By Jill Lowe
The Bungle Bungles: striped orange and black domes, are about 350 million years old. Rising some 820 feet above the savannah grassland, these beehive-shaped sandstone cones are now a World Heritage Site.
What would attract visitors to The Kimberley in Australia?
Where is it? Why go?
Is the attraction:-
30,000-year-old rock art with Balanggarra & Nyaliga people, as custodians?
Phenomenal natural wonders such as Montgomery Reef?
The might of colossal tides resulting in the Horizontal Falls?
Exquisite fabric designs from Barbara Women’s Centre in Manigrida?
South Sea Island pearls?
The Colors?…azure waters, crystal blue skies, red & ochre earth.
The Bungle Bungles in the Purnululu National Park?
Flora & fauna -crocodiles, camels, turtles, manta ray, wading & flying birds, crabs, pink sea cucumbers, boab trees, kapok bushes, the Kimberley rose, coral tree, acacia?
“Staircase to the moon” phenomenon in Broome?
All of the above?
It is an absolute certainty that any notion involving swimming in the idyllic azure waters is to be ignorant of the volume of sharks and saltwater crocodiles in the Kimberley waters. By some reports, there are crocodiles every 30 feet. These saltwater crocodiles are highly aggressive and territorial, can grow to 18 feet, and can weigh up to a ton. With less sharp teeth than their freshwater counterparts, they have incredible jaw strength and pull prey underwater silently. So stealthy are they that victims are gone with not even a splash and with no time to scream. So I am afraid I must paraphrase the old adage and say “Water water everywhere and not any place to swim”
Where is THE KIMBERLEY?
Three times larger than England, with a population of less than 40,000, the Kimberley region – spread over Australia’s remote entire north-western corner, is bordered on the north by the Timor Sea, west the Indian Ocean, the Pilbara region to the south, and the Northern Territory to the East. It is known for remoteness, large swaths of wilderness, rugged ranges, dramatic gorges and a largely isolated coastline.
One can explore The Kimberley by many means: land, helicopter, glamping near swimmable rock pools, cruises with helicopters, and zodiacs. It won’t be long we are told, that international visitors will be permitted back to Australia. For the moment Covid has prevented this.
This sojourn to the Kimberley was on a cruise traveling west from Darwin to Broome.
Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory has strong Asian influences because of its proximity to Asia. Too, are strong Aboriginal cultures. With a tropical Savannah climate with distinct wet and dry seasons, the flowers and trees are vibrant: frangipanni, banksia and boab trees, eucalyptus, and many varieties of acacia.
Part of the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, based in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, representing some 4,000 aboriginal people, is the Bábbarra Women’s Centre, close to Darwin airport in Winnellie. Bábbarra Designs has operated since the 1990s and is the main enterprise with the textile workshop specializing in hand-printed fabric design by some 28 artists. The Centre is governed by women for women. The absolutely gorgeous, intricate designs are screen-printed or linocut printed on cotton, linen, or silk. Thousand-year-old imagery references the life of the land, the foods hunted and collected, as well as ancestral stories: ancient narratives using contemporary mediums.
Exhibitions have included “Jarracharra” (named after the cold wind which signals the beginning of the dry season) which opened at the Australian Embassy in Paris in late 2019. Five artists traveled 9,000 miles from remote Arnhem Land to Paris to showcase their vibrant designs, with Vogue Australia to capture the event. Women without passports, some without birth certificates, the artists tackled desert, rivers, and red tape to get to Paris for Paris Fashion week.
Some fabrics I have purchased from Bábbarra Women’s Centre
The King George Falls
The King George Dual Falls near Kunnanurra are fed by the wet season. The King George River plunges 100 ft over the falls into tidal waters.
These multi-tiered Mitchell Falls are quite remote and can be seen by air
Sigh, sigh.. wouldn’t you love to just dive into the turquoise waters ?
Oh Oh………….. we have to remember Mr. Crocodile and those baby nurse sharks! One can be reassured though that all zodiac operators and personnel are very safety conscious in the Kimberley.
Jar Island, surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Timor Sea, located in the southern part of Vansittart Bay is home to some best examples of the Bradshaw Gwion Gwion rock art which many think predated aboriginal art by some 30,000 years, and the Wandjina Aboriginal rock art estimated to be closer to 1,000 years old. There is art at various locations on Jar Island. We met the aboriginal custodians: the Balanggarra people and the Nyaliga people who flew there by helicopter to meet our zodiacs.
Bradshaw Gwion Gwion and Wandjina rock art
The Montgomery Reef
One minute the ocean looks like open water for as far as one can see. And THEN it is as if the reef arises out of the water. YES, it is rising out of the water but because the tide is retreating. Suffice it to say, advanced skill in maritime navigation is required.
This MONTGOMERY REEF was described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world” It is the world’s largest inshore reef and is located in one of the most spectacular tidal landscapes on earth – about 12 miles off the coast of the Kimberley Mountains in northwestern Australia. The tidal range varies from 30 to 39 feet and is the highest in the southern hemisphere. When the sea level drops by up to 30 ft within six hours at low tide, not only do the islands get bigger, but the entire reef platform which has a size of 115 square miles, emerges from the ocean. As the water cannot flow off the platform as fast as the sea level falls, the outward movement forms a torrent of water, creating a river cutting through the reef and hundreds of cascading waterfalls.
The Horizontal Falls
the 2 gorges as the location of the HORIZONTAL FALLS
Notice the level of high water on the rocks
If one researches the World’s highest tides, almost every source cites the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia as the highest. Subsequent rankings are quite varied and so whilst very high tides are present in the Kimberley we can only quote Sir David Attenborough again:-
“The frothing, surging, boiling Horizontal Falls are a spectacle unlike anywhere else on the planet.” Perhaps here is the only place in the world where we can see a horizontal waterfall, a result of huge tidal movements between 2 gorges. From the seemingly placid waters of Talbot Bay, as the high tide recedes, water is trapped between gorges, and the surge through gaps in the McLarty Range with such explosive force creates a waterfall effect. With each change of tides, taking place within 60 seconds twice a day, the direction of the falls reverses creating tidal whirlpools.
Really it is simply astonishing.
Broome was founded in 1883 as a port for the pearling industry.
The famed Japanese Pearl producer Kokichi Mikimoto is widely recognized as the father of modern-day pearl cultivation. Broome and the Kimberley area of Western Australia create the perfect environment for the collection of natural and farmed Pinctada Maxima Oysters. The majority of the oysters are harvested from the area south of Broome, near 80 Mile Beach. They are then transported to other areas of the Kimberley. Needless to say, there are many pearl stores showcasing for you, pristine South Sea Island individual pearls of many sizes, or strands, plus museums of pearling and trips to pearl luggers in Broome.
Because of the huge numbers of camels imported from British India and Afghanistan during the 19th century for transport and construction during the colonization of the central and western parts of Australia, Broome conducts a highly attractive sunset camel ride each evening.
Camel riders Sunset Cable Beach Broome Photo permission Kimberleytravel.com.au
the colors of the James
Price Bay near Broome
Staircase to the Moon
A natural phenomenon that occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay, in Broome, “The Staircase to the Moon” happens 2 – 3 days a month between March and October. What a sight!
Photo of Jill : Joe Mazza Bravelux inc.
Bábbarra Womens Centre https://babbarra.com
Images : from license with Shutterstock
Book on Broome: Di Morrisey : Tears of the Moon