Cape Leveque

The Dampier peninsula stretches approximately 220 kilometres north from Broome. At the northern most tip lies Cape Leveque, and the Kooljiman Resort/camp ground. At this stage you’ll need a four wheel drive with good clearance to get there, but there has been on-going rumours that the road is soon to be sealed. (Those rumours have abounded since we first went in 2010 – the road remains the same).

We had the good fortune to include a trip to Cape Leveque in 2010.  There’s various places to stay on the peninsula, but as the Kooljiman Resort is right at the tip, it offers easy access to both the rising sun from the east, and the setting sun from the west. It’s an ideal location to see just how good the sun can be at different times of day.

Looking out to the right from our beach shelter

For our stay we rented a three sided beach shelter on the eastern side. We had our camper trailer at the time, and parked that beside the shelter, whilst Dianne and Bob set up a small tent inside. There was a cool water shower in the corner of the shelter, and a picnic table outside overlooking the water. The loos, and hot water showers were a bit of a trek away, but we often just made do with the cool shower in our own shelter.

And to the left

From the time the sun came up in the morning, to when it set in the evening the days were filled with so much to see and do. Being on the eastern side of the peninsula we had the joy of seeing the sun rise over the ocean, something rare for those of us who live in the west of the country.

The sun beginning to light up the sky

Sometimes we’d wake to an empty ocean view, and sometimes we’d wake, green with envy, when some lucky person or two had anchored their yacht just offshore.

Yacht anchored overnight

There was always plenty to do throughout the day. The water was only a few steps from our shelter, and absolutely perfect for a dip. In case you’re wondering, crocodiles and stingers are prevalent around the Dampier peninsula, everywhere that is except at the Cape. Apparently the tides there keep them away, or so I’m told. So we swam in safety, the guys managed to throw a line in a few times, and we went for plenty of beach walks.

Cruise ship anchored offshore

When we were at the shelter there was always something happening on the water to look at. Sometimes it would be a fellow camper doing some kayak fishing, or sometimes it would be one of the small luxury cruise liners anchored up ferrying passengers in for some shore time.

And then when the sun started it’s decent it was time to head around to the western side of the peninsula. Cape Leveque is famous for it’s sunsets, but it’s not as you’d imagine. It’s not the sky that brings artists and photographers from near and far to capture the glorious spectacle as the sun drops towards the horizon. As the sun sinks towards the horizon the rays hit the orange cliffs lining the shore. They shine bright, almost as if they’re lit from inside.

Cliffs lit up by the setting sun

Yes – these colours are for real

Just another place that adds to the ‘colours of the Kimberley’, and no trip to this glorious region would be complete without a trip to the Cape.

There’s various forms of accommodation at Kooljaman ranging from camping options, either in the campground, or at one of the beach shelters. There’s also different levels of houses to rent. Check them all out long before you arrive though to make your selection, and book early. They book out early in the season.

Just another wonderful Kimberley destination to add to your bucket list…..

 

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The Horizontal Falls

Continuing on from The Buccaneer Archipelago…….

Swimming off the pontoon wasn’t an option

After witnessing the most amazing scenery to get to Talbot Bay, we boarded the pontoon to await our pre-lunch scenic cruise. As I remember it, it was a warm and humid day. A swim would have been most welcome, but on second thoughts – nah!! At the time we visited in 2010 the staff on board the pontoon used to feed these sharks. I think that today you can swim with them, (I guess from within the safety of a shark cage). I think the swimming is done near the pontoon, so quite likely, these same fish.

No diving off the boat either

After a bit of relaxation we boarded a small motor boat for our scenic tour. A gentle cruise around some of the Islands and waterways provided a bit of background to the flora and fauna in the area.

A Rock wallaby peering out from behind some rocks

Boat seats, or should I say saddles

Then back to our base for a barramundi fish barbecue lunch before boarding our jet boat for the excursion to, and over the Horizontal Falls.There were some bench seats on the boat, but most people chose the safety of straddling a seat with a bar to hold onto. Once we entered the falls, I’m sure those of us riding bronco style appreciated the security of that hand hold. I’m pretty sure I, for one, would have been white knuckled as I hung on.

Looking back at the photos it all looks much more innocuous than it felt. In reality it was more exhilarating than any fair ground ride.

The jet boat was almost as long as the gap was wide that we were to go through. Fortunately, our skipper knew what he was doing. He lined us up, and then with all engines screaming and all of us hanging on for grim death, we shot full throttle upwards towards the horizontally, tumbling waters.

Entering the falls

about mid way

and then the final ascent

The falls receding behind us

Looking back the tranquility defies the reality of what we’d just experienced

We went back for another go, and a third, and maybe even a fourth. One things for sure, we couldn’t get enough of it.

Then back to the pontoon to board our seaplane for the return trip to Broome. Looking down on the falls on our departure it was hard to imagine the sheer force of the water. It looked so tame…

The falls again from the air on our departure

And that was our trip to the Horizontal Falls, now almost eight years ago. It was then, and remains so today the absolutely best travel experience we’ve ever had. Would we do it again? – I don’t know. I’m always a little weary of repeating something that’s provided an amazing memory. What if it isn’t as good as I remembered it, then the memory would be spoilt for ever more. So, much as I’d love to, and want to, I don’t know if I should.

We did the full day tour. The cost today for that tour is around $1000 (give or take a little bit). The half day tour (approximately 6 hours in total) is a little bit cheaper, and there’s an overnight option for a little bit more. For the overnight option, as I remember it, the pontoon has ensuite cabins on board. The overnighters usually get to experience going over the falls in both directions, using both the incoming, and outgoing tides.

Then there’s also a 4 night trip at the cost of around $4000. This option incorporates  some fishing and some pristine swimming holes away from the dangers of the crocs. I’m sure, there would be some spectacular scenery on offer cruising round the archipelago. If I was tempted into doing it again – I think this is the option I’d have to chose, just so as it incorporated a little more than before.But, as I’ve already seen both the archipelago from the air, and experienced the amazing Horizontal Falls, perhaps I’ll save the money for a completely new experience, a completely new pleasure!

If you haven’t already done the falls, the half day excursion is all you need to put something absolutely amazing into your own book of life. If you include anything extra, whilst enjoyable no doubt, in reality I’m sure it’ll only be providing background to the shining star – The Horizontal Falls.

This is an absolute Bucket List destination. For both Paul and I, it surpassed swimming with the whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef, and it surpassed our amazing glamping sojourn last year to the Mitchell Plateau and falls. Those two things, whilst both being absolutely stand out experiences, pale in comparison to The Horizontal Falls. Photos, nor relating the experience can come close to letting you live the experience vicariously. It’s something you have to do for yourself to appreciate it. So, if you haven’t already done this, and if it’s at all possible, please put this excursion high up on your bucket list, and make sure you tick it off. You won’t regret it.

 

 

The Buccaneer Archipelago

It’s almost eight years now since we visited Horizontal Falls. The falls are located near Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. To date, The Buccaneer Archipelago is a county mile in front of anything I’ve ever seen, and going over the Horizontal Falls in a jet boat is a country mile in front of any experiences I’ve ever had. More on the Horizontal Falls though in a later post – I suspect this one is going to be a lengthy chapter covering just the trip to get there.

In July 2010, whilst we were still working we took a rushed trip up to the Kimberley area, along with our good friends, Dianne and Bob. There were so many highlights on that trip, but the stand out highlight was Horizontal Falls, and that includes the trip to get there.

Firstly, from Broome,  we boarded a small (very small) plane to begin our journey. I think it was either a five, or six seater including the pilot. For this trip anyway it certainly held only us four, plus the pilot.

Smallest plane I’ve ever been on

First stop was Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm located toward the top of the Dampier Peninsula.  We were treated to a land-based tour which gave us an insight into the fascinating history of pearling, and how some of the pearls from the farm are chosen to be recognised as being amongst the most sought after and beautiful South Sea Pearls in the world. We were even allowed to try on one of their beautiful strands apparently valued at the time at around $20,000. (As I remember it, we were watched very closely).

Pearls fit for a queen, or at least a celebrity

After morning tea we boarded a small sea plane and headed out over the Buccaneer Archipelago.

1st ever seaplane ride

The take off on the bumpy, red-dirt runway was a bit hair-raising to say the least, but when we saw what was  awaiting us below, it was worth every bone shaking bump. The  most breathtakingly, beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, with colours so vivid they didn’t look real. To this day it’s hard to believe what we were seeing hadn’t been photo-shopped way beyond reality. The 50 or so square kilometres of brightly coloured azure seas, with over 800 rocky islands, each fringed with mangroves and the vividest of moss green vegetation looked surreal to say the least.

The most amazing scenery

Surreal colours

So many Islands

Finally, the little gap in Talbot Bay came into view – Horizontal Falls.

1st view of the falls below

Down we went, landing on the calm blue waters before gently gliding in to the pontoon that was to be our base for lunch and an afternoon of exploring the islands – and of course, our Horizontal Falls adventure.

Landed, although that doesn’t seem like the right term for a sea plane on the water

To be cont…..

And again, the sun sets on Cable Beach

Our guests, Dianne and Bob, left yesterday after spending a fortnight with us. We had a blast – we swam, we beach combed, we tried to catch some fish (unsuccessfully). We did some sight seeing, we went on some tours, we watched the full moon rise (staircase to the moon), and we watched the sun set over the ocean – many times.

And now the time has come for us to be leaving too. We’ve spent today packing up, and tomorrow will begin our journey for home.

We’ve enjoyed so many glorious sun sets on Cable Beach. Here’s a few of my favourites from this trip:

Sunset enjoyed whilst having drinks with Kaye and Brian at Sunset Bar.

And who could forget the sun turning pink as it dropped through the smoke haze.

We played around with some silhouette photography.

Wendy and I

Father and son enjoying the sunset camel train.

We drove down onto the beach taking sunset drinks with us often. A few times we also took a simple dinner down to enjoy as we watched the sun sink over the horizon.

We had a particularly memorable dinner on the beach one Friday night. Our Friday tradition is to have finger food only – no knives or forks allowed. This was something we started years ago so as to get our week-ends off to a good start after the working week. It’s a tradition we enjoyed so much, that even now, four years after retirement, we still try and stick to it. Last Friday night with Dianne and Bob, we took the small gas burner down to the beach along with some chorizo, Halloumi, crackers, and sliced salad ingredients. What a treat to be sitting in our beach chairs on the damp sands of Cable Beach eating our finger food as the sun’s afterglow lit up the darkening sky.

Cooking dinner for Friday night finger food.

Bob and Paul wandered down to the water’s edge, and clearly found something worth pointing out.

Bob and Paul talking ‘man’s talk’.

As the sun darkened further, a flock of seagulls took flight.

Seagulls flying into the sunset

We stayed long after most people had left the beach. With the beach to ourselves it seemed like a good opportunity to have some silly fun in front of the camera, knowing full well our faces wouldn’t show up.

Trying to make a heart.

A great laugh.

We’ve been up here for the better part of three months, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The weather has been perfect with daytime temperatures of 28 – 33 degrees most days, dropping to 13 – 18 degrees overnight – perfect for sleeping. We haven’t had a drop of rain the whole time we’ve been here. The beaches have been delightful, but we found there’s a lot, lot more to Broome than just beaches. What a pleasure it’s been to be here.

And now I just hope some of the sun follows us home.

The Snubfin Dolphin

A  relatively new dolphin species, the Snubfin dolphin, wasn’t discovered in Australia until 2005. Most live in the Northern Australian waters, with only a few sightings of the species extending up as far as Papua New Guinea. No global population is known, however, the population is estimated to be extremely low, and is likely to be diminishing. Roebuck Bay, off the coast of Broome is a noted hot spot for the species with a population of less than 200.

Personal research indicates if care isn’t taken, the species may be gone in the blink of an eye with virtually only one generation having had the joy of knowingly witnessing this unique species of mammal.

Resembling the South East Asian Irrawaddy Dolphin, their blunt, rounded heads present a totally different looking marine mammal than the bottle nosed dolphin we’re familiar with in Australia. The neck is a distinct, functional feature that allows the animal to turn it’s head without turning it’s body.

A rounded head, and movable neck.

They feed on fish, squid and crustaceans, and use a unique technique known as ‘spitting’ to catch fish. They will spit a metre or so in front of their prey, causing them to panic and change direction – often reversing direction straight back into the dolphins mouth.

We recently went out on an eco/dolphin tour with Cameron and his crew from Broome Whale Watching. The main purpose of the tour was to learn about, and see the unique Snubfin dolphin.

The species are found in groups averaging around five, but sometimes up to 15. As we headed out into Roebuck Bay in search of our main subject, Cameron’s commentary of Roebuck Bay gave us a good insight into the unique environment the Snubfin lives in. We came across a few other marine creatures, including a giant Mantaray, before a family group of nine Snubfins was spotted. This group was engrossed in having some ‘fun family time’, so we were able to drift in close to watch them at play.

When Snubfins socialise they form tight groups, and roll around interacting intensely with each other. They even blow ‘raspberries’ – true!!! At these times they seem oblivious to anything other than each other, making them particularly vulnerable to vessel strikes. The intensity of their play, shallow waters, and the high speed of boats means that the dolphins are unlikely to react in time to get out of the way of boats. In addition, the overlap between the dolphins foraging area and recreational fishing zones increases the risk of injury to these unique marine mammals.  In a recent study 63% bore the scars from vessel strikes, fishing nets, or fishing lines. The group we stopped and watched from a safe and respectful distance clearly showed some of the scars.

Scars of interaction with man clearly evident.

When playing they interact with each other very closely making them difficult to photograph with our little camera. That new camera  is rapidly changing status from being a ‘want’ to becoming a ‘need’, and will be with us very soon I should think.

Every so often the group would all dive together, seemingly giving us a united wave goodbye with their tails. It wouldn’t take long for them to surface again though, and Cameron would manoeuvre his boat around and drift in close allowing us to watch them a little longer.

A synchronised tail wave as they dive below.

Currently under Australian legislation, the Australian Snubfin Dolphin is simply listed along with other whales and dolphins. Reviewing and uplisting the current conservation status of the Snubfin to ‘threatened’ is imperative if we’re to avoid a repeat of reaching the recent extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin.

Thankfully we have tour operators like Cameron and his crew from Broome Whale Watching Tours who care about these creatures and the environment they live in. Their livelihood depends on it.  I personally would love to see a slight increase in tour operators, and commercial fishing charters, and a significant decrease in individual motor boat and jet skis operators. Some people would disagree, believing the charter boat operators to be unscrupulous. Possibly some can be, but their livelihood depends on the environment and it’s creatures remaining healthy.  My gut feeling is there are enough Australian operators with an eye on conservation and the sustainability of eco tourism to keep the unscrupulous operators in line.

If the tour operators can stimulate their client’s interest, they increase the chances of the masses aiding any future conservation efforts. My interest was certainly stimulated. They’re amazing creatures, unlike any other dolphin I’ve seen before.  I hope my great-grandchildren also get to see them.

A morning out on the turquoise waters of Roebuck Bay, watching Snubfin Dolphins at play – what a pleasure.

Beachcombing

There’s always something different to see when walking on the beach. Here’s some of the things we’ve seen whilst walking on Cable Beach:

Starfish stranded as the tide recedes.

Sea snake waiting for the tide to rise and take him back to sea.

Artistic crabs digging out balls of sand as they make their crab holes.

Forest patterns made in the sand by the receding tide.

Then there’s rocks to walk around:

Rocks and rock pools exposed at low tide.

With the sun setting over the horizon.

There’s planes:

Plane coming into land on air strip just beyond the dunes.

And boats:

Boats.

And birds:

Birds in the waves.

Taking flight.

And birds flying over boats:

Bird flying in front of one of the small luxury cruise ships.

And then there’s the things we haven’t managed to photograph. Birds circling as they look for fish and then, wings tucked in to create a streamlined body as they dive, whoosh!  into the water trying to catch their lunch. Sometimes they’re successful, most often they’re not. There’s whales, now off Broome’s coast line. We’ve spotted a few breaching and blowing reasonably close to shore.

There’s always something different to see, but unfortunately our current camera isn’t up to the job of capturing some of the images. A new camera is on our list. Paul does a reasonable job with our little Lumix, but when he gets the new camera with the bigger zoom, and all the other whiz bang things it has, I’m sure his photographs are going to be awesome. He has his eye on a Lumix DMC-FZ300, but it’s currently still in research mode – any advice will be greatly appreciated either for, or against. Please feel free to leave your comments below…….

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You can have house guests in a caravan

Our second lot of guests, Di and Bob, arrived earlier this week. In case you’re wondering how one can have house guests in a caravan it’s easy. Just bring a tent and a couple of air mattresses. We hadn’t thought of it before, but having brought the tent with us for the Gibb River, we put the invite out there, and had two lots of takers.

Flying up to Broome, with a tent for accommodation and sharing our site, car etc makes for an affordable winter escape for our guests. And we all get to spend some quality holiday friendship time together – how good is that.  I think the tent may become a permanent fixture in our caravan boot.

Di and Bob’s arrival corresponded beautifully with Broome’s famous ‘staircase to the Moon’. During the winter months as the full moon rises over Roebuck Bay at low tide, the reflections on the ripples in the damp mudflats creates a stunning staircase effect. It usually happens for three nights over the full moon period.

We took drinks and chairs down to Town Beach and settled down to watch the moon rise on the first night. The second night saw us at the Mangrove Hotel for a few drinks and some dinner, and to again watch the moon rise. Both showed off the staircase beautifully, but each with a totally different atmosphere.

Sipping cocktails at the Mangrove whilst waiting for the moon to rise.

Staircase to the moon.

Town Beach has night markets on Staircase nights, so there’s a market place, mardi gras type atmosphere. At the Mangrove, we sipped cocktails while waiting for the moon to rise – a far more sophisticated experience. The the lights dim heralding the start of the moon’s ascent over the damp, glistening mud flats. A didgeridoo playing accompanies the whole experience creating a haunting, almost spiritual experience. Both very different nights – both memorable in their own way.

We’ve spent a bit of time at the beaches, either walking and beach combing, fishing, or just sitting watching the waves, with a bit of a dip to cool off. The ‘glow in the dark’ skin colour they both arrived with is gradually fading. Di, with the help of carefully applied sun screen is now a creamy light brown. Bob’s sun screen application looks to have been a bit hit and miss, and he’s looking a bit more pie-bald in colour – a nice mix of creamy tan ,with some not so lovely beetroot red patches….. whoops! A bit of unwelcome sun burn, and sadly, still no fish!!

The skin colour shows up the newcomer.

Planned for next week we have a couple of days at the races. Tuesday is ladies day – so we’ll put on our glad rags and head down to the race track for that one. Then next Saturday is the Broome Cup, a huge event in Broome, so the glad rags will be out again for that one. Hope we have more luck at the races than we’ve had with the fishing rods.

Looking at the weather forecast is a daily occurrence. The rain continues to fall in Perth, while the sun continues to shine in Broome. A frequent comment whilst sitting under the beach umbrella looking out at the turquoise waters of Cable Beach continues to be, “What a pleasure”!