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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.


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