I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the Fishing Monthly Group and Australian Fishing Network.
I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published July 3rd 2015
This is a lovely, lovely & wonderful part of Australia
My dad's side of the family all came from various parts of WA. All the way from Esperance in the south to Marble Bar in the north-east, and when my wife Leanne surprised me for my 60th birthday with a two week trip to the Kimberley - I couldn't wait for May 2015 to come around.
Even though I had gone over and over the booklet and map we were supplied by Outback Spirit Tours, I still had no idea of what beauty there was to be found travelling in this remote part of Western Australia. I just imagined that it was red dirt and rocks, driving on corrugations for hours on end, more red dirt and dust, very hot during the day and very cold at night with a few green areas thrown in.
Really, I didn't know what to expect!
This special part of Australia is not for everyone, but anyone who has a bit of an adventurous side to them and doesn't mind travelling - this would be the place you should put on your bucket list.
Over the two weeks that we were in the Kimberley, we travelled just over 4,200 kilometres and went through approximately 25 different towns or stations, crossed approximately 41 creeks, rivers or water crossings (some had no water in them) and I took over 3000 digital photos and 20 videos.
So rather than give you a boring blow by blow, picture by picture account of our magnificent time touring the Kimberley in our 5-star All Terrain Mercedes Benz tour vehicle.
I am going to break the trip down 15 areas and over two articles and mainly let the photos do the talking with a bit of text to help along the way.
Now this bag feels heavier than 20 kilos. Must be those extra couple of bottles of wine?
After being picked up in Broome by Ian (our tour director and bus driver extraordinaire) we headed off to Derby passing by the Myalls Bore and Cattle Trough, the Boab Prison Tree and the Old Derby Jail to be greeted by one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen. And this was only on the first day!
In the early days they used to use this Boab tree as a prison.
Even though our stay at Derby was a very short one (overnight), there would be so much to see and do here and it is not that far from Broome (220km). I believe the fishing here is very good.
For more information about what there is to do at Derby you should visit the Derby Tourism website.
We began our journey along the Gibb River Road through the King Leopold Ranges, dropping into Bell Gorge for a much needed swim. The walk here can be a little taxing, as you have to negotiate a few rock and creek crossings, but if you watch your step and take your time, you should be okay. We had only one person in the group slip on the way down.
The walk into Bell Gorge started off easy, but got harder the further you got in. We all made it back out ok.
The Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary was once a dominant cattle Station of the Kimberley, but is now owned and operated by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. The sanctuary covers over 800,000 acres and is now cattle free. The two nights we spent there were in semi-permanent safari tents, which overlooked Annie Creek and our evenings were spent in the bush bar and licensed restaurant.
Our accomodation at the Mornington Wildlife Sanstuary for two nights.
During the day almost everyone had a swim in the Cadjeput waterhole on the upper Fitzroy River, while I wandered up stream to cast a few lures about. I had a couple of strikes at the surface lures, but no hook-ups.
The next morning went on a short walk along Annie Creek to learn about the conservation programs that have been implemented to save species like the Gouldian Finch and the Northern Quoll.
While in the Kimberley, one thing that I found that you can't get enough off is a swim to cool off. The walk into Galvans Gorge was not that hard. There were a few rock ledges and boulders that you had to climb over. The twenty minute trek in was well worth it, as you came to a waterfall that fell into a tranquil waterlily covered pool, inviting all of us to jump in and have a swim.
Galvans Gorge. What a great place for a swim and lunch.
Even though the water was a little bit chilly at first it was so refreshing to jump in. Some of the crew even had their salad lunch while sitting under the waterfall were the water was much warmer. I guess this was because it was flowing over the rocks above that were exposed to the heat of the day.
Even though there was nowhere to get changed here after the swim, we all had to improvise in various different ways to get our swimmers off and our clothes back on for the walk out.
What Leanne and I didn't realise while I was strategically holding the towel for her to get changed that there was a python in the palm just above our heads. Shame I didn't get a picture.
THE DRYSDALE CATTLE STATION
Even though I read the Outback Spirits brochure on the trip, I didn't realise that we would not get a chance to see any mustering of cattle and a chance to talk to some of the jackaroos and jillaroos while there. I know that a number of us would have like for this to happen.
Great place to stay as the accomodation, food and cold drinks.
This particular cattle station is not a farm stay, a motel, a caravan park, a bed and breakfast or a flash roadhouse. Rather it's simply an Australian outback mixture of all these things.
But, don't get me wrong this, was a great place to stay as the accommodation, food and cold drinks were great. I believe that during the school holidays you can't move here as it is a stopover for many travellers who use it as a gateway to the rest of the northern Kimberley. So if you are in the neighbourhood you should look up Drysdale River Station.
222km of corrugations in and 222km of corrugations back out.
During my earlier years I travelled from Ceduna in SA to Northsman in WA over 1000 miles of corrugations and thought that it was pretty bone jarring. When we travelled from the turn-off from the Gibb River Road and onto the Kalumburu Road (222 km) on the way to the exclusive Outback Spirit Ngauwudu Safari Camp - did anyone realise how bad the corrugations would be?
Along the way we did manage to stop off at a couple of aboriginal art sites, where Ian explained to us in great depth the difference between each type of art and approximately how old it was.
Even though Ian had a laid back style about him, he had a wealth of knowledge.
I was lucky enough to be sitting up the front with Ian for this part of the trip. This meant that I could see the bad corrugations before we hit them.
What I will say was that the bus handled the corrugations extremely well and having Ian at the helm of the bus was a god send. He sure knew how to negotiate the worse of it. I was so glad that I wasn't driving along it in a 4 wheel drive vehicle!
On the way back I wasn't so lucky to be up the front, but I did manage to sleep for an hour or so.
THE MITCHELL PLATEAU
The Mitchell Plateau covers a huge amount of area and there is so much to do that it would take a number of days to see only part of it. We were advised that it would be only a four kilometre walk into the Mitchell Falls and it would take us around four hours to get in.
For kilometre walk – four hours to do? It didn't compute with a number of us.
Yes, it took us around three and a half to four hours to walk in to the Mitchell Falls and about seven minutes to fly out by helicopter. The reason why it took so long was that along the way we learnt about Gwion and Wandjina Rock art; more about bush tucker; how to pace ourselves while walking over the sometimes rugged landscape; had a stop for morning tea in a tree lines creek bed; and how to have a nanna nap while waiting for the helicopter to take us back to the bus.
Chris Brown guided the group across the Mitchell Plateau while looking at aboriginal art along the way.
While on the Mitchell Plateau we stayed at the unique Outback Spirit Ngauwudu Safari Camp. Now this camp is something else1 Not only do you get to stay in five star Glamping accommodation with white sheets, you have your own swimming hole, a stunning dining and bar area to relax in, plus entertainment in the way of a guy by the name of Mel. Mel was our bus driver for the morning and our entertainment at night. He kept us in fits with his stories.
Glamping in the middle of nowhere. Check out those white sheets!
El Questro has always been on my to do list for years after seeing a fishing show staring an English aristocrat by the name of Will Burrell catching barramundi right at his door step. But due to time restraints and everything else that we were to visit and do while on tour I was not able to go heli fishing for Barra. Maybe next time …
Over the two days we were staying at the Emma Gorge Resort (part of the El Questro Wilderness Park) we soaked in the magical Zebedee Thermal Springs, had lunch at the El Questro township, walked, climbed, scrambled our way up to Emma Gorge, dodged the hundreds of cane toads and a couple of snakes, took the time to do a bit of washing in between swimming in the pool and making a couple of phone calls to the family.
I am sure that I could find a spot for me at the Zebedee Thermal Springs.
In part two I let you into a few more of the great wonders of the Kimberley and the places that our Outback Spirits tour took us to. Places like Kununurra, The Bungle Bungles, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Windjana Gorge, Broome and The Horizontal Falls.
Another pit stop for morning tea. Or was if afternoon tea. Who cares, just bring on the biscuits.