If you've always dreamed of visiting Australia’s Kimberley region but you've been put off by its remoteness and the excessive annual leave commitment that such a trip might require, then think again. An incredible 8 day FIFO holiday to the Kimberley is entirely possible, and you don't need to go with a tour company to achieve it.
The first thing to consider when planning a trip to the Kimberley’s is the sheer size of this place. The Kimberley region covers an area roughly three times the size of England and as such it would be pointless to try and visit all the highlights in 8 days. Fortunately the region can be broken down into two manageable trips; The East Kimberley with its famous cattle-come-Glamping stations, and The Wild Wild West Kimberley with its beautiful beaches and gorges. The difficult decision is which one to visit first!
To visit the West Kimberley, fly into Broome and hire a 4WD with camper trailer or a roof-top tent (all additional camping equipment is usually supplied by the hire company). Head up to Cape Levique and stay at Kooljaman Wilderness Camp for a few days of swimming and fishing in the crystal clear tropical waters and relaxing on the white sand with the dramatic red cliff backdrop that burns at sunset. Make sure you book onto the Brian Lee tag-along Tour, during which Brian will teach you traditional indigenous techniques for spearing fish and hunting mud crabs.
Next, head towards Derby and board one of the Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventure Tours (pre-booking essential). Although not cheap, this really is a once in a lifetime experience of ‘one of the greatest wonders of the natural world’. To get more for your money I’d recommend booking the overnight tour, which involves flying in and out of the remote waterway and over the Buccaneer Archipelago on a seaplane, feeding some of the resident big sharks, power boating through the horizontal waterfalls in the evening and again the following morning, a dinner of locally farmed Barramundi and sleeping in a luxurious cabin on the company’s huge barge.
On your return, head out onto the Infamous Gibb River Road- historically renowned for destroying even the most worthy of vehicles, now well graded and almost 2WD accessible. Drive to Windjana Gorge (NOTE- Google Maps is lying when it says the Derby-Windjana drive takes > 6 hours (it takes < 2 hours)). Set up camp in its National Park campsite and then head down to the gorge for sunset- take a picnic and a bottle of wine. Here, your mind will be blown by another natural phenomenon. At sunset, all the freshwater crocs swim down the gorge and congregate in the widest section of water- directly in front of a sand bank perfect for visitors to enjoy the spectacle. As the sunlight fades, hundreds of thousands of fruit bats that sleep in the gorge in the daylight hours, wake up and fly down the gorge in unison towards the open plains beyond. Some will swoop down to drink from the water in front of you, unaware of the hungry crocodiles lying in wait, ready to leap up and grab any unfortunate bats that get close enough.
Leaving your camp set up at Windjana, head out the next morning towards Tunnel Creek National Park. You will need torches to explore the awesome tunnel. Plan to arrive early, before the other tourists, and you will find yourself stepping around freshwater crocs sleeping on the sandy tunnel floor before the tourists and the heat of the day drives them into the dark waters. In the afternoon, drive to Geikie Gorge and join a national park guided boat tour. The next morning head back to Broome for your flight home.
To visit the East Kimberley, fly into Kununurra and hire a 4WD from one of the numerous hire companies. There are various accommodation options in the East Kimberley, so camping equipment hire is not necessary, although for the true Kimberley experience I would recommend it.
Drive out to El Questro Station, a stunning cattle property which is now dedicated to tourism. It is amazing! There are numerous walks, hikes, horse rides and drives that take you to hidden rainforests, waterfalls, gorges and springs. It also offers great bars, live music, and fine dining. Give yourself at least 3 full days to explore the vast property.
If you are keen on hiking or fishing, head on to Home Valley Station which offers a range of well mapped hikes to suit all levels of fitness and numerous waterways bursting with Barra. Stopping in at Ellenbrae station for one of their famous scones is highly recommended.
Return to Kununurra and book a day trip scenic flight to the Bungle Bungle National Park. (If time limited, I wouldn't drive- the tough drive from Kununurra to the park and back, should be done over several days). The stripy beehive rock formations have to be seen to be believed and you get to experience amazing views of Lake Argyle, Australia’s largest man-made lake.
There you have it. Two action packed itineraries taking in the best the region has to offer
The Kimberley truly is incredible and with a little bit of planning and effort, we all have a chance to experience it. What are you waiting for?