Company: Walkabout Cultural Adventures
Location: Port Douglas/Daintree, Queensland
Juan Walker was a shy young man considering an electrician’s apprenticeship at a mine when relatives talked him into staying on country in Tropical North Queensland. The Kuku Yalanji man can thank his grandmother for directing him onto a different path when she found him a job as a tour guide with Daintree Ecolodge in 1999. “It took me a while to be able to talk to strangers – that was the hardest part, getting over that shyness,” says Juan. Today he runs his own business, Walkabout Cultural Adventures, from his Cooya Beach base near Port Douglas.
There’s no trace of that shyness now as Juan leads visitors through the landscape he knows so well. In the mangroves and shallows, he demonstrates how to spear a mud crab and dig for pipis in the sand. In the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, he shows visitors the lush layers where cassowaries roam.
“It’s one thing to learn about Aboriginal history through textbooks, sitting down in a classroom, but out on country, it makes things a whole lot more real,” he says. “It’s a lot more hands-on – you can see how we know about bush medicine and bush tucker.”
You’ll also see his country through new eyes, as just about every landmark comes soaked in myth and legend. Juan can tell you, for instance, a Dreamtime story about how a hungry snake slithered down from the mountains towards the coast to look for food, its body carving out the sinuous Daintree River along the way.
Credit: Tourism Australia Discover Aboriginal Experiences