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The massive tidal surges and raw power of millions of litres of water churning and swirling through the narrow gorges of the Horizontal Falls is often described by those who’ve been to this incredible place as one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.
A tidal swing of up to 10 metres and water flooding through a 12m gap at up to 25kms an hour makes for an adrenalin rush that’s hard to beat. No wonder David Attenborough called the Horizontal Falls ‘one of the greatest natural wonders of the world’.
So when is the best time to visit Horizontal Falls?
The tourist season generally runs from March through to October when conditions are visitor-friendly, but times can change so it’s a good idea to discuss your travel plans with your Horizontal Falls tour operator well ahead of time.
Another thing to consider when planning your trip is how the moon influences the tides.
After all, the ‘horizontal falls’ are caused when the tide falls faster than the water can escape through the narrow gaps in the two parallel tongues of land, and because the monster tidal variations in this remote region of north-west Western Australia are among the biggest in the world, it’s a detail worth knowing.
The tidal difference through the Falls is most significant during the full and new moon phases.
‘King’ tides or ‘spring’ tides (which actually have nothing to do with the season, the name was coined from the concept of the tide ‘springing forth’) happen twice every lunar month all year round when the moon is full. These produce high tides which are a little higher and low tides which are a little lower than normal. The same happens twice every month during the new moon phase.
At neap tide (seven days after a spring tide) when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other, the tides are more moderate. Highs are a little lower and the lows are a little higher.
And that’s not all.
The shape of the local coast also influences the tides in King Sound where the Horizontal Falls are found - making the variations even more impressive!
King Sound is shaped like a huge shallow channel, so when the water comes in from deeper areas, it is constrained and forced up the sound, amplifying the tides.
Confused? Don’t be.
Tide charts for the region are readily available and you can download them from the Bureau of Meteorology’s website or pick up a copy from local stockists. Best option however, is to chat to the Horizontal Falls tour operators directly because they know the area backwards and they always do their best to get the timing of their tours spot-on so that guests can have the best possible Falls experience.
The tides change every six and half hours and many visitors choose either a full day tour or overnight stay at the Horizontal Falls so that they get the full experience of both incoming and outgoing tides.
But we’re talking about nature here and things aren’t always predictable. What is predictable however, is that a trip to the Horizontal Falls is about much more than swirling water, waves and whirlpools. Ask anyone who’s been there.
The scenery is staggering - a visual feast. Azure water. Ancient cliffs. Vast skies. Thousands of islands with fringing coral reefs and mangrove-lined creeks and bays. Abundant marine and birdlife. It’s not just about an adrenalin-fuelled fast boat ride through the gorges.
We can talk about the best time to visit the falls - but there’s so much more to this incredible natural phenomenon that you’re guaranteed to have the BEST time whenever you go!
For many visitors, a trip to the Horizontal Falls is a bucket-list experience and tour operators know this. They genuinely want you to have the most amazing time when there’s a reasonable tidal fall. They also want to keep you safe so if the drop is too big, they won’t take unnecessary risks.
You also have a wide selection of tours to choose from, depending on your budget and your timing. From half-day tours to Horizontal Falls, seaplane adventures and extended cruising in the Kimberley, your tour operator will have all the information about the timing of the season and the tides, so don’t wait, starting planning the time of your life today!
Get in touch with the friendly team at Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures on (08) 9192 1172 or and discover our range of award-winning tours.