When we decided in 2011 to pack up our stuff and backpack around Australia for a while, we were pretty optimistic, after all we had saved up quite a bit and were planning to go very cheap. We landed in Perth in April, bought a campervan and headed north, because we wanted to find work quickly and according to the harvest guide we were right on time to make some cash for our trip. Unfortunately, a drought put a spoke in our wheel and as we simply couldn’t find any work along the west coast. By the time we arrived in the town of Kununurra in the Kimberley region we were pretty much broke, we new we could make it to Darwin the next international airport, sell the van and fly home. Then we saw the sign at the noticeboard of the caravan park we were staying: Seasonal workers needed in the Purnululu National Park! Of course we called immediately, it was not only our last straw but also something we had wanted to do in the region but could have never afforded on our budget!
A few days later we sat in a Cessna on our way to work. Imagine going from broke to flying to work, looking down at maze of orange and black striped karst sandstone domes, one of the most breathtaking places on earth!
I loved this place from that moment on, we had our own little hut and worked very hard, but were rewarded with beautiful moments in the most peaceful place I have ever been to and could also join a trip to the most beautiful attractions around the park, Cathedral Gorge and Echidna Chasm and Mini Palms.
We stayed in Bungles for 3 months and only flew out once in a while for a weekend off, but once out the park we it immediately even though we also enjoyed our regular 48 in civilization. I think it’s save to say that this will always remain my favourite place on Earth.
So let me tell you a bit about what you need to know if you decide to visit this stunning part of the world.
About the Bungle Bungle Range
From the air the Bungle Bungle Range consists of a maze of black and orange dome, that remind a little of beehives. It has existed for 350 million years and it has been a very special place for its Aboriginal custodians for about 40.000 years. The Purnululu National Park in which the Bungle Bungle Range lies is a world-heritage but was a secret until 1983. The area around the range is semi-arid savannah grassland and there is a wet season and dry season.
What to do – the walks
The most famous attraction and accessible for most visitors. It’s a nice walk that starts not far from the car park and ends in the natural amphitheatre, where you can play with the echoes. You can sit under the overhanging rock walls and enjoy how nice and fresh it is on a hot day.
Piccaninny Creek/ Sunset Lookout
Here you can walk along the dried creek bed for a few kilometres enjoying the stunning rock formations that surround you. Close to the start of the creek you can take it all in at the so called Sunset Lookout, even though it’s gorgeous all day and is a fantastic spot to take photos. If you do go there for sunset, don’t forget torch, jacket etc. for the walk back, as it can get dark quickly.
I love this place! It’s a nice walk through narrow chasms where so-called Livistonia Palms grow. At the end of the walk there is a beautiful lookout with a superb view of the vertical walls. This walk is slightly more challenging but still feasible for anyone who walks regularly.
The walk starts in a wide creek bed and continues to get narrower. At its narrowest part there is only a 1m gap between the sheer walls. For the best photos try to be there at midday, when the sunlight casts through the gorge.
Let me tell you I know what travelling on a budget means and a helicopter flight, especially in such a remote area, isn’t going to be a bargain, if it wasn’t part of my work contract I might have never been able to fly over the Bungle Bungles…
if you do have the chance, treat yourself to a scenic flight, ideally early in the morning or around sunset. You won’t regret it. It’s the most beautiful view and remember not many people have the chance to do this, so it’s a very unique opportunity!
How to get there
There are 3 ways to get in the park
With a organised tour, mainly from Halls Creek or Kununurra, usually on a 4×4 bus and with at least one overnight stay at one of the camps.
Self Drive with a 4×4 via the Spring Creek Track, which has a reputation of being a rough, difficult track and as there are very few facilities in the park, you’d need to be extremely organized to make this a safe trip.
Scenic flight For me this is the best way as you also get the birds eye view on the famous domes, a very special experience itself. The scenic flights t the Bellburn airstrip depart from Kununurra.
When to go there and climate
Definitely during the dry season from May to September. The best time to go is just after the wet season in early May. Once the wet season kicks in the park is not accessible anymore. There are no guarantees though, as the park sometimes closes temporarily if it starts raining, even during dry season. If you happen to be in the area during the wet season, you can always do a scenic flight!
Be prepared! It can get extremely hot during the day and very cold during the night, so make sure to pack accordingly and listen to people who know the region to stay safe. The area is very remote and getting to the next hospital can take hours.
Where to stay
There are two campgrounds for self-drivers with very basic facilities run by the DEC (Department of Environment and Conservation).
- the Kurrajong camping area at the northern end, close to Echidna Chasm and Mini-Palms
- the Walardi camping area at the southern end, close to the beehive domes, Cathedral Gorge and Picaninny Creek.
Cost: $11, per adult per night, payable at the Visitor center.
Beware, when I say basic, I mean it: Think bush toilets, bore water taps, no showers. So if you are opting for this really really prepare yourself for the trip!
Also here there are two campgrounds, which are close to each other and offer way ore luxury, but are obviously also significantly pricier. In both camps you can either stay in safari tents with shared bathrooms or in a bungalow. Both have dining facilities and a bar and for both you’ll need to book ahead.
One is run by the tour operator APT, the other one by East Kimberley Tours. We worked and lived for 3 months in the East Kimberley Tours camp, so you’ll understand that I’m a bit biased 😀
I hope you’ll ave a chance to visit this magic place one day! If you have and I forgot something or you want to share your thoughts, leave a comment.
Sandra is the founder of 4 Itchy Feet. She has travelled to over 30 countries and is trying to add as many more as possible, even if everyday life and her job as a translator and web marketing specialist currently don’t allow her to pack her suitcase as often as she’d like. She loves the outdoors, the sea and discovering places off the beaten track.