Adventurers and conservationists are collaborating to celebrate the regeneration of a beautiful, ancient landscape in a month-long festival.
Described as a ‘festival of a different kind’, the event will be held during March 2021 within the stunning Scenic Rim area, in south east Queensland.
From Lamington National Park to Mt Barney National Park, visitors are being invited to experience some of the most precious and spectacular areas of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests.
Following the devastating fires of summer 2019/2020, organisers intend to emphasise and celebrate the area’s environmental significance, which is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
The festival will include guided walks, talks and wild adventures from the base camps (and luxury lodges) of Binna Burra, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and Mt Barney Lodge, with Park Tours taking small specialised groups into some existing and new trails being opened specifically for the event.
An immersion experience
‘This is such a special place’, said Jonathon Fisher, CEO of Binna Burra.
‘This is not a festival where you’ll experience hordes of people and the usual trappings of large festivals. This is an immersion experience where people can rediscover and relax in nature and also challenge themselves physically if they chose to.
‘It is something our minds and bodies are craving following the challenges of the past 18 months from drought, fires and COVID,’ he said.
‘We are supporting the First Nations opening of the Festival at Binna Burra to pay tribute to this ancient, volcanic place that was over 180 million years in the making, sharing the traditional owners’ language of the Yugambeh people and how this spirited place can nurture and change you if you take care of it.’
Support from government
The festival has come about thanks to the initiative of the Brisbane Economic Development Agency, with the support of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Tourism and Events Queensland, and the Scenic Rim Regional Council.
Following the opening ceremony, a program including Great Gondwana trails from Binna Burra will follow with specially curated walks, including the ancient Antarctic beech trees up to 3,000 years old. There will be walks suitable for families with children to treks recommended for the highly experienced adventure seekers.
In week two of the festival, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat will kick off its program on Sunday 7th March with a special walk and talk on the ‘Forests of Lamington’.
Leading rainforest ecologist Dr Bill McDonald and expert in plant evolution, Ray Carpenter, will help debunk the mysteries of this ancient forest on Brisbane and the Gold Coast’s doorstep.
Shane O’Reilly, Managing Director of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat said the next event will be ‘O’Reilly’s Autumn Bird week, ideal for beginner bird watchers hoping to see the unique birds of Lamington National Park in a small, intimate group.
‘We will also be encouraging visitors to explore our famous treetops walk and reveal the glow worm experience by night – something found only in Australia and New Zealand,’ he said.
Five day trek
Lisa Groom of Park Tours will guide visitors on an exclusive 5-day trek called ‘The Arthur Trek Journey’ from Binna Burra to O’Reilly’s, onto to the Lost World and culminating at Mt Barney Lodge.
One of Binna Burra’s founders, Australian conservationist, journalist and author, Arthur Groom advocated for a ‘walk of international significance’ around the Scenic Rim as a form of environmental education for visitors.
The Arthur Trek Journey will see his aspirations and vision realised, with Lisa Groom – Arthur’s grand-daughter – thrilled to be able to continue to honour his incredible environmental legacy.
‘I want to share our family’s knowledge and passion’, said Ms Groom.
‘I normally take Australians on international treks across the world, but during this time we have come to further realise and value this incredible world heritage experience in our own backyard. We’re curating the trek to include never-before open tracks on private land exclusively for the Arthur Trek Journey, including local community experiences.’
The third weekend of the event will be the inaugural Scenic Rim Adventure Festival (19-21 March), around Mt Barney.
Owner of Mt Barney Lodge, Innes Larkin said, ‘Being located at the base of Queensland’s 4th highest mountain (1359m), we are an ideal point of departure for those fit and adventurous enough to climb Mt Barney and its associated peaks.
‘Our program will include inspiring speakers,’ said Mr Larkin, ‘including Michael Groom, unquestionably one of the world’s greatest big mountain climbers, who while descending from the summit of Kangchenjungahe suffered crippling frostbite and had the front third of both feet amputated.
‘He’ll share with us his challenges and how he achieved his childhood dream and returned to the Himalayas and climbed Everest.’
The comprehensive adventure program will include live music, an under-the-stars film festival, adventure trade display and children’s nature play activities, as well as guided bushwalks, bushcraft and survival activities and epic guided mountain expeditions to the top of Queensland’s most impressive peak.
The Gondwana Festival’s final week will culminate at the end of March with the staging of the adventurous Stinson Walk from O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat.
The Stinson Walk recounts Australian history and the life of Bernard O’Reilly, who heroically saved the lives of two plane crash survivors over 82 years ago in Lamington National Park, as highlighted in the Jack Thompson film, The Riddle of the Stinson.
The walk will take adventurers through stunning landscapes surrounded by the incredibly diverse and flora and fauna of Lamington National Park.
With the preliminary program just released, you can follow the Gondwana Festival on Facebook and Instagram @gondwanafestival #gondwanafestival.
Organisers are encouraging visitors who want to be the first to hear about the program and special advance releases to sign up via their website.