Australian Olympian Gives Rare Insight Into Life In Darwin’s Quarantine Outpost

Iconic photos provide a look at life in 'desert quarantine.'

Australian Olympian Gives Rare Insight Into Life In Darwin’s Quarantine Outpost

Image Credit: Mack Horton (@mackhorton)

Australians have been inundated with images of hotel quarantine from cities like Sydney, Perth and Melbourne over the last 16 months.

Travellers have shared reels, photos and boomerangs of their two week’s imprisonment, showcasing what it’s like in the (in many cases) windowless high rise buildings they have had to wait out their fortnight in.

But what does hotel quarantine look like in the desert?

If you’re curious, take a look at the following photos Australian Olympic swimmer Mack Horton recently posted to Instagram, which provide a snapshot of Darwin’s Howard Springs facility.

As part of the Australian Olympic swim team, Horton, on his return from Japan, found himself undergoing two week’s quarantine in a defence base in Darwin.

As his photos show, Howard Springs, which is 27 kilometres from Darwin, is different to the other hotel quarantines you will have seen from hotels in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

The photos show Horton taking photos in the mirror, hanging out on the verandah, sunbathing, eating, and sitting (socially distanced) from fellow athletes.

He also claims jokingly (we presume) that fellow athlete “@jackmcloughlin and I ran a half marathon on our balconies. We had fun.”

Jack McLoughlin responded: “Can confirm. Had fun.”

Some Instagram users called the photos “iconic” while another said: “Gettin the hang of this photography shenanigans …! I’m in a room in melbourne. No fresh air.”

Reflecting on the Tokyo Olympics in a recent radio interview with Samantha Armytage on, Horton, who plans to swim at Paris 2024, shared a few more insights about Darwin.

Image Credit: @mackhorton

The 25-year-old said the beds are better than the cardboard ones they had in Tokyo. He also said the starts can be early (the nurses come early in the morning for temperature checks) and “it’s strange but not too bad, to be honest.”

Horton said: “Food’s been good and [there has] been a lot of it” and that the room is “a bit bleak” but “it’s fine – school camp-y.”

He also said that, though he was proud to be part of the team that got Bronze in the Men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, he aspires to achieve more in the future.

The Daily Mail reports, “The swimmers will need to abide by strict rules, including three meals per day and no alcohol.”

“Cooking equipment including, microwaves, electric fryers, rice cookers, sandwich presses and toasters are banned, as are recreational items such as scooters, skateboards, bikes, balls and roller blades.”

Unlike the hotels like in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, “The delivery of care packages, personal goods and meals ordered from externally are also off limits” in Darwin’s Howard Springs quarantine facility, The Daily Mail reports.

“Each bedroom consists of a single bed, an ensuite bathroom, a television and a desk with a chair along with towels, and bed linen to last two weeks.”

Howard Springs was rejigged for quarantine in October 2020 and can house up to 650 returned travellers.

A two-week stay at Howard Springs usually costs $2,500 per person, or $5,000 for a family.

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