We tackled the beautiful canyons of Karijini in the Pilbara last year. Here he describes why it’s a must for outback adventurers.
UPDATE: As of January 2021, West Oz Active Adventure Tours made the difficult decision to close the business due to the impact of the global pandemic and are no longer offering tours.
1. What’s so special about the Karijini canyons?
Karijini is renowned for its older-than-animals geology and colours that feel like they have no place in one of the harshest environments on Earth. But what the vibrant image on this page doesn’t convey is the ancient, intangible energy – almost personality – that each of the gorges radiates. It’s like they’re trying to communicate with you.
Karijini sits in the heart of iron-ore country, which lends the landscape its rusty red blue (photo: Jonathan Cami).
2. Is it tough negotiating the gorges?
Many of the gorges, like Dales and Joffre, can be accessed by a (fairly energetic) walk down from their respective car parks. To go deeper (with canyoning operator West OZ Active) you will have to clamber, climb, abseil and swim (with a life jacket and inner-tube). You’ll need to be of reasonable fitness (or better), with no lingering injuries or morbid fears of heights or tight spaces.
Evenings above ground in Karijini (photo: Jonathan Cami).
3. How much time do you spend in the water?
Canyoning by its nature follows the natural water course so you’ll be in and out of streams, pools and creeks all day, albeit in a thick wetsuit and boots. You even get to abseil straight down a waterfall and slide (a few metres) off another.
Centuries-old paperbarks survive wild torrents every wet season (photo: Jonathan Cami).
4. Is there a cultural significance to this area?
Karijini has an intense cultural significance to the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama peoples. The gorges acted as ancient meeting places and sheltered sacred sites so you’re encouraged to show respect; keep the noise down, don’t go where you shouldn’t and don’t remove anything.
The ochre magnificence of Joffre Gorge, Karijini National Park.
5. What natural history do you encounter?
The rock here is some of the oldest exposed anywhere in the world. Too old for animal fossils, but not for stromatolites, the oldest known fossils going, comprised of former towers of symbiotic microbes. Tackle Karijini’s canyons yourself.
Want to know more? Read our Ultimate guide to visiting Karijini National Park.