I’m just here having some fun, but to the Kubirri Warra clan this is how they provide for their families every day. After a walk in their sandy footsteps I’m left with a smile on my face and story in my heart. 

We all know Port Douglas is brimming with wonders - the Great Barrier Reef, the oldest living Daintree Rainforest – check and check… but were you aware of the rich history of its Indigenous heritage from the land’s guardians, the Kuku Yalanji people?

If you’re looking to check some serious culture off your bucket list then you need to mingle with true locals the Kubirri Warra brothers, get a little native in their backyard following them on a Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour. 

Port Douglas Indigenous Cultural Experiences

I’m greeted to stunning Cooya Beach, located just a little north of Port Douglas by Brothers, Linc and Brandon Walker who are the modern-day custodians of the area. There’s something very special about visiting a spectacular location with the people who know it best. The brothers quite literally take you off the beaten track as they share their family’s stories, traditional fishing methods and ways of the land. 

Before we get hands on with the row of bamboo spears lined up on the beach, Linc heartily explains how for over 40 000 years his ancestors have preserved and protected this land and in turn nature always provided and nourished. Surprise, surprise by not ransacking the life-giving resources and still living in the ways of their descendants they have maintained a thriving healthy balance by only hunting and foraging what’s in season in a sustainable manner… seems legit.

Class is in session when Linc playfully calls out “Grab a spear and get to work.” We spend some time learning ancient hunting techniques, Linc and his cousin Willie demonstrate by hitting the coconut targets with ease, looks simple, right? 

Steely eyed - lock and loaded I launch the spear from my out stretch arm… falling from grace it embarrassingly lands far from target, epic fail after epic fail. My instincts are 100% wrong, it’s very apparent that spear throwing isn’t my forte and if face to face with a punchy mud crab I will succumb to be its pin cushion. 

Guided by Willie we venture off on our walkabout, I’m gobsmacked by the vast beauty of Cooya beach - the shimmering sun reflecting off the shallows of the low tide that goes for days, crusted coral popping out in the distance and Port Douglas beyond that.

Looking inland I’m equally impressed by the dramatic range that makes up the Mossman George, filled in with lush rainforest. Willie points out the hill crests, they outline native wildlife like a cassowary, wallaby and platypus that were once used for navigation, I love the idea of these markings something you’ll never see on Google Maps.

A barefoot beach Jedi my usual time spent in places like this usually involves some ‘five o’clock somewhere’ juice and a Frisbee but just after few insightful stops with Willie I have a new admiration for the sandy playground, the land is oozing with history and culture. Willie has already pointed out over a dozen plants that are used for bush medicine including beach lettuce berries with juice that soothes sore eyes, beach hibiscus flowers which when chewed prevents dehydration. And twice as many plants that can be eaten, and they’re actually quite tasty. He also shows us how to read the land and track its inhabitants.

I get a little giddy when he points out the trail of an elusive dugong in a garden of sea grass.

We wander through three diverse ecosystems – beach, mangroves and coastal reef – that are connected to each other by the ever-changing mudflats and tidal lagoons. These are the traditional fishing grounds to the Kuku Yalanji known as Kuyu Kuyu. Willie speaks candidly about how its not only his duty but his privilege to follow the customs of his ancestors by educating visitors about their traditional country. This is their everyday life, when families come together, they hunt, cook, share and laugh. Ensuring the customary ways are preserved passing them down from generation to generation, elders to littlies all get involved.

As the walk comes to an end I get a whiff of a comforting smell – it’s earthy, rich, sweet… I’m taken to happy times of my life. We’re welcomed back from where we started by Brandon who has a whole fish cooking on the open fire. The dancing hazy smoke effortlessly compliments the warm damper made for us by his mother. Although we didn’t come back with anything, we’re still treated with a big bowl of fresh mud crab that Brandon caught earlier. Succulent, sweet and a wham bam of chilli, I soak up every last bit of the sauce with the warm damper. 

Port Douglas Indigenous Cultural Experiences

Our short walk was a road well-travelled in the footsteps of an extraordinary living culture. We didn’t catch any thing, but that wasn’t the point this was an experience of being welcomed into the home of over thousands upon thousands of years of storytelling, it was a family affair. As we sat around the fire we were accepted, we laughed, made memories and feasted on salt of the earth food. In our hi-tech world with the stress of bills and work this was an afternoon of high wonder reminding me of the mysteries and joy of the world we live in. Sometimes you just need to take a little walk somewhere familiar to remind you of its hidden treasures.