Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


White Man's Dreaming

Story and photos Paul Myers


Max Davidson with Mount Borradaile
in the background.

There's a bit of Harry Butler, Les Hiddins, Steve Irwin, Dick Smith, Mick Dundee and Ernie Dingo in Max Davidson. Naturalist, environmentalist, adventurer, anthropologist, historian, entrepreneur and showman, he is one of those larger-than-life characters who invariably - or inevitably - find their way to remote Australia. But few make a mark in the same way as Max. It's not that he has fearless encounters with reptiles or crocodiles, performs publicity and other stunts, appears on TV or craves the limelight. What he does is instill in each guest at his safari camp at Mt Borradaile in north-west Arnhem Land an impression of 'discovery' at every turn.

Goodness knows, there are enough opportunities: Aboriginal rock art, some that may not previously have been seen by white man; a pair of majestic sea eagles perched in a tree high above Mt Borradaile's main billabong that teems with bird life; bush tucker and bush medicines that only an Aboriginal or someone with considerable local knowledge could identify; fresh and saltwater crocodiles in larger numbers than are usually seen where there is regular human presence. And so on. All in a place that Max 'discovered' by chance in the early 1980s while searching for new buffalo hunting areas.

There were buffaloes there all right. "The place was covered in them," Max recalls of the time he first laid eyes on the 700 square kilometre area known by its traditional owners as Ulbul-Bunitj. As a pioneer of the then fledgling Top End safari camping industry, and having recently met the area's Aboriginal custodians, Max was able to negotiate a lease. And so began Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris that has become the virtual standard-bearer of safari camps in Australia.

A lot has changed since the first paying guests - hunters _ arrived at the makeshift camp of just two tents in 1985. The buffaloes, wiped out by a brucellosis eradication campaign in the 1980s, are long gone. And visitors now don't come to Mt Borradaile to hunt (although Max operates hunting camps on the Cobourg Peninsula and on Bathurst Island). Instead, the semi-permanent campsite operated by Max and his wife Philippa, who runs the company office in Darwin, attracts people from all over the world to experience the fauna and flora, Aboriginal history and culture, majestic scenery and an ever-changing, spectacular wet season. Story end

Full story: OUTBACK, December/January 2003

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