Who better than Ben to travel to the north of Western Australia? The vast areas of The Pilbara and The Kimberley have some of the world's most ancient natural landscapes, dating back two billion years. It is beautiful, seemingly endless and unforgiving. Deep rocky canyons, welcome plunge pools, dazzling white beaches and coral gardens are all there to explore. Nature has also provided massive mining industries with crude oil, salt, natural gas and iron ore, so the area pays its way.
Mother Nature really outdid herself in The Pilbara. Over five million hectares of fiery red mountain ranges and vast open spaces. Four-wheel drive is the safest and most comfortable way to travel but if you ever have the chance to fly over the area, grab it with both hands.
The Pilbara has always been The Kimberley's poorer relation, but word is starting to get out about what it has to offer. Lestock Tours will give you the best insight into the amazing gorges local guide Jeremy Perks knows every nook and cranny.
At The Pilbara's heart is Karajini National Park. It took billions of years to sculpt its red gorges and Ben joined local guide Jeremy Perks who leads people into the deepest parts of the surreal landscape. Layers and layers of rock were formed before life existed on our planet so there are no fossils. Looking at something 2500 million years old attacks the senses. The park has rocky tunnels, plunging gorges, crystal waterways and fabulous waterfalls gushing down 100 metre canyons into cool rock pools.
Karajini protects many wildlife habitats, plants and animals. There's a wide variety of birds, red kangaroos and euros, rock wallabies, echidnas, several species of bat, geckos, goannas, dragons, legless lizards, pythons and other snakes. Enormous termite mounds stand tall in the landscape, and there are rock piles of the rare pebble mound mouse in spinifex country.
Wildflowers vary with the seasons. In cooler months, the land is covered with yellow-flowering cassias and wattles, northern bluebells and purple mulla-mullas. They all come to life after heavy rains.
One of the earliest-settled parts of Australia, the first arrivals are thought to have landed around 40,000 years ago from the islands of what is now Indonesia. Home to just 25,000, there are fewer people per kilometre in the Kimberley than other region on earth.
Broome is the unofficial capital. It's a town built on the back of the pearl trade and is the southern gateway for those seeking adventure in the remote north-west. Income is created by tourism, agriculture and diamond mining. The Argyle mine produces a third of the world's precious stones.
Cape Leveque, a hidden pocket of the Kimberley, is 220km north of Broome on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula. It's an oasis of white sand, red earth and thick bush. It is best accessed by air, but a large four-wheel drive will make the journey which includes unsealed roads with corrugations and sandy sections. Roads may be closed during the wet season from late September to late May.
There's so much to see and a flight with Broome Aviation lets you enjoy it from on high. If time is short enjoy a custom flight with the highlights pulled together, including perhaps the Beehives, the Bungle Bungles, the deserted coast of Buccaneer Archipelago with tides of up to 11m and the spectacle of the horizontal waterfall in Talbot Bay. Enjoy the view of the tide rushing through narrow gaps in the cliff and difference between inflow and outflow creating the amazing falls.
The warm climate and water and remoteness have combined to make the perfect breeding ground for crocodiles, snakes, birds, bats and fish. Barramundi, coral trout, red emperor, snapper, tuna, mud crabs and oysters are some of the tasty sea life.
From Kununurra it's a six-hour trip to the Bungle Bungles. If you'd rather not drive, Kimberley Safari Centre offers packages to get you amongst the rocks. Guide Paul Wainwright from East Kimberley Tours showed Ben Dark Echidna Chasm, which Wainwright and his dad discovered in 1983 and were the first Europeans to set foot in it. The father-and-son team run a fleet of modern, air-conditioned four-wheel drive vehicles and have endless knowledge about the area.
The Bungle Bungles are a day walker's paradise, and visitors can enjoy anything from half-an-hour to a full-day and overnight tours.
The Pilbara and the Kimberley regions of Western Australia.
Broome Aviation half-day tours start at $480 per person.
Lestok Tours full day gorge tours are $145 for adults and $80 for children, including morning tea and lunch.
Kimberley Safari Centre three-day tours start at $1580 per person. Accommodation, meals, scenic flights and guide are included.
East Kimberley Tours cost $295 per person including morning and afternoon tea and lunch.
Prices correct at October 1, 2009.
For further information
Lot 1, 2 McPherson Street
Ph: (08) 9192 1369
Fax: (08) 9192 2476
PO Box 333
Tom Price 6751
Ph: (08) 9189 2032
Fax: (08) 9189 1975
Kimberley Safari Centre
PO Box 41
Ph: 1800 677 830
East Kimberley Tours
Box 537, Post Office
Ph: (08) 9168 2213
Fax: 08 9168 2544