A cruise is not the only way to discover the Kimberley. APT's range of overland and air tours offer a different scope of the region's ancient beauty, and are studded with opportunities to immerse yourself in Australia's last frontier. Before, after or during your APT adventure, there a range of activities that will leave you with a true taste of the Kimberley to flavour your holiday memories.
When folks talk about fishing in the Kimberley, their first thoughts are of the iconic barramundi. Known elsewhere in the world as seabass, this big, elusive fish loves rocky river estuaries and can grow to a metre or more.
Barramundi is the trophy fish for serious anglers all through the North West, and dedicated fishing charters and tours run from Broome, Wyndham, Dampier and Kununurra. While the hardcore will want to bring their personal kit and tackle, it’s also fine to just turn up and let your expert guide handle the gear. And if you don’t catch a ‘barra’, don’t worry; there are feisty queenfish, trevally, wahoo and salmon ready to give you a run for your money.
2. Luxury lodge stay
Some of Australia’s finest and most exclusive lodges are hidden throughout the Kimberley, nestled like Easter eggs in a garden. Finding them, thankfully, is not so hard. Along the Berkeley River and the Gibb River road, up on the Mitchell Plateau and out toward massive Lake Argyle you’ll find an assortment of premium ranches, tented safari camps and resorts. Many can only be accessed by private plane for the ultimate in privacy and seclusion. When you’re there, you can fish, hike or take a guided drive and discover the mysterious rock paintings, which brings me to ….
3. Discover Aboriginal art
If you’ve never seen the Wandjina or Gwion Gwion rock art of the Kimberley, then you are in for a treat. Tens of thousands of years and an ice age or two ago, a long-lost group of Aboriginals created some of the most stunning frescos in secret alcoves and under rock ledges in the ancient cliffs. In fact, some researchers believe the Gwion Gwion mystical figures (also called Bradshaws after their discoverer) are the oldest rock art known to man. The ethereal Wandjina, on the other hand, are much younger and are still maintained by the local indigenous Mowanjum Community in many places. Whichever ones you meet, you’ll be sure to fall under their spell.
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4. Swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving
Even with all the talk about crocodiles, sharks and stingers, aquatic sports are still a thing in the Kimberley. You might need to hike a bit to get to your spring-fed billabong up on a low plateau, but you’ll have totally earned the super refreshing dip that provides a sensation like no other.
Snorkelling and scuba diving takes place way out west in the Rowley Shoals where one of Australia’s most intact reef systems supports an astonishing amount of marine life in the vivid coral. Whales, dolphins and turtles are common in this secret offshore sanctuary, but you can still throw a line in and catch exciting deep sea fish like tuna and wahoo. You’ll need to get a ship as there is no accommodation on the little bit of land, all of which helps limit visitors to a few score a year.
You’ll only get a true grasp of the scale of the Kimberley from the air. If you fly into Broome or Kununurra, you’ll see the canvas of rich colours from the airliner, but nothing beats skimming across the prehistoric landscape in a light aircraft or helicopter for a true pterodactyl's eye view. The most popular flightseeing excursion is certainly a low pass over the spectacular and otherworldly Purnululu National Park (aka Bungle Bungles) with their gigantic beehive-shaped domes of karst sandstone rising 250 metres from the desert like some lost city of the giants.
6. Pearl shopping
No visit to the Kimberley would be complete without a wander down Broome’s Dampier Terrace, where the pearl boutiques call out to you with their lustrous arrays of beautiful gems. Pinctada maxima, the Australian South Sea pearl, is renowned for its size and lustre. The superb Aussie oyster grows happily in these tidal-fed, nutrient-rich waters, producing some of the finest pearls anywhere in the world. Apart from a tinge of sunburn and indelible memories, it’s the authentic, lasting souvenir you should take home with you from the Kimberley.
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The Kimberley Rocks of Ages
The rock making up the cliffs is old, so old, it predates life on earth. Let that sink in for a moment.
“I can’t see any fossils in any these rocks,” I ask my guide Carly.
“These rocks were formed before there was anything to fossilise,” she replies plainly.