Arkaba walk – hiking in South Australia’s outback
Updated: May 14
Would you like a different holiday? Being active? Experience the Australia outback? Why not join the magnificent journey – the Arkaba Walk in the Flinders Ranges
The moment I saw the Flinders Ranges I was captivated by its beauty, looking forward to embark on our adventure – the Arkaba Walk!
The walk takes you through ever-changing ancient landscapes and scenery among the oldest rocks on earth. You walk through riverbeds lined with beautiful trees, you travers small mountain ranges where you get the most spectacular views and, on the way, you meet kangaroos, wallaroos, parrots and emus if you are lucky.
When you arrive in camp in the afternoon you enjoy a sundowner before a wonderful dinner, served while the sun is setting – coloring the mountain ranges in ochre-red.
Best of all, you can sleep under a million stars, closer and brighter than almost anywhere else on earth, and wake up to mountains washed in gold.
You are guided by expert guides telling you all you would like to know about the nature and conservation of the area, how they are working hard to return a sheep station to nature. The chef is among the best you can get, and the camps are comfortable although simple.
If you like walking, this is the experience for you!
The Arkaba walk was part of our roundtrip to the Southern Australia, March 2023, read more HERE.
The journey begins
Early morning the Arkaba manager, John, picked us up in Adelaide. Here our team of four from Norway met the cousins Lucy and Lou from Melbourne and Mandy and John from Brisbane. Later at the Arkaba homestead Matthew and Thula from Melbourne joined. All together ten of us were spending five days together exploring the Flinders Ranges and Arkaba Conservancy.
The drive from Adelaide to Arkaba is long, 4,5 hours and the landscape we travel through is harsh, flat, and sparsely populated. The bus is comfortable though and excellent for a good nap to recuperate after an early wake-up.
About halfway it was time for lunch, and we had a break at Port Germain; a beautiful holiday town nestled below the Flinders Ranges. Johan brought out lunch boxes and drinks and we relax and took a walk on the amazing Port Germain jetty.
Port Germain jetty, built in 1881, was once famous for being the longest on the Southern Hemisphere and Australia’s largest grain loading port. The waters here are so low that the jetty needed to be 1676 meters long for ships to come to port to collect the wheat. Today the jetty is no longer used for ships, and is excellent for a walk, swimming and catching fish and the blue swimmer crab that the area is so famous for. Due to a damaging storm in 2016 the jetty is reduced to 1500m, still a long walk!
The Arkaba Homestead - luxury in the bush
Finally, we arrived and was warmly welcomed by the Arkaba-team. Wet towels, cold drinks and snacks was brought, and we immediately felt at home.
Original a farmhouse from 1851 it is now converted into a small unique luxury lodge. With only five rooms and the relaxed and friendly atmosphere it is like staying with old friends. There are no locks on the doors, no TV and not even Wi-Fi, thank you! Today this is a unique luxury to get the peace and time to connect with the people and nature.
We checked in to our beautiful room, with a large bathroom and nice small patio overlooking the mountain ranges. A small path led us to the swimming pool and as it was hot it was refreshing with a short swim to cool down before the adventure began.
First point on our itinerary were sundowners! Off we went into safari cars and drove into the mountains on roads so steep and narrow that I sometimes wonder if we would make it to the top. We did make it and was rewarded with the most spectacular view and drinks as we were watching the sun go down.
Off we go – the walk
All packed! Clothes and toiletries for the journey goes in a small provide duffel bag that is transported for you to the camps.
Water, lunchboxes and whatever you need on the road goes into the backpack that you will carry yourself. Remember to add plenty of sunscreen, a hat, put on your gaiters, take your walking sticks and you are ready to go.
If you are traveling from overseas as we were, you can borrow all the equipment at Arkaba so you do not need to bring anything from home except your walking boots and clothes.
The walk starts easy along a broad path and dried out riverbeds. It is beautiful, big red gum trees, narrow passages, grassy hills, and gorgeous views. Wallaroos and kangaroos everywhere, looking at us curiously before they jump away.
Sometimes the walk gets more challenging as there are no paths, just untouched nature. We climb up and down rather steep hills and mountains and it is hot, being March, the heat of the summer has not yet left the Flinders.
We learned about the conservation of the area. How they were working to bring back the area from an overgrazed sheep farm to the native nature. The sheep were fully removed for the land in 2013 having damaged the native vegetation as well as contributing to erosion and fragile soils. There were also work reducing numbers of feral goats, foxes and cats otherwise destroying the natural habitat. It was all tedious, hard and a longtime work to achieve this restoration of nature, step by step.
Fences are being removed, not only for conservational purpose our head guide Bruce explained, but also for humans, to see untouched nature with no boundaries helps to open
Our head guide, Bruce Lawson, a South-African safari-guide legend. His knowledge of the wilderness and nature is extraordinary so is his life story. Before coming to Arkaba Bruce had trained safari guides all over Africa, walked two years from Cape Town to Cairo and lived in Antarctica. Listen to the podcast about his story, HERE, Episode 22
Wayne Hamilton, an Australian, was being training by Bruce, to become a full guide in Arkaba. He had earlier been a guide at Longitude 131 in Uluru and before Covid had his own large travel agency in Australia which he has now started to build up again, . Travel with Hamilton.
We walk about 15 km per day. It is a semi-challenging walk - suitable for most people used to hike off track. The biggest challenge was the heat, at the most we approached 40C. Water becomes of essence, and I believe I drank about three liters a day. Luckily for the most there were plenty of shade and our guides were well trained to cope with hot weather – took it slowly, allowed long breaks in the shade and made sure everyone was brought along.
The bush camps – heaven on earth!
What a joy to see the camp! Cold drinks, a bush shower and then ready for a sundowner, dinner and sharing the days experience with fellow walkers, a day ago strangers, now becoming friends!
Arkaba´s head chef Calvin and his assistance Mathilde was taking care of the camps. Calvin, a South African from Durban, came to Australia from a successful career as a chef in London where he worked with the famous chef, restaurateur, and food writer Ottolenghi. Mathilde, from France and a trained nurse, worked in Paris under Covid and decided to have a career change and ended in the Australian bush.
While we were walking, Calvin and Mathilde had set up camp and cooked the most delicious three course dinner supplemented with the excellent Australian wines. As the sun was setting painting the mountains in the most remarkable colors we sat down and enjoyed the lovely meal they had prepared.
It is getting dark, and the starts are starting to appear. Bruce gives a most fascinating and knowledgeable lesson about the constellations of the southern hemisphere. Few places stars are so clear, bright, and close as out here in the semidesert of Australia.
It is time for bed, we drag our swags out on the deck and go to sleep watching the the milky way snaking over the endless dark sky.
Creepers and crawlers – what is the situation
The big questions going into the bush is: snakes, spiders, and insects. We saw no snakes. Snakes will usually shy away when there are a lot of movements around. There were spiders, which I am hysteric about, but I saw non in my cabin, so nothing to be concerned about. Very few other insects although we had a bee invasion one afternoon due to the extraordinary hot weather. This was not a usual thing and had never happened before. As soon as the sun started to set and it cooled off the bees disappeared So, no worries about creepers and crawlers!
Home again – the end of Arkaba Walk
After three days of walking and two nights in bush camps we were back to the comfort of Arkaba homestead. We enjoyed the luxury of the place, the swimming pool and gourmet food - just relaxed!
The morning of our last day starts with a final walk up the hill to greet the new day with a spectacular sunrise! A good, healthy breakfast followed by a stay at the pool. Then we took our sad goodbyes to the superb Arkaba team - I so whished we could have stayed longer.
Our adventure was not over quite yet. On our way back to civilization we got an extra treat. We drove through Clare Valley and had a wine tasting at the Pike before the journey for us ended in another wine valley, Barossa. Here we said our final goodbyes to our wonderful new friends.
What an unforgettable adventure!