Arkaroola

Where: Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Permits: None
Costs: $18 per night un-powered camping, $40 to self-drive the Echo Camp Back Track and $$$ for multiple other tours/self drive tours
Difficulty: Echo Camp Back Track rated as ‘Extreme’ and they do ask you have four wheel drive experience. If you are an experienced 4WDer this is easy to moderate.
Days required to do it justice: 3+days

I first heard of a chap called Reg Spriggs when reading Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ where Reg, in South Australia, discovered a rare fossil which no-one believed him about for a very long time. Reg Spriggs was then a name which kept popping up as I meandered around Australia. One of the most impressive references being that he was the first person to drive across the Simpson Desert (1962) and he did it with his wife and two toddlers in tow. Reg was also an avid conservationist and despite initially working for mining companies he eventually purchased Arkaroola in the Flinders Ranges and turned it into a nature conservancy and tourism venture. He has successfully preserved a huge area of land which otherwise would most likely have become a Uranium mine.

Arkaroola road

Arkaroola road

I’m a massive fan of places like Arkaroola as, after driving through cattle country for months on end, it is immediately obvious that this is a place where native wildlife and flora is flourishing in a way which sadly isn’t happening in the majority of Australia. Reg spotted the fragility of this environment back in the 1960s and through de-stocking and careful environmental management has preserved habitats for a variety of animals including, most notably the yellow footed rock wallaby. Arkaroola hasn’t shut people out though in its conservation mission and has instead provided a network of four wheel drive tracks and walking tracks to suit most abilities. And if you can’t do any of those yourself, you can book on a tour and let someone else do the hard yards.

Echo Camp Back Track

Echo Camp Back Track

We took the Echo Camp Back Track self drive four wheel drive track which is actually rated ‘Extreme’ by the management. This 45km long track isn’t really Extreme at all but as we worked out from the amount of Britz 4WD rental cars pottering around the car park is named this way to keep the inexperienced well away. The most challenging aspects were the steep ascents and descents which do require careful negotiation…more so due to the fact they’ve been hacked up by poor four wheel drivers. The views are spectacular and the wildlife is prolific and easy to see. If anyone you meet at Arkaroola says they haven’t yet seen a yellow footed rock wallaby you know they’ve just sat in their motel room for the duration of their stay. We even sat and watched Kangaroos digging for water from metres away.

Jumping yellow footed rock wallaby

Jumping yellow footed rock wallaby

We also walked the 5km Acacia Ridge trail which again was a great way to breath in the remoteness of Arkaroola and get a feel for the unusual geology of the area. Early pastoralists tried to run sheep on this property and when you stand on top of the highest ridge you can understand how they found this mountainous terrain a rather difficult place to muster. Needless to say farming ventures in the region were largely unsuccessful.

Bush camping at its best

Bush camping at its best

Our biggest tip for camping at Arkaroola is to take the bush camping option…5km of camping next to a river bed where you can nestle your camper in amongst the trees away from the crowds (that is of course until an idiot who snores decides to camp right next to you!). Stay a few days and soak it all up as this is a special and rare place.

Leave a Reply