In travel, we bandy around phrases like awe-inspiring, unforgettable, and once in a lifetime as frequently as we drool over new properties and tours (like, a lot). It’s code for extraordinary, unfathomable-beyond-words destinations, and yet we’re here to write about them. Destinations like the Kimberley, where Zoe Macfarlane recently adventured with Outback Spirit.
You’re already primed, so I’ll start with my first platitude: taking a trip through the Kimberley – specifically with Outback Spirit – was a dream come true. Legit, I’ve been manifesting this one for ages!
Over 13 magical, inspiring, bumpy, feast-filled days, countless highlights rolled in and by. From ancient rock art to hugging boab trees to fine dining meals to surprise scones to being spat on by an archerfish (woohoo), lifelong memories became imprinted in my noggin.
This should really be ‘the top 50 highlights of the Kimberley’ blog, it’s that good!
Hands down #1: Purnululu National Park / the Bungle Bungles
The orange-and-black-striped domes of the Bungle Bungle Ranges is one of the most enchanting places on Earth. And perhaps the most underrated and under-visited. Sure, it’s hard to reach, but you’ll practically have this UNESCO World Heritage site to yourself right now.
Photos do not do Purnululu National Park justice. It’s vaster, grander, and more mesmerising. Fortunately, an 18-minute off-door helicopter ride gave some sense of the magnitude of this 360-million-year-old geological wonder.
As thrilling as the chopper ride was, the Bungle Bungles on foot is best. Especially, the red hues and natural amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge. It’s my most treasured Kimberley memory, an experience elevated by Outback Spirit tour director, James.
James taught us his way to connect to the land, also suggesting 15 minutes of silence. It’s guides like these – that go beyond ticking off landmarks – that set tour companies (and experiences) apart.
Fortuitous timing – not a soul in sight – meant true silence and stillness at Cathedral Gorge. Followed by our group intoning a soul-lifting chant testing the amphitheatre’s natural acoustics, the gorge proved a profound experience for some.
Following Cathedral Gorge, an afternoon hike to Echidna Chasm, the trip’s best meal, and a dazzling night sky made this one of my best days in recent memory.
#2: Fairytale dreamscapes at Emma Gorge
Legendary tales of deep blue pools, gushing falls, and unexpected treasures lured us on a journey over boulders big and small to reach fairytale Emma Gorge. It’s an oasis in the rugged sandstone ranges of El Questro Wilderness Park.
Emma Gorge’s towering cliffs create a perfectly round basin to catch the spoils of the 65-metre falls. The vivid green ferns clinging to the rock face enhance the deep hues of the red rocks and sapphire blue pools. The first glimpse takes your breath away.
Emma Gorge is breathtaking in the literal sense, too, as the pool’s temperatures are frigid! But at Emma Gorge, nature provides, with a warm natural spring tucked in the corner ideal after swimming to the foot of the falls.
Under the waterfall, I felt the gift of perspective the Kimberley so readily provides. “This is living” I hollered into the gorge.
#3: Uunguu ranger, Albert, in Munurru
When I daydreamed about the Kimberley, I envisioned incredible landmarks, experiencing its remoteness and meeting the land’s traditional custodians.
Informative, proud, passionate, and cheerful, Albert taught us not only how old Munurru’s Wandjina and Gwion rock art is (some an estimated 17,000+ years old), but some of the accompanying stories, too. Stories passed down through the generations.
We saw depictions of kangaroos and long-necked turtles and monkey-like spirits used to scare the bejeezus out of small children at night. We stood in awe at the depictions of the Wandjina spirit. And we listened intently as Albert shared how he continues his ancestor’s legacy with the land.
Real-life > daydreams.
#4: Soaring & sailing the Horizontal Falls
The Horizontal Falls, according to David Attenborough, are “one of the world’s greatest natural wonders”, due to the massive tidal shifts that create a gravity-defying horizontal waterfall.
To reach the falls, 250 kilometres north of Broome / Djugun, we experienced wow-inducing views, whale sightings, and aerial circuits above the falls on a hypnotising 90-minute seaplane ride. We landed next to a pontoon with sharks circulating in what appeared to be a cage. Gulp.
A cage that turned out to be for us to watch the free-roaming nurse sharks feed via snorkel! Exhilarating, but not as much as front-row seats on a power boat over the rare falls. Commentary on the fall’s phenomenon played second fiddle to the thrills.
#5: Travelling the Outback Spirit way
The Kimberley’s beauty is amplified by its remoteness. It’s a ‘go now’ place, before tarmacked roads improve accessibility. Thanks to Outback Spirit’s 5-star 4WD Mercedes-Benz fleet, the rough-and-ready roads present no problems.
As we navigated challenging terrain, I was grateful to watch the Kimberley go by in comfort, instead of the intense focus required to drive the Outback roads. Besides his A-game driving skills, guide James also imparted his passion for the Kimberley to our 13-strong crew. A small group, thankfully, as Outback Spirit’s Kimberley land tours have a maximum 20 travellers.
The Outback Spirit way is also all-inclusive. From the 5-star meals to the impressive accommodation to chopper rides, powerboats, and entry fees, you only need to get your cash out for souvenirs.
That Outback Spirit can promise – and deliver – outstanding comforts in the middle of nowhere – like at peaceful Ngauwudu Safari Lodge and serene Bungle Bungle Savannah Lodge – thoroughly impressed me.
On top of the world
The Kimberley is as much an energy as a destination. Ask anyone that’s been, and they’ll agree. It’s now in the top three places I’ve ever been (and I’m well-travelled). And it’s right here in Australia!
It is not only the amazing landmarks, attractions, rock art, fancy stays, and remoteness that dazzle, but the lightness you feel as you explore here. It’s the best kind of soul adventure, and I’m already plotting my return.
To discover more about Outback Spirit’s all-inclusive small group journeys, check out their website. The Kimberley season runs from April to September.
Keen to see the Insta highlights from this trip? Check them out here.
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