they’ve worked tirelessly to create their dream luxury eco-resort with little or no disruption to the surrounding environment.
Banu in Persian means lady and Trevor says early Macassan traders named the massive boulders at the point, Banubanu, a group of ladies.
Life languishes on Banubanu. I discard my shoes, embracing the resort’s freedom by letting the powdery sands massage my feet during the short walk to and from my suite to the pool deck, tropical bar and dining area overlooking Western Beach.
The outlook and daily kaleidoscope of colours seep into my soul, releasing the last of my worldly tensions while mingling with other guests and the owners during sundowners or savouring each freshly prepared, gourmet, all-inclusive meal.
Unlike other Northern Territory coastal waters, you can swim, snorkel and kayak this translucent saltwater bay and reef. I watch large clown fish being caressed by gently waving sea anemone as the soothing tropical waters relax me further.
Half or full-day fishing charters catering for novices like me and the experienced are also available. It’s thrilling to reel in any of the region’s rich aquatic life, including coral trout, Spanish mackerel, red emperor, trevally or queenfish. The resort chef then cooks your catch for dinner.
The defined walking trails reveal more pristine wilderness. Two lead to serene Northern and Eastern beaches, nesting home to three different sea turtles in the area.
A community of up to twenty local Yolgnu live on the island. By special pre-arrangement, they’ll explain their culture and early trading history with the Macassans and may even share a few secret spots and how to hunt for mud crabs as they did for me.
The waves gently lapping the pristine sand outside my beachside eco-glamping suite are my music during my stay.
‘Sea La Vie’ is one of the six permanent deluxe accommodation tents with fly-mesh windows on either side, a ceiling fan, bar fridge, tea and coffee facilities, ensuite and timber veranda. Each suite is spaced for privacy and surrounded by cooling casuarina trees, with a sliding glass door providing glorious uninterrupted coastal views.
Guests love Bremer Island’s remoteness, but it meant Banubanu had to be self-sufficient from the beginning. Like guests, all goods and building materials arrive by boat or plane. Today, there is internet and mobile phone coverage, ensuring you make family and friends envious during your relaxing, dream island getaway.
“We operate on 100 per cent solar power, and our water comes from the bore. It’s pure, ready-to-drink virgin water,” says Helen. “We recycle and use greywater in the herb gardens.”
On-site seasonal herbs and vegetables are blended with foraged island bush tucker, including green ants used in some seafood dishes, a green and ginger brûlée and teas. Fresh seafood features on the menus with all other foods sustainably obtained from Darwin and nearby Nhulunbuy.
The ‘Thank You’ products used during your piping hot water shower not only support your body’s wellness, but their purchase helps resolve global poverty.
While I was sad to depart this utopia, my four-day sojourn equalled two weeks of rejuvenation. The peaceful 45-minute boat ride back to Nhulubuy, landing at Gove Boat Club, provided me with time for reflection and outstanding views of the rich red ochre cliff coastline, bauxite mine and the soon-to-be-dismantled alumina refinery.
Daily commercial flights connect Gove to Cairns and Darwin. To enjoy more of what this unique environment offers, arrange additional mainland tours in and around Nhulunbuy before and after your Banubanu Beach Retreat stay.