Cobourg Peninsula Marine Conservation

Cobourg Peninsula Marine Conservation

5-day Northern Territory marine conservation tour on the coast of remote Arnhem Land

The Cobourg Peninsula marine conservation tour takes you to the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, located about 570 km (by road) northeast of Darwin on the Cobourg Peninsula, at the western tip of the Northern Territory. The national park forms part of the spectacular Arnhem Land wilderness area – one of the last great unspoiled areas of the world and well known for its strong Aboriginal culture, towering escarpments, savannah woodlands, wetlands and wildlife. The peninsula’s wild coastlines and surrounding waters swarm with marine life and face continual threats from marine debris pollution.

The Park protects the first wetland to be recognised as a Wetland of International Importance under an international agreement called ‘The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance’ commonly known as Ramsar. It was registered on 8 May 1974.

The Park includes the entire Peninsula, the surrounding waters of the Arafura Sea and Van Diemen Gulf, and some of the neighbouring islands. It covers about 4,500 square kilometres. Cobourg Peninsula is the only area in the Northern Territory which contains adjoining land and marine parks. The Park is a colourful mosaic of sandy beaches, dunes and associated coastal grasslands, mangroves, rainforest patches, swamps, lagoons, coral reefs, sea grass meadows and rich marine life. It protects rare species, including the Dugong and six marine turtles (Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Leatherback and Flatback Turtles). Garig Gunak Barlu is also home to the world’s largest wild herd of Banteng. These Indonesian cattle are an endangered species in their native habitat.

The area has a very interesting ancient and contemporary history. Archaeologists estimate that Aboriginal people have been living in the area for 40,000 years.

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park lies within the clan estates of the Iwaidja speaking peoples of Cobourg Peninsula. Custodianship is shared between Aboriginal clan groups. These clans have continual spiritual links with the land and sea. Their ancestors from the Creation Era (Dreamtime) created the land and all it contains. The Park therefore contains cultural landscapes which have been shaped and managed by cultural traditions and is translated as: Garig (a local language name), Gunak (land), Barlu (deep water).

This eco tour provides a unique experience to give something back to the environment – a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in essential coastal conservation projects. Working with Conservation Volunteers, guests will walk the Peninsula’s stunning beaches to collect, catalogue and dispose of marine debris.  This five-day conservation holiday is one not to be missed!

Eco Tour Highlights:

  • Spectacular Arnhem Land scenery and sunsets
  • Outback coastlines and beaches
  • Learn about the traditional Iwaidja speaking peoples of the Cobourg Peninsula
  • Spot local wildlife and marine life
  • Ubirr – Aboriginal rock art in Kakadu National Park
  • The opportunity to help conserve marine wildlife

Duration: 5 days/4 nights
Departs: May-September; on request (during dry season)

Price: from $1400 AUD per person, sole use tents/camping
Tour inclusions as noted below


Day 1: Darwin – Garig Gunak Barlu National Park

Depart Darwin by 4WD for our outback adventure through the spectacular western Arnhem Land area to Garig Gunak Barlu National Park – located right at the western tip of the Cobourg Peninsula. This is a full-day (12 hours) drive. We arrive at our accommodation during the evening; to set up camp (single dome tents) and prepare our dinner under the stars. LD

Days 2-4: Garig Gunak Barlu National Park

During the 3 days at Garig Gunak Barlu National Park you will assist with marine debris surveys – while overlooking the beautiful Arafura Sea and Gulf of Carpentaria. During the afternoons there is time to relax at camp and assist with cataloguing data on the marine debris collected during the mornings.  BLD

Day 5: Garig Gunak Barlu National Park – Darwin

Today we depart for our return journey through Arnhem Land back to Darwin. Along the way we stop at Ubirr, famous for its Aboriginal rock art. Travel time is again approximately 12 hours in a 4WD.  Our expected arrival time into Darwin (or the airport) is 6.00pm. BL

B – breakfast  L – lunch  D – dinner


This eco tour is graded Medium. We recommend participants have a moderate fitness level to participate. The tour travels to a remote area where facilities are limited and basic. Conservation activities involve walking along stretches of beaches in hot climatic conditions. The campsite is located a 3-hours’ drive from the nearest medical service.

The travel distance from Darwin to the Cobourg Peninsula is a full day (12 hour drive).  You will travel in a purpose-built 4WD vehicle with air-conditioning and either forward or sideward-facing seats.

Group Size

  • Maximum 7 people
  • Minimum age for participation is 14 yrs of age
  • Participants under 16 are to be accompanied by an adult
  • This trip offers guaranteed departures subject to minimum 5 people travelling

Conservation Impact

All of Naturewise’s Eco Escapes allow you to play a vital role in the conservation of our natural environment, while enjoying some of Australia’s most spectacular places. Over 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles worldwide are killed by plastic rubbish every year. Fishing nets, bottles, plastic bags and other waste carried by the ocean currents are deposited on the Arnhem Land coast. The visual pollution caused by marine debris, and the harm that some debris has on marine life is a significant issue for Australia. Marine life, in particular, are prone to mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish, ingesting them and dying of intestinal blockage. Working with Conservation Volunteers we will assist with marine debris surveys, which involves walking along nominated beaches in the Arnhem Land region to collect, catalogue and dispose of marine debris. The data is sent to WWF Australia and used to determine the source of pollution, and guide strategies to aid pollution reduction.

GhostNets Australia is an alliance of 22 Indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia across the three states of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. Since its inception in 2004 the programme has supported Indigenous rangers to remove over 7,500 ghost nets of varying sizes. This has resulted in the recovery of a proportion of the trapped wildlife, particularly marine turtles (52%); and preventing the ghost nets returning to the sea, continuing their destructing life-cycle. Less than 10% of these nets have been attributed to Australian fisheries.  For more information visit 

Location and Transportation

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park is located approximately 570km northeast of Darwin on the western tip of the Cobourg Peninsula, forming part of the spectacular Arnhem Land wilderness area.

The drive time from Darwin to the Cobourg Peninsula is 12 hours in a purpose-built 4WD vehicle with air-conditioning and either forward or sideward-facing seats. The journey takes you through the iconic and breathtaking Arnhem Land.

Crocodiles note:
The Cobourg Peninsula is home to saltwater crocodiles, so no swimming is allowed. Saltwater crocodiles cruise the beaches and sharks, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, stonefish and sea snakes also live in these waters. Never take unnecessary risks in crocodile habitat. Saltwater crocodiles inhabit both saltwater and freshwater habitats. For more on crocodiles please see “Crocwise” information from the Northern Territory Government.


You will be remote camping in Garig Bunak Barlu National Park. Guests will be required to help set up camp.  Single mattresses and single dome tents are provided.  Please bring your own sleeping bag or sleeping sheet, towel and camp pillow.  Basic shared bathroom facilities are available with cold shower and compost toilets.


From $1400 per person. All prices are for 5 days/4 nights, per person.


4 nights camping accommodation • return transfers to/from Darwin • tent and sleeping mat • all meals • air-conditioned 4WD Vehicle • maximum 7 passengers • permits • marine debris activities • experienced Conservation Volunteers leader.


Alcoholic drinks • items of a personal nature • travel insurance • travel to the Darwin departure point • meals and activities not included in program itinerary.

Alcohol note:
The Cobourg Peninsula has some important local alcohol rules which apply. The National Park is a ‘dry community’, therefore no alcohol is permitted or available on the tour.

Departure Dates

Private group departures are available on request; subject to availability during the dry season, May – September
Darwin City 6.30am from CVA Office –
The Transit Centre Shop 7a/69 Mitchell Street, Darwin City Centre, NT
Returns: Darwin City or Airport 6pm


Download Booking Terms and Conditions

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