In 10 days, I swam with sea lions and dolphins, climbed a 52-meter tree, sunbathed with kangaroos on whiter-than-snow sand beaches, crossed the longest straight road in Australia and drove more than 3,000 kilometers (or 1,800 miles). I fell asleep spotting shooting stars and listening to the waves crash against the beach and woke up to the sun rising over the ocean and over abandoned cars in the middle of the desert.
It was all part of the 10-day journey from Adelaide to Perth as part of Nullabor Traveler, a tour that crosses the infamous treeless plain in the heart of the country. The family-owned company runs comfortable 18-person buses: either a 9-day journey from Perth to Adelaide, 10-day from Adelaide to Perth or a 6-day loop of either Western or South Australia. Three out of four tours stop in Coodlie Park, the secluded farm retreat with a private beach that functions as a WWOOF farm, a YHA-accredited hostel and a bush camp.
Nullarbor Traveller boasts that “the journey is part of the experience,” and boy, they aren’t kidding. You can expect to chalk up anywhere from 400 to 900 kilometers a day in the bus, although there are plenty of stops at scenic vistas, challenging hikes and chances to jump in the water.
It’s not a luxury tour by any means. You’ll be slapping together sandwiches on the side of the road, washing dishes in a tub and counting the kilometers until the next flushing toilet. Most nights are spent at campsites, although the convenience level varies from flushing toilets, showers and electric outlets to nothing but dirt and trees. But, honestly, there’s nothing quite like sipping a beer by the campfire and then falling asleep under the stars.
While they don’t guarantee any wildlife spotting, I’m pretty sure I saw at least one kangaroo every day. We saw kangaroos and joeys playfighting on the beach at Cape Le Grande, kangaroos with joeys in their pouch at Coodlie Park and kangaroos having sex on the road in front of the bus at Dutchmen’s Stern. I got to hold a white wombat at a Wombat Rescue Center in Ceduna, and stand eye-to-eye with an emu in the front yard. We played fetch with sea lions and dove under dolphins in Baird Bay.
What they can guarantee is a bit of extreme fun. We sandboarded at Talia Sand Dunes, and then chucked the boards aside, rolled into a ball, and tumbled down the steep hills of soft white sand. We caught waves at Mount Camel Surf Beach, with surf instructor Spike offering tips to make sure that everyone stood up at least once. Most brave souls tackled the slipperly cliff face at Frenchmen’s Summit, while only the bold hiked up Bluffs Knoll in searing 33-degree heat for the 360-degree views of the StirlingR ange surrounds.
More than anything, it’s a tour that showcases an underrated and little-explored region of Australia. While most of the backpacker hordes are clamouring over the beaches of the East Coast or cramming into Sydney and Melbourne, the rural and coastals areas of South and Western Australia are relatively untouched.
The value of Nullarbor Traveller really can’t be matched. It’s expensive to drive across the Nullarbor: car/van rental, gas, increasing cost of food and beer the farther from civilization you go. But the real value is in the carefully-planned itinerary and the innate bush knowledge of the awesome guides (Hue and Craig: you both rock!): they know what’s worth seeing, how to cook a great meal with very limited resources and how to best deal with the capricious Australian weather.
I booked Nullarbor Traveller because a fellow blogger said it was the best thing she had done while she was in Australia: obviously, I went in with high expectations. Not only were those expectations met, but they were blown out of the water: I saw an incredible side of Australia that I never would have experienced on my own.
Note: Nullarbor Traveller graciously offered me a discount, but all opinions are my own.