#937. Berkeley River: an Undestination in Western Australia

By John Shingleton | Travel Photography

Dec 04

Introducing British-born, Australia resident, John Shingleton. Well known for his blog The Rolling Road, John is like many of us, a keen photographer with a lust for travel to far away places.

 
 

I am a newcomer to DS so I may be taking a step too far in plunging into a story about an  “undestination” – the Berkeley River Lodge in the most remote part of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The Berkeley River is hopefully never going to be a mass tourist destination. The Lodge is only accessible by air or by sea. There is no road access and the location is deep in Aboriginal titled and administered land. You access the Lodge by light aircraft from Darwin which is an hour and 45mins flying time away. The accommodation is in 20 villa-style steel huts- perched on a line of dunes overlooking either the sea or the Berkeley River. Supplies are bought in by sea on a barge every 6 weeks from Wyndham which is a few hundred kms away and daily in the light plane.

You can only access the area in the dry season-it closes in the wet season and cyclone activity damages the Lodge most years. The crew arriving to open up the Lodge each year live in dread of finding the place flattened.

It’s easy to run out of superlatives describing the Lodge. This is no luxury resort with swim up bars, spas and boutique shops. Just 20 simple but comfortable cabins and a dining room. There is a small swimming pool as swimming in the sea or the river is totally out of the question because there are hundreds of saltwater crocodiles -known as salties-in the area. Even a walk along the beach has to be approached with caution because of the crocs lurking along the shoreline.

This is all about the location and the location is beyond stunning and the activities are equally stunning. It is the remoteness of the location which I most appreciated. I went fishing one morning in a boat around the mouth of the huge Berkeley River.

Apart from the four other people on the boat I did not see another person or see a single sign of civilisation for 4 hours-no sweet wrappers, no mobile phone towers on the horizon, no buildings or cars, not even a single plastic bottle on the beach. Just the stunning scenery, plenty of fish and saltwater crocodiles as well as sea eagles and sharks.

 The Berkeley Riverflows deep gorge for the first 20kms inland from the sea with waterfalls every few kms and not a sign of anything man made. Crocodiles,sea eagles and rock wallabies but no people or garbage. Truly wonderful.

The Aboriginal art photos are from a location seen by very few people-a rock art “gallery” very recently discovered deep in the Kimberley. Found by an amazing chance in a remote location away from the Lodge. Under the overhangs and in the caves there is the art-ochre drawings of kangaroos, turtles, people and fish. Much of the location is yet to be explored so there is more to be discovered. 

Soaking in the waterhole in the photo was something else. The water was warm and soft and small fish came and nibbled at my feet and back-a rather odd sensation. Apparently from about half way across the waterhole there is a big very deep hole which a freshwater crocodile has been known to inhabit. Freshwater crocs are not aggressive unlike their saltwater cousins but in any case on the day we dropped in there was no sign of it.

Hopefully this short account and photos have  justified my nomination of the Berkeley River as an amazing undestination.

 

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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I know exactly what you mean – and what it feels like. I spent a couple of years in the Northern Territory, half a century ago. It was an unforgettable life experience. And highly educational.

    One evening, we crossed Fannie Bay in an old pearling lugger – heading across the Bay in one of the two most intense and beautiful sunsets I’ve ever been privileged to see. Darkness fell – quickly, as always, in the tropics – and suddenly there were glow worms in the water, throwing their vivid green light up through the waves breaking around the prow of the boat. And that was just a 15 minutes segment!

    Australia is a vast and largely empty country, but when you come across one of the sight it has to offer it is breath taking in its natural beauty.

  • Leonard says:

    Lovely, evocative photos. Puts me in mind of the 1983 Australian miniseries soap “Return to Eden,” largely filmed in Queensland and Northern Territory and featured the threat of crocs that took more than a bite out its heroine. Much of Australia is so foreign to us civilized chaps, yet so inviting.

  • Michael Fleischer says:

    Hi John,

    A fine collection of pictures that vividly convey the beauty of a raw – mostly unspoiled
    nature spot. Colours are stunning!
    Gets me longing for more adventure and warmer weather up here in the colder north… 😉
    I thought the drought had great impact on northwest Australia too..?

    Michael

    • Michael , thanks for your kind comment on the photos. Yes the colours are stunning and they are real. No need to move the saturation slider for them .
      The drought is down the eastern side of Australia from mid Queensland down to the Victorian border.. The North West is not in drought.

  • Sean says:

    Hi John,
    Welcome. You story and accompanying images do resonate. Together they are an accurate conduit for what’s install for those that want to experience Australia’s offerings; an uncompromising and hazardous natural beauty that can’t exist without its equally risky wildlife – but hey, that’s Australia and that coexistence is what makes our Australia so unique.

  • philberphoto says:

    Welcome to DS, John! And no, by your description, I don’t think there is any risk of this location ever being overrun with overtourism as they now call it. Though, to be honest, your pics make a vivid case for going there, and so you may be an unwitting agent of bringing it about! That said, many thanks for empowering me to do such a delightful, breathtaking even, voyage, without ever leaving the confort of my armchair…

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    And your images proved what a lovely un-destination it is! It sounds very inviting even with the suggestion that one would need to be on alert for salt-water crocs. Thanks for sharing and welcome to DS, John.

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