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FLINDERS RANGES, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA
Arkaba’s beautifully restored 1850’s homestead, welcoming just ten guests at a time, is surrounded by 60,000 acres of privately-owned and carefully protected outback. Nestled within the Flinders Ranges, a five-hour drive from Adelaide, the unusual blend of semi-arid and temperate habitats supports 1,200 species of plants, including bullock bush and narrow-leafed emu bush, and nearly 300 species of birds. Against the dramatic backdrop of the Elders Range and Wilpena Pound, ancient sea beds and arid salt lakes have given way to spectacular rock formations, cypress pines and river red gums; this is an ancient landscape where kangaroo mobs, emus and colonies of yellow-footed rock wallaby roam free.
Committed to conservation and inspiring guests to value nature’s beauty, ‘Arkaba’ in the local indigenous dialect means land of abundance. In the Flinders Ranges alone, since European settlement 150 years ago, nearly 24 of the 58 native mammals have become locally extinct. For over seven years Arkaba’s focus has been to reverse the detrimental effects of livestock-grazing by regenerating habitats and welcoming back native species. Efforts include removing sheep stock, eradicating feral species like goats, foxes and cats (which can claim the lives of between four to 20 native creatures per night) and restoring vegetation, under the Native Vegetation Council’s Significant Environment Benefits Grant.
Environmental awareness and conservation are integral to the Wild Bush Luxury guest experience. Guests to Arkaba can choose to stay in the homestead for a few days or join the fantastic Arkaba Walk (a 4-day/3-night guided bush walk through Flinders Ranges that concludes at the Arkaba homestead). Guests to Arkaba can enjoy safari drives, walking and stargazing, as well as more hands-on activities such as tracking feral cats, setting up trip cameras and joining biologists on land surveys and vegetation identification. With just five rooms, Arkaba’s homestead is not only a romantic retreat for couples but a homely base for families hungry for adventure in the bush — interactive activities draw kids (from the age of 8) into the conservation ethos. Commitment to a light footprint extends throughout the homestead’s operations — water is bottled onsite, energy consumption is reduced where possible, and cleaning materials are eco-certified.
Arkaba joined The Long Run in 2018 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth, with over 80% of flora and fauna species being endemic to this unique environment. At the heart of Arkaba is the property’s intensive efforts to undo the ecological damage caused since sheep farmers settled the area in 1851. The destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats through the clearance of vegetation for agriculture as well as the impact of feral animals and invasive weeds had significantly impacted Arkaba’s biodiversity. In some areas, the land was barren, eroded and void of many native animals and plants. As a private wildlife conservancy, Arkaba endeavours to put in place successful conservation programs across the property, focusing primarily on feral species eradication and reversing the effects of years of livestock grazing. The removal of feral herbivores and predators from the landscape has had a marked impact on native wildlife. Arkaba works with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Australia’s leading conservation group, both in learning techniques to apply to conservation programs and in helping channel donations to the AWC.
Arkaba has a commitment to source as much of its produce and services as is possible (in the context of what is a remote outback region) from the local community and to more broadly use South Australian products – it is fortunate that South Australia has a thriving wine industry and quality food produce. Hawker, the nearest community, is a classic outback town (population: 237) and the nearest town of any size, Port Augusta, is 130kms away – people and businesses in these two places provide the bulk of Arkaba’s supplies and services.
The Flinders Ranges were originally inhabited by the Adnamatna (Hill People) thousands of years ago, and many still reside in this region today. Cave paintings, rock engravings and other artifacts in the region indicate they have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. Pauline Mackenzie is a local Adnamatna elder that lives locally in Hawker and is one of few people who still speaks the Adnamatna language fluently. She works with Arkaba to tell her story to guests and provide them with an immersive experience into Arkaba’s history and culture. Her stories of the land and her personal story growing up as a person in ‘white’ Australia provide a glimpse into Australia’s Aboriginal history and the issues that confront Aboriginal society today. The five-bedroom heritage homestead was built in 1856 and retains its original Flinders region settler lines. Wild Bush Luxury has restored Arkaba’s heritage homestead, paying homage to the early settlers and explorers who settled and traversed this country.
In 2009 Charles Carlow, owner of Wild Bush Luxury, purchased Arkaba to add to its portfolio of luxury tourism destinations in Australia. Carlow’s goal was to create a unique conservation-based tourism experience with exclusive private access for Arkaba’s guests to enjoy the extraordinary diversity of the landscape. Arkaba’s primary business is in tourism and this alone allows its conservation mission to be undertaken in a symbiotic relationship – the wildlife and natural experience for guests is being continually improved due to the conservation work carried out on the property and the funds guests provide enable the commitments (both financial and in-kind) that Arkaba is making to its environment.
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