It’s incredibly easy to spend your time off lazing on beaches and exploring on your own, but after spending the day with Bardi man, Brian Lee, on his tagalong tour, Callum left with a greater appreciation and knowledge of the land.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Bardi Jawi Nation, the traditional Country of the Bardi Jawi people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

I crack open the crab claw and extract buttery flesh. Only moments before I’d been waist-deep in the creek, wrestling the crab out from the riverbanks with only a steel rod, bent at the tip. 

‘You’ve got ’em, you’ve got ’em,’ Brian would whisper every time he heard the scrape of steel on crab shell.


The Traditional Tour

Large-scale, commercial tours are something I’ve generally tried to avoid. I’ve always found them a bit restrictive. They often involve following a strict schedule and squeezing in a checklist of things to see and do, with little room for organic, naturally occurring moments.

There are also ethical concerns surrounding where my money’s going (especially in tours labelled ‘cultural experiences’), and what impact the tour has on the environment it operates in.

At the same time, I’ve always wanted to learn as much as possible when travelling, especially from local communities and the Traditional Custodians of the land. While these experiences can occur naturally, they’re often few and far between. It’s also not the responsibility of Aboriginal locals to go out of their way to provide these learning opportunities. I quickly accepted the fact that I’d need to seek out these experiences, research the ethics and process of these tour operators, and, of course, fork out the cash. 

Read more: Here’s Where You Can Find Aboriginal Cultural Tours in Australia

It would’ve been difficult to plan a trip up and back down the Dampier Peninsula without hearing the name ‘Brian Lee’. A Bardi man, Brian operates a ‘tagalong’ tour from Kooljamin, a campground two hours north of Broome. This was the first time I’d heard of a ‘tagalong tour’.

My curiosity, desire to learn outside of a museum or visitor centre, and the need to have your own 4WD (no big hop-on-hop-off buses) to join, resulted, in a last-minute, spur of the moment sign up when in Broome.

Less is More

Atop a dune, Brian looks down at his feet, as if looking for something lost. He starts pointing out the faint tracks, little imprints in the sand that I hadn’t noticed before. As if reading a textbook, he goes into detail about the hunting, gathering, and survival habits of the small reptiles and insects which patrol these sands.

Brian is soft-spoken, but full of life and charm, affording a sense of comfortability as if speaking with an old friend.



The small convoy continues along the beach, the turquoise water glass-like just out the passenger window. We stop at the mouth of Hunters Creek, where the sandbank stretches out over the warm water.

‘Time for a swim,’ is all Brian says.

Later, he decides to cast a line and a few others join in. Nothing bites, but no one seems to mind. We then walk with Brian and his family across the sandbar, as he continues to share stories and anecdotes about his people’s land. He digs up small crabs and teaches us how to whistle using the seashells at our feet. The whole experience is effortless, walking, talking, and listening.


Nature’s Way

Brian’s grandson Darcy moves slowly across the creek bank, spear poised above his shoulder. Brian dons a pair of flippers and mask, speargun in hand. There’s other spearfishing and snorkelling equipment in the back of the ute, he tells us, if we wish to join him. We’re happy to watch Brian glide across the water, occasionally duck-diving down along the rocky banks.

After a few minutes, he pulls himself ashore.

‘No fish, today,’ says Brian.

And that’s all there is to it. Darcy’s had no luck either. The creek was not in its usual glassy state, instead, a slightly murky green. Nature, today at least, didn’t want to cooperate. There was no back-up plan, no alternative activity to fill this time slot, no pile of fish prepared earlier. But Brian knows this land too well to let us go hungry.

We move on, captivated by another of Brian’s stories, this time about his experience with the large Saltwater crocodile that patrols the very creek he’d just swam in.


The Hunt for Mud Crab

It’s low tide and the creek is mostly dry, apart from along the banks where, at points, we’re waist-deep.

We stop at an inconspicuous wall of mud that makes up the creek’s edge. Brian inserts the steel hook into a small opening, tussling with something hidden. In a few minutes, he’s hooked a snapping claw, extracting it from a burrow and releasing it on the sand. Brian leans down slowly, the crab’s claws arced up in an almost hypnotized state. Brian holds the crab up for us so that we can witness its immense size, before depositing it in a hessian bag.

Then, it’s our turn.



Having not done much hunting or fishing in the past, I don’t expect to catch any myself. But soon enough, I’m in on the action, finding a likely crab home hidden among the mangroves. This one’s putting up a bit more of a fight than the others. Darcy joins me, and we spend the next few minutes, side-by-side, desperately trying to hook this thing, and pull it out from its root-infested home. 

The team effort is exhilarating. Everyone else has continued down along the bank, but we refuse to give up. We listen for the sound of the steel rod scraping the crab shell.

The crab, the biggest I’d seen, finally comes loose, with one final tug. 

I go to place it in the lunch bag, but Darcy starts laughing. 

The crab, the one we’ve spent the last ten minutes trying to catch, is a female. To maintain the creek’s crab population, we let it scurry back among the mangroves. 

We bag about eight large males in total, plenty to feed the group for lunch. A fire’s started by the shelter, and we watch as the black shells turn to a mouth-watering orange. 

Read more: 8 Ways to Better Support First Nations People


Lunch With Brian

As we sit, waiting for the crab to cook, Brian shares with us his unique, captivating, and at times tragic family history. With connections to Japanese pearl divers, English slave traders, and the Traditional Owners of the land, Brian has the group hanging on every word. He talks about his people, the importance of this land and the passing on of tradition and stories. He speaks softly, answering our questions as firewood and crab crackle behind us.

When he’s done, we eat the fresh crab, our hands and lips soon sticky with their juices. Brian and Darcy agree to take the last crab back to their family.


The Verdict

It would’ve been easy to spend my time around Kooljamin lounging around beaches and exploring the area on my own. But through spending the day with Brian Lee and his family I left with a greater appreciation and knowledge of the land.

The Hunters Creek Tagalong Tour provided that organic experience I’d been looking for. Brian went fishing when he wanted to fish and shared stories when he felt like it. We truly were just ‘tagging along’ with Brian and his family, seeing and doing what the people who live by Hunters Creek saw and did.



Others who’ve joined Brian on the tagalong tour have fished from a dinghy, traversing Hunters Creek at high tide, something not possible on the near-bone-dry creek we’d experienced. There were those who spent hours snorkelling and spearfishing in the crystal-clear creek.

The experience on the Brian Lee Hunters Creek Tagalong Tour was not a manufactured one, designed solely for tourism purposes and to fit within a certain schedule, but dependent on nature and its erraticism.

Yes, we paid to join the tour, but I think there are some experiences worth paying for, especially when it involves learning about and from the Traditional Owners of this country. What you get in return is an authentic experience, where less is more, and where you’re granted brief insight into a beautiful place, culture, and people.