Ben is in WA’s Kimberley region on a mission to explore the outback and run this cattle station.
The Kimberley in the far northwest of Australia is one of the last unspoilt frontiers on the planet. The ancient land spreads from Broome on the coast to Wyndham and Kununurra almost to the Northern Territory border. It is an Aladdin's cave of rugged ranges, broad tidal flats, pockets of rainforest, gorges and waterfalls.
El Questro Wilderness Park is huge in size and was developed in 1991 as a truly Australian holiday destination. No matter what you want to do or how much you have to spend, there is something there for you.
It is on the eastern perimeter of the Kimberley and runs for 80km into the heart of the region, most of which has never been explored and certainly not settled.
El Questro covers four major river systems, from freshwater springs to saltwater estuaries, and this is where animal, bird and fish life congregates.
There are varying choices of accommodation, including two distinctly different ways to camp. The first, Black Cockatoo, is central to ablutions areas and the station store. This is where visitors meet and mix with other adventurers, all travelling independently with their own gear.
The other selection is a private site, secluded and 10 minutes from the central facilities building.
Emma Gorge, secreted in the fiery red Cockburn Ranges, is an hour from Kununurra and close to some of El Questro's major attractions. Nestled between palms and pandanus, gravel parks link tented cabins, restaurant, bar, reception and the gorge.
The cabins offer surprising comfort they have raised roofs which allow night sounds to enter, have ceiling fans for warm nights, crisp linen, feather pillows and power. Standard cabins use shared ablutions facilities, while superior and deluxe cabins have their own.
Meals are prepared by El Questro's chefs locally grown tropical fruits for breakfast and barbecues of fresh fish and Kimberley beef for lunch and dinner, all served on spacious verandahs.
There is a large pool and lounge area, shaded by native trees and overlooking landscaped gardens, right on the banks of Emma Creek. On a short walk from the base of the gorge you will see trees filled with butterflies and a vast turquoise waterhole with permanent waterfalls, perfect for a cooling swim.
Two-day Mt Cockburn safaris are all-inclusive, accompanied by a ranger and starting off at King River Road, an old station track linking up with the Karunjie Track and together circumnavigating the entire Cockburn Range.
On day one you venture north and have a lunch stop at Gullibidgee Swamp, El Questro's most northerly point. The area resembles the terrain of the Serengeti or Masai Mara.
Overnight accommodation is simple and comfortable in an airy Goondi, surrounding central living and dining area and bathrooms. It overlooks the enormous estuarine tidal waters of the West Arm and El Questro's 5000 cattle grazing on the saltpans.
If you would like to enjoy the rugged landscape while staying in absolute luxury, El Questro Homestead is the answer. Cantilevered over the Chamberlain River, the Retreat offers unrivalled access to the far reaches of the Kimberley and the highest standard of service and cuisine. Guests choose from a marvellous selection of dining locations on a private clifftop or verandah, almost certainly under a canopy of stars.
The return journey follows the Pentecost River south along the Karunjie Track, a rarely travelled stock route.
The Homestead is decorated with artefacts and antiques collected from tropical Australia and Indonesia and surrounded by lush gardens. It has a freeform pool, spa and tennis court. Air conditioned bedrooms have ensuite facilities and verandahs with views of the garden and river.
El Questro can accommodate the interests of the ecotourist, agritourist and sportsman. Whether you want to photograph butterflies or go barramundi fishing, you can do it. The fishing seasons runs from March to May and late August to December.
Boating the Chamberlain Gorge is a must. A three-kilometre fresh waterhole bounded by tropical vegetation and 60-metre towering escarpments can be travelled only by boat. Examples of Wandjina rock art at the far end have been seen by so few people.
Horse treks are a popular way of following Kimberley wildlife, accompanied by an experienced ranger with tales of the outback and days gone by. You could see brumbies, wild donkeys, bustards, frill neck lizards, goannas, sea eagles, dancing brolgas, jabirus and brilliantly coloured parrots. Maybe even a saltwater crocodile.
Scenic helicopter flights have opened up the opportunity to see more of the Kimberley, flying over canyons and gorges, waterfalls, caves and galloping brumbies. You can even spot swimming barramundi, mangrove jack, bream, threadfin, salmon and catfish.