Exploring the Stunning Kimberley Region
As captured by YOU Travel Managing Director, Kay Rogers
A wilderness adventure across Australia’s vast Kimberley region – by way of the Gibb River Road – a holiday in May 2019. One of the worlds last true wilderness frontiers, sprawling over thousands of kilometres of ancient landscapes – on a mission looking for an adventure! I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
Flying into Perth on a direct Air NZ flight and then heading further north to the coastal old historical pearling town of Broome to connect with our Tour guide and transport (below) for the next 14 days – hello APT Wilderness Journeys! Make sure you enjoy a couple of nights in Broome to explore the character of the quaint seaside town - check out the phenomenal Staircase to the Moon….and the infamous camel ride along the beach - at sunset. Alternatively prop yourself up at the Sunset Bar at the Cable Bay Beach Resort and watch the camels plod homeward right in front of you.… while you enjoy a few prawns washed down with an Aussi Chardonnay!
With introductions out of the way, and 17 of us settling into the purpose built 4Wheel Drive Mercedes vehicle separately calibrated for a smooth riding suspension at all times, the transport oozed comfort with all the mod cons, air conditioning and large tinted windows, it was obvious we were in good hands!
This itinerary was all about wilderness and the Aussi outback, and getting as far off the beaten track that National Park and our transport and Guides could allow. The first leg a mere 660 kilometre stretch of highway between Broome and Kununurra which had us passing through the Bandilngan Windjana Gorge National Park and then further on to the Dimalurru Tunnel Creek National Park. Feeling strangely nervous here, as we were about to embark on the first test of endurance going into the very dark Tunnel Creek (below) wading through the cool slow flowing waters that filled the tunnel, seeing stalactites along the way – and eventually emerging out into a tranquil and stunning oasis on the other side, shown below.
Fitzroy Crossing was the first overnight stop. An interesting small township, set on the banks of the might Fitzroy River with a very strong Aboriginal culture. Sitting down to a king sized bushman’s dinner at the Fitzroy River Lodge, soon saw everyone retiring early after a very long day and the first 1,000 kilometres under our belt.
A moderate start to the next day, after a good healthy breakfast, saw us back on the ‘’truck’’ and heading for one of the more well known gorges – Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park and further on to the Purnululu National Park. The latter more commonly recognised as home to the Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge. Staying in the wilderness lodges was one of the key reasons, I booked this particular trip. This is the only way, a visitor to the region can actually stay overnight in the National Parks in these purpose build lodges. Day trippers are allowed into the Parks, but must be under the Park authority and vacate the Park before nightfall. Flooding of the Fitzroy River has bleached the gorge walls white over time and this makes the Danggu Geikie Gorge (below) popular with photographers, with a cruise being the best way to navigate the area.
The fames black and orange striped domes rise nearly 600 metres above sea level were created by 20 million years of constant erosion. The Bungle Bungles (above) have both geological and indigenous cultural significance. You can walk along the Piccaninny Creek (below) which is a gorgeous easy walk mostly in shade of the domed walls which tower over you to reach the magnificent natural amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge (below). The Australian Symphony Orchestra has been known to transfer their musical instruments and invited guests to Concerts in the Cathedral. The acoustics are reported to be amazing!
After an experience like the Bungle Bungles, you tend to wonder what is there to get even more excited about? But the Echidna Chasm (below )was just spectacular with its glorious palm trees (in the middle of the outback??) and onto Kununurra and the home of the Ord River and Lake Argyle, the largest man-made lake in the southern hemisphere. And then …El Questro Station and the fabulous Emma Gorge. Not only beautiful pristine swimming hole (below) complete with towering droplet waterfalls, but the glorious Zebedee (below) natural hot spring pools! Dragging ourselves away from this stunning isolated oasis to board the ‘’truck’’ once again and press on across the mighty Pentecost River into the iconic Home Valley Station.
This enormous cattle property being more well known as the back drop to the very well know film “Australia” starring Nicole Kidman. Staying overnight at the very cool Home Valley Station where lots of the cast and crew stayed during the long months of filming. The evenings were spent around the camp fire after dinner, nursing a nightcap, with new found friends or listening to the staff and guides who lived in the area about the local history of the area. Fascinating! The food was mostly the regions finest local produce which was fresh and wholesome as it was much too far from civilisation to shop at the local supermarket.
Back onto the Gibb River Road, stopping at the Drysdale River Station for lunch and going further, deep into the remote world of the Mitchell Plateau to stay 2 nights at the beautiful Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge. A full day discovering the beauty of Mitchell Falls with its magnificent tiered waterfalls and indigenous rock art. I was really surprised how close we get to the rock art, and hiked into some very out-of-the-way areas such as Little Mertens Falls to view some very exquisite rock art drawings. The other outstanding opportunity on this trip was the ability to swim in the most stunning swimming holes on the trip. The crocs that were around were very small freshwater and were more wary of us…that we were of them. You got used to seeing them occasionally and most often they were settled, out of the water, sunning themselves quietly on a rock!
The itinerary crosses the vast Drysdale River Station, and we stay overnight. This is the heart of Kimberley cattle country and includes more secluded and beautiful gorges. Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge is the next opportunity to relax and enjoy the luxury tented accommodation, and this is home for 2 glorious nights. This remarkable lodge is situated in an enviable position with stunning views of the King Leopold Range. To see the sun setting over the red hues of the rock face is a joy!
Days have gone by and we are nearing the end of the Gibb River Road. Travelling on to Derby to visit the MOwanjum Art and Cultural Centre and several private galleries highlighted the exquisite level of aboriginal art in the Territory. It was difficult to select just one piece from all the beautiful canvasses that were available. It was a feeling of immense comfort to leave the Kimberley with a beautiful reminder of this amazing region. A final group recording of an epic journey taken in front of the iconic site of the Prison Baob Tree which derived its significance from its reputed use as a ‘’rest point’’ for police and escorted Aboriginal prisoners en-route to goal. A stark reminder of the journey this region continues to unfold throughout the centuries.