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Jo takes on the challenge of basket weaving and exploring Hancock Gorge (not at the same time!)

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Blog - Things to do in the North West

  • Karijini National Park - Gorges Galore!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 10, 2015

    While I was primarily at Karijini National Park to attend events at the Karijini Experience, I was also keen to explore as many gorges as possible.  As the rain had made the gorges too risky to explore on the Saturday, I took this opportunity to chat to Ranger Dan about what gorge I could explore the following morning and he suggested Weano Gorge.

    On Sunday I was up bright and early and met another ranger, Ranger Steve who was leading a nature walk close to Karijini Eco Retreat.  This free walk was fascinating.  Ranger Steve pointed out plant and insect life as we walked towards Joffre Falls. He explained the structure of a termite mound, pointed out birds and we even spotted a wallaby and a frog.

    Ranger at Karijini National Park

    Ranger Steve gave us an insight into Karijini National Park's flora and fauna.

    Returning from the walk to the retreat, one of the Karijini Experience organisers asked if I could take the guest astronomer Alan and his partner Sarah along with me to the gorges.  Not a problem! I’m not an experienced bush walker and the map reading gene seemed to have skipped me completely, so I was happy to have Sarah and Alan along with me.

    As time was limited for us (we had to be back for the Karijini Culinary Experience) we decided to take Ranger Dan’s advice and head to  Weano Gorge.

    The unsealed road took us to car park and I was surprised at how close to the gorge it was – very accessible! As we walked towards the trail to the gorge, we saw a bunch of people dressed in wet suits.  Turns out they were with Pete from West Oz Active Adventure Tours and about to commence on a canyoning adventure.   I haven’t done the tour (yet!) but if you want to see Karijini from a different perspective (ie abseiling and floating on a tube) then this is the tour for you!

    I’m not the most surefooted person clambering over rocks but it was an easier hike through Weano Gorge than what I anticipated.   You just have to take your time, not rush and remember to look up from your feet and pause to enjoy the beautiful surroundings with soaring red rocks and emerald green pools.

    Sarah in Weano Gorge

    Sarah walking through the loose rock.

    We waded through the water. Sarah and I sensibly had Alan lead us given he is taller and so he could gauge the depth.  One bit caught us unaware and Alan was suddenly more than waist deep.  I am fairly short and so the bottom of my backpack got a bit of a drenching (mushy protein bars anyone?) I had been warned that the water could be icy, however it was early May and while the water was certainly refreshing it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.  I’m a Kimberley girl so I'm used to tropical water temperatures!

    Prepare to get a little wet

    Fellow gorge explorers traipse through the water - it became deeper!

    Weano Gorge starts off as a Class 3 but as you walk towards Handrail Pool it becomes more challenging and turns into a Class 5.  I wouldn’t say I’m the fittest person in the world but I didn’t have a problem – slow and steady works for me!   For detailed information on what gorges are suitable for you to tackle, check out this great brochure by Department of Parks and Wildlife.

    Red layered rock of Karijini

     Depending on how the light hits, the layers of rock took on vibrant red or muddy brown colour.  My images do not do the gorges justice!

    As we reached Handrail Pool (so called I presume because of the handrail that accompanies the steep climb down) we ooohed and ahhed and couldn’t wait to swim in the emerald coloured water. The trick to descending is to climb down backwards holding onto the handrail as if climbing down a ladder one careful step at a time. The one person swimming when we arrived was just leaving and so we had this stunning waterhole all to ourselves. From Weano Gorge we then decided to check out the views from Oxer Lookout.  This lookout is easily accessible and the view didn’t disappoint. 

    Handrail Pool 
    The descent into Handrail Pool.

    Handrail Pool Weano Gorge

    We had Handrail Pool all to ourselves and had a well earned swim. The image doesn't capture how pretty it was!

     We  had time for one more gorge and decided on Hancock Gorge.  Sarah was keen to see Kermit’s Pool at the end of the Hancock Gorge trail (maybe she is a muppet fan?)  I have to say I wasn’t too sure initially about attempting this gorge.   It’s a Class 5 and deserving of this class.  This seemed to be a very popular gorge and there were plenty of people around.   I said to Alan and Sarah that if I felt at any point that it was getting too difficult for me then I would turn back and meet them in the car park.  Karijini can be a dangerous place and if you fall and injure yourself, being in such a remote place, rescue is not easy. It’s important not to take risks and to not take on more than you can safely manage. They can’t just drop someone from a helicopter to rescue you as that can bring on rock falls.  Not playing it safe puts you and your rescuers in danger and sadly there are memorial plaques in Karijini to prove it.  

    Safety warning over, now back to the fun stuff!  Hancock Gorge was awesome! I made it all the way through the gorge to Kermit’s Pool.  The gorge is definitely a challenge with narrow footholds as you move across the cliff face. I also know why the spider walk is called that! You have to spread your arms and legs wide to each side of the rock faces  and creep yourself along by little over a certain part of the gorge . Long legs would definitely be an advantage! Not easy for someone like me who is not exactly tall!  Once I got a rhythm going  there was a bit of an adrenalin rush and I couldn’t quite believe I was doing it.

    We don’t have any photos of this as (a) there was no way we were letting go of the rocks to photograph anything and (b) we thought we might struggle with our daypacks and cameras and left them behind which definitely was the right decision.   Due to the unseasonal rain the water level was high, and we ended up swimming fully clothed, sneakers and all, through part of the gorge and our daypacks would have been very soggy had we taken them.    We saw some people had left their daypacks by some rocks and followed suit. We were unsure if they would still be there upon our return back through the gorge.  They were!  A good tip is to ask people coming out of the gorge what they thought of it, how was the water level and what the trickiest bit was for them so you can arm yourself with as much information as possible.

    Unfortunately for Sarah, Kermits Pool was roped off, although having swam at Handrail Pool she wasn’t too disappointed.  Hancock Gorge was amazing, the red rock face is stunning and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to experience it. 

    With no more time to explore, we drove back to the Karijini Eco Retreat, ready for a shower, change of clothes and a big lunch!

    If you are looking at heading to Karijini National Park I highly recommend jumping on to the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s website to do your research on the different gorges. It’s a great resource and they also have walking trail maps available to download.    


  • Opera at Karijini

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 10, 2015

    One of the highlights of the Karijini Experience was the Opera.  Soprano Deborah Cheetham was to perform in Kalmina Gorge in Karijini National Park

    The previous day Deborah did a sound check in Kalamina Gorge and school children had the chance to do a workshop with her.  As it turned out they were they only ones that got to experience her singing in the gorge. 

    Unfortunately the unseasonal rain the night prior to her performance meant the gorge was not going to work for safety reasons.  The performance was now going to take place under cover at the Karijini Eco Retreat's restaurant. You can't control nature and if any of the audience members were unhappy with the change of venue you wouldn't have known it.The organisers even arranged a free glass of sangria for each guest upon entry (nice work girls!)

    Deborah Cheetham performs at Karijini 

    All thoughts of the gorge disappeared as Deborah had all of us mesmerised from the moment she wove the story of her life into her opera performance.  Her journey to find her family and culture and indeed her story of an Aboriginal women finding her place on the opera circuit moved the audience greatly, some to tears.  And what a voice!  It was a magical performance and one people are unlikely to forget.

    I had an early night as the next day I would adventure into the gorges of Karijini National Park and would also be attending the multi-course luncheon of the Karijini Culinary Experience.


  • How an artistically challenged individual gave basket weaving a go and loved it!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 08, 2015


    Following a visit to Tom Price I headed to Karijini National Park for the The Karijni Experience. I was very much looking forward to this four day event organised to showcase everything from opera to cooking amongst the stunning scenery of Karijini National Park.

    But first things first!  Let me tell you about the accommodation.  I was staying in one of the Deluxe Eco Tents at Karijini Eco Retreat.  With a huge bed and an ensuite I was set for the next few days. Glamping at its best! 

     Karijini Eco Retreat Deluxe Tent

    The interior of the Duluxe Eco Tent - it even had an ensuite!

    Karijini Landscape, Pilbara

    Serene Pilbara landscapes surround Karijini Eco Retreat.

    Unseasonal rain decided to make an appearance that first evening, but that didn't deter the audience from attending the Acoustic Jam Session featuring local musicians resulting in everyone dancing by the end of the night.  Snacking from an antipasto platter, I unwound, enjoyed the music and slept soundly in my tent that night.

    I woke up the next day to rain and headed over to the restaurant. The DPAW Ranger Walk was cancelled due to the weather and it was also recommended skipping the gorges as it can be unsafe and slippery after night's downpour. I spent some time chatting to Ranger Dan who gave me some great advice on what gorges to see in the short amount of time I had (watch out for my blog post on the gorges coming soon!) 

    So what was I to do on this rainy morning?  Well one of the event organisers convinced me to attend the Martumili Basket Weaving.  Not having an artistic bone in my body I tentatively agreed.  We all got cosy in a tent, sitting in a circle as the Martumili ladies showed us their beautiful baskets and demonstrated how to create one for ourselves.  I loved it!  It was so relaxing weaving for hours, it was somehow meditative.

    Martumili Basket Weaving

    One of the participants learning the weaving techniques.

    These wonderful ladies are part of a group of amazing artists living in the communities of Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji and Warralong, 

    Hand woven basket

    A large basket made by one of the Martumili ladies.  A basket of this size sells for approximately $AU700 and after spending five hours weaving a very small basket I can see why - it takes time and a great deal of technique to produce something as beautiful as this.

    At the end of the session I held up my my small grey wonky basket and said aloud that it resembled a dead mouse!  The Martumilli ladies chuckled but were very kind with their comments and very encouraging. I wouldn't mind giving it another go in the future. The other participants in the class (who were not craft impaired like myself) produced some stunning baskets.

    Basket weaving workshop

    Basket weaving students and teachers gather outside the tent to show off the morning's weaving.

    Coulourful baskets

     Top of the class for these students, with their beautiful handmade baskets.

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning the art of basket weaving from the Martumili artists, and if you ever get the opportunity to participate in a workshop I highly recommend it.



  • Tom Price is Top Town!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 06, 2015


    I recently visited the inland Pilbara for the Karijini Experience,  a three day event held in the stunning Karijini National Park.

    Travelling from Perth I took a 70 minute Qantas flight to Paraburdoo, whereby I collected a four wheel drive from Avis and set off on a 70 km journey to Tom Price.  It was early morning and I felt like I was driving through a painting with the Hamersley Ranges in the distance.

    Road to Karijini

    Tom Price was constructed in 1965 after a iron ore deposit was made on Mt Tom Price in 1962.  From the original 250 houses the town has grown to 1600 homes and has a population of 5000.

    I easily found the Tom Price Visitor Centre and the friendly staff told me that I was all booked in for the Lestock Rio Tinto Iron Ore Mine Tour.  I collected my hard hat and safety glasses and was welcomed on board the bus.  At only $A30 this tour is great value.    

    Tom Price Visitor Centre

    You can book the Lestock Rio Tinto Mine Tour through the Tom Price Visitor Centre.

    The tour guide ensured we were aware of the safety precautions and with that we headed out to one of the largest open cut iron ore mines in the world!  Over the next hour-and-and-a half our guide reeled off a huge amount of facts about Tom Price and the mine, and delivered them all in an entertaining way.

    Iron Ore Mine Tom Price Pilbara

    The mine is now producing approximately 360 million tonnes of iron ore per annum.

    You don’t realise until you see a mine worker dwarfed by the massive tyres of a haulpack how enormous the machinery is within the Rio Tinto Mine. These massive dump trucks have a carrying capacity of 240 tonne! It’s like giant Tonka toys have come to life!

    Haul pack, Rio Tinto Iron Ore Mine,Tom Price

    It might not look it in the photo but this haulpack is huge and has a carrying capacity of 240 tonne!

    Back in Tom Price I noticed lots of white corellas which I thought were very pretty, but discovered these birds are very destructive!   I was told by a local that these ‘vandals’  pecked through their clothesline and pulled out and chewed their reticulation to bits!

    Corella at Tom Price in the Pilbara

    I discovered the white corellas of Tom Price are very naughty birds!

    I also discovered altitude wise Tom Price is the highest town in WA and sits at an altitude of 747m.  Locals like to refer to it as the ’top town in WA’ and I have to say they ensured I had a top time during my brief visit!

    Next stop Karijini National Park!


  • Pearls and Planes

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Deb's final day in the Kimberley! It was an absolute pleasure to host Deb as the winner of the 2014 Characters of the Kimberley Competition.  Thanks for being our Guest Blogger Deb,  and we hope to see you and Alistair back here in the North West!  Deb's final blog post... 

    We had packed our bags and had one more great brekky on the boat. We said our farewells to the wonderful crew of The Great Escape as we boarded our boat pick ups for the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm Tour.

    This tour was informative and we even got to hold some expensive pearls!

    Soon it was time to board and head to the airstrip to board the plane to head to Broome.

    Aerial of Cable Beach

    An aerial image of Cable Beach.

    After arriving at Broome we then collected our other luggage and then boarded a bus to go to Broome Airport where we were dropped off to wait for our next plane to Perth then to head to Adelaide.

    I left part of me in the Kimberley,  but also brought some of it home with me.

    We arrived in Adelaide at 10.30pm  and home by 11.45pm,  a long day,  but 10 days of lifetime memories!

  • Footy Final While Afloat!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Deb is nearing the end of her Kimberley journey and shares her relaxing cruise on the Kimberley Coast with us...

    After brekky The Great Escape headed to Croc Creek where if you wanted you could go to a swimming hole to go swimming. We chose to stay on the boat and enjoy the quite time.
    Later that afternoon on came the big screen TV and the AFL grand final game was on. We cruised through the Kimberley while watching the game, what an amazing way to see the match.

    A final fishing adventure was on again with some fish being caught and very quickly being cooked and on our plates thanks to the crew and Ben. Our final evening meal was a good time shared with crew.

    Sunset on a Kimberley Cruise
    Another Kimberley sunset.


  • Sunsets and Mud Crabs

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Characters of the Kimberley Competition winner Deb is taking us on her journey on The Great Escape along the Kimberley coast.  Over to you Deb...

    After an amazing sunrise followed by yet another great breakfast it was time to bait up the hooks again.

    We headed off in the dinghys to have some fishing fun.

    Fishing in the KimberleyThrowing out the net.

    A few fish were caught but not many so then we headed out to set mud cab pots.

    mudcrabbing in the Kimberley Success in catching mud crabs

    It proved to be a success with chilli mud crab being added to the lunch time menu!

    Cruising the Kimberley Coast
    Cruising the Kimberley Coast on the Great Escape.

    The wind suddenly picked up which made for a fun, wet dinghy trip to have a closer look at a waterfall. Unfortunately it was not flowing but the site was spectacular nonetheless
    We then headed to the Horizontal Falls.

    Wow is the word for our amazing dingy ride through the Horizontal Falls. Forget all of the man made thrill rides of the world mother nature has made the best one... The Horizontal Falls.

    Then we all headed out in the dinghys to a gorgeous spot and the crew tied the dinghys together to form a raft. We had eskies loaded with our drinks and a platter of cheeses and nibbles. We sat floating with the tide while waiting for the show of the amazing stars. Each dinghy headed back to The Great Escape for an awesome dinner. Wow what a day!
    Sunset inthe Kimberley

    Kimberley sunset.

  • Fishing and Food on The Great Escape

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Deb gets ready to enjoy a Kimberley cruise on The Great Escape and continues her blog... 

    Another delicious buffet breakfast then we said farewell to Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa.

    Our Great Escape ride arrived to take us to the airport where we were flown to a remote airstrip to then board a helicopter. "Scorcher" the helicopter pilot was really informative and friendly and put our minds at ease at having no doors!!!

    Birds eye view of Broome

    A birds eye view of the landscape as Scorcher pilots Deb and Alistair to
    The Great Escape   

    Landing on the Great Escape

    Coming in to land on the Great Escape!

    A spectacular flight ended when we landed onto the flight deck of The Great Escape.

    Before we knew it we were all in dinghys heading to the amazing Ruby Falls for a cool off swim and a stunning welcome to that part of the Kimberley.

    Ruby Falls in the Kimberley

    Ruby Falls

    After a delicious lunch we joined some of the crew and headed out fishing. Amazing how in a very short span of time we caught fingermark and mangrove jacks. It made for an exciting time and fresh fish for lunch tomorrow.

    Catching fish inthe Kimberley

    Some unlucky fish caught by passengers on the Great Escape in the Kimberley.

    We all cleaned up and Ben the chef made a dinner which many restaurants would love to serve.

  • A Tour 'Out of this World'

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Competition winner Deb leaves Home Valley Station for Broome and tells us what she has been up to... 

    Simon from Home Valley Station drove us into Kununurra along the Gibb River Road. We crossed the well known Pentecost Crossing adding to our adventure.

    We flew into Broome to be met by Jo from Australia's North West Tourism. Jo took us to Matso's Broome Brewery for lunch where we met Kimberley Character Greg from Greg Quicke's Astro Tours and his partner artist Sobrane.

    Matso's Broome Brewery
    Greg Quicke, Deb and Alistair enjoy a few beers at Matso's Broome Brewery.

    Lunch was delicious followed by samples of Matso's brews. I really enjoyed the ginger beer.

    Jo then took us to the gorgeous  Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa. Our room was really nice and overlooked the adult pool just stunning.

      Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa

    Sunset view from the Pool View Studio at Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa.

    Later in the evening we were taken via taxi to Greg's Astro Tour.  An amazing tour and definately a must  for everyone's Broome adventure. Greg is a great host and a galaxy of information about stars and planets. A tour out of this world. Thanks Greg!

  • A Disappearing Reef and Uncooperative Fish!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Deb continues her journey on The Great Escape cruising around the Kimberley...

    After a peaceful sleep, breakfast was on which was awesome.

    We then headed to Montgomery Reef an amazing site to see it rise out of the ocean. We went out in the dinghys spotting turtles and viewing some of the numerous water falls created by the water rushing off of the reef.  The sound of rushing water and this amazing site is something hard to describe but a must see to believe.

    Montgomery Reef  

    Montegomery Reef, Kimberley

    The incredible Montgomery Reef

    Three of us with one crew member then went to a sandbar which appears in the middle of the ocean at low tide. So we went swimming and in approx 15 minutes it disappeared into the ocean again as the tide covered it again. Just amazing to have swam there.
    We then headed to Raft Point.

    Sand bar at Montgomery Reef
    Time for a swim at the sand bar before it disappears!

    Another fishing expedition but this time the fish didn't realise they were meant to be caught lol!

    We had a relaxing time on the boat enjoying the scenery and the ever changing colours.

    Dinner was yet another delicious affair prepared by Ben quite a feat while Queen songs played with the crew singing along lol. All while we headed to Phoenix Bay.

  • Broome Sightseeing and a Delicious Dinner

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    After an evening at the beautiful Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa we had breakfast at the Sunset Bar and Grill. The buffet breakfast was a vast array of food for all tastes.

    We then boarded the Broome Sightseeing Tour.  The tour was very informative and covered a big area of broom in the 2 hours, well worth doing.

    Lord McAlpine statueA bust of Lord McAlpine sits on Cable Beach Reserve. Lord McAlpine has been credited as kick-starting tourism in Broome in the 1980s. 

     bird plant
    Deb discovered the bird flower on the Broome Sightseeing Tour.

    We stayed in town after the tour checking out some local shops and we had lunch in the local hotel.

    After returning to the resort we hit the adults pool for a relaxing afternoon of taking dips and having cool drinks from the pool bar.

    Later in the evening we met Kimberley Character Kylie, and Trippy from The Great Escape Charter Company and Australia's North West Tourism's Glen and his wife Lynette for a delicious dinner in the Club Restaurant at the Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa. It was a very fun evening with lots of great memories added to our ever growing memory bank.

  • Awesome Breakfast and Upgraded to a Castle (a Grass Castle that is!)

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Deb continues her visit to Home Valley Station in the Kimberley.

    Brekky was a awesome buffet just awesome.We then headed out on a morning fishing tour with the fishing Legend Tom (as his shirt says so, lol). Tom took us to two beautiful locations to wet some lines. There was excitement with the successful landing of a dew fish by one of the fellow fishermen.  Tom is a very knowledgable fishing guide and one heck of a nice guy we all had a lot fun.

    We returned to Dusty Bar and Grill for a delicious lunch before meeting Alfie again.
    Alfie gave us a private tour of HMS with Simon driving us around it was amazing to see the station. Home Valley Station is amazing and the more time we spent there the more its realised.

    This tour ended at their Helicopter pad with a surprise helicopter tour of the Cockburn Ranges. Seeing the ranges up close was just soooo beautiful.

    Helicopter scenic flight
    A surprise helicopter scenic flight for Deb and Alistair

    Cockburn RangesCockburn Ranges from the air.

    Dinner was at the Dusty Bar and Grill were we shared dinner with Kev and his wife Zoe and Alfie joined us too. Kev was the fisherman who had caught the dew fish so HVS cooked it and served it with chips and salad, Tom the fishing guide also dropped by and shared some stories and laughs along with Simon also stopping by too.

    We headed back to our room which HVS upgraded to their grass castle WOW. Is all I can say about that room is WOW.

    Tomorrow we head back to Kununurra a lot of great memories have been made at HVS thanks soo much.

  • Treated like Rock Stars!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Had a great sleep followed by an awesome breakfast thanks Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments!

    Matt from Home Valley Station organised for us to be treated like rock stars, arriving via a seven seater plane from Shoal Air.

    River from the air
    The Ord River form the air.  There was smoke haze due to a large fire.

    We enjoyed a birds eye view of the scenery and we were greeted by a smiling and waving Matt Payne as we landed.

    Matt introduced us to Home Valley Station it is an amazing and beautiful place.

    Boabs at Home Valley Station

    The boab trees at Home Valley Station

    Champagne and a fruit platter were in our room along with some HMV gifts. A very, very nice surprise.

    Dusty Bar and Grill is full of atmosphere and the food for our lunch gave any main town venue a run for its money.

    Dusty Bar and Grill
    Home Valley Station's Dusty Bar and Grill

    Alfie a trainee was our guide for a sunset lookout tour which was beautiful. Taking in the Cockburn ranges while drinking Moet and eating cheese and nibbles. Alfie was a confident tour guide who has answers for every question we asked. He has a great charm about him coupled with a smile you will remember.


    Alfie and Alistair

    Alfie & Alistair

    Cockburn Range at dusk
      Cockburn Ranges in the Kimberley at dusk

    Sunset in the Kimberley

    Kimberley Sunset

      We returned to our room after a great night.

  • Kimberley Adventure Begins

    by Jo Durbridge | Jan 21, 2015

    Debra was the winner of this year's Characters of the Kimberley Competition and has written about her adventures in the North West.  Over to you Deb...

    Planes, trains automobiles.... well no trains lol. After an early morning start and three plane rides and our Kimberley adventure has begun.

    We arrived in Kununurra at 2.30pm and we were taken via courtesy bus to the stunning Freshwater Kimberley Apartments.

    Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments in Kununurra

    Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments in Kununurra.

    Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments
     View from the apartment

    Our apartment was very well appointed and surrounded by gorgeous gardens. We ventured for a walk into the town centre followed by dinner next door.

    Sleepin Buddha

    The 'Sleeping Buddha' with Lake Kununurra in the foreground. 

    An early night for us to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the Home Valley Station adventure to begin tomorrow.

  • A Touch of Luxury on the Mitchell Plateau in the Kimberley

    by Jo Durbridge | Dec 12, 2014


    Recently I found myself on an early morning charter flight from Broome, Western Australia with APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures, their architect Grant and interior designers Anna and Jane.  We were heading to APT’s Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge to catch up with their builder, Tjallara, to see how the finishing touches were going on their brand new Ungolan Pavilion.

    Flight over Cable Beach, Broome

    After viewing the colours of the Kimberley from the air with Broome Aviation, we landed around an hour and forty five minutes later at the airstrip near the Wilderness Lodge on the Mitchell Plateau.

    The entry for guests to the camp is a wooden bridge which has recently been lit underneath and I’m told at night, with the creek running beneath, it provides an atmospheric environment in the evenings.

    Entry bridge to APT Wilderness Lodge

    We are heading into our tropical season and very wisely APT use this quiet time to prepare for their 2015 season.  I was keen to see what goes on during the ‘downtime’ and the answer is a lot!  

    The staff were busy stripping the canvas off the well-appointed safari tents revealing a skeleton frame and corrugated iron partitions.  The interior furniture was being removed and stored to ensure it doesn’t get damaged during the wet.

    While the photo below shows the cabin without its canvas or furniture I can vouch for their comfort having stayed at APT’s Bell Gorge camp.  Comfy beds, lighting, soft towels and an ensuite bathroom provide a touch of luxury in the wilderness.  You can check out photos of the tented cabins all decked out for guests here.

    Cabin stripped of canvas

    As we are at the end of the dry season the creek water is currently low, however APT have taken advantage of the low water level and renovated the swim deck, making the water more accessible for guests to enjoy.  Once the rains hit in the next few months Camp Creek will be clear and flowing, perfect for a post tour dip! 

    Swim Deck at APT Camp

    I thought it was a credit to APT staff that without fail, whichever staff member I encountered they kept apologising about the overgrown vegetation and fallen leaves.  I hadn’t even noticed!  It just looked beautifully wild and lush to me and a welcome natural oasis within this rugged environment.   APT staff obviously takes huge pride in this camp and will have a spruce up of the grounds before guests arrive for the 2015 season.

    Camp Creek awaiting rainfall

    So on to the Ungolan Pavilion and the reason we were there!  The new pavilion is an architecturally designed structure that looks modern yet blends seamlessly with the landscape – genius!

    The pavilion has replaced a more basic canvas structure (and from what I heard it was pretty awesome anyway).  This new building will provide a sanctuary to dine and unwind with a drink or two.  It isn’t quite finished yet and when we arrived there was a sparky fixing lights, the wooden floor (love those wide planks) had been recently stained and furniture and décor items were piled up wrapped in plastic. 

    Now in the Kimberley if something needs doing everyone mucks in and that is exactly what happened with a combination of humour together with serious debate on furniture placement and plenty of water to get everyone through the rising temperatures. 

    All pitched in unwrapping and moving furniture, adjusting lounge cushions and décor items.  You can see from the photos that everyone is barefoot and while we normally don’t need a reason to kick our shoes off in the Kimberley, this time it was so we didn’t drag the red dirt onto the recently stained floors.

    Unwrapping cushions with APT

    Moving a very heavy table

    With the guest experience top of mind,  APT’s Lodge Operations Manager Karen double checked a number of practicalities with Anna and Jane from Pipkorn & Fitzpatrick.  Is there enough room on the table for the dinner plates, cutlery and glassware?  There is. Are the chairs at a comfortable height to dine?  They are.  Karen is focused on providing a special experience and explained that these, and other little touches really do make the difference to whether a guest enjoys their stay.  The girls received Karen’s tick of approval!

    Checking the tables work for guests

    In keeping with APT’s sustainable principles architect Grant from Saleeba Adams has incorporated recycled corrugated iron from the roof of another one of their wilderness lodges into the building and Anna and Jane have given new life to some retro pieces of furniture. Sustainability continues with the ceiling and flooring built to accommodate trees, their trunks acting as decorative bush poles and the ceiling cut outs becoming rustic skylights.

    Bringing the outside in

    The sofas are long and covered in durable bush green material which will become even more comfortable the more they are lounged on.  I can just see guests stretching out, enjoying the bush surroundings, while chatting about their Kimberley adventures.

    Discussing sofa placement
    One of the interesting features of the pavilion is its feeling of spaciousness, of letting the outdoors in.

    Looking out from inside the pavilion

    The pavilion has been given the name Ungolan which is the name of the local area given by the Kandiwal Community who are the Traditional Owners of the land and APT's landlords.  APT works with the community and they have been invited to add their creativity and artistic touch to these blank panels that sit behind the serving area.

    Panels rady for Kandiwal artwork

    Next to the pavilion the outdoor corrugated iron bar has had its decking extended and the ever popular evening campfire will continue, having been slightly shifted to make room for the new pavilion.

    Oustide Bar APT Wilderness Lodge

    I personally think the Ungolan Pavilion is a fantastic addition to the Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge. There are still final touches to be made to the pavilion before guests arrive  - photos to be added to frames, books to be placed on the shelves, but the bones are there and it provides a welcoming and relaxing environment in a unique setting.

    Once the architect, interior designers and APT management and staff had discussed what tweaks needed to be made, we cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the hard work and successful coordination of the project in this very remote location – no mean feat!  

    celebrating the Ungolan Pavilion

    Broome Aviation flew us back to Broome.  I thought the image below was an interesting one as it looked like a propeller blade had broken loose (it hadn’t!).  While it was a charter flight and not a scenic one, I still caught a glimpse of the Mitchell Falls and the Horizontal Falls. The Kimberley is such a spectacular region.  If you haven’t been there yet you are missing out!  

    Flying back to Broome in the Kimberley

    Going behind the scenes with APT Wilderness Adventures gave me a true insight into how hard the staff work off season at ensuring the guest experience details are all in place for the upcoming season. Congratulations to APT on the near completion of the Ungolan Pavilion!  I envy those guests that are going to stay at Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge in 2015, whether they are self drivers or on one of APT’s 4WD Adventures or Air Tours, and I hope to head back there myself to enjoy the relaxing environment APT have created in such an amazing location.

    You can find out more about APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures here.


  • A Festival of Fun in Broome!

    by Jo Durbridge | Oct 02, 2014


    Sandy and Shane Liddiard arrived into sunny Broome as winners of the Shinju Matsuri Mix 94.5 Radio promotion.  

    I greeted both of them at Broome airport and practically the first words out of Sandy’s mouth as she stepped off the Qantas flight  were  “I could live here!”  and I knew we would get along swimmingly!  Living in Perth she was immediately impressed by Broome’s warm weather.  

    Sandy cleverly designated the travel bag on wobbly wheels to her hubby to take to the car and a few minutes drive later we were at Oaks Broome.  One of the great things about this compact town is that it’s a maximum of ten minutes drive anywhere in Broome!

    Even though we were earlier than the official check in time,  the friendly staff at Oaks Broome had Shane and Sandy’s hotel room ready. As part of their prize, Oaks also provided them a complimentary daily buffet breakfast (Thanks Oaks!)  The Oaks is in a great location and about a two minute drive to the town centre.  I left Sandy and Shane to their own devices, so they could chill out and slip into ‘Broometime’.  Sandy was still talking about how she loved the warm weather while I reckon Shane was keen to get to the pool and air conditioned hotel room!

    Sandy and Shane stayed at Oaks Broome

    I arrived at Oaks the next evening to collect them for their first Shinju Matsuri Festival event – A Taste Of Broome.  I discovered that they had wasted no time relaxing!  They had hired a car from Broome Broome Car Rentals (great name for a car hire company doncha think!)  They’d checked out Broome’s Chinatown and also caught up with a friend that lives here.  

    A Taste of Broome
    Neil McKenzie gives a traditional welcome for A Taste of Broome

    A Taste of Broome is a music and picture show.  Food stalls are set up where you can purchase food and to a backdrop of historical photos, locals entertained with  songs, music and dance performances capturing  the Indigenous and multicultural history of this pearling town. As VIPs we were shown a table at the front, provided a drink and as the performances began we were given an Asian food platter to share.  A Taste of Broome dates have been confirmed for 2015 so if you are heading to Broome in 2015  check the upcoming dates here

    Broome food stalls at A Taste of Broome

    Delicious food reflecting Broome's Asian heritage

    Oaks Broome is within strolling distance to Town Beach and so Shane and Sandy checked out the Shinju Matsuri Rotary Dragon Boat Regatta on the Saturday morning – always a laugh as community teams try to keep their boat upright.  Sandy said at one point there were boats going in every other direction to where they should have been heading and some people ended up in the drink!  The Broome Surf Lifesaving Club was the eventual victor and it’s reassuring to know our local lifesavers know their stuff in the water!  Sandy and Shane also had a wander around the Broome Courthouse Markets.

    Next we were off to the Shinju Matsuri Pearl Meat Cook-Off at Pearl Luggers!  Set on the edge of Roebuck Bay with pearl luggers from a bygone era as the background we settled under the shade. Usually the location of a historical pearling tours (a must do when visiting Broome) the grassed area was transformed into mini cooking stations and as the weather heated up so did the cooking competition. 

    Pearl Meat Cook-off in BroomeBroome's chefs competed in the Pearl Meat Cook-Off 

    Eating Broome pearl meat
    Sandy samples one of the pearl meat dishes on offer.

    The chefs  of  Broome’s hotels and restaurants compete for this much fought over title every year.  Pearl meat is a delicacy and internationally can sell for $150 per kilo!  The three of us turned into serious food critics as we tasted the dishes on offer and debated textures, flavours and presentation.  Matso’s Broome Brewery was hoping to sway the public vote with free samples of their delicious alcoholic ginger beer!  The head chef of Oaks was crowned the winner!  A bit more time relaxing back at the hotel and then Shane and Sandy headed to the Shinju Matsuri Ball at the Roebuck Bay Hotel that evening.

    Shane and Sandy wasted no time the next day.  They participated in a Willie Creek Pearl Farm Tour.  Collected by coach with commentary for the 20 minute drive to the farm, they saw how pearls were extracted from Broome’s massive oyster, the Pinctada Maxima, and enjoyed a cruise along Willie Creek.  Sandy also saw  Broome from the air on a helicopter flight.  A birds eye perspective of Broome is like no other given its creek  and tidal system which creates unusual patterns in the landscape.

    I caught up with Sandy and Shane at Broome Airport as they were leaving and they have vowed to return to this pearling town.   Sandy and Shane you were great fun to hang out with, I hope the weather warms up for you  in Perth and don’t forget to give me a call when you next visit!



  • Channel 7 Sunrise visits the Kimberley and an APT trip up for grabs!

    by Jo Durbridge | Sep 15, 2014

    It was an early start for Australia’s North West Tourism’s Robyn Maher as she was on location this morning forChannel 7’s Sunrise broadcast from Broome.  The 2 hour time difference to the Eastern states of Australia meant the West Aussies found out just how early Weather Presenter Edwina Barthomolew starts work!

    Broadcasting from the Kimberley all this week ‘Eddy’ started her journey in Broome taking in the camels on Cable Beach, tasting pearl meat prepared by Mitch from Matso’s Broome Brewery and admiring the sculptures  from the Shinju Matsuri A View to Asia Exhibition, and shot some footage of the very tropical  Cable Beach Resort & Spa.

     Edwina taste's Broome's pearl meat

     Edwina from Channel 7  Sunrise Cable Beach, Broome

    Sunrise televises Cable Beach Broome

    So what’s next on Edwina’s touring itinerary with APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures?  Bell Gorge, Mitchell Falls, El Questro, Zebedee Springs and the amazing Bungle Bungles are just some of the places she will visit.  Tune in to Channel 7 Sunrise from 6am all this week to find out

    WIN A 15 DAY KIMBERLEY ADVENTURE!  Always wanted to head to the Kimberley in Western Australia? APT are giving you the chance to win an extraordinary holiday.  Click here to enter.

  • Dinosaur Footprints, Camel Capers and another beer at Matso's!

    by Jo Durbridge | Aug 28, 2014

    Camels on Cable Beach Broome 

    Nearing the end of his journey in Broome and beyond,  Guest Blogger Stephen Swabey makes the most of his time in the pearling town:

    Our last full day in Broome started with a big breakfast at Matso’s Broome Brewery. The fresh wind blowing through the night had dropped a few trees around the town and it seemed to want to drop into breakfast. Matso’s was shuttered up against the cool wind, which is not usual, the staff assured us. We caught up with Matt again over breakfast and remarked how well we’d been looked after at, and enjoyed, Matso’s. We wandered into Paspaley shopping centre to look for a few postcards to send to friends, before dropping back to Moonlight Bay Suites to get picked up for an afternoon town tour.

    Kimberley Wild Expeditions’ bus soon had us rolling round the parts of Broome that would be difficult to see without a hire car and some local knowledge. We visited the area of Broome in which pearling luggers used to pull up to shore for supplies and to offload their product. Only one lugger sits there now, high and dry in a little museum, testament to the difficult conditions the early pearlers had to endure. We visited one of the pearl shops and listened to an explanation of how pearls are cultured and farmed. We dropped into Sun Pictures, which is an old open-air movie theatre in Broome’s centre. Then, a bit of deja vue, as we stopped at Matso’s for a tasting of their beer and a talk from one of the staff about how it is brewed. 

    On to Gantheaume Point, where dinosaur footprints can be seen at extremely low tides on the rocks. Happily, the footprints have also been cast into concrete at the top of the lookout behind the lighthouse, so they can be seen more readily at other tides. The sea eagles nesting in the lighthouse ’tower’ were in residence and we watched one return with a large fish for its chick. This part of the Broome coast is all red rocks, golden sand and blue sea. It’s makes for very picturesque photographs. 

    Not as picturesque as camels on the beach just north at Cable Beach, however. The final jaunt for our holiday was a gentle sway on the Red Sun Camels’ train while the sun set twice - once into the sea and once into the wet sand reflections. Careful instruction from our guides on how to cope with lurching camels rising from their haunches made sure we stayed in our saddles. Many folk were out on the beach enjoying the view, and the passing of the camel trains.

    Too soon, we headed back into town and grabbed a bite to eat before watching a recent movie release at Sun Pictures. The deck-chairs flapping in the breeze told us it was an abnormally cool night. We were also excited by the realistic sound effects of an aircraft zooming through the cinema, but it turned out to be a plane landing at the airport - having no roof on your cinema means the real world can intrude sometimes.

  • Back to Broome

    by Jo Durbridge | Aug 28, 2014


    Guest Blogger Stephen enjoyed Cygnet Bay Pearl's Great Tides Tour and is continuing his journey around the Kimberley.  Over to you Stephen...

    We had a restful cool night tucked down in the comfy safari tent bed at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and stirred late, to breakfast while watching the morning’s farm activities going on in the workshops opposite. Boats had left for the day’s work, but all sorts of maintenance and vehicle rearrangements were being organised. We drove back out onto the main road and headed south back to Broome. It seemed like the road had got worse since we’d driven up three days previously, but perhaps it was just because the tar seal at the north of Dampier Peninsula had spoiled us. 

    Finally, the black-top hove into view again, just north of Broome and we trundled into town to drop the vehicle off at Broome Broome Car Rentals, who kindly delivered us to our last accommodation at Moonlight Bay Suites. These self-contained units are wonderfully situated overlooking Roebuck Bay. The spacious apartment, with separate bedroom and luxurious bathroom was a lovely place to unwind after the juddering down the bush roads. That evening, we wandered across the road to meet Matt Cooper, who manages Matso’s Broome Brewery restaurant/pub on Hamersley Street. Matt showed us round the brewery on site, which brews some of the fine Matso’s beer. The movement of the Matso’s building is an interesting story in itself, with several shifts in function and location since it was built in 1910. 

    The idiosyncratic history of the Matso’s building is reflected in fine style in the unusual beers and ciders Matso’s create. Toni has enjoyed Matso’s alcoholic ginger beer for some years, so she (and I) were delighted to learn that Matso’s also have a mango beer, a lychee beer and a chili beer. For more traditional imbibers, the Smokey Bishop dark lager and the Pearler’s pale ale are also top drops, and have interesting stories behind them. Matt brought over a tasting tray and helped us enjoy the various beers, while we selected from Matso’s eclectic dinner menu, while regaling us with stories about running a boutique brewery and restaurant in a town a long way from anywhere metropolitan.

  • Wild Water Ride in the Kimberley

    by Jo Durbridge | Aug 28, 2014

    Giant Tides at Cygnet Bay Kimberley

    Guest Blogger Stephen Swabey enjoys the swirling waters of Cygnet Bay:

    Just a few kilometres further up and on the east coast of the Dampier Peninsula, sits Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. The rustic driveway from the main road down to the Pearl Farm hints that you’re not arriving at a manufactured, manicured tourist attraction. This is the real deal. A stone causeway from the visitor parking to the cafe and visitor centre passes boats, tractors, remnants of oyster cages and all sorts of marine paraphernalia. The cafe and visitor centre have an informality that welcomes and puts at ease. Hidden in the bush a few minutes walk from the Pearl Farm buildings are tent sites and safari tents. 

    We dropped our gear in one of the safari tents and walked back to the visitor centre for an introduction to the pearling business, Dampier Peninsula style. With a long history in the area, the original operation started by Dean Brown in 1946 as a mother-of-pearl collecting venture. Branching out into cultured pearls through work Dean’s son Lyndon did to replicate the secret processes used by Japanese farms, the business now also offers tourism activities centred on the wild waters of the King Sound. 

    One of the wildest water experiences is the Giant Tides tour, which starts in a most deceptively genteel fashion with a quick hop onto a boat on land. And no, it’s not on a trailer - the Sea Legs boats from innovators in New Zealand have legs with wheels on. Driving into the sea from the pearling operations area is faintly surreal. Then the legs flip up and, whee - we were off. For a while. It all came to a slightly damp stop at another boat in the middle of the bay. The upcoming ride suddenly looked serious. This new boat had sit-aside seats with pommel bars to grip. Gulp.

    At least to start with. The new boat rose onto the plane and started skipping across the small waves towards One Arm Point. Speed means exhilaration. Tight turns mean exhilaration. Sweeping over the whirlpools and standing waves created by the spring tides swirling round the islands off One Arm Point was exhilarating. The eight to nine metre tides at this time of year were demonstrating the raw forces nature can summon with simple gravitational attraction, as the mass of water was crammed into narrow channels and round rocky headlands. Our guide and skipper stopped every so often to explain some of the interesting history behind the various islands before treating us to another wild ride into a whirlpool or two.   

    Toni was not completely impressed. Fairground rides that swoop and climb, twirl and judder were never her favourite. It seems impossible, but I’m sure she left paw-shaped dents in the stainless steel pommel bars in front of her seat. I thought it was just great. We skipped back towards Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, admiring red sunset stains in the sky, caught on wind-blown dust and bushfire smoke. A quick transfer to the Sea Legs boat, and we climbed ashore again, like some primordial amphibious monster. After showering out the sea salt, we walked back to sample the oyster-related dishes on Cygnet Bay’s interesting dinner menu, before retiring to listen to the evening crickets and bats outside our safari tent.

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