2017 Kimberley Cruise

WA and NT Travel Blog August 2017

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Our flight left Merimbula on time and we arrived in Melbourne just after 10am, ready for our flight to Perth at 12.30pm. The Perth flight left a little after the scheduled time, but arrived well ahead of time – must have had the pedal to the metal.

After collecting the hire car it was fairly simple to follow the exit signs – for a tour of the airport car park before finding the road to Fremantle. The trip took nearly an hour and then it was some time for John to find the keys and then the correct door to unlock our accommodation. We had a lovely unit that was well appointed and provisioned – even a welcome breakfast tray with bacon, eggs, cherry tomatoes, bread, milk as well as OJ. The pantry and freezer were well stocked with provisions (including ice cream) at very reasonable prices in case we didn’t feel like shopping. The only drawback was the flight of stairs to access the unit; ah wee, we cannot have everything.

Wednesday 02 / 08

Our room was quite dark and we did not wake until 9am (which is probably close to our normal time) the body hasn’t quite adjusted to being in WA.

After a leisurely breakfast we walked along to the Tourist Information Office where we were given an overview of the main attractions as well as some history of Fremantle.

From the Tourist Office it was time for some shopping to stock up on basic food items for our stay here. Lunch at the local cafe where John was able to have his Roast of the Day with lots of baked vegetables – that kept his little heart happy.

The afternoon was spent at the Round House Gaol that was built in 1831, two years after settlement, to house the locals who fell foul of the law. Both men and women were housed (separately) in two metre X two metre X two metre cells built of sandstone with a wooden roof. Each cell held up to four prisoners and they were put to work building a well in the centre that needed to go down 13 metres through rock to find to find fresh water; their next task was excavating a tunnel just west of the Round House for the whalers to bring their whale products from the wharves to storage sheds for sale to the locals as well as transported out to other centres as well as the gold fields.

The Round House

The Ram is made from small buttons

Ship showing cargo exported









It did not take too many years before a larger gaol was needed and the Round House fell into disrepair and only saved from total demolition because it sheltered the Warden’s vegetable garden from the strong winds that blew in from the coast (the breeze known as the Fremantle Doctor).

Fremantle Beach

Walked back to the unit via the pub, it must have been 5 o’clock somewhere.

Dinner in the unit and a quiet evening.

Thursday 03 / 08

Rain overnight and still drizzling in the morning called for a change of plans and we spent the morning at the Shipwreck Museum. A fascinating time spent browsing their displays as well as reading and / or watching all the accompanying information on history as well as the various expeditions to recover artifacts that had lain on the sea floor sine the early European explorers arrived in the mid 1600’s.

Map showing the ships wrecked along the WA coast

The recovered hull of one of the Batavia

On the way back to the unit we called into a little bakery and bought hot lamb rolls for lunch – also I indulged in a lemon tart that was absolutely delicious.

John spent talking tennis with Henry Michael.

I met Henry at the Australian Seniors Championship in Adelaide back in January and showed him my racket collection that I had hung on the garage wall just prior to Christmas. He carefully examined the photo to see if there were any rackets in my collection that he did not have. I also mentioned that I had some old tennis ball boxes that we used to store our annual bills in for years. He indicated that he had lots of rackets and other tennis item in his garage in Perth.

Seeing I had some time while over here, I rang Henry and arranged to visit his house for a couple of hours this afternoon.

Rackets 6 deep along the wall


More at the front of the garage

On arrival he took me straight to his garage to show me his collection. Barley enough room to park his car, with rackets 6 deep along the driver’s wall and 3 deep every where else. He appeared to have every make & model of wooden rackets I could think off and then some. He actually had one of the old steel rackets with metal piano strings. There was a collection of tennis ball boxes on the shelf including the old side opening ones used by Dunlop back in the 50’s. And the tennis ball collection of names I have never seen including Aeroplane, Singa, Greenpine & Klutz to mention a few. Henry represented Australia some 15 times and collected banners from South Africa, Germany, Spain and many more. Some of the unusual rackets had two handle grip, double strung, offset head and hinged handle for coaching. Another was the Hanil racket produced in China and only sold for the Chinese market. He even had a Grays “Real Tennis” racket.

The double grip & offset rackets

The second room included collectables like ball tins, spoons, posters, books, games, business cards and tennis ports. A great two & a half hours spent talking tennis, with photos and at the end of the day Henry gave me two rackets, a double strung frame and the Ugly Racket.

Balls, balls,balls

Ball Tins and Novelties









Dinner and drinks at the pub.


Friday 04 / 08

Still overcast but the rain looked to have cleared so we began the day with a trip on the Fremantle Trolley. John and I were the only people on the tour so the driver altered the route slightly to allow quick stops at a couple of locations for photo opportunities and also made sure to spend extra time in the older sections of the city. The tour included lots of information and bad jokes to augment the sights.

War Memorial


Corvette Memorial

A view over the city & harbour

After the Trolley we boarded the River Cat and spent a lovely hour on the Swan River travelling to Perth CBD. The commentary was not nearly as embellished, but the sight of some of the houses and the prices they bring was certainly astounding. Must be many rich people living along the riverbanks.

Around $5m for this property

Once we reached the Perth Quay we has some lunch and then boarded the Red Bus for the Tour of Perth. Even though we have completed the same tour back in 1999, we had forgotten most of it. We spent a pleasant hour viewing iconic areas such as Birdswood Casino and Kings Park before returning to the CBD and catching the train back to Fremantle; decided that was enough for one day and had dinner in the unit.

Perth from Kings Park

Saturday 05 / 08

John went to the PO to send his two new racquets home and he spent the morning touring the Fremantle Gaol.

Main entrance to the Gaol

A visit to the Gaol was on my list of things to do at Fremantle; built to house the many convicts that were brought to WA to help build infrastructure in the mid 1800’s. The very first building constructed was the Gaol to house themselves before moving on to other projects. Built to house 1000 convicts and when it closed at the end of the convict system around 1885 only 62 convicts remained.

When Perth Gaol closed in 1888 it became the primary place of confinement for men, women and children until it was decommissioned in 1991. It had operated continuously as a place of incarceration and punishment for 136 years. After five days of 52 degrees in February 1988 the prisoners in the exercise yard overpowered the wardens, released the prisoners in cell block C and set the block on fire.

It’s a grim reminder of how prisoners have been treated in the past and after extensive renovation to restore the building to its former state it was opened to the public in the mid 90’s. In 2010, Fremantle Prison became the first building in Western Australia to be included on the World Heritage List. Tours are conducted daily with options of Great Escape, Doing Time, Torchlight, Tunnels and Art.

I elected the Doing Time Tour, which showed us through the cellblocks, kitchen, chapel, exercise yards, solitary confinement and gallows block. A good insight into Gaol life, no thanks I shall stay on the outside.

We spent the afternoon at the WA Maritime Museum; once again lots of displays and information including Australia II as well as a replica of the America’s Cup. Some fascinating history exhibits and well laid out so that the larger displays could be seen from below, alongside as well as above – I even walked up the three flights of stairs to see Australia II from above as well as the Cup and came across the most wonderful display of entries from a Nikon photographic competition.

Entrance to the Museum

Australia II

America’s Cup

A welcome cup of tea and a chat with Jil while we recovered sufficiently to walk back to the until.

A ship load of containers leaving port

Wrote postcards to the grandchildren and rested until it was time to have dinner at Ciccerello’s Fish Cafe – Bermagui beats it hands down.

Sunday 06 / 08

Up a little earlier today to return the hire car ready for our flight to Broome that left at 11am and arrived in Broome at 1.30pm. It did not take long to remember why I do not like the heat; it was 32 when we landed and didn’t really start to cool until sunset.

Parched country on our way north

Salt pans near the coast







Entrance to a river near Broome

Water colours near the river entrance

Our first view of Cable Beach, Broome

We caught the shuttle bus to Cable Beach, checked in and settled into our cool bungalow – the lovely staff had turned on all three air-conditioners.


I rested in the cool while John went for a walk to survey the resort. When John returned we walked over to the beach and sat on the grass to watch the sun setting over the water – a brilliant spectacle that necessitated several texts to family and friends to share.

Dinner in one of the many restaurants and then retired.

Monday 07 / 08

Breakfast in our bungalow and then departed on a bus tour of Broome. Our tour guide spent a couple of hour driving us to points of interest while regaling us with history, local information and anecdotes.

Rough seas have cut into the headland

Note the layers in this section that has split








Anything goes here, whatever makes a buck

And we saw one at the lookout








We stopped for morning tea (High Tea) including delicious scones and then left the tour group to visit the Lugger’s Museum. The guide at the museum presented the history of the “hard hat” divers as well as the rise and fall of the Mother of Pearl industry. A very interesting presentation with many artifacts from the period.

Back to Cable Beach for the afternoon

I can now say I have been on a Camel Ride, but do not think I will rush to repeat the experience. The meander along Cable Beach was lovely, the shadows cast by the camels were fascinating and the sunset was again amazing. Trying to walk after the ride took quite some time, but eventually managed to walk back to the resort.

We finished the day with a wonderful dinner at the Sunset Restaurant – great steak, chips and salad; John had Kangaroo steak, but was not too impressed.

Tuesday 08 / 08 / 17
This morning we caught the bus to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm and spent a few hours learning all about the Cultured Pearl industry in Broome – a fascinating few hour with great Tour Guides. There were some stunning pieces of pearl jewellery available in the shop, but the price tag on the item I really liked was a little more than I could justify.

The drive to and from the Pearl Farm was along several miles of corrugated gravel and we were treated to the “Kimberley Massage”. Thank heavens for disposable heat packs!

Late in the afternoon we caught the “Red Bus” down to the town markets so we could watch the Staircase to the Moon, a natural phenomenon which occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay and only happens 2 – 3 days a month between March and October. Our phones did not do justice to this spectacle, so I have borrowed a photo from the Broome Tourist information site.

Tomorrow was set sail at 6pm, not sure what the internet will be like for the next 10 days, so we may be out of touch for that time.

Wednesday 09 / 08 / 17

After packing and checking out of the hotel, we caught the bus into town and spent a couple of hours wandering around Chinatown to see the “Oldest continual running garden theatre in the world”.

In the early days, crowds were segregated by class. The theatre was also subject to flooding when the full moon extra high tides crept in from the bay. That has not been overcome with a rock wall on the see front.

Opposite the theatre there is a monument to the pearl industry with a cast of the typical indigenous pearl diver and brass plaque.

Back to the Cable Beach Resort for lunch on the deck and pool surrounds.

We were collected at the hotel by bus and transferred to the wharf to join our Kimberley Cruise aboard the Caledonia Sky.

The ship set sail at 5pm. While we were unpacking, the mandatory Lifeboat Drill was conducted which necessitated bringing our life vests with us to the lounge to be marked off the list; it must have been a bit like herding cats given the time it took till the last person arrived in the lounge – that was after being rounded up by the staff.

A mandatory safety briefing and a discussion about the cruise were held in the lounge; a Zodiac drill as well as an introduction to the APT Tour cruise staff followed this. From the briefing we adjourned to the dinning room where over dinner we spent time chatting with two other couples, predominantly about travels both in Australia as well as abroad. It was then time to retire

Thursday 10 / 08 / 17

Awake early and had breakfast outdoor on the Lido Deck. A pleasant time chatting with a couple from West Wylong before the Captain joined us and the conversation turned into a discussion of travels in Ireland as well as the vagaries of maritime rules and regulation covering cruising in Australian waters.

The morning briefing was held at 9am and this was interrupted when whales were sighted breaching not far from our vessel. We then departed for the Zodiac excursion to Adele Island. During the excursion we spotted a range of birds with their young, as well as turtles, a crocodile sunning on the sand and sharks. As well as the whales sighted this morning another one surfaced as we headed back to the ship, alas, no time for observation as we were ordered back to the ship ready to set sail.

From the APT Daily Information Log: “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.

Adele Island is a hook shaped island off the central Kimberley Coast, located around 97km northwest from Cape Leveque. The island measures 2.9 by 1.6km with an area of 2.17km2 and its surrounding sand backs sit atop a shallow-water limestone platform, surrounded by an extensive reef system. The massive tidal movements can make it hard to get close to the island to make landfall or get off the island. The tides push through the northwest, over the underwater canyons along the continental slope and past the Lynher Banks.

Adele Island is an important site for breeding seabirds with several Japan-Australia Migratory Birds. Cormorants, Australian Pelicans, Lesser Frigate Birds, Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, and Masked Booby. In global terms, birds breeding on the island include the Lesser Frigate Bird with 2000 – 5700 breeding pairs, Brown Booby with 1500 – 8500 breeding pairs, Grey-tailed Tattler with up to 5500 individual and Red-necked Stint with up to 4100 individuals”

After the expedition the ship set sail we had lunch in the dining room rather than sit in the sun on the Lido Deck. At 3pm there was Presentation by a Marine Biologist to describe the highlights encountered when travelling along the Kimberley Coast.

The Welcome Dinner followed the Captain’s Cocktail Party at 6pm – this meal was shared with two other couples with the conversation covering many topics including travel, Trump, sport and family occasions. One lady was intrigued to hear about our cruise to Prince Edward Island and Anne of Green Gables experience – it was good to chat with someone who understands.

Friday 11 / 08 / 17

The sun continues to shine and while the daytime temperature rises to the low 30s, it is not unbearable except in the middle of the day. The sunscreen is liberally applied and appears to be doing a good job so far.

When we awoke we were at anchor in Talbot Bay ready to several expeditions.

From the APT Daily Information Sheet:

“Talbot Bay is the site of the Horizontal Waterfalls, which lie about 20miles to the east of Cockatoo Island in the Buccaneer Archipelago. The effect of the waterfalls is created by the rapid tidal fall on the ocean-side of the gaps in the sandstone cliffs. Water on the inland side cannot escape fast enough and so the ‘horizontal waterfall’ is created by the cascades, with water levels differing sometimes by several meters on either side of the gaps. The gaps themselves were once layers of siltstone in the strata of the sedimentary rock. Turned vertically during geological movements mentioned above, the soft layers of siltstone eroded away between hard layers of rock, leaving narrow gaps in the sandstone walls. It is through these gaps that tide movements push sea water to create the Horizontal Waterfalls.”

After an early breakfast we were transferred to the helipad pontoon for our helicopter flight over Talbot Bay and the Horizontal Waterfalls. The whole area was amazing from the air and then we were taken in the exhilarating Fast Boats with several passes back and forth through both of the Horizontal Waterfalls on the incoming tide before they became too dangerous for any vessel to navigate. They must look spectacular during the king tides when they can be up to 7m.

Following lunch there was a 21/2hour Zodiac tour of Talbot Bay – John will describe that activity, as I needed time out of the sun and the Zodiac.

The afternoons Zodiac expedition was captained by Simon who is the bird specialists on our ship. We headed past the Horizontal Waterfalls as well as the houseboat/pontoon that another group has for tourism with their three seaplanes, two helicopters and two fast boats that we used earlier in the day to go through the Horizontal Waterfalls.


We continued along the shoreline until we came to a river entrance and hung a right to proceed upstream and look for animal & plant life. We came upon another houseboat that is used by staff as their local hotel.

We stopped several times on the way upstream as Simon spotted different birds and gave us a closer look. We were also on the lookout for rock wallabies and crocks and eventually one of the other Zodiacs spotted one on the shoreline, so we moved over to get the odd photo or two.

We then moved downstream to have a look at the locally named Kimberley Rose, a red flower on a bush about 2m tall and were named by early settlers.

On the way home we called by the Horizontal Waterfalls to have a final view from the Zodiac on the ingoing tide but we were not permitted to pass through the falls as we only have one outboard motor on board and the regulations are that any craft passing through must has two or more motors.

Saturday 12 / 08 / 17

Our day began with a wake-up call at 4.30am for a 5.30 start on an expedition into Montgomery Reef.

Nearly all the passengers participated making a total of 10 Zodiacs leaving the ship within a short time. As we headed out the sun was just below the horizon and swiftly turned into a brilliant sunrise over the ocean.

Looking toward the reef we could see some small islands as well as a long, low shape in the water that turned out to be the reef gradually becoming exposed by the outgoing tide. We had to stay in the river, the gap between two reefs to prevent being stranded until the next high tide.

From a distance, it look more like sand dunes just visible above the water; as we drew closer we could see the water from the lagoon cascading over the reef to expose the finer details; including small sandstone deposits, algae and coral all in shades of grey with the occasional tinge of yellow algae. The sea birds were gathering as the reef appeared for their feed of crabs and fish; standing statue-like until there was a quick dart to capture their next morsel. The water flow that started out covering the entire reef gradually became waterfalls following the tracks that had eroded over time. There were also numerous turtles swimming around us; you would see a head emerge and then quickly disappear – particularly if they surfaced too close to one of the Zodiacs

The staff is all really knowledgeable and enthusiastic, sharing a wealth of information about the Kimberley, demonstrating great patience answering a diverse range of questions. Franz, our guide for this expedition, is the Geologist and his explanations were fascinating, adding great insight to the trip. Franz described a tribe who had existed on one of the islands in the reef and were reported to be giants; a film crew went to the island to film them in 1926 and discovered men who stood seven foot tall and were very strong. This tribe had lived in isolation, existing on a diet predominantly of seafood and whatever could be gathered from the land. After the film crew left, the tribe gradually disappeared. According the local tribes, the island tribe “became sick and died and the few remaining members were taken into one of the local mainland tribes”.

By the time we eventually headed back to the ship, the reef was about 3m high with the river becoming narrower. We boarded ship again about 8.00, quite wet from the morning; we were urged to have breakfast without delay – the shower had to wait. The ship set sail when we all returned to the other side of the bay ready for the next expedition.

From the APT Daily Log:

“Montgomery Reef – named by Phillip Parker King in recognition of Andrew Montgomery, the surgeon on his 1821 voyage, Montgomery Island along the Kimberley coast and is home to one of the many wonders of the Kimberley Coast, Montgomery Reef. It is true spectacle to behold as the entire reef appears to rise from the ocean on the falling tide. With tidal differences of over 10m over a single spring tide cycle, nearly 5m of reef gradually emerges from the ocean, as water cascades down numerous channels. Montgomery Reef and the Montgomery Islands lie some 20km off the central Kimberley Coast, opposite Doubtful Bay (to the east) and Collier Bay (to the south).

The Montgomery Islands lie among the extensive areas of sandbank that occur at the centre of the large Montgomery Reef formation. The reef covers an area in the region of over 270km2 is some 80km long and Australia’s largest inshore reef, containing large areas of shallow lagoon, sea-grass beds along with a host of marine life that live in and around the safety of the coral structures. When the tide is out, vast lagoons, sandstone islets and a central mangrove island are revealed. The outward movements of the tide form a torrent of water, creating a river cutting through the reef and hundreds of cascading waterfalls.”

We used the Zodiacs to reach Raft Point for a wet landing where we were given a traditional welcome to Wandjina Country and shown a number of local artworks for sale – these were predominantly reflections of local tribal stories and rock art.

At this point I went back to the ship to escape from the heat; at least there are no flies up here. From the beach, John joined the group climbing up to view the rock art dating back some 1700years.

Our group of 20 passengers was slow going with a few stopping at the quarter mark and returning to the beach as the track was too challenging for them to carry on. Mainly stepping over or on round rock in some places forming the bed of a watercourse, we proceeded until we came to a rock outcrop where we took drinks and view a few rock art works.

We then climbed a few more metres before we came to a caved area created by a large rock falling from the cliff face and creating the cave. We were met by two of the indigoes locals who gave us a 15minute briefing on the various arts on display. We were then invited to come into the shadows and up on to the rocks to take close up photos. I took a great number as Gae was not able to make the climb and I want to show her all that was available.


On the was down I made sure I was ahead of the pack so that I could stop at vantage points and take photos of the outlook. When I returned to the beach I passed through the indigenes smoke fire, which cleansed me from the island and provided safe passage to the ship.

At 6.15 each evening there is briefing giving details of the next day’s activities as well as a recap of activities of that day.

We shared dinner with Gus, one of the musicians / crew and shared stories of travels, life in general as well as the life of musicians within the tourist industry.

Sunday 13 /08 / 17

A slower start this morning with breakfast in the deck and then John joined the expedition in Careening Bay to see the “Mermaid Tree”

From the APT Daily Log:

“Careening Bay is situated along the Kimberley Coast, Western Australia. It is here that Lt Philip Parker King carved in a large Boab tree the inscription ‘HMC Mermaid – 1820’ which is still clearly visible. In 1819, 1920 and 1821-22 Lieutenant Phillip Parker King became the first person to accurately chart the Kimberley coast in the Mermaid, an 84tonne cutter, and the Bathurst.

Due to a leak in the hull of the Mermaid King was obliged to beach the vessel in what is now Prince Regent National Park for repairs. On 8 October 1820 he wrote ‘The country in the vicinity of the bay, which, from the use we have made of it, was called Careening Bay, is only slightly covered with a poor, stony soil; but notwithstanding this drawback, the hills are well wooded, and vegetation…abundant.’

King described the Aboriginal huts near their encampment: ‘Besides the huts on the beach, which were merely strips of bark over to form a shelter from the sun, there were others on the top of the hill over the tents, of a larger and more substantial construction… The fire-places near them were strewed with the nuts of the sago palm, the fruit of which appears to be generally by the natives of the north and north-west coasts’”.

John: This was another wet beach landing in the Zodiacs and our group of about 20 received information & background from our party leader as printed above from our daily log. We then went over the sand bar and onto the grated viewpoint around the tree. These Boab trees are very old and some could be up to 6000 years old. This tree was showing stress and splitting in the middle between two branches, an arborist was call in and concluded that the tourist were trampling the ground around its roots and stressing the tree, hence the new grated viewing platform.


After viewing the inscription, taking photos and reading the notice boards, I moved back to the sand bar and took some photos of a purple plant which the indigenous people described as a useless plant as hit had no medicinal or herbal value.


A couple of us then walked around the end of the sand bar in search of the fresh water stream that Lt Philip Parker King had used during his stay. There was little evidence of fresh water however their visit was earlier in the year and not long after the wet season. There were a number of mangroves along the riverbed.


Once back from this expedition, it was time to set sail again.

After a couple of hours sailing time during lunch, we anchored near a small island for our beach expedition. Once again another Zodiac wet beach landing and this time we were greeted by musicians Gus playing the saxophone and Fran waving us ashore. Upon our landing we were offered a glass of champagne, which we readily accepted. I noted some hermit crabs scuttling down the sand and was able to video a few, they stopped moving if I got too close.


I then proceeded past the headland to the next beach that had no sand but only crustaceans with a steep incline to the shoreline.


I then returned and proceeded in the opposite direction and over a large rock formation and came across a small red flower on a bush which I was told was the Kimberley rose. A few photos and back to the beach to return to the ship.


At 6.15 the daily briefing was held and then dinner with Greg and Liz as well as Winter and Marian


Monday 14 / 08 / 17

Still clear skies with an expected temperature of 320, thank heavens the humidity stays low.

From the APT Daily Log:

“The Hunter River was discovered by Phillip Parker King on the 12th of September 1820, and named after Lieutenant James Hunter, a naval surgeon in honour of being ‘A discovery so valuable that the river was thought worthy of a name, and it was called after my companion Mr Hunter.’”

Our ship anchored in Prince Frederick Harbour near the mouth of the Hunter River and we were taking a helicopter flight to Mitchell Falls; ours was the last flight scheduled and we left the ship by Zodiac just after 10am, arriving on Naturalist Island with a wet landing and then waited on the beach for our 20minute ride across to the falls. We were in a four passenger Bell Helicopter and from the front seat I had a marvelous view as we covered the distance – rock, little soil, sparse and stunted tree growth (except in watercourses) and a couple of brown cattle that the pilot said were strays from the days of Mitchell Downs and were left for Aboriginal people to use if they chose. The area we flew over is now all National Park.

When we arrived at the falls, Craig gave us a briefing on where we could go to have the best available views of the falls and where to avoid. We spent the next 50 minutes clambering over rocks to view the falls as well as the river that had collected in pools along the plateau. We decided to forgo the swim at the risk of slipping on the rocks. We chatted with a couple from Tasmania who had driven all the way up to Darwin via Ayers Rock and across to Mitchell Falls Campground via some of the lesser travelled roads and were then heading home via Mt Isa. We were back onboard in time for lunch and then ready for the next excursion at 2pm.

The afternoon’s expedition was two hours of meandering along the Mangroves in the bay and then up into Crocodile Creek to see what wildlife there was in the area. We sighted several types of honeyeaters; two white bellied sea eagles, a crocodile about 3m in length as well as jellyfish floating past. The trip back was very choppy which made riding in the Zodiac rather rough.

No evening briefing, rather there was a Cocktail Party on the Panorama Deck prior to the BBQ and staff show in the evening.

The semi formal dining room on deck 2 was closed for the evening meal and we were all invited to Lido Deck 5 to enjoy a specially prepared BBQ meal with the surrounding landscape in the background. The evening meal was laid out on one long table arrangement with a huge plate of cold meats followed by various bowls of salads and some creations carved out of watermelon. (I have some photos of these creations, as my words would not do them justice) The last table contained a number of heated serving trays with hot dishes of hamburger patties, chicken wings and fish pieces; a delightful meal with some great company.

Tuesday 15 / 08 / 17

We were later than expected arriving at our destination this morning because the ship had stopped to pick up two people off a wrecked catamaran. Apparently they had torn holes in both hulls, lost both their motors and rudders when their radar malfunctioned and they hit a reef. Rather than set-off their EPERB and create a panic, they waited knowing that sooner or later a vessel would come along. After two days, they saw our lights (about 4am) and set off a flare – it then took some time to locate their dinghy in these unchartered waters and bring them back to the Caledonia Sky, thus ending their sea voyage sooner than planned.

From the APT Daily Log:

“Bigge Island is an island off the Kimberley region in Western Australia, within the shires of Wyndham-East Kimberley. The island lies approximately 6 kilometres from the mainland, from which it is separated by Scott Strait. It is located between York Sound and Cape Pond.

The island has an irregular shape, but is roughly rectangular, measuring 22km north to south and 11km across, with the north coast cut deeply by the large Boomerang Bay. It is a rugged formation composed of ancient and highly weathered rocks of whitish to reddish quartz sandstones with patches of darker-coloured dolerites. Much of this is bare rock, with vegetation being confined to valleys, gullies and channels.

It is a wildlife haven free of feral predators and other population pressures, and home to the smallest of the kangaroo group, the Monjon rock wallaby. Bigge Island was named by Captain Phillip Parker King in 1820 after the man who lead the royal commission of inquiry into the state of the colony of New South Wales.”

The white pins are where we are visiting & the ship is where we are today

The morning’s expedition to Bigge Island was another wet landing in the Zodiacs, again three zodiacs with eight passengers each to make our group. After landing I changed my footwear to socks & tennis shoes to climb over the rocks; we gathered in our group to be lead by Craig. After an initial briefing, Craig lead us along the beach and up onto a rock plateau to view into a very rocky gully and explain how aboriginals existed on the island.

From there we travelled along the back of the sand bar to view a mangrove swamp and possible fresh water supply, sometimes this basin is filled with seawater when there is a very high tide on the full moon cycle.


We moved over the sand bar on the southern end and noted a tree with many roots searching for some moisture to survive. From there we came to the cliff edge and Craig explained a burial site and a couple of skulls in a cave. Next door we examined a number of wall paintings and Craig shared his knowledge in great detail. Back to the beach and our Zodiac trip to the ship for lunch.

After lunch on the deck we spent a quiet afternoon that included listening to Franz and his explanation “Australia – Land Beyond Time – From Fire to Ice” by equating earth’s geological history to a 24hr timeframe. Franz’ presentation was fascinating and I finally understood what I had to rote learn all those years ago just to pass 2nd year science.

The evening briefing and information session was again entertaining as was the dinner we shared with four of our shipmates.

Wednesday 16 / 08 / 17

We arrived at Vansittart Bay at daybreak and after breakfast we began our excursion to see the wrecked WWII DC3 just beyond the beach.

We landed at the beach and walked across the mud flats to where the plane had crash-landed after being off course on a flight from Perth to Broome – there was four American crewmen and two Australian soldiers on board; however, there was no navigator and apparently they had entered the wrong co-ordinates. After several attempts, the story eventually had a positive outcome when all six were rescued.

Around the plane there were many flowers that had thrived during the dry season.

We returned to the ship for lunch during which the ship sailed across to the other side of the Bay where we joined the afternoon expedition to climb over the sandstone rocks to view the Gwion Gwion rock art.

From the APT Daily Log:

“Vansittart Bay is a small remote bay of about 30km2, synonymous with the Truscott air base operational during the Second World War. The bay features beaches and aircraft wrecks, but the reason for our visit is the Gwion Gwion or Bradshaw art found on Jar Island. Jar Island was named by an early survey team who found clay jars on the island. These jars were same type as those used by the Macassans, who would travel down from what we today know as Indonesia, to the top end of Australia in search of sea cucumbers. Dating the rock art images has proved difficult and controversial. Paintings are so old that no pigment actually remains on the rock surface, so carbon dating is impossible. The composition of the original paints can’t be determined, and whatever pigments were used have been locked into the rock itself as shades of Mulberry red, and have become impervious to the elements. In 1996 Grahame Walsh discovered a Bradshaw Painting partly covered by a fossilized Mud Wasp nest, which scientists removed and analysed using a new technique of dating, determining it to be 17,000+ years old. This meant that the painting underneath the wasp’s nest must be older than the nest itself. Some experts are prepared to go even further and say the works are over 50,000 years old, potentially the oldest depictions of the human form known to man.”



The evening briefing was held for the final time and then Peter, the rescued sailor, described his and Marguerita’s voyage end when they were pushed onto the reef and the catamaran wrecked.

Thursday 17 / 08 / 17

This morning we arrived in Koolama Bay and John was up early to join the expedition to climb to the top of King George Falls at the head of the King George River.

I had three choices to fill in the day at King George River.

  1. Start at 6.30am for a five-hour journey to the base of the falls and a walk up the rocky wall to the top of the falls.
  2. Start at 8.00am for a two-hour short Zodiac trip to the base of the falls.
  3. Start at 2.00pm for a three-hour long Zodiac viewing points of interest along the river and to the falls. 

I chose the 6.30am adventure as Gae was having an R & R day. Breakfast at 5.30am and onboard at 6.30am with Simon as our helmsman and two other Zodiacs with Craig & Andy in charge. The early morning sun was reflecting on the western wall of sandstone cliffs and provided many photo opportunities. Simon, our bird specialist had a keen eye on the shores and was able to point out several species along the way. We also cruised into a number of small inlets to look for animal life along the way.

By 8.30am we had reached our destination and unloaded all three Zodiacs’ passengers ashore for the ascent to the top.

  Craig addressed the group on the techniques required to climb over the boulders and again emphasised to go slowly and select every step of the way. After twenty-five minutes we had reached the top and gathered for a drink and rest. Some were a little exhausted but I had no trouble.

We moved along the plateau to the top of one of the fall and a photo opportunity. We could see two of the Zodiacs that were on the short run at 8am, in the distance below. Another commentary from Craig on the catchment and water flows that pass over the falls during the wet season, however today being at the end of the dry season there was only a trickle of water to be seen. We walked over the bare rocks to the second and higher flowing fall. A very limited flow down the main river bed and we spent some time around the water holes with some people taking time to remove their footwear and dangle their toes in the ponds. Over an hour at the top of the falls and it was time to make our journey across the plateau and start our descent. 

  Once again a pep talk from Craig on the importance of a slow decent on our return to the Zodiacs, Craig has had an experience of a passenger turning their ankle and having to be assisted down the rocky slope, he prefers to be extra careful to avoid any mishaps.

After boarding the Zodiacs we all motored to the fall base to observe what little water is falling to the river’s floor. We slowed a few time on the return journey to observe some fish and birds but we made good time to the river entrance as the waters were like glass.

However, on entering the bay the wind had created a chop and it was rough going to return to the ship, which we did by 12.45pm.

From The APT Daily Log:

“The headwaters of the King George River rise to the west of the Ashton Range. It flows in a northerly direction through the Drysdale River national Park past the Seppelt Range, over a drop of 80 metres (262ft) at King George Falls and then discharges into Koolama Bay and the Timor Sea.

MS Koolama: the Koolama was an Australian merchant vessel, which sank as a result of several attacks by Japanese aircraft in February-March 1942. It was also the centre of the Koolama Incident, an alleged mutiny resulting from these attacks. 348 feet long and built in 1938, by Harland and Wolff of Glasgow, Scotland for the State Shipping Service, at a staggering cost of £250,000, and was registered in Fremantle. Koolama could accommodate about 200 passengers and 90 crew, 500 live cattle.

During the Second World War she was used mainly for passenger and general freight transport on the costal routes in Western Australian Waters. At 11.30am on 20 February 1942, a day after the first Japanese air raids on Darwin, Koolama was off the coast of the Kimberley, when it was attacked by a Japanese Kawanishi H6K flying boat near Cape Londonderry. At 1.30pm, three Kawanishis – led by Lieutenant Commander Tsunaki Yonehara – attacked the ship again, over a period of 30 minutes. Three bombs hit the ship and the Koolama was severely damaged. Later that afternoon, with the ship taking water at the stern, and its steering and internal communications out of action, Eggleston decided to beach the ship in Rulhieres Bay, which is now known today as Koolama Bay.”

No evening briefing today, instead Cocktails on the Panorama Deck followed by dinner.

Friday 18 / 08 / 17

Warmer today with the humidity increasing for breakfast on the deck; clocks were put forward one hour and this probably accounted for most people being slow in coming to breakfast.

A quiet day sailing across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf and watching Tony’s lecture on “Birds Without Borders” as well as Franz’ “A Geologists Dream”.

John spent some time wandering the ship as well as visiting the bridge

From the APT Daily Log:

“The Timor Sea is a relatively shallow sea bounded to the north by the Island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia and to the west by the Indian Ocean.

The sea contains a number of reefs, uninhabited islands and significant hydrocarbon reserves. International disputes emerged after the reserves were discovered resulting in the signing of the Timor Sea Treaty.

The Timor Sea was hit by the worst oil spill for 25 years in 2009.

It is possible that Australia’s first inhabitants crossed the Timor Sea from Indonesia as a time when sea levels were lower.

The Timor Sea is adjacent to three substantial inlets on the north Australian Coast, the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, Beagle Gulf and the Van Diemen Gulf. The Australian city of Darwin is the only large city to adjoin the sea. The small town of Wyndham is located on the west arm of Cambridge Gulf, an inlet of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf.

A farewell high tea and disembarkation briefing was held at 4pm when Dot outlined our times to leave the ship as well arrangements for all transfers.

Following the briefing, Captain Mike Taylor performed the marriage ceremony for Peter and Marguerita – the couple who had been rescued earlier in our voyage. I do like a happy ending.


The Farewell Dinner was held in the Restaurant with members of the expedition team hosting a table of guests – John and I had been invited to join Tony and Simon. A rather interesting time chatting with different people as well as listening to Tony (an ardent conservationist) and John T (an agricultural scientist) butt heads over the causes and solutions for global problems.

The evening ended with a presentation (collection from passengers) to the bride and groom and then the slideshow Snowy had compiled of our trip.

Saturday 19 / 08 / 17


The Caledonia Sky arrived in Darwin at 7am and after breakfast we disembarked at 8.30am to be transferred to our hotel. We were too early to check-in so we stored our luggage at the hotel and then walked the few blocks to the Tourist Information Centre. In the park, next to the “i” was Stop1 for the Big Bus; as the bus was ready to leave, we climbed on board and began our trip around Darwin.


At Stop9 we left the bus and visited the WWII and RFDS Museum on the Stokes Hill Wharf. The tour began with a virtual reality experience of the bombing of Darwin Harbour 1942 – John became quite engrossed (his expletives loudly accentuated his involvement) in the experience. I lasted about thirty seconds before my balance objected. The next section of the tour included watching short films; the first one was a hologram of Rev John Flynn explaining the background to the Inland Mission and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The second film was a hologram of Rear Admiral Ethridge Grant giving his account of the bombing of Darwin Harbour, his being blown into the water and attempts to rejoin his crew.

There was also a range of displays of both the WWII air raid on Darwin (with the sound effects audible all through the museum) as well as the Inland Mission and its evolution into the RFDS serving Australia today.

These two heady duty Tugs were all spick & span and probable cost half a mil each.

This visit was followed by a seafood lunch on the wharf before catching the Big Bus back to town and our hotel. The walk from the bus stop to our hotel gave us a taste of the heat and humidity in Darwin at this time of year – I would not like to be here during the summer months. After unpacking we walked to the supermarket for groceries to feed ourselves for our stay in Darwin.

Sunday 20 / 08 / 17

Our unit on the 20th floor faces south and overlooks the harbour giving us amazing views to enjoy. A P&O liner now occupied the wharf where the Caledonia Sky had been yesterday. There was also a tanker tied up to a wharf on the eastern side of the bay and a liquid natural gas (LNG) platform anchored just out from the coastline in front of us – lots to look at in a continually changing bay with tides of 5 – 7metres.

68 Air Conditions on this roof, only 34c today with 50% humidity but in December it rises to 99.9%

The Mendil Beach Markets were on Sunday afternoon so we caught a taxi out and wandered around until after sunset. I don’t think I have ever seen as many food stalls as there were at the markets – whatever food or product you could think of was available, many of which included buffalo, camel, crocodile, emu or kangaroo as well as a wide range of nationalities represented. John quite enjoyed the spiral potatoes.

Hats made from truck tarps

This guy was made of bark

Yes the spiral potato was great, I even had two.

Monday 21 / 08 / 17

The morning was spent looking around the shopping centre, buying postcards and having lunch. Central Darwin area does no reflect a vibrant community; instead we see a sad and tired area with many indigenous people just sitting. The area needs someone to love it; perhaps some of the newer suburbs may be more prosperous.

While I did some work as well as research on Kununurra and Lake Argyle, John headed off to a Military Museum.

I hailed at Taxi to take me to East Point to visit the “Defence of Darwin Experience and Darwin Military Museum”

East point was setup with two 9.2inch heavy battery during World War II but were not completed until 1945 when the war had ended.

“Begun as the East Point Military Museum in 1968, this precinct was the vision of the members of the Royal Australian Artillery Association (NT), who saw the gun emplacements and remaining weapons of the World War II base being destroyed by vandals and weather. Banding together under the leadership of Colonel Jack Haydon, they fenced off an area and began conserving and collecting. The original museum was based around the Command Post, a concrete building which passed fire control orders to the two giant 9.2-inch anti-ship guns and smaller 6-inch partners.

Cyclone tracy in 1974 blew flat most of the new trees which had been planted, but the RAAA once more devoted countless hours this time to repairing the damage. The museum initially opened one & two days a week and gradually grew to a 7 day a week tourist attraction.

In 2010 the NT Government asked the RAAA if it could build a new facility on its grounds to highlight 19 February 1942 specifically, utilizing interactive technology to give visitors more details with greater impact. The RAAA agreed, and the amalgamation of the new with the old began. A cinema in one of the Sidney Williams huts was closed, and the Command Post entry facilities turned into a display area. Today, with many volunteers joining full-time staff to bring the Top End’s part in WWII into the public gaze.”

I enjoyed the film and many indoor displays before going outside to explore an incredible collection of artillery pieces, vehicles, uniforms, models and paintings.

At the end I walked about three kilometres along Fannie Bay Beach to a bus stop and arrived home around 6pm.

Dinner & a beer downstairs in the Oaks Restaurant was enjoyable and the day finished with a walk around the block.

Tuesday 22 / 08 / 17

Today was a quiet morning spent on bookwork and the afternoon we caught a taxi to the Darwin Art and History Museum. The Museum is currently hosting an Aboriginal Art Exhibition showing many varied examples of work from recent years; one of the Museum’s permanent exhibits is documentation and examples of artworks detailing development of Central Australian Aboriginal Art since the 1950s.

The Cyclone Tracey exhibit was chilling; watching and listening to the film shot in Darwin the day after the cyclone as well as many looking at the many black and white photos brought back memories of the time – it must be terrifying to live through such an event.


The permanent Australian Art Collection included such artists as Albert Namatjira, Sidney Nolan, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts. The infamous NT “Sweetheart”, a 5m crocodile is on display next to cases of butterflies, snakes and shells.

John went on into another art gallery and then to an undercover boat workshop.

We left as the Museum closed at 5pm and walked along the foreshore to the Sky City Casino for a drink and dinner while watching the sun setting over the outer harbour.

Wednesday 23 / 08 / 17

A quite morning and around lunchtime I headed via bus along the Stuart Highway and adjacent to the airport to “The Aviation Heritage Centre”.

The Aviation Historical Society was setup in 1976 with the aim to record, document, preserve and display a collection of the Territory’s aviation heritage. The Museum was opened in 1990 in a purpose built facility constructed by the Northern Territory Government & is managed by the Honorary Member of the Society.

Society members are active in the recovery and restoration of aircraft and other artefacts with new aircraft and displays continually being added to the Heritage Centre.

Aircraft displays include the massive Boeing B-52 Bomber, one of only three on display in the world outside the USA. Others include F-111, Mirage, Sabre Jet Fighter, MK VIII Spitfire Replica, Tiger Moth and Royal Australian Navy Wessex Helicopter.


Dinner this evening was at the Darwin RSL Club – at least finding meat and vegetables was not difficult and proved to be quite delightful.

Thursday 24 / 08 / 17

Our last day in Darwin remains hot and dry; the water in the harbour ranging from a lovely aqua through to deep blue with sand becoming visible as the tide recedes from the mangroves lining most of the shoreline away from the Darwin wharf precinct.

I went to visit the last attraction on my list – WWII Oil Storage tunnels


Following the bombing of the fuel oil storage tanks at Stokes Hill on 19 February 1942 in the first Japanese air raid, engineers began looking at British government designs for oil storage tanks in underground tunnels secure from aerial bombardment.

In 1943 contractors Johns and Waygood began work on a series of tunnels running under the escarpment. The tunnels were, on average, designed to be about 15m underground. The longest tunnel, Tank 10, was nearly 200m long. Pipe headings connected the rear ends of the tunnels to an underground pumping station. The tanks were designed to hold distillate, diesel and furnace oil.

A camp was set up nearby for about 40 workers but estimates of the total manpower required were as high as 400 men. Conditions were tough and contrary to their expectations the men were not paid above award wages or overtime. As a consequence industrial action slowed the construction pace.

The tunnels were lined with concrete and thin steel to prevent cracking under bombardment creating a virtual tank within a tank. By November 1944 the tunnels that still exist today, 1,5,6, 10 and 11 had been lined with welded steel sheeting. Despite these precautions, it became apparent in 1945 that the tunnels leaked. As water seeped between the steel lining and the concrete walls, corrosion set in. Various solutions were attempted but with little success. By the end of the war, estimated costs for the entire project, if completed, would have been well in excess of £1 000 000.

In the 1950s, tunnels 5 and 6 were used to store jet aircraft fuel for the RAF and RAAF. After about three years and a period of heavy rain (15 inches in 15 hours) the whole system became inoperable because of seepage and was not used again.

After viewing the tunnel I walked around the esplanade to have a look at the deck theatre and the upper viewing area over the bay where an oil rig has been for several days.

Dinner tonight was a walk to Shenanigan’s Irish Pub for steak and lamb washed down with something cool to drink. The breeze we enjoyed on our way to the pub had dropped by the time we headed home, making it a pleasure to walk back into an air conditioned unit.

Friday 25 / 08 / 17

At the airport in plenty of time for our 11am Airnorth plane to Kununurra; the flight was delayed 30 minutes and delayed again for another 30 minutes before the flight was cancelled. Thankfully we were able to secure seats on the 3.30pm flight, but that meant we spent the day at Darwin Airport rather than sightseeing in Kununurra.

As we approached Kununurra we could view much of the Stage 1 irrigation area.

After hanging around Darwin Airport for six hours we eventually taxied out 15 minutes later than planned; we arrived at our hotel in Kununurra at 6.30pm, in time to unpack and then find the bar for a drink and dinner – I enjoyed a delicious bowl of tomato and basil soup.

On the walk back to our room we could see the open-air cinema on one side of the hotel and the football (AFL) oval adjoining both properties. Through the shrubbery we could see a great range of vehicles in the car park and hundreds of people moving around the field. The cheering increased significantly during the evening and lasted well into the night; we heard next morning it had been the Grand Final of the AFL as well as the Grand Final of the Netball.

Saturday 26 / 08 / 17

John joined his 3hr tour of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme tour at 8am while I went for a walk to explore the township.

I elected to take a tour around town and the irrigation scheme. 2K Tours is operated by the local school bus operators, Keith & Anne Wright. I was the only one taking the tour on the day so Anne collected me in her small sedan and we setoff to view the Kununurra Weir and pumping station which was used to feed the main channel in the early days. The pump station is no longer used since the building of the Argyle Dam back in 1971 which raised the water level in the weir allowing water to drain into the channel.


Currently farmers only use 7% of the water released from the Argyle Dam and a recent Federal Government funded $200 million extension of the channel will allow another 60,000 hectares to be irrigated with 30,000 hectares of that over the boarder in the Northern Territory

Rather than selling the land to small property holders, the government is leasing the land to a Chinese company who intend to spend $200 million developing the property for grain crops which will be exported out of Wyndham to the Chinese market. To date the company has spent $20 million but the government has not yet signed the final lease agreement.

Water costs at Kununurra are only about 5% of what it costs in the eastern states but the distance to market and the wet season make farming difficult. One farmer had a large crop of butter pumpkins which were trucked to the southern markets for off season sale. It takes three days to truck products to Perth or Adelaide and four days to Melbourne.

Several crops have been tried in the past with rice failing because there were too many birds around that would eat the young shoots before the crop could develop. Sugarcane was grown for some time and there was also a processing plant built but the low prices of sugar brought that crop to an end. Some farmers are growing corn, mainly for seed production because of the isolation of Kununurra.

The first plantation of Sandalwood was established in 1999. Sandalwood is grown in the wild in WA but takes 40 years to harvest. Indian Sandalwood grown under irrigation at the Ord only takes 15 years to mature. Every second tree in the row is a foreign tree and the root of the Sandalwood grows across to the foreign trees roots and suckles the available nutrients.

The two major operators on the Ord River are TFS Corp with 12,000 hectares of plantations (home of 5.4 million trees) and Sanatol’s 2,200 hectares. Mature sandalwood trees weigh around 100 kg, of which 20 kg is the aromatic heartwood, which in turn produces between 600-700ml of oil per tree. That may not sound like a lot, but one litre of oil sells for around $3000 – even the waste chippings sell for $1,000 per ton for the incense market. The prices paid for sandalwood were due to strong demand from the cosmetics, fragrance, pharmaceutical, furniture and art sectors and is in limited supply due to the reduced output in India (production fell from 4,000 tonnes in 1970 to just 250 tonnes in 2016).

Anne & I called into the local outlet for morning tea but I was not tempted to buy any of the oil.

On our return to town, Anne drove around the streets pointing many of the new government building that they have invested in in recent years including a new court house, government offices and primary and high schools.

At the primary school a local artist created these painting of two Boab trees playing with batons, and the second one of a mother and her child.

After John returned, we had a quick lunch and caught the bus to take us the 70km from Kununurra to Lake Argyle for the Sunset Cruise.

The dam uninvited the original Argyle Station and the main homestead was moved stone by stone to a new site on the entrance road just before your reach the Lake. We stopped off for a short break to examine the house and the history of the Durack family who drove 8000 head of cattle from central Queensland to the Kimberley in the mid 1800’s to establish the first farming in the area.

We spent the next four hours At meandering around a small part of this vast expanse of water while being regaled with facts and figures about the dam project.

Lake Argyle

Location Near Kununurra; East Kimberley, Western Australia
Coordinates 16°11′19.8″S 128°54′27.4″E;
Type Freshwater reservoir
Primary inflows Ord River, Bow River; Outflow: Ord River
Catchment area 46,100 km2 (17,800 sq mi)
Basin countries Australia
First flooded 1971
Surface area 703 km2 (271 sq mi)
Water volume 10,763 gigalitres (8.726×106 acre·ft; 2.582 cu mi)[1]


Lake Argyle is Western Australia‘s largest and Australia‘s second largest[2] freshwater man-made reservoir by volume. The reservoir is part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme and is located near the East Kimberley town of Kununurra. The lake flooded large parts of the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley on the Kimberley Plateau about 80 kilometres (50 mi) inland from the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, close to the border with the Northern Territory.

The primary inflow is the Ord River, while the Bow River and many other smaller creeks also flow into the dam. The lake is a DIWA-listed wetland.[3] as it is the largest lake in northern Australia and an excellent example of a man-made lake. Additionally Lake Argyle, along with Lake Kununurra, are recognised as a Ramsar protected wetlands and were listed in 1990 as Australian Site Number 32.[4]

The construction of the Ord River Dam was completed in 1971 by the American Dravo Corporation[5] and the dam was officially opened the following year. The dam wall is 335 metres (1,099 ft) long, and 98 metres (322 ft) high. The earth-fill only dam wall at Lake Argyle is the most efficient dam in Australia in terms of the ratio of the size of the dam wall to the amount of water stored. The lake was named after the property it partly submerged, Argyle Downs.[5] 

Ord River Dam post office opened on 1 March 1969 and closed on 15 November 1971 demonstrating the approximate duration of the construction camp.[6] 

In 1996, the spillway wall was raised by 6 metres (20 ft), which doubled the dam’s capacity.[7] Sediment flowing into the dam caused concerns in the mid-1990s that the dam’s capacity could be dramatically reduced. By 2006 continual regeneration of the upper Ord catchment appeared to have reduced the amount of sediment inflow.[8]

Lake Argyle normally has a surface area of about 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi). The storage capacity, to the top of the spillway is 10,763 gigalitres (3.801×1011 cu ft). The lake filled to capacity in 1973, and the spillway flowed until 1984. Lake Argyle’s usual storage volume is 5,797 gigalitres (2.047×1011 cu ft),[9] making it the largest reservoir in Australia. The combined Lake Gordon/Lake Pedder system in Tasmania is larger but is two dams connected by a canal. At maximum flood level, Lake Argyle would hold 35,000 gigalitres (1.2×1012 cu ft) of water and cover a surface area of 2,072 square kilometres (800 sq mi).[5]

Lake Argyle, together with Lake Kununurra, is part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme. There are currently some 150 square kilometres (58 sq mi) of farmland under irrigation in the East Kimberly region. The original plan was for dam water to irrigate rice crop for export to China.[5] However these plans were scuttled as waterfowl, particularly magpie geese ate rice shoots quicker than they could be planted. Other crops are now grown, but Lake Argyle still remains Australia’s most under-utilised lake.[5]

The damming of the Ord River has caused major changes to the environment; flows to the Ord River have been severely reduced. Within Lake Argyle itself a thriving new eco-system has developed. The lake is recognised as an important wetland area under the Ramsar Convention; with Lake Kununurra it forms the Lakes Argyle and Kununurra Ramsar Site.[10]

The lake is now home to 26 species of native fish and a population of freshwater crocodiles currently estimated at some 25,000.[11] Fish species that are present in Lake Argyle include barramundi, southern saratoga, archer fish, forktail cat fish, mouth almighty, long tom, bony bream and sleepy cod.[5] While the official website states that only incidentally a saltwater crocodile is found,[12] other experts disagree.[13]

Cane toads reached the dam in late 2008, mostly via traveling along the Victoria Highway, with numbers rising significantly during the 2009 summer.[10]

The lake, with its surrounding mudflats and grasslands, has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports about 150,000 waterbirds with twelve species being represented in large enough numbers to be considered internationally significant. The mud flats and grasslands are the natural habitat of eight wader species also represented in internationally significant numbers, along with a healthy population of Australian bustards which are considered a near threatened species. Birds for which the lake has global importance include magpie geese, wandering whistling-ducks, green pygmy-geese, Pacific black ducks, hardheads, black-necked storks, white-headed stilts, red-capped plovers, Oriental plovers, black-fronted dotterels, long-toed stints and sharp-tailed sandpipers.[14]

Common larger-bodied bird species found at the lake include the Australian pelican, black swan, eastern great egret, royal spoonbill, osprey and wedge-tailed eagle. Common smaller-bodied bird species include the spinifex pigeon, peaceful dove, common sandpiper, white-winged tern and budgerigar, while mid-sized bird species include the red-winged parrot, blue-winged kookaburra and barking owl.[14]

Some threats identified by the IBA include invasive weed and animal species, such as the cane toad, as well as agricultural uses, free-range cattle and feral ungulates that may be over-grazing in the shallow areas around the lake. The IBA recommends that a fence be installed in the important shallows in the south and east to prevent all ungulates from entering those lake areas [14].              (Source: Wikipedia 2017)

During our time on the lake, we stopped for passengers to go swimming; quite a few people elected to participate but we chose not to join the crocodiles (the skipper assured us fresh water crocs do not attack, but I am not convinced). During the second swimming stop, the skipper served drinks (champagne, beer and soft drink as well as nibbles while we watched the sun setting over the hills – the swimmers had their nibbles served on a floating tray.

It was quite dark by the time we returned to the landing pontoon and after 7pm when we arrived back at the hotel. Unfortunately the office was closed and we had no idea what time we were being collected in the morning for our flight to the Bungle Bungles.

Sunday 27 / 08 / 17

We were up, dressed and ready just in case our flight was 6am – thankfully we were collected and driven to the airport. There were four passengers on our plane, two of whom were taking the 2hr scenic flight as well as John and I. The two people we replaced at the camp joined the flight back to Kununurra while we headed off to spend two days exploring the area.

Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungle Range

The Bungle Bungles can be found in the World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park of Western Australia’s Kimberley region. Purnululu, meaning ‘sandstone’, has long been inhabited by local Indigenous people, but the rest of the world did not know of its existence until the mid 1980s.


The Bungle Bungles

One of the world’s most fascinating geological landmarks, the orange and black sandstone domes, known as the Bungle Bungles, rise 300 metres above the grass-covered plain of Purnululu National Park in Western Australia. 


You can explore the range on foot and discover long narrow chasms and hidden gorges large enough to hold a full-scale concert. You may also encounter some of the 130 bird species found here and unique native animals including the nailtail wallaby and short-eared rock wallaby. 

Bungle Bungle Range


The distinctive beehive-shaped towers are made up of sandstones and conglomerates (rocks composed mainly of pebbles and boulders and cemented together by finer material). These sedimentary formations were deposited into the Red Basin 375 to 350 million years ago, when active faults were altering the landscape. The combined effects of wind from the Tanami Desert and rainfall over millions of years shaped the domes. Weathering also helped create this marvel. Water seeps into the rock, and at night it expands as it gets colder. This creates small cracks which eventually wears out the rock.

Aerial view of the Bungle Bungle range, May 2016

Aerial view of the Bungle Bungle range, May 2016

A 7km diameter circular topographic feature is clearly visible on satellite images of the Bungle Bungle Range. It is believed that this feature is the eroded remnant of a very ancient meteorite impact crater and is known as the Piccadilly impact structure.

The unusual orange and dark grey banding on the conical rock formations is 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 colored layers are stained with iron and manganese mineral deposits. 

The Bungle Bungle Range formation occupies an area of approximately 450 square kilometres (174 sq mi).[1]

The Bungle Bungles


The traditional owners of the area are the Karjaganujaru peoples.[2]

Aboriginal people have been living in the area for over 20,000 years and continue to maintain a strong connection to this ancient landscape. The national park is managed by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation in conjunction with the traditional Aboriginal owners.[3]

The range remained largely unknown except by local Aborigines and stockmen until 1982 when film-makers arrived and produced a documentary about the Kimberley. The area was gazetted as a National Park in 1987 and was also inscribed as a World Heritage area in 2003.[3]                    Source: Parks and Wildlife; Wikipedia


We were met at the Belburn Airstrip landing strip by Marty who was our guide for the next two days of exploring the Bungle Bungle Range within the Purnululu National Park. We were taken to the Belburn Camp that was our accommodation for our stay; after breakfast we met Ian and Dianne who were the other half of our group. During the drive to Cathedral Gorge, we stopped along the way to observe Elephant rock as well as the Domes (also called the beehives) from several vantage points before arriving at the Gorge car park; from there, Ian and Diane headed off on the track around the Domes while we walked to Piccaninny Creek.

John then walked on to The Window while Marty and I began the walk into Cathedral Gorge; Marty turned out to be the best guide ever – he helped me go at my pace while giving the others opportunities and relevant directions to detour to other attractions; when John was off on a tangent / taking photos he even offered an arm for support when I needed it.


It is difficult to adequately describe the landscape, colours, wildlife and vegetation we saw during our walks that day; instead I will let the photos do that for me. We met some really interesting people to chat to along the way – a Professor of Botany (Australian) and a research scientist (Austrian) from Saudi Arabia currently working with NT Department of Agriculture on the best time to plant crops in the developing Quinoa Industry in the Ord Valley; the couple were having a wonderful time identifying the different plants and were very happy to discuss their finds with Marty, exchanging information several times during the morning.


John, Dianne and Ian eventually joined at the end of Cathedral Gorge where we spent a very pleasant hour sitting, just drinking it all in while sharing the picnic the camp provided. The acoustics inside the Cathedral dome are amazing; pity we didn’t have a singer among us; although the silence in such a special place seemed appropriate. Marty described a number of events that had been held there – e.g. the SSO Concert organised by APT (although carting their instruments in and out must have been a logistics nightmare.

The walk back to the vehicle just after 1pm was rather warmer than waking in had been earlier; thank heavens the breeze was still around to keep the 340 from becoming unbearable. Once back at camp it was time for a cup of tea, a shower and a rest.

Drinks in the dining tent and then a lovely meal prepared by the chefs – diets will be needed after we have been so well fed during our whole time away. It was a smaller group of people for dinner that night, just 18 rather than the 50 – 60 most nights. Being exhausted from a long, strenuous day we were in bed early.

Monday 28 / 08 / 17

It remained rather warm overnight; thankfully we had left the flaps up so the slight breeze could gently waft through our tent. The tent was well set up with plenty of room, a comfortable bed, a cane stage basket that held extra blankets if needed, an ensuite and canvass chairs on the verandah as well as cane armchairs and coffee table inside.

Ian and Diane left this morning and no one else was joining us, so we had Marty as our personal guide. We left camp at 8.30, drove to Echidna Gorge and began the trek into the gorge on the understanding I could stop at anytime for a rest or quit if needed.


Walking on rocks in a riverbed was much more difficult than yesterday, but with John holding on to one hand and my trusty steady stick in the other I managed to achieve most of the walk except the last climb over boulders – John and Marty went on to the end. I rested in the large cavern and watched fascinated as the colours changed from dark shadows to bright golden as the sun climbed higher in the sky. After walking back to the start of the Gorge we turned right and climbed up to the lookout with a wonderful view of the Osmand Range as well as across. When we returned to the carpark we sat under the shade, ate our picnic and enjoyed a cup of tea.

Our next stop was Stonehenge for the Bush Tucker Walk; this was a circular track with a dozen types of Bush Foods being identified as well as a description of how each is used.

From Stonehenge we drove to the Kungkalanayi Lookout; Marty said it was a challenging gradient to the top and he was not wrong. The views over Osmand Range and surrounding scenery as well as the profusion of blue flowers made it all worthwhile


On the way back to camp we stopped at the Park Visitors Centre and Ranger Station to buy some post cards of the area.

At 4.30pm, Marty drove us out the Belburn Lookout for sunset drinks and nibbles; Andrea, Marty’s wife, joined us for a pleasant hour of chatting and watching the colour changing across the Ormand Ranges


Dinner that night was a Spanish Fiesta; the camp team wanted to do something special and their efforts reflected the time and enthusiasm that had gone into making this a memorable event for the 52 campers and 10 staff who enjoyed the feast.

Tuesday 29 / 08 / 17

We were at the airstrip to make the 7am flight back to Kununurra; the flight took us over the Bungle Bungle Range, Argyle Diamond Mine, Ord River Irrigation Area, Lake Argyle and Kununurra Lake.

Once back in town we wanted to see a Pink Diamond to see what the hype was all about; this diamond is 25times more expensive than a white diamond. My darling husband splurged on me and I now have a beautiful example.

Argyle Diamond Mine

Rio Tinto owns and operates the Argyle diamond mine in the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The mine has been operating since 1983 and has produced more than 800 million carats of rough diamonds. It is one of the world’s largest supplier of diamonds and the world’s largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds.

The mine site covers about 50 ha (124 acres),[3] stretching in a mostly linear shape about 1600 m (5,200 ft) long and 150 to 600 m (500 to 2,000 ft) wide. The mine is of open pit construction, and reaches about 600 m (1,900 ft) deep at its deepest point. The open cut closed in 2010.

An underground block cave mine is currently under development, and is likely to extend Argyle’s diamond production until 2018.[4]

Argyle is the fourth-largest diamond producing mine in the world by volume, averaging annual production of 8 million carats (1,600 kg).[6] Production peaked in 1994, when 42 million carats (8,400 kg) were produced. Since operations began in 1983, Argyle’s open pit mine has produced over 750,000,000 carats (150,000 kg) of rough diamonds.

Most of Argyle’s gem-quality production is in brown diamonds. These diamonds are usually difficult to sell, although Rio Tinto has seen some success in a decade-long marketing campaign to promote brown diamonds as champagne and cognac toned. In contrast, the company has no problems selling diamonds in pink, purple, and red tones, which are very rare and in high demand, therefore commanding premium prices. The pink diamonds are processed and sold as polished diamonds by a specialised team based in Perth to customers worldwide.

The mine has ore processing and diamond sorting facilities on site. Once diamonds are removed from the ore and acid washed, they are sorted and shipped to Perth for further sorting and sale. A significant quantity of diamonds are cut in India, where low costs of labour allow small diamonds to be cut for a profit; this is especially relevant to the Argyle mine, which on average produces smaller rough diamonds than other mines do.                        Source: Riotinto Website

We had a couple of hours until it was time to go the airport to catch our flight to Darwin and wiled away the time visiting the Kununurra Museum.

Our flight to Darwin left on time and we arrived just after 5pm. Our hotel was just a short walk away from the terminal which meant we could checked in and unpacked and having dinner before it was too late.

Wednesday 30 / 08 / 17

Our flight to Sydney departed on time and we landed in Sydney at 7pm; we had to wait some time for the shuttle bus to the hotel making it rather late by the time we checked in, unpacked and had dinner

Thursday 31 / 08 / 17

We caught the shuttle bus back to T2 ready our flight from Sydney to Merimbula.