Lighting up the Kimberley in Western Australia

I have amazing memories of my first trip through the Kimberley and a highlight is most definitely sleeping in a swag under the stars.  It seems so simple yet, as I read our passenger reviews, many of them talk about how special it is to sleep under the Kimberley sky, and the Milky Way.

“It was magical to sleep under the stars every night.” – Maddie

“Just you, your swag and the most spectacular night sky you will ever see.” – Holly

“Sleeping in swags under the stars was a great experience.” - Terry & Diane

 Our Kimberley truck under the Milky Way  Photo credit: Lara Endlich

Our Kimberley truck under the Milky Way

Photo credit: Lara Endlich

What makes the Kimberley sky so magical and memorable?

For so many of us we live in cities where artificial light pollutes the sky and affects our visibility of the stars.  In these urban environments we’ve become accustomed to the fact that we miss out on a spectacular natural light show every night.  In the Kimberley when you throw your swag out for the first time, you gaze up at nature’s magical light show and it takes your breath way.  The clarity of the Milky Way is beyond impressive and there is good reason for this. 

Due to the fact that the Kimberley in Western Australia is so remote, there is no light pollution and therefore it offers some of the darkest night skies on earth.  The Bungle Bungles in the Kimberley’s Purnululu National Park draws astronomers from all over the world, who want to see the Milky Way from one of the best locations on the planet.

“ …sleeping in a swag under the stars and the Milky Way is one of the highlights.” – EuniceTen

“Best part is cooking our own meals and having an open fire every night and to top it all sleeping out under the stars.” – Michael

“Sleeping under the stars in swags is an experience not to be missed.” – Pat

The Milky Way is the name of our galaxy and it is filled with 100 – 400 billion stars.  The galaxy got its name because of its milky appearance and during the Roman times it was called Via Lactea meaning “The Road of Milk”. 

Just like the ground beneath it, the Kimberley night sky offers breathtaking beauty that remains in the minds of all those that visit.  The Milky Way is part of the Kimberley’s magic and for those that have seen it, its unforgettable.

By Lucy Periton, Kimberley Off-road Adventure Tours

Australia’s fattest tree in the Kimberley

The Kimberley and Victoria River Region Boab tree is unmistakable. Its sheer size and boldness catches everyone’s attention. How much do you know about these truly amazing trees?

The Australian Boab’s botanical name is Adansonia gregorii.  It’s one of nine species, two of which are found in Africa and Arabia, and six of the species are found in Madagascar.  Strangely enough the Australian Boab tree has always been in Australia, it arrived many thousands of years ago, however no one knows how it arrived.  Some theories say it drifted in with the ocean currents and others wonder whether people brought it in.  Some believe it may have arrived with Australia’s ancestors who are responsible for the ancient aboriginal rock art found in the Kimberley, the Bradshaw or Gwion Gwion paintings that are dated to around 17000 years. How the Australian Boab arrived is a mystery that may never be solved. 

 A Boab prison tree

A Boab prison tree

The tree grows to around 15 metres tall and its trunk has been known to reach 16 metres in diameter.  The tree looses its leaves in the dry season to conserve water, and it produces flowers and fruit in the wet season between November and March. The white flowers are fragrant and reach 10cm in width.  The fruit of the tree can grow to the size of a small football but typically grows no larger than a tennis ball.  It has a hard woody outer later and a white powdery pulp that protects the small bean-shaped seeds inside.  The powder inside is very heathy for you, it contains high levels of vitamin C and about 50% of the powder is made up of soluble and insoluble fibre.  Some health food companies sell boab power as a superfood.

The timber of the tree is very fibrous and when dried out it’s very light. It is not used as a building material because it’s not very strong and is susceptible to dry rot and termites.  It also doesn’t make very good firewood.  I was once told that in Madagascar you could see Boab trees disserted in open paddocks because the wood is useless for building and for firewood so the Boab is the only tree still standing.  

Early explorers who arrived in the northwest of Australia used to carve into the tree trunks as a way of recording their presence at a place.  The well-known Boab tree known as the Mermaid tree is where one of Phillip Parker Kings’ crew carved ‘HMS Mermaid 1820’ onto the Boab’s trunk.  The Gregory tree is another Boab tree with a carving and it says ‘2nd July 1855’.

The trees hold special significance to the aboriginal people, as they’re an important food source and some of the larger trees are used for ceremonies, however many decades ago the large boab trees were also used as prison trees for the aboriginals who were being transported.  Examples of prison boab trees are the Derby prison tree (you will visit this on our Kimberley tour) and the Wyndham prison tree.  Sadly, Kimberley aboriginals were chained to these trees when they were being transported to the prisons in Derby or Wyndham.  Some aboriginals were taken to Rottnest Island and never returned to the Kimberley again.

These days the boab nuts are sold as souvenirs.  Aboriginals decorate the boab nuts by carving images of animals or their creation spirits, such as the Wandjana, on to them and then sell them on to tourists. 

If you’d like a boab nut as souvenir or you’d like to see the boab trees in the Kimberley, book on to one of our Kimberley tours for an experience of a lifetime. 

When should I travel the Gibb River Road?

If you’ve never heard off the Gibb River Road, it’s a road that allows access to parts of Australia’s remote Kimberley region.  It is a former cattle route between Wyndham and Derby but today its most common traveller is the tourist rather than cattle.  The road itself is around 660km in length and is almost entirely gravel with the exception of asphalt at either end.  At times the road gets very corrugated, and at the beginning and end of the dry season the road can have big washouts and many water crossings.  It's a road which is on many people's bucket lists as it gives any traveller a great sense of achievement to say "I completed the Gibb River Road"!

The road gets its name from a government geologist Andrew Gibb Maitland, known to his friends as Gibb Maitland.  He explored the area in 1901 as part of the Brockman Expedition.  A river that follows nearby the Gibb River Road’s Kalumburu turn-off was named after him as well as the Gibb River Station.

 Our Kimberley truck crossing the Pentecost River on the Gibb River Road

Our Kimberley truck crossing the Pentecost River on the Gibb River Road

Typically, the best time to travel the Gibb River Road is early in the dry season, between April and September when the waterfalls are still flowing after the wet season.  From December to March the Gibb River Road is cut-off due to the heavy wet season rains causing the rivers to rise and flood the roads. 

The Gibb River Road allows access to some of the Kimberley’s most amazing gorges, rock formations, caves, aboriginal rock paintings, waterfalls and spectacular scenery.  Today some of the Gibb River Road’s most popular gorges and attraction’s include Bell Gorge, Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek, Adcock Gorge, Galvan’s Gorge, Manning Gorge, Barnett River Gorge, Home Valley Station and El Questro Station to name a few.

 Bell Gorge, King Leopold Conservation Park in the Kimberley

Bell Gorge, King Leopold Conservation Park in the Kimberley

One of the best ways to see the Gibb River Road and the Kimberley region is to join one of our all-inclusive camping tours. We camp out in swags under the stars, cook great meals over the fire and hike into loads of gorges and other sights with like-minded travellers. To learn more about our tours and where we go check out our website or give me a call 0447 740 880.  Thanks, Adam 

The magic of the Kimberley wet season

It’s 2017 and already this year I’ve been able to do something I’ve always wanted to do, which is see the Kimberley in the wet season.  Over the years I’ve lived in the Top End I’ve been lucky enough to go on several Kimberley tours in the dry season and see waterfalls such as Manning Gorge and El Questro Gorge flowing ferociously.  I really thought I’d seen all the Kimberley had to offer, but I was wrong. 

I’m now learning that no Kimberley tour is ever the same; every time we’ve travelled through, we’ve managed to discover another amazing waterfall or swimming hole, or have a new encounter with the native wildlife, or nature has thrown us a new challenge.  It’s what makes the Kimberley such a unique adventure and it’s why I keep going back.     

For the 2017 New Year Adam & I wanted another Kimberley adventure so we decided to go in the wet season.  We left Darwin and travelled along the highway to Broome before continuing down the west coast to Perth.  The Kimberley is a place we both love, so it was an easy holiday choice and even though Adam had visited in the wet season before, it was new for me and it was something I’d always wanted to do.  

We couldn’t travel the Gibb River Road, which cuts through the heart of the Kimberley because the rain during the wet season makes it impossible to cross; however it didn’t mean the Kimberley was off limits.  There is a highway still connecting Darwin to Broome and it allows you access to some parts of the Kimberley. 

It was the waterfalls on the outskirts of Kununurra that gave us the best day of our entire trip.  Adam knew there was a good chance they would be pumping but you can never predict exactly how much, so it’s always a surprise, which is part of the fun.  During the dry season from May - November these falls aren’t usually flowing, so by seeing them now we could view them at their full potential. 

The first waterfall we went to visit was Black Rock Falls.  I remember taking the short walk up the path and hearing water crashing down from a reasonable height.  When I peered around the rocky wall I got my first glimpse, water was pouring over the cliff and thumping into the pool below, it took my breath away.  No-one else was around, we had the place all to ourselves, and the water looked clear, refreshing and inviting.  Naturally we jumped in and swam to the falls to cool off from the morning sun.  I was beyond impressed and didn’t want to leave. 

 Adam checking out a Kimberley waterfall in the wet season

Adam checking out a Kimberley waterfall in the wet season

Our next stop was Molly Springs and the Grotto.  They were both filled with water too and looked spectacular.  We knew we had to start making our way towards Broome as we had a deadline to get to Perth for my flight, but we couldn’t stop ourselves from exploring.  We continued searching for waterfalls and found some hidden gems, which would normally go unnoticed, however the large flow of water meant they grabbed our attention from afar.

We didn’t see many people on our travels and those we did bump into were from the Top End, making the most of the off-season and seeing what was on offer.  They agreed that having this amazing landscape all to ourselves in the wet season was certainly a great reason to live in northern Australia! 

Without a doubt this was the most memorable day of the whole trip and we ended up driving into the night to get to Broome because we were having such a great time.  The great thing about this trip is that it showed there has been plenty of rain so far this 2016/2017 wet season and there is a good chance these falls could still be flowing in May and June. 

It was hard not to be impressed by the show the Kimberley was putting and although the west coast of Australia was beautiful nothing could quite beat our Kimberley adventure. 

How I came to love the Kimberley… by Lucy Periton

 My Kimberley adventure tour in western Australia

My Kimberley adventure tour in western Australia

I landed my first footsteps on Australian soil almost 6 years ago and at the time, I had no idea that my life was about to change in a big way.  I’d chosen Australia as the destination for my first trip travelling solo, and after working hard in the UK for many years I was ready for an adventure. 

It began in 2011 in Darwin when I joined a group of fellow travellers on a tour bus and we made our way from Darwin to Alice Springs.  Back then, when I arrived in Darwin, I never imagined living there, not because I didn’t like it but I simply couldn’t fathom how my life would lead me to live in an outback town in tropical northern Australia.

I had a wild time on the journey from Darwin to Alice Springs, and when it was over a group of us jumped on a plane to Cairns to begin the tour from Cairns to Sydney.  It was whilst on this tour that I learnt about the Kimberley, we were shown a promotional video of the region and from that moment on I was hooked. 

When I arrived in Sydney at the end of the tour I knew Australia wasn’t going to let me go; I loved the people, the lifestyle and the weather.  After having such an amazing time I promised myself I’d be back, and 7 months later I was.  I had a job in Sydney and I had my heart set on a Kimberley adventure tour.  In April 2012 I booked the trip and I left Broome on a 9-day Kimberley tour up to Darwin. 

I discovered the Kimberley has an innate ability to make you forget about the hustle and bustle of the major cities and is able to transport you to a simpler life.  It was heaven.  I truly loved it all; from the Bungle Bungles to Tunnel Creek and everything in between.  For me I loved the style of travel, it was basic but you had everything you needed.  The Kimberley allowed me to completely escape my life and believe that all I knew was my existence in the Kimberley, for 9 days anyway. 

The Kimberley adventure tour was a constant whirlwind of activity; we spotted native wildlife and I saw so many creatures I’d never seen in the wild before, including blue-tongued lizards, short-haired rock wallabies and an olive python.  I was able to enjoy endless sunrises and sunsets, laugh around the campfire and my biggest treat of all was sleeping in a swag under the stars.  The Kimberley has an amazing starry ceiling, it’s unpolluted and allows you to lie down at night and have a clear view of all the constellations in the sky.  The entire Kimberley is so magnificent you simply have to see it to believe it.  I was blown away by the whole experience; it was nature like I’d never seen it before, completely untouched wilderness and breathtaking views all around.   

Since this Kimberley tour I have been back several times and I’m currently planning my fourth trip!  The Kimberley changed my life in so many ways and not least of all because I was fortunate enough to meet Adam; he made me want to take my life in a new direction and he is the reason I now call an outback town in tropical northern Australia my home. 

 Adam & I on one of our many adventures... this time in Vietnam.

Adam & I on one of our many adventures... this time in Vietnam.

International experts go on a 5-year Kimberley adventure to map ancient rock art

The Kimberley is a land of beauty.  It’s home to stunning waterfalls, endless adventure and amazing wildlife, but it also has a deep history connected to our aboriginal ancestors.  For thousands and thousands of years the Kimberley has been home to aboriginal clans, and many still call it home today.  These ancient clans have left their mark on the land through their use of rock art.

Aboriginal rock art is a term used to describe images carved, drawn or painted onto rocks by aboriginal groups many, many years ago using materials such as ochre and clay.  It can be found all over Australia but some of the oldest rock art is believed to exist in the Kimberley.  It dates back to 20, 000 years ago when the first Australians occupied the land and used the method of rock art to leave messages for one another and to tell traditional dreaming stories. 

Wandjina rock art. pic.jpg

Wandjina rock art in the Kimberley

It’s thought that as little as 1-2% of Kimberley rock art has been recorded which means there is much more to be discovered.  A group of international experts have teamed up in western Australia to embark on a 5-year project to uncover more of the Kimberley’s lost art.  They are trekking long distances and using boats as well as helicopters to locate some of the most remotely positioned work.  They are also working with local rangers who are keen to record their ancestor’s history.  The team works together to find areas where Aboriginal families may have spent time gathering for ceremonies, cooking and storytelling.

It’s hoped that the work they carry out over the next few years as part of the Kimberley Visions project will shed light on the region’s distinctive art styles, including the Gwion figures and Wandjina spirit figures.  The first findings from this initial work is due to be published in 2017.   

If you travel through the Kimberley today both Gwion and Wandjina rock art can be found.  Manning Gorge and Galvans Gorge offer plenty of adventure as well as the opportunity to observe the ancient works of Australia’s first inhabitants. 

Early wet season rainfall means great things for the 2017 Kimberley season!

 Manning Gorge in the Kimberley 

Manning Gorge in the Kimberley 

The Kimberley in western Australia is home to an array of stunning waterfalls, which have formed due to many centuries of heavy rainfall descending on the land.  The dramatic falls such as Emma Gorge in El Questro, Manning Gorge and Bell Gorge in King Leopold Conservation Park, are brought to life during the wet season when the monsoonal rains arrive, and water gushes over the escarpment creating nature’s very own swimming pool below.  In April, the dry season rears it’s head and tourists begin to venture into the Kimberley, where they are greeted by these amazing waterfalls performing at their very best.

The Kimberley is classified as having a tropical climate because it has two seasons - the wet and the dry.  The wet season or monsoon season runs from November until April, and is when the area expects to receive the majority of it's annual rainfall; the dry season runs from May to October and, as the name suggests, no rainfall is expected during this period.   

The past couple of wet seasons in the tropical north have delivered a disappointing amount of rainfall and the Kimberley has dried up much sooner than anyone would like.  The 2014-2015 season saw the East Kimberley region receive 300 millimetres less than their average, and the 2015-2016 wet season was mostly dry apart from the month of December.  This ultimately resulted in significantly less than average rainfall totals and was in fact the hottest wet season on record for the Northern Territory. 

If we look at the predictions of the Bureau of Meteorology for this coming wet season, anyone planning to travel the Gibb River Road in 2017 can expect plenty of water to be flowing.  They are predicting an early wet season this year and September has already seen an unusual amount of rainfall for this time of year.  Areas around Katherine and Mataranka plus the Kimberley gained more then 100 millimetres of rainfall over just a few days.  There is also the potential for a La Niña weather event; this basically means increased wet weather due to extensive cooling of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.   

The prediction of a great wet season is not only good for farmers but tourists as well. It’s a fantastic opportunity to capture the Kimberley at it's best, by witnessing the dancing wildlife, lush scenery and over-flowing, glistening waterfalls.  The perfect chance to experience the natural magic of this vast, untouched land.  It could be THE year to visit. 

We are up and running!

Adam & I would like to welcome you to our website. 

We are a bundle of emotions as we officially launch our site and show you what we have been working on for most of 2016.  It’s very exciting to finally go live and to know that we are on track to take you on an unforgettable trip through the remote Kimberley wilderness in 2017!

It was a spark that ignited about 3 years ago in 2013, when Adam & I had a conversation about our dreams and aspirations and discovered we both had an ambition to run our own company.  It was a no-brainer that running Kimberley tours was our best chance at success!  The Kimberley was what brought us together; we are passionate about it, we have extensive knowledge of the area and Adam has 8 years experience guiding in the region. 

 

 Bell Gorge in the Kimberley

Bell Gorge in the Kimberley

Adam & I aren’t strangers to travelling.  We’ve spent time backpacking through Southeast Asia, South America, Africa, Europe & India.  In fact it was in Africa earlier this year, whilst exploring a volcano and the sulphur springs in Northeast Ethiopia, that we decided we were ready to take the leap and start up our own company.  On our adventures we keep our minds open, take in the local culture, embrace spontaneity and keep a look out for the next adventure.  Our approach to the Kimberley in western Australia is no different; we combine our experience of travelling around the world with our knowledge of the Kimberley in WA, and strive to create the best adventure possible! 

 

 Adam & Lucy at the Dallol Sulphur springs in Ethiopia 

Adam & Lucy at the Dallol Sulphur springs in Ethiopia 

“I’ve spent the last 8 years taking tours from Broome to Darwin and back, along the Gibb River Road.  Every tour is unique, and I never get bored.  There is always something new to be discovered and a different adventure to be had.  Nothing is ever the same, that’s why it’s so great.”

 – Adam Bowen, Guide 

Check out our website to see the types of adventures we can take you on and the amazing locations we have access to, including Manning Gorge, El Questro, Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungles.  You can also re-visit this blog anytime, as I will be bringing you highlights from our tours as well as Kimberley news. 

We are very excited to be up & running with our website!  We invite you to get on-board and come on the journey with us!

Happy adventures & we hope to see you very soon. 

Lucy