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


Travel Photography 101 4.5/18

7 11 2008

Confessions, musings and tips from a snap-happy wanderer



























“If you wait long enough, you’ll see the surfers.” (Wave Rock, Western Australia)


Pick your season!


Before we book our travels, many of us determine the best time to go. We may opt for the season when it’s not at its most ferociously hot or humid, or its coldest or wettest. Or we may time it to coincide with a particular festival, event or migration. Unfortunately, many others do exactly the same thing and you end up with ‘Peak season’ or ‘High season’ when flights, tours and accommodation are most expensive…and the main sites are most over-run with other travellers.


While there are times when you want crowds of people in your photos, you often don’t want the polyester-decked masses in your frame. You can try to miss them by carefully choosing your angle, patiently waiting for a quiet moment…or travelling off-season. The weather might not be quite as good and you may run the risk of leaden-grey skies spoiling your snaps, but your trip will likely cost you less and you’ll be able to capture the sites you’ve travelled so far to see without them being obscured by the crowds.


Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan



From Wrong Way to the Right Way

9 07 2008

Australia Air 2

The calm before the storm (Hyden, Western Australia)


In 1938, DouglasWrong Way’ Corrigan left Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn destined for California. Shortly after take off, Corrigan took a wrong turn that many pieces of luggage have since followed and 28 hours later landed in Ireland – thereby becoming one of the very first to cross the Atlantic alone. Corrigan insisted it had been an error, but the fact that his application to fly the Atlantic solo had been declined shortly before left many believing that ‘Wrong Way’ had indeed flown the Right-Way!


Today, in an age of radar, air traffic control and satellite GPS, it would be almost impossible to veer off course for long before someone let you know. But sometimes, even with the latest in modern technology at your fingertips, it is a new-fangled take on the old tried and true methods that bring you back to earth.


Recently in Western Australia, our 10-seater Cessna found itself in a violent thunderstorm. Our aircraft was thrown around the sky and violently battered, the rain lashed the fuselage loud enough to drown out the engines, boiling black clouds filled every window and our pilot gripped the controls to keep us on course.


By the time we emerged at the other side, several people were eyeing the motion sickness bags covetously.


However, the best was yet to come…as what goes up must come down.


Our destination was a small rural airfield near the Indian Ocean coast. The runway was a stretch of level ground carved in long grass, licked by salt air, watched by kangaroos and devoid of anything more sophisticated than an air-sock. Before our pilot could put us down, he had to be satisfied that the airstrip’s surface was firm enough to handle our landing after the heavy rains.


Australia Air 2

Is this New Zealand? (Jurien Bay, Western Australia)

Had it been 1938, we would have swooped down out of the low-level clouds, stuck our heads out the window and simply looked…before crossing our fingers and lining up for a rough landing.


But our pilot had a better trick up his sleeve.


From his pocket he withdrew his mobile phone and sent a text message to the driver who was due to meet us. With his hands still on the controls, he asked him to snap a photo of the airstrip with his camera-phone and text it to him. Moments later, the photo arrived and the pilot studied it earnestly on the small screen of his own phone. The image inconclusive, he asked his contact to drive down the centre of the runway and photograph the indentations that the vehicle’s tyres made in the soft surface. If his tyres dug in deeply, our aircraft would dig even deeper and could tip tail over nose upon landing.


A second photo quickly followed. The pilot was clearly still dissatisfied, changed course, and advised us that we would instead land on a more solid strip 25 kilometres away.


We popped out of the swirling clouds just a few hundred feet above the ground and did a fly-by inspection of our new airstrip before swinging back around, slewing sideways in the crosswinds and then safely and firmly settling down. We taxied over just as our vehicle arrived and clambered out, re-accustoming our wobbly legs to terra-firma.


Wrong Way would undoubtedly have been impressed…although somewhat disappointed that we’d landed where we intended and not in New Zealand!


Photos and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008