Cape Don, a Beautiful Fishing Spot in Northern Australia's Wilderness
Cape Don's Beautiful Coastline
When I was in Australia I worked for a couple of months in a fishing lodge called “Cape Don Experience”. I had just arrived to the Northern Territory from East Asia and was searching for what I like to call an “all-inclusive working holiday fun job”, which means that I was willing to work in a natural environment that seemed appealing to me; in return, I asked for accommodation and food as well as a paycheck (I obviously had nowhere to live because I had been travelling and intended to keep on doing it in Australia after two months of summer job). Amazingly, three days after I started looking, I landed the perfect job; or at least the perfect job for me at the time, because I got the opportunity to visit one of the remotest, most natural environments I have ever seen in my life, within the already remote and underpopulated area of the Northern Territory, a state that has huge extensions of national parks and preserved areas. Australia has fewer inhabitants in the whole country than Mexico City alone, in an area of 2,967,892 square miles vs 571 square miles, so…..imagine that; it is not strange then that for me, Australia is the cleanest most pure place in the world.
Cape Don, Gurig National Park
Getting to Cape Don
Cape Don is located at the tip of the Cobourg Peninsula, within Gurig National Park, in Australia’s Northern Territory. The easiest way to get there is to take a short flight from Darwin, the capital of the state. There is no road that can get you to Cape Don by land in a conventional way. The only other option would be to travel in a really tough 4x4, all terrain, and some huge guts to go on a big time wild adventure across the wilderness (and who knows if you’ll get there….). As a simple tourist, you will never hear mention of Cape Don, it is not mentioned in the traveling guides and the foreign tourist operators don’t bother to go to such a remote place.
Northern Territory, Australia
Fishing at Cape Don, AustraliaClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Ideal Fishing Spot in Australia's Northern Territory
I would describe Cape Don Experience as an adult fishing camp where well to do Australians go for their ultimate fishing adventure. There is a huge enthusiasm for sports fishing in this country and it is common for southerners to seek fishing spots up north, where the weather is good and the water conditions are more favorable for an abundant sea fauna. I didn’t really know this before working at Cape Don, but I discovered that leisure fishing is a popular masculine pastime in which Aussies engage with a highly competitive attitude. They love to compare themselves and brag about how much or how big a fish they are able to catch throughout their boys-only trips. I didn’t see a single woman neither a single foreign tourist during the 60 days I was there, but I saw plenty of happy Australian fellows joking and laughing around, having a great time fishing. Most importantly, I saw plenty of different fish and other creatures (mud crabs, sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, crocodiles, wallabies) that drove me through a bonfire of excitement. I can’t get over the tender feelings that a mud crab playing around in the shore or a sea turtle following our boat triggered in me. It is just so nice to be in such close and free contact with nature.
The Sport Fishing Experience
Cape Don Experience really is what they sell on their website, a place located in a highly natural almost untouched environment, full of beautiful contrasting colors with plenty of fishing going around. During my stay, I got to know many different species of fish: Barramundi (the Northern Territory icon fish), Threadfin Salmon, Mangrove Jack, Queenfish, Coral Trout and Giant Trevally were the most abundant ones. Cape Don has many different natural environments (i.e. mangroved lined creeks, sandy island cays, rocky outcrops in deep blue water) which allow for several styles of fishing to take place, according to the fishermen interests.
Surfing the mangroves through the creeks in search for Barramundis has an exciting feeling to it; you search, you pick your spot with the expertise of the fishing guide that drives you through the waters; you wait with anticipation for the moment when adrenaline spikes, indicating you’ve contacted a fish and preparing your body to use all of its strength and skill to complete the fishing process and “land” the fish (actually catch it). On the other hand, deep sea or blue water fishing was a more enjoyable style for me because it allows one to appreciate the beautiful coastline, although the adrenaline shot and battling experience remain present in every fishing style. By the way, you would never guess how fish, well under a meter long, put on a battle and fight for their lives; I know I am just a delicate lady but I consider myself quite strong for my gender and even so, almost lost my 70 cm Barramundi in that battle. Yes, I also got the chance to go fishing and actually catch something with the help of my beloved fishing expert, guide and friend Ross Jecks (thanks again for that experience!).
Blue Water Sport Fishing
It is important to clarify that most of the fishing is “catch and release”, which means that once you have hooked up the fish and successfully “reeled it in”, you just keep him captive for a couple of minutes while you remove the hook (which will only leave a scar like the ones body piercings would in humans), measure it (in this case size does matter very much), and take the corresponding photograph of the skillful hunter and its catch to attest for his excellent performance. After this quick procedure, the fish is released back into the sea.
We certainly kept some of the fish for our dinners. Eating the fresh catch of the day was part of the excitement because let me tell you, food at Cape Don was absolutely delicious. The Australian Chef during the summer I worked there was very good and delighted the guests with delicious dinners. I think I will never forget his Thai fish cakes and curries nor his incredibly addictive chocolate mousse (when are you going to pass on the recipe Rodney!?!?!?!!!!!). I also had the opportunity to try all of the above mentioned different fish plus the Barracuda, which actually tastes quite nice even though everybody at Cape Don regarded it as a “lesser class” fish (both as a momentary catch and as a dish).
Arriving to Gurig National ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Tour around Cape Don's Accomodation
The Whole Cape Don Experience
Fishing aside, visiting Cape Don Experience is exactly that, a whole unique adventure; starting from the way you arrive -in tiny 5 to 8 passenger airplanes- the way you land on red dirt strips surrounded by thick green vegetation, and the way you drive across the green land counting jumping wallabies from a 4x4 jeep. The lodge’s accommodation is a lovely country style house with a surrounding cool veranda. It has just a few rooms and can accommodate maximum 12 people at a time (people usually stay just for three or four days). I find this very good because they are not damaging the ecosystem with high density tourism nor overfishing. The house has a very homely atmosphere to it and is surrounded by nothing but nature: big expansions of rainforest, mangroves and multicolored sea with several untouched beaches. There is a huge community of wallabies living in the area and you will also see crocodiles swimming in the creeks.
Today the management is different and unbeknown to me. My favorite Chef and fisher guide friends aren’t working there anymore. The only thing I can assure you is that Cape Don is simply and naturally beautiful, and the way to get there (at least the only one I am aware of) is to arrange a fishing trip with Cape Don Experience; they can fly you to this little piece of heaven on earth and arrange for a fun fishing experience in a unique scenery.
Just to be clear, no one associated even remotely with Cape Don is paying me to write this, I sincerely recommend it from the bottom of my traveler heart.
Finally, I would like to give special thanks to Ross and Rodney, who turned my two months stay at cape Don into an unforgettable, very pleasant experience.
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