From the saltwater Bardi culture, pristine beaches, rugged red cliffs of Cape Leveque and the multicultural city of Broome to the surreal rock scape of the Bungle Bungle beehives and the hidden waterfalls and palm oases of Echidna Chasm and Cathedral Gorge, the Kimberley is like no other place on earth. Located in the northern part of Western Australia, the Kimberley region is an extraordinary and remote part of Australia with some well known sights and many hidden treasures.
Broome is often referred to as “the gateway to the Kimberley.” If you fly into Broome, you can see the amazing color contrasts where the beautiful blue waters of the Indian Ocean meet the bright white sands of Cable Beach which meet the vibrant red dirt of the land. Broome’s history is as colorful as its landscape. It was established as a pearling port in the late 1800s and quickly became the world’s largest supplier of mother of pearl. By the early 1900s, there were Australian, Aboriginal, Japanese, Chinese and Malay divers as well as divers from other parts of southeast Asia making Broome the multicultural city it is today. WWII greatly affected Broome’s population as people left in pearl boats bound for Perth and Japanese pearl divers, some of the best divers, were interned. Chinatown is definitely worth a visit as is the Japanese cemetery which is a reminder of just how dangerous pearl diving was. Something else worth checking out in Broome are the 130 million year old dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point which are only visible at low tide.
Travel north from Broome and you’ll find the Beagle Bay Aboriginal Community, home to the Beagle Bay Church and its glimmering pearl shell altar. Further north is the Kelk Creek Bush Retreat, where Aboriginal guides are available to show you their traditional Bardi saltwater country. A fascinating leisurely guided bush walk offers an in-depth insight into their indigenous lifestyle and culture.
Beautiful Cape Leveque is a great place to camp as it is right on the edge of the Indian Ocean. It’s also an amazing spot to end the day by enjoying a spectacular sunset. Cape Leveque is a great place to snorkel, fish, or embark on an indigenous sea kayaking adventure. It’s also possible to hire a dinghy or splurge on a scenic flight across the archipelago and horizontal falls. However, don’t forget to leave some time to sit back and enjoy the pristine beaches and rugged red coastline which Cape Leveque is famous for.
One of the most unusual sights in the Kimberley is the horizontal, “two-way” waterfall of Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. The One Arm Point Community, perched on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, is the perfect place to view the spectacular Buccaneer Archipelago and witness the huge tidal flows of the Kimberley. The community’s aquaculture hatchery, complete with barramundi, pearl and trochus shell are also worth a visit here.
Once a Devonian reef, the picturesque Napier Ranges are over 350 million years old and home to a diverse array of animals and plants. The geological wonder of Windjana Gorge is the perfect place to experience the stunning natural beauty of an outback oasis. Beneath gorge walls, which rise 90 meters, freshwater crocodiles, local birds and indigenous bush tucker can be found. Tunnel Creek, a 750 meter cave system, is a great place to see a large variety of wildlife, stumble upon a secret cave or enjoy a swim in the idyllic waterhole at the end of the tunnel. Legend has it that Jandamarra, an Aboriginal freedom fighter, used the tunnel as a hideout in the late 1800s.
Purnululu is an extraordinary national park and is home to the magnificent Bungle Bungle domes. Over a period of 20 million years, rivers and weather conditions created a landscape of unique orange and black striped, beehive-like geological formations. The Bungle Bungle domes were only known by locals until the early 1980s. Once discovered by others, the area was soon made a national park (1987). From the Echidna Chasm, known for its towering Livistonia Palm trees, visitors can take a short walk into stunning Cathedral Gorge where towering rocks create a natural amphitheater. While fairly expensive, a scenic flight is the best way to view the beehive domes and put it all into perspective.
IMAGES VIA: Gary Hayes and yaruman5 on Flickr and Reinhart on Picasa