7 Random Kimberley Adventures
By Northern Hemisphere standards, winter in many areas of Australia isn’t particularly cold. But that doesn’t stop a mass exodus from the ‘cold’ south during the Aussie winter (officially June/July/August), to the north where it’s actually hot!
But it’s not just the average daily maximum of around 30 °C that makes the Kimberley region stretching across the north of Western Australia attractive in winter.
There’s also the spectacular scenery. Unique land formations and oddities. An intriguing indigenous and colonial history. And a chance to experience the remote outback. It’s crocodile country – and wild Australia at its best!
But there’s a LOT of it. So where do you start?
With this sampler of 7 Random Kimberley Adventures, right here on RedzAustralia, of course!
1 Lake Argyle Morning Cruise
“Freakin’ HUGE” is the best technical term for Australia’s largest artificial lake formed when the Ord River was dammed. At nearly 11 million megalitres (18 times bigger than Sydney Harbour) of water spread over 1000 km², Lake Argyle is recognised as one of the world’s great engineering feats.
But the staggering Kimberley scenery was too distracting for statistics on our early morning cruise as we sped over the tranquil surface of this inland sea, for kilometre after punishing kilometre until the horizon was a world of water interrupted only by the islands we passed. Actually, they’re mountain tops from the ranges submerged by the waters of the lake.
But the lake’s 35,000 crocodiles are by far the most impressive mega-statistics in this larger-than-life landscape. And although they’re reportedly the less dangerous freshwater crocs, they breed unabated as natural predators are no longer a part of this artificial environment. BUT! Over the years, a few small saltwater crocodiles have been found. I guess 1.5 metres is small when you’re a saltie …
Given the relatively small sector of the lake we travelled, it’s hardly surprising that of the lake’s estimated 35,000 crocodiles – ie one to every 314 megalitres – we only saw two.
And while I could find no reports of whether or not their presence distracts swimmers in Lake Argyle’s annual 10 and 20 km swimming races, I KNOW they’ll never get the chance to distract me! Not when there’s a knockout infinity pool to swim in way above the crocs’ stamping ground!
2 Willie Creek Helicopter Flight
In retrospect, taking a helicopter flight above a crocodile infested creek probably wasn’t the best choice of tour for an Aviophobic. But as the chopper swung out above Willie Creek Pearl Farm and over the work of art along the coastline created as the almost-highest tides in the Southern Hemisphere shifted sandbanks against the greens and blues of the water, I forgot my fears. Maybe snapping about 300 photos was a successful distraction as well.
As was the thought of buying a souvenir from the pearl farm shop on our return. If we made it.
I didn’t want to be rude to the enthusiastic young pilot, but I didn’t care that we were flying over the exact spot where Miranda Kerr once modelled something or other. Couldn’t he see I wasn’t a Miranda-wannabee, even if her ex and I shared a star sign? Besides, the chances of the sandbanks being exactly as they were when Miranda languished upon them were fairly remote – with tonnes of sand and metres of water swirling about twice a day, finding the ‘same’ sandbank two days in a row had about the same probability as Miranda and I being mistaken for twins.
‘Is that big crocodile still down there on the sandbank?’ he asked as we circled back across the creek towards the Pearl Farm, as my white knuckles turned numb with the strain of keeping the helicopter in the air*.
It wasn’t. Sadly. Because that meant when the helicopter plunged into the creek, the croc was already there waiting for us. But I knew that at least in one thing I was WAAAAAY ahead of Miranda. And as I’d provide him with several more meals than Miranda would, I knew who he’d choose first. Who says supermodels have all the fun?
Strangely enough, despite my death wish, we landed without misadventure. And the $9 black seed pearl ring I selected from the childrens gift section suited me just fine.
What a shame it didn’t come in RED!
3 Marlgu Billabong Croc-Spotting
The 15 km trek south from Wyndham to Marlgu Billabong passes through a dry-season Kimberley landscape with boab tree silhouettes against a low-lying mountain range against a bright blue sky – clear but for the dust haze – and a red, red road winding through grassy plains.
Yes, this classic Kimberley scenery is dry. VERY dry.
So you really can’t miss the unexpectedly long green and blue scar of Marlgu Billabong that slashes through the golden grass and dusty rocks of this arid landscape, sucking all the bird and animal life into its vortex!. It’s the go-to place for all sorts of wildlife viewing. Think bird watching. Crocodile hunting. And the most exciting activity of them all – people observation!
Although that tends to take a back seat when the crocodiles are smiling!
4 Gibb River Road Dynamic Duo
If your constitution, holiday time-frame or rig isn’t up for several days of the 600+ km of rough, rugged, rocky tyre-shredding ‘road’ that is Australia’s most iconic road trip, don’t panic. There’s still an opportunity to see more corrugations, bull dust and 4WD fanatics than you ever dreamed of on a one-day ~360 km round trip tour along the notorious road to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek with a random selection of other passengers driven by a fearless Israeli on a RED 4WD bus.
It even doubles as a school bus in its spare time!
Before the Gibb River Road became a Boys Own Adventureland, Indigenous warrior and activist Tjandamarra conducted a campaign for the rights of his people against colonial settlers. With staggering scenery, crocodiles and other wildlife, and a strong cultural history, this tour from Derby guarantees the thrills of the Gibb River Road without damaging your own rig. Win-win, right?
But make no mistake. The road’s so rough I should’ve invested in a sports bra!
5 Australia’s Highest Tides
I’m a sucker for a World exclusive! But an Aussie one will do the trick – especially when it’s served up with a killer sunset so magnificent you forget that Australia’s highest tidal range is also served up with some killer hazards!
At low tide, signs on the Derby jetty warn of the 12 metre drop to the oozing mud below. And at high tide, it’s only a short drop into what have magically become crocodile infested waters. In between, the treacherous racing currents formed by the monster tides racing up and down King Sound form their own hazards.
But as the sun sinks into oblivion over the Sound, and the council worker with the unenviable task of clearing the fisherfolk, tourists and photographers from the jetty before dark starts his rounds, the hazards seem a long, long way away!
6 Geikie Gorge
I’ve never seen a real, live iceberg anywhere ever, but I certainly didn’t expect to see them in the middle of the Aussie Outback!
Just as well, because I didn’t!!
But the fantastically water-worn white surfaces of the ancient limestone reef as our boat drifted down Geikie Gorge are as close as I’ve ever been – so far! It’s also one of Australia’s largest rivers with a catchment area of 90,000 km² – and a flow rate of 30,000 m³ per second when it’s in flood, up to 26 metres above the old crossing. (Note to self: stay away during the wet season)
That’s WAY more than enough water to carve the limestone into the bizarre shapes and patterns towering high above us as the boat chugged its way up the gorge, although it’s hard to imagine the impact of 26 metres of water flowing above us.
I don’t know where the freshwater crocodiles go when the river’s in full flood, but they don’t go anywhere when it’s not. Seeing a crocodile – or several – is almost a sure thing on both the cruise AND the gorge walks that follow the river.
So I’m betting it’s the only place in the world that serves up crocodiles with its ‘icebergs’!
7 Kununurra Campsite
There ARE some advantages to having a low-tech rig. Despite the crowds of grey nomads seeking caravan park sites, we scored a spacious, shaded campsite in a prime lakefront position at the Kununurra Lakeside Resort because, unlike many of the bigger rigs, we could live without power and mains pressure water.
It was worth it.
During the heat of the day we rested in the shade and watched the bird life on Lily Creek Lagoon, a few metres from our camper trailer. In the evening, we watched the killer Kimberley sunsets sinking behind the lake. And at night, the red glow from the eyes of the crocodiles in the lagoon reflected from the beams of our torch.
What’s NOT to love?
A few days into our stay, we noticed a commotion a few metres out from shore. A bird had mistaken the lily pads for firm ground while taking a bath and had fallen in. Now its feathers were soaking wet and it was unable to haul itself onto the relative safety of the lily pad.
Would YOU enter a croc-infested lagoon to save a bird from almost certain death by drowning? If you’re thinking ‘NO WAY’, then I’m with you. But luckily the freshies weren’t hungry that day because Pilchard and two nearby campers waded in to the shallows with a fishing rod and rescued the bird – and all survived unscathed without losing any limbs!
Perhaps they were just unappetising??
- These random adventures (mostly) have crocodiles! For some of my (mostly) croc-free Kimberley adventures, try (in no particular order) these:
- Visit the official Kimberley website HERE for help planning YOUR Kimberley adventure
- Check out more of my Kimberley photos on Flickr
* It’s a little known fact that those afflicted with fear of flying can keep a flying object (like a plane or helicopter) airborne through a combination of sheer willpower AND gripping the armrests tightly enough to stop them vibrating. Try it sometime!