The Territory's best kept secret

  • BY Ken Eastwood |
  • June 08, 2016

Step into Iytwelepenty-Davenport Ranges National Park, NT, a secret oasis of birds and waterholes like none other.

SLAP-BANG DOWN the middle of the Territory, the black tar of the Stuart Highway carves it into east and west. In the centre, just north of Karlu Karlu (the Devils Marbles), a sign indicates a 50km drive along a well-graded dirt road to Kurundi station, then there's another 18km of winding gravel and sand to the turn-off to the 1120sq.km Iytwelepenty-Davenport Ranges National Park. From the moment photographer Heath Holden and I swing our 4WD south towards Whistleduck Creek, the birdlife increases significantly, almost as if a switch is flicked. 

"In almost 20 years of writing for Australian Geographic, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a place like it in the middle of the country – a place so little travelled, but relatively easily reached, where the inland breathes life back into you." - Ken Eastwood, AG writer 

Davenport Ranges, a secret bird wonderland

We see more birds in 20km than we've seen in days spent elsewhere in Central Australia. There are black-faced cuckoo shrikes, rainbow bee-eaters, spinifex pigeons, diamond and peaceful doves, a flock of budgies and myriad honeyeaters. In a parched land, where the dust coats the inside of your mouth and your lungs, birds flock here because the park offers hidden pockets of waterholes. The Davenport Range also attracts a wide variety of animals because there is such an eclectic mix of vegetation – it's the crossover between the plants of the central desert and more tropical species such as the silver-leafed grevillea, with rainfall here averaging 400mm a year. It has hints of the Tanami, the arid country further south, and a serene oasis around the water.

See the the full story AG #133, out now. 

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