Words by David McGonigal.
The distances in the Kimberley are vast and the population sparse, so air travel is a logical option. Some sights are also best seen from an aerial perspective. That certainly applies to Wolfe Creek meteorite crater and the Bungle Bungles, and the whole coast and islands.
This is a region where cattle-station owners jump in an aircraft as readily as a 4WD. To give visitors similar flexibility, the WA government set up the Ibis Aerial Highway several years ago, creating airstrips at major attractions and setting up a system of charter flights linked to ground operator tours.
Unless you are on a tight budget, there’s a good chance that you will experience the Kimberley from the air at some point. Of course, many begin their trip by flying into Broome or Kununurra and that gives a teasing glimpse of the landscape as you land. On a cruise, it’s hard to resist taking a helicopter flight up to the tiered pools and cascades ofMitchellFalls. The whole tumbled Bungle Bungle Range is well revealed on a short sightseeing flight, and only from the air does the bullseye of Wolfe Creek become apparent.
A typical half-day coastal flight north from Broome may take you across King Sound to the Horizontal Waterfalls and the pearl farms of Talbot Bay, the mining islands of Koolan and Cockatoo and the myriad other islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, and perhaps offer the chance to swim at Cape Leveque and overfly Beagle Bay and Cable Beach on the way back into Broome.
Several cattle stations across the Kimberley welcome visitors, and it’s very easy to fly in because the airstrip is usually near the homestead.FarawayBaycan only be reached by plane, and it’s worth the price of the flight in to hide out in one of its eight eco cabins, which offer absolute seclusion.
Air safaris are a splendid way to experience the vast Kimberley landscape. APT runs day tours and longer air safaris out of Kununurra, flying over Cathedral Gorge, the Bungle Bungles, theOrdRiverandMitchellPlateau. If you want to do it in luxury, Bill Peach Journeys offers a 12-day North West Discovery Aircruise that takes in Kununurra, Emma Gorge Resort, El Questro, Karijini Eco Retreat, Sal Salis,Faraway Bay and the Cable Beach Club. A snip at $13,495 per person.
• APT air safaris // 1300 334 872; kimberleywilderness.com.au
• Bill Peach Journeys // 1800 252 053; billpeachjourneys.com.au
• Faraway Bay // farawaybay.com.au
• Ibis Aerial Highway // Go to dpaw.wa.gov.au, then the ‘Parks and recreation’ tab, then ‘Key attractions’, then ‘Ibis Aerial Highway’.