It is no secret that The Kimberley region in North Western Australia was one of the highlights of our trip around Australia. This remote and remarkable vast land is virtually untouched and unchanged by man. It is described as being one of the world’s last great wilderness areas and features the most diverse unique wildlife, mysterious cave systems, spectacular waterfalls, mangrove fringed estuaries, rugged red ranges decorated with sacred Aboriginal rock art and the wonder of the Bungle Bungles.
The Kimberley region stretches from Broome in the west to Kununurra in the east and covers 421,000 square kilometres in area. To reach the Bungle Bungles in the Purnululu National Park you travel north-east of Broome across the sealed Great Northern Highway for a distance of around 800kms, or a drive of 250km south from Kununurra. Once you reach the turnoff for the Purnululu National Park it is a further 53 kms over unsealed road to the Bungle Bungles.
We stayed a couple of nights at the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park just off the Great Northern Highway on the shores of Spring Creek so that we could leave our caravan and travel the distance over the very rough roads into the Bungle Bungles. However there is also free camping at a highway rest-stop, but probably not as secure as staying in the Caravan Park. Although the drive is rough and dusty and can take several hours, we were not disappointed by the magical sight of these unusual dome-shaped rocks.
Unrivalled in their scale, grandeur and diversity of form anywhere in the world, are the Bungle Bungles Range’s extraordinary array of banded sandstone domes. Covering a whopping 45,000 hectares of the park, these dramatically sculptured natural formations are sometimes likened to black and orange striped ‘beehives’.
The history of the Bungle Bungles is that until 1982, they remained largely undiscovered. They were known to local cattle stockmen and Aborigines and then a visiting film crew were filming a documentary in the Kimberleys and discovered them from the air. The Western Australian government creating the Purnululu National Park in 1987 and in 2003 the Bungle Bungles was inscribed a World Heritage area.
The scientific explanation for the unusual orange and dark grey banding on the conical rock formations is that they are caused by differences in the layers of sandstone. The darker bands are on the layers of rock which hold more moisture, and are a dark algal growth. The orange coloured layers are stained with iron and manganese mineral deposits. Hence the black and orange “beehive” comparison.
There are several options for seeing these natural wonders. You can fly over in a light plane or jump on a scenic helicopter flight out of Kununurra or at the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park, join a 4WD bus tour into the park or drive in yourself. However a 4WD is mandatory as there are several creek crossings and the road has some deep ruts until you reach the entrance to the park where the road improves somewhat.
There are several camping spots within the National Park so that you can spend as long as you like exploring the terrain. Walking tracks are the best way to explore the remarkable features of the Bungle Bungles and there are several trails available from easy 1km loops walks to more challenging two to seven day hikes.
Echidna Chasm in the Northern Bungle Bungles area where you can walk into a spectacular 200m chasm with its varying colour hues. The walk starts in a wide creek bed, before getting narrower and narrower as you continue. The mid-point of the wall features sheer walls separated by a thin 1m gap!
Mini Palms Gorge in the Northern Bungle Bungles is a walk that features soaring cliffs, Livistona palms, two viewing platforms and an amphitheatre far below. The gorge ends at a spectacular lookout which gives you a unique view of the sheer, vertical walls.
The Domes walk in the Southern Bungle Bungles loops around banded domes towering majestically around you, accessible from the Piccaninny Creek car park and day use area.
Cathedral Gorge walk in the Southern Bungle Bungles is through striped domes, rock pools, towering cliffs and honeycomb rocks that lead to an amphitheatre and swimming hole.
Piccaninny Gorge walk is a challenging two to seven day hike into a remote and magnificent gorge leading to a lookout and spinifex covered grasslands. This hike takes you further into the amazing rock formations of the Bungle Bungles and follows the course of a dried creek bed, weaving around for several kilometres taking in a number of attractions.
I would advise if you only have a day in the Bungle Bungles, like we did, take in Echidna Chasm, The Domes and Cathedral Gorge walks. These are all very manageable and only require a low level of fitness.
The intriguing fact about the Bungle Bungles is their comparatively recent discovery of only 35 years ago. It makes me wonder whether these hidden gems were purposely kept secret to protect it from tourists? It also makes me wonder whether there are more secrets to be unveiled in Australia’s vast remote terrain?
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Kathy Shade is a 50 something year old who is married with 2 children who has spent most of her life being a housewife, mother and working as an Accounts Administrator in the public school system. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Her friends would describe her as being a 'have a chat' with an outgoing personality and zest for life. Kathy also has a great love of shopping and is known for her bargain hunting prowess!