I've just returned from a three week adventure in the north west of Australia - an area known as The Kimberley. Much of Australia is sparsely populated with the main populous region being the east coast. The north west of the country is about as remote as it gets and in the wet season a lot of places are completely cut off from the outside world, accessible only by small plane or helicopter. We headed off at the end of the dry season to experience this iconic region by road and it proved to be one hell of an adventure! Everything we'd heard about the region was true - the dust, the brutal roads and the epic natural wonders were all as intense as we'd imagined.
We started our journey by flying to Broome. We would have loved to have driven up there but we only had three weeks of holidays and at least one of them would have been spent making the 2000 and something kilometre drive from Fremantle to Broome! We had a 4 wheel drive (a necessity for our trip) organised for airport pickup and as soon as we landed we headed for our first destination - Eco Beach, an eco resort on an isolated stretch of coastline about 45 k's as the crow flies (it's 130k to drive there however) south of Broome. We had two nights booked here and we spent them in relative luxury, glamping in a cosy tent with a double bed and ensuite. Our days were spent sitting by the pool, exploring the beach, and watching the sunset. Yeah, it was all rather decadent, but the indulgence was not to last long!
Eco Beach was covered in amazing treasures that had washed up from the ocean. I've never seen so many varieties of shells and ocean debris on a beach ever! I spent many hours picking through the sand and photographing the bits I discovered (I left everything there).
After our initial comfortable introduction to the Kimberley we headed north, passing through Broome, up to Cape Leveque - a coastal village on Bardi Jawi native title land in the Dampier Peninsula. The road to Cape Leveque was a bit gnarly and gave us our first taste of 4 wheel driving in the Kimberley. About 100 km of road was sandy with built up mounds on either side - there was a lot of dust involved and we'd somehow hired a vehicle without air conditioning (don't get me started!) so there was plenty of window winding up and down whenever we passed another vehicle. Haha!! Yep, this was a taste of what was to be a recurring theme throughout our whole trip. Aaarghhhh! Anyway, on the way up to Cape Leveque we pulled into Beagle Bay to see one of the more unusual landmarks in the coastal region of the Kimberley - the pearl altar at the Sacred Heart Church. This was an inspiring example of creativity and I was truly touched by the beauty and craftsmanship of the altar.
Cape Leveque was heavenly! We'd booked a beachside shelter months in advance as we'd heard it was the best way to experience this special place and I'm glad we did because it was so awesome to watch the moon rise and the sun set over the pristine beach. The water here was cool and clear and we'd heard that you could snorkel between the rocks at the northern end of the swimming beach. On arriving we walked down towards the rocks where the tide was lowering and gingerly (it was unfamiliar and I had crocodiles in my head!) headed into the shallows to see what we could find. Oh my! Our discoveries were far more wonderful than we expected! Little communities of corals and anemones were dispersed through the shallow pools and there were all kinds of bright and colourful reef fish swimming around, many of which I'd never seen before. We saw a giant conch snail which must have been about 40 cm in length. I'd only seen these in books before so it was really cool to squish my face right up next to the world's largest snail! There were also little clown fish living in a garden of anemones and it was the sweetest thing to see them in this pool of wonders. The water was only about as deep as my knees or mid thigh and the tide was still receding so we had to leave this saltwater wonderland far sooner than we would have liked. If you're ever up there be sure to go looking for the pool between the rocks - apparently you can see turtles there quite often too!
On our second day in Cape Leveque we decided to drive to Ardyaloon, or One Arm Point, and watch the tidal waters which are some of the biggest in the world. Little did we know that we'd easily spend a whole day here! One Arm Point is also Bardi Jawi land and they've opened up their community to tourists, providing curious visitors with tours through their trochus shell hatchery and inviting them to swim in the beautiful waters of their coastline. We enjoyed the tour through the hatchery greatly, especially as they had sea creatures that were being cared for on show, and we learnt so much about the coastal culture of the local people. The hatcheries primary purpose was to farm trochus shells which are also sustainably collected from the reef surrounding One Arm Point. The locals eat the snails and also carve the shells to make jewellery and small sculptures. At one time they made buttons from the shells and sold them to a European market, but in recent years there has been less of a demand for the shell buttons. They had some of the carved trochus shells for sale and I bought a beautifully polished shell as a souvenir of our time up here - a real treasure! We spent the rest of the day swimming in the sea and enjoying the quiet beach.
After our time in the Dampier Peninsular we headed to Derby where we had a tour booked to see the Horizontal Falls. I was so looking forward to this tour as it was a 40th birthday gift to ourselves and I'd heard it was a really awesome experience. I'm happy to say that it did not disappoint! The Horizontal Falls are in a truly remote part of the Kimberley, in an area called the Buccaneer Archipelago, and the only way to get there is by boat or aircraft. We went on a day trip with Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures and had such a great time. They fly you out to the falls by sea plane and you land next to an impressive house boat where you're whisked by speed boat to the falls (and through the falls!). Seeing the falls up close, and speeding through them on a boat really gives you a sense of the power of the tides and waters - it's exhilarating and a little bit anxiety inducing for a non extreme sport loving type like myself! The oldies seemed far more chilled about it than I was, haha! This was one of those things that I felt truly privileged to experience and it was a great way to finish our first week in the Kimberley and our little tour of the western coastal region. Next up we tackled the Gibb River Road, and WOAH Mumma, what an adventure that was!
To be continued...