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Flyovers, Falls and Fun-filled Boasts

Explore a Kimberley landscape two billion years in the making.

WORDS Brian Johnston

Beneath the white wings of the seaplane, the Kimberley coast is a broken pottery landscape of brown shards and splinters. Its ranges have been worn by millennia of hammering sun, wind and flash floods until flattened and scratched with red gorges. I gaze out of the window in astonishment at the wild beauty below.

I’m heading out with Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures to experience one of Australia’s greatest natural wonders. We fly for an hour northeast of Broome without spotting a track or telegraph pole, let alone a building. All I see are spectacular red rocks and a confetti of rusting islands against the sapphire-blue sea of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

The sheer immensity of this raw landscape makes me feel both insignificant and elated, as we skim over a convolution of coastline and escarpments before swooping down onto Talbot Bay. The seaplane skips across the water. When the engines are turned off, the silence of the Kimberley is overwhelming.

It’s not entirely quiet though, as I soon become aware of a low rumble of water. The bright blue surface of TalbotBay slowly swirls like the surface of a bath when the plug is
pulled out. Huge volumes of water are being sucked by the Kimberley’s gigantic tides through a narrow gorge in the bay’s escarpment and into an embayment or flooded valley behind. The result is Horizontal Falls, one of the world’s most unusual and dramatic natural phenomena.

“All I see are spectacular red rocks and a confetti of rusting islands against the sapphire-blue sea of the Buccaneer Archipelago.”

We enter into a boat and zip towards the rust-red cliffs. As we near the gorge, I feel my excitement rise as the boat engines roar and we head straight into the opening of the gorge. Then we become one with the roiling foam, and I’m exhilarated. The boat accelerates, spray flies, red cliffs tilt above me, and suddenly, we come out the far side and into open waters. The unique waterfall has run its course – though we’ll do it all again on the return.

The cruise around Talbot Bay afterwards helps bring down adrenaline levels. Well, somewhat. Tawny nurse sharks patrol under our boat. Saltwater crocodiles lurk somewhere in the mangroves. We’re surrounded by dramatic bent and buckled cliffs in bright orange, slashed with seams of iron ore.

Everyone falls silent in the rugged face of this stunning immensity. As the seaplane takes off again, I feel a strange sense of loss. Maybe I should have stayed overnight on a houseboat. Then I’m peering down once more, captivated by a landscape two billion years in the making.


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