Cape Arnhem marine conservation

Cape Arnhem Marine Conservation – 8 days

8-day Arnhem Land volunteer holiday: marine conservation in the Northern Territory

This voluntour takes you on a special journey to the remote Aboriginal-owned Northeast Arnhem Land to assist marine rescue projects.

Cape Arnhem is located at the tip of the Northern Territory, forming part of the spectacular North East Arnhem Land wilderness area.  This land is one of the last great unspoiled areas of the world and is well known for its strong Aboriginal culture, towering escarpments, spectacular coastlines, wetlands and wildlife. The peninsula’s wild coastlines and surrounding waters swarm with marine life and face continual threats from marine debris pollution.

Arnhem Land has a wide variety of native fauna and flora, including the region’s largest predator – the saltwater crocodile, dugong and nesting turtles, as well as hundreds of bird species.

Most of north-eastern Arnhem Land has not been modified by European influence. Over 38 species of migratory birds included in international treaties ratified by the Commonwealth Government have been recorded in the region. The coastal area of north-eastern Arnhem Land, including Manydjarrarrnga-Wanuwuy, provides feeding habitat and nesting sites for several threatened species of marine turtles: the Hawksbill turtle, Green Turtle, and Olive Ridley turtle.

The flora of the area represents a rich and diverse natural resource and have a range of potential uses. Some species are the source of food, some of medicines, and some of material for the manufacture of tools. Plants also play an important role in ceremonial and ritual aspects of Yolngu life.

Northeast Arnhem Land is home to the Yolngu, one of the country’s largest indigenous groups, who maintain a vigorous traditional culture. Yolngu culture is based on a strong sense of connection to land and sea. To check out more details on the Yolngu people see:

Join us for this remote and active adventure, assisting Dhimurru Aboriginal Rangers with our annual marine debris surveys at Wanuwuy beach, Cape Arnhem Land. The tour includes walking stretches of local beaches, helping to collect, catalogue and record data on debris which has washed ashore.

For holiday makers looking to give something back, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Eco Tour Highlights:

  • Spectacular Arnhem Land scenery and sunsets
  • Outback coastlines and beaches
  • Meet and interact with the local Dhimurru Aboriginal Rangers
  • Gayngaru Wetlands Interpretive Walk
  • Wurrwurrwuy (Garanhan) Macassan Beach Interpretive Walk
  • Yirrkala (Buku-LarrnggayMulka) Art Centre & Museum
  • The opportunity to help conserve marine wildlife

Duration: 8 days/7 nights
Price: $1,760 per person
Tour inclusions as noted below


Day 1: Darwin – Bulman

Depart Darwin for a full day of travelling to Bulman.  Set up camp and prepare dinner under the stars.  LD

Day 2: Bulman – Nhulunbuy (Gove)

Travel to Nhulunbuy, also referred to as Gove, a remote community located on the Gove Peninsula. We arrive in the late afternoon and settle into our accommodation. BLD

Days 3-6: Nhulunbuy (Gove)

Each day we will travel by 4WD to remote beaches – where we undertake marine debris clean-ups alongside the aboriginal rangers from the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.  Clean-up activities will involve walking along the beaches daily to collect marine debris before sorting and cataloguing the collected debris. There is also time to enjoy some of the local sights and stunning East Arnhem Land sunsets. Local activities include the Gayngaru Wetlands Interpretive Walk, Marika Lookout, Wurrwurrwuy (Garanhan) Macassan Beach Interpretive Walk, and Yirrkala (Buku-Larrnggay Mulka) Art Centre. BLD

Local attractions to visit while in Nhulunbuy:

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre and Museum:
The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Museum is located in Yirrkala and displays a collection of works specifically created for the museum by Elders in the mid-1970s and early 80s. The works outline the kinship structure of the Yolngu world. The jewels of the collection are the two four-metre tall Yirrkala Church Panels (1962-3) that have been described as amongst the most important Australian art in existence.

Gayngaru Wetlands Interpretive Walk:
Find out more about the fascinating world of an East Arnhem Land wetland on the Gayngaru Wetlands Interpretive Walk. The walk circumnavigates a lagoon that is frequented by over 200 species of birds. Learn about the area’s plant life. Signs along the way explain the bush food and bush medicine used by local Aboriginal people. Gayngaru was once a popular and fertile hunting area for the Yolngu people. Today you will see middens consisting of fragments of shellfish, molluscs and oyster shells at favourite camping sites. The tranquil lagoon was a source of fresh water and food. The men hunted the gurrumatji (magpie geese) and as well as minhala (long-necked freshwater tortoise). The women collected waterlilies and water chestnuts.

Roy (Malpi) Marika Lookout:
The lookout is located at Nhulun, the hill in the centre of Nhulunbuy township. From the lookout tower you can take in panoramic views of Gayngaru Wetlands, Gove Harbour, and the township. Enjoy the spectacular views of the unspoiled coastline, view native flora and watch for the many beautiful birds that frequent the area.

Wurrwurrwuy (Garanhan) Macassan Beach Interpretive Walk:
Take a walk to see the 100-year-old Yolngu stone arrangements built to educate future generations about Macassan traders from Indonesia.

Day 7: Nhulunbuy (Gove) – Bulman

Today we depart Nhulunbuy for our return road journey to Bulman.  Set up camp and prepare dinner again under the stars. BLD

Day 8: Bulman – Darwin

Final road trip back to Darwin. Expected arrival time back into Darwin is approximate 5.30pm. BL

B – breakfast       L –  lunch        D – dinner


This voluntour is graded Medium. We recommend participants have a moderate fitness level.  Marine debris activities involve walking along stretches of beaches for approximately 4–6 hours a day in warm to hot climatic conditions.

Group Size

  • Maximum 6 people per group
  • Minimum age for participation is 14
  • Participants under 16 are to be accompanied by an adult
  • This trip offers guaranteed departures subject to 5 people travelling

Conservation Impact

Naturewise Eco Escapes contribute to priority on-ground conservation efforts. Working with the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation and Conservation Volunteers this voluntour supports the annual Wanuwuy marine debris clean up program.  Alongside Dhimurru Aboriginal rangers we walk along Wanuwuy beach (Cape Arnhem region) to collect, catalogue and dispose of marine debris. During the first half of the trip  you will be walking the beaches daily to collect marine debris before spending the last few days cataloguing and recording data on the collected debris. The data is sent to Tangaroa Blue to determine the source of pollution and guide strategies to aid pollution reduction. This tour is run in partnership with the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation and Conservation Volunteers Australia.

Location and Transportation

This eco tour is located at Cape Arnhem – Nhulunbuy (Gove).  The Gove Peninsula is on the northern most tip of Arnhem Land. The Yolngu (Aboriginal people of Northeast Arnhem Land) are the traditional owners of these lands consisting of approximately 101,000ha.

You will be transported from Darwin in a sideward-facing air-conditioned 4WD.  Comfort stops will be provided during the journey; this is an outback adventure and includes driving on unsealed roads. The travel distance from Darwin to Nhulunbuy/Gove takes 2 full days driving in each direction.  Some participants choose to fly one-way from Nhulunbuy/Gove back to Darwin or Cairns via Regional Express – if desired, this airfare will be at your own additional cost and arrangements.

Crocodiles note:
The Gove Peninsula is home to saltwater crocodiles. Never swim in water where crocodiles may live even if there is no warning sign. Only swim in designated safe swimming areas. Obey all crocodile warning signs — they are there for your safety and protection. 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.


In Nhulunbuy you will be staying in bunk-style accommodation with shared bathroom, laundry and kitchen facilities. Bedrooms (twin and double share) are lockable. The accommodation is basic, but very comfortable, well-maintained and presented. Please bring your own sleeping bag, bath towel and toiletries. Accommodation during the transit to and from Nhulunbuy will be camping, with tents and camp mats provided for you.


All prices are for 8 days | 7 nights, per person, shared facilities.

Bunk room/camping: AUD $1,760

7 nights accommodation (2 nights camping; 5 nights bunk-style room) •  return transfers from Darwin to Nhulunbuy (Gove) • experienced Conservation Volunteers guide and Dhimurru Rangers •  Yirrkala (Buku-LarrnggayMulka) Art Centre • all meals • maximum 6 passengers • permits • marine debris activities • local scheduled sightseeing 

Alcoholic drinks • items of a personal nature • travel insurance • travel to Darwin departure point • optional tours and activities not included in program itinerary • optional flights to/from Nhulunbuy (Gove)

Alcohol note:
The Gove Peninsula has some important local alcohol rules which apply. The East Arnhem region is a ‘dry area’, including the town of Nhulunbuy and the surrounding communities of Gunyangara (Ski Beach) and Yirrkala. With the exception of some Recreation Areas, drinking in public places is prohibited. The region has a liquor permit system. You can drink in a licensed premise, for example a hotel, club or restaurant, but you need to obtain a liquor permit to buy alcohol and drink in a private home or at a Recreation Area. Therefore no alcohol is permitted or available on the tour.

Departure Dates

Departs: 7.30am Darwin CVA Office The Transit Centre, Shop 7a/69 Mitchell Street, Darwin
Returns: Darwin CVA Office at approximately 5.30pm

This annual program only departs once a year. Open to both group and personal bookings.


Download Booking Terms and Conditions