Tiwi Islands

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Northern Territory Tiwi Islands

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Introduction

The Tiwi Islands are part of the Northern Territory, Australia, 80 kilometres to the north of Darwin where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. They comprise Melville Island, Bathurst Island, and nine smaller uninhabited islands, with a combined area of 8,320 square kilometres.

Inhabited before European settlement by the Tiwi indigenous Australians, there are approximately 3,000 people on the islands.

The Tiwi Land Council is one of four land councils in the Northern Territory. It is a representative body with statutory authority under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and has responsibilities under the Native Title Act 1993 and the Pastoral Land Act 1992.

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Geography

The main islands are separated by Apsley Strait, which connects Saint Asaph Bay in the north and Shoal Bay in the south, and is between 550 metres and 5 kilometres wide, 62 kilometres long. At the mouth of Shoal Bay is Buchanan Island, with an area of about 3 km2. A car ferry at the narrowest point provides a quick connection between the two islands.

The islands have been isolated from the Australian mainland since the last ice age. They are covered mainly with eucalypt forest on a gently sloping lateritic plateau. The extensive open forest, open woodlands and riparian vegetation are dominated by Darwin Stringybarks, Woollybutts, and Cajuputs. There are small patches of rainforest occurring in association with perennial freshwater springs, and mangroves occupying the numerous inlets.

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Events and Festivals

The biggest event of the year on the famously football-crazy (Australian rules, of course) islands is the Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final in late March, which draws crowds above 3,000, more than the islands' combined population! While permits were previously not required to visit at this time, this is apparently no longer the case, and in any case you'll need to plan well in advance to secure your seats.

The Tiwi Islands Art Sale is held at the same time.

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Weather

The Tiwi Islands have a tropical monsoonal climate, with 2,000 mm of rainfall on northern Bathurst Island and 1,200 to 1,400 mm on eastern Melville Island. The wet season from November to April brings the islands the highest rainfall in the Northern Territory. The Tiwi people describe three distinct seasons: the dry (season of smoke), the buildup (high humidity and cicadas songs) and the wet (storms) The seasons frame the lifestyle of the Tiwi people, dictating the food sources available and their ceremonial activities.

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Getting There and Around

Visiting the Tiwi Islands requires a permit from the Tiwi Islands Land Council. For casual visitors, the only way to arrange one is through one of two designated tour operators:

  • Tiwi Art Network, ☎ 1300 721 365 - Occasional tours geared towards visitors with an interest in Aboriginal art.
  • Tiwi Island Tour, ☎ 1300 721 365 - One-day tours from $465, including meals, return flights, tour guide and permits.

Once your permits are sorted out, there are two ways to reach the Tiwis from Darwin: 20-minute flights on http://www.flytiwi.com.au/Fly Tiwi (several times daily, from $120/one-way), or a two-hour catamaran journey on the Arafura Pearl (thrice weekly, from $75/one-way).

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Eat/Drink

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This is version 2. Last edited at 13:53 on Apr 24, 17 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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