The Kimberley gets under your skin

by Rich Keam on 29 October 2013, 09:10AM

The Kimberley – named one of the best regions in the world by Lonely Planet and Rich Keam

After three weeks exploring the Kimberley in Western Australia, I almost missed my flight home. I was at the airport in good time, had checked in and was waiting in the departure lounge when I became transfixed by a painting by a local artist. Just a simple landscape, a typical scene you would find in the remote and rugged wilderness up there, deep red earth and vast skies. I became lost in thought remembering the billion year old rock formations, huge open spaces and the warm welcoming people I had met. “Last call for Mr Keam” broke me out of my reverie. It wasn’t just the red dirt under my nails; Australia’s last frontier had really got under my skin.

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I am not the only one who feels this way. Lonely Planet has chosen the Kimberley as one of the world’s top 10 regions to visit in 2014 in its prestigious ‘Best in Travel’ publication. It is the only Australian region on the list. So you know you have to go, but what should you see while you are there? Well, here are my five must-dos:

Set your watch to Broome time
I was privileged enough to see Broome for the first time by air on a short helicopter flight, but it was only when I landed that I fully appreciated the beauty of world-famous Cable Beach and felt a real sense of community in the town. Find your own piece of paradise along the 22km of white sand or take a sunset ride on a camel. Make sure you don’t miss Matso’s Brewery, where you can chat to the locals over a mango or ginger beer.

With a rich pearling history, Broome attracted settlers from countries such as China, Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines in the 1900s and that diversity is still present today. Visit in September for Shinju Matsuri, this ‘festival of the pearl’ celebrates this history through music, dance and food.

Catch your own dinner
Join Indigenous Elder Brian Lee as he takes you through sacred Aboriginal land at Cape Leveque. He is softly spoken, extremely wise and a great teacher and story teller. Learn how to catch gigantic fresh mud crabs from the banks of Hunter’s Creek with just a thin metal pole and a lot of courage. There is nothing better than cooking a freshly caught muddie on a beach BBQ whilst watching the sunset. You can see my attempts here - quite a simple process but absolutely no mean feat

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Get bowled over by the Bungle Bungles
Whether you’re hiking, four-wheel driving or flying over in a light aircraft, the Bungle Bungle range at Purnululu National Park is awe inspiring stuff. You can easily explore the 350 million year old beehive formations either on your own or with a guide. Squeeze through Echidna Chasm or marvel at Cathedral Gorge. Until 1983, when it was accidentally stumbled upon by a film crew, only the local Djaru and Kija people knew of its existence. This year marks 30 years since the discovery.

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Enjoy the high life
The Kimberley Aerial Highway is a series of remote landing strips, which connects some of the region’s most stunning sites, making them easier to explore. And there’s no better way to see the majesty and scale of the Kimberley than by air. From the World’s only Horizontal Waterfalls, to the sandstone sculptures of Purnululu National Park and the serenity of the enormous Lake Argyle, it is all within view as you soar 3,000ft overhead.

Visit El Questro Wilderness Park
Covering a million acres this former cattle station is one of the best places to experience the world’s last great wilderness. We flew into Kununurra from Broome and travelled the 100km or so to the El Questro Station township by four-wheel drive. Nestled on the banks of the Pentecost River, the sprawling evergreen station lawns provide stark contrast to the surrounding landscape.

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Four-wheel driving and hiking through El Questro offers the opportunity to experience some truly magnificent country. Incredible views, stunning palm-fringed waterholes, dramatic cliff faces and some serious barramundi fishing, there’s something for everyone.  One of my favourite parts was the short trail walk through dense Livistonia Palms to a series of rocky thermal pools called Zebedee Springs. The viewing platform at Saddleback Ridge was also a spectacular highlight. Tented cabins and bungalows are also available, but if you feel like treating someone special, then spend a couple of nights at the luxurious Homestead. It will be an experience you will never forget just like a visit to the Kimberely.

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For holidays to the Kimberley region in Western Australia visit www.travelbag.co.uk/holidays/australasia/australia/western-australia

Author bio: Rich Keam won Tourism Australia’s ‘Best Jobs in the World’ competition in June and recently started his position as Taste Master of Western Australia. For the next six months his mission is to uncover Western Australia’s best local flavours and hidden gems. For more of Rich’s insider tips, stories from the road and video guides to Western Australia visit www.tastewesternaustralia.com.


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