A to Z of Adventure Travel: W is for Western Australia

18 06 2009

Wave Rock 2 mw 

Everyone knows Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock…but for a fresh taste of Downunder, Western Australia offers some of the most spectacular scenery and untouched wilderness in the entire country – and far fewer tourists! 

 

The state of Western Australia (WA) occupies almost one-third of the country and includes spectacular coastline, ancient forests, rugged outback and natural bushland. WA’s Indian Ocean coast has some of the country’s most beautiful and most unspoiled beaches and offers extensive snorkelling, sea-kayaking and some of its best seafood. At Monkey Mia, north of the state’s capital of Perth, visitors travel from all over the world to interact with wild dolphins whereas in Exmouth it’s possible to swim with giant whale sharks in season. The unspoiled Ningaloo Reef offers magnificent snorkelling and scuba diving with its and its colourful coral and vast array of sealife or from nearby Coral Bay, hope aboard a catamaran in search of humpback whales, dugongs, manta rays and turtles.

 

If you’re feeling energetic and want to explore the area on foot, The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching nearly 1000 kilometres from Kalamunda near Perth to Albany on the south west coast. Designed for foot traffic only, it meanders through peaceful rural and coastal towns like with names like Dwellingup and Balingup. Not physically challenging like the trails in New Zealand or elsewhere, the Bibbulmun offers the quintessential Australian bush experience and is best enjoyed point to point with the help of a good map. Trekkers can either make it a wilderness experience by camping out or do it in comfort staying at accommodation in towns along the way.

 

Several hundred kilometres east of Perth sits Wave Rock, a mammoth rock formation that resembles a giant surf wave of multicoloured granite about to crash onto the bush below. Formed perhaps 2,700 million years ago, the 15 metre-high barrier stretches for 110 metres and pre-dates even the dinosaurs and is as spectacular as it is isolated.

 

If it’s Baz Luhrman’s ‘Australia’ that you want, then it’s the movie’s location in WA that you should visit. The Kimberley is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. Covering almost 423,000 square kilometres and with a population of only 30,000 it has fewer people per square kilometre than almost any other place on Earth. People come here to immerse themselves in the awesome landscape and to meet the locals. The Kimberley has two distinct seasons – the dry and the wet. During the dry, which continues from May until October, the temperature is warm and comfortable. The wet, which extends from November until April, is characterised by heavy and short downpours in the evening or late afternoon, providing a refreshing change to the heat of the day.  This is the real Australia of red earth, jagged rock formations, wilderness and wildlife, waterfalls and billabongs.

 

Although Western Australia sees fewer tourists than some of the country’s other regions, the area’s recent mining boom has created some headaches for visitors seeking hotel accommodation. If planning on visiting WA and exploring its endless unspoiled and natural wonders, make your arrangements before you arrive…unless you’re traveling with your own tent!

 

 

Photo and post by:  Simon Vaughan © 2009

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A to Z of Adventure Travel: D is for Darwin

3 02 2009

katherine-gorge-1-mw1“Keep your fingers inside, they’re are crocs down there!         (Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory)

 

Anyone who has seen Baz Luhrmann’s recent epic ‘Australia’, will be familiar with the city of Darwin. The capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin is a modern and cosmopolitan city which was almost entirely re-built twice, once after the Japanese air raids during the Second World War that feature in the movie, and a second time after Cyclone Tracey in 1974.

 

Located on the Timor Sea closer to Asia than Sydney, Darwin marks the end of the line for the legendary Ghan train from Adelaide and has a friendly, small-town feel and kilometres of unspoiled beaches. Boasting a tropical climate, Australia’s most northerly major city offers a dry season from April/May to October and a wet season punctuated with tropical cyclones, monsoon rains and spectacular thunderstorms from December to March. Although sadly overlooked by many visitors, Darwin is not only a great destination but is also the gateway to some of Australia’s best natural treasures: Kakadu, National Park, Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge.

 

Kakadu is half the size of Switzerland, covering an area of almost 5,000,000 acres. The park’s diversity supports a huge variety of animal life and more than 280 species of birds – approximately one-third of the entire country’s bird species. It is also renowned for its quintessentially Australian billabongs and offers some outstanding examples of Aboriginal rock art in rocky outcrops that have provided shelter for thousands of years.

 

Southwest of Darwin sits Litchfield National Park, a slice of the bush home to a vast variety of bird and wildlife and some of the country’s most beautiful water falls. Not only do the falls attract thousands of visitors every year, but they are also a magnet for birds and reptiles.

 

Finally, Nitmiluk National Park – formerly known as Katherine Gorge National Park – borders Kakadu and is located southeast of Darwin. The park includes a series of gorges on the Katherine River and Edith Falls that have great ceremonial significance for the local Jawoyn people. The gorges can be explored by canoe or for the less-energetic, on cruises aboard flat bottomed boats. Katherine Gorge itself is a spectacular cataract comprised of thirteen gorges, with rapids and falls and is perhaps best appreciated by helicopter.

 

All of the parks offer a variety of accommodation from well-managed campsites for independent travellers or adventurers, to luxury permanent camps for a comfortable bush experience, and deluxe lodges.

 

Although not attracting as many visitors as Sydney or the Great Barrier Reef, the Northern Territory offers a superb Australian experience with unrivalled scenery, birdlife and Aboriginal culture….just watch out for the saltwater crocodiles!

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





How Big is Australia?

1 12 2008

australia-mw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So tell me, Lady Sarah, have you ever seen Kangaroo Jack?”`(Baz Luhrmann`s Australia)

 

 

If, during a trivia night, anyone asks you how big Australia is, tell them it’s 35mm wide and 2 hours 45 minutes long. Then quickly apologise before you’re forcibly dragged from the venue and forever banned from the local trivia league…and shout that you thought they were referring to Baz Luhrmann’s latest movie.

 

Baz’s Australia is certainly an epic in every sense of the word from its considerable length and impressive budget, to its breathtaking cinematography and sweeping story…and there’s a pretty good chance that it will compel you to jet Downunder more than any other movie since Kangaroo Jack! Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that good, but if you’ve always dreamed of a trip to Australia, here’s a contest for you.

 

The grand prize is a round-trip flight for two to CairnsAustralia’s adventure capital; accommodation; and a trip to unspoiled Cape Tribulation and the Great Barrier Reef But hurry, the deadline for entries is December 31st, 2008!