Tjapukai – Aboriginal Cultural Park By Night
In Cairns we decided we wanted to see some Aboriginal culture so were advised to go to Tjapukai by Night. Promised to see culture in the most powerful and personal way we bought our tickets. From what we understood a dinner and show would be what we could expect. Our tickets cost $123, which included share accommodation in the YHA. Share accommodation generally costs around $20 so say it cost me $100 for the show and dinner including my transfers. We purchased out tickets in the YHA in advance.
One Australian dollar is equal to 0.47 United Kingdom pounds.
Without transport included it costs for an adult $87, child $43.50, family (2 adults and 2 children) $217.50. With transfers from Cairns and Northern Beaches it costs $104, child $52, family $268.50. Transfers from Port Douglas cost adult $140, child $70 and family $376.50.
Tjapukai by Night is open 7pm to 10pm every night. It is however closed on Christmas Day. Tjapukai is an all weather venue which is great as in the wet season (when I visited) there tends to be heavy showers which come out of no-where and quite often thunder storms.
Address: Cairns Western Arterial Road, PO Box 816, Smithfield, Cairns, Queensland, 4878, Australia
To get there by transfers it takes 40 minutes including picking people up. It is only 15 minutes from Cairns, Kuranda and Palm Cove. If you are getting your own way there it has ample car parking. It is immediately adjacent to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park is situated on 11 hectares (25 acres) of land in Caravonica Lakes.
We were picked up by bus from the Cairns Central YHA at 6.20pm. After several other stops to pick up more people from different places we arrived at 7pm. Entry into the building wasn’t allowed to 7.20pm, which meant you had time to browse in the shop and they ask you to pre-order any drinks (soft drinks or alcohol) you want. For the buffet they do provide water/tea or coffee. Once we got off our bus at the entrance we were greeted by men dressed in traditional Aboriginal tribe clothing and their bodies was covered in paintings and markings. We got our photograph taken with them, which you could later purchase for $20 I think this was expensive.
The whole experience is supposed to make you feel more than a member of the audience but a privileged participant with events such as the haunting spirit welcome and Lake Side fire ceremony. The first room we entered we were given 2 tube like pieces of wood. In the room there was a cloth Aboriginal painting and lights were on it which changed constantly highlighting different parts of the painting. It was magnificent! On other walls there were smaller paintings, which told stories, beside each gave you a brief description of the story and purpose of the painting. Then the lights went off without any warning and a booming voice welcomed us and introduced the spirits, which were evil and good in fluorescent lighting giving an eerie effect. Then the Aboriginal people come in and showed us the fire dance and how they made fire. We had to chant in a circle, hitting our wooden blocks together to different beats. Amazingly they succeeded to make fire by rubbing 2 sticks together. We were all taken outside and a spear was thrown and an explosion of flames erupted from the other side of the small lake. To be honest I still don’t know why they did this it all was baffling and happened quickly. It all lasted about 15 minutes and you then were brought to get your buffet in the Boomerang Restaurant. We were promised Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture in the most powerful and personal way.
The restaurant wasn’t exactly all that big so there was a small crowd. The buffet had several types of food. They had beef, chicken, pork, salads, fruit, rice, potatoes, vegetable mix and 2 different types of soup (a Japanese type and pumpkin). Pudding was coffeecake mouse (white and milk chocolate). Coffee and tea was also available. Any soft drinks or alcohol had to be paid for extra. The dinner catered a lot for Japanese tastes as out tour consisted of mostly people from Japan. As I am a fussy eater and tend to like very plain food I didn’t really enjoy the meal. My partner didn’t like it either, as it was cold and not a meal you would want to pay a lot for.
After our meal the Tjapukai dancers came onto the stage and performed songs and did some dancing which told stories about animals. Then they brought 2 people up from the audience and had a competition to see who could make fire first. They both received boomerangs signed by the dancers for taking part. To end the performance the men sang about how they wanted peace in the world and that they were proud to be Aboriginal. All the Tjapakai dancers were male, no females participated in any performances which I thought was strange. The second performance maybe lasted 20-30 minutes.
I was expecting considerably more from this night out. I learnt some new things about the Aboriginal culture but felt I could have learnt more, in which I was disappointed with. At the end of the show the performers went off stage and to one of the tables to be with their families, which I thought, was nice. However if you wanted to ask them further questions I didn’t find them particularly approachable. The dinner was the main part of the night, which I found disappointing. I was hoping that the performances would have lasted longer than they did. I feel that it cost far too much for what we received. If you want to learn things about the Aborignal culture I would suggest to go to the park during the day or go elsewhere.