Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park
250km (155 miles) S of Kununurra
Rising precipitously out of the landscape 250km (155 miles) south of Kununurra are thousands of enormous striped sandstone domes 200 to 300m (656-984 ft.) high, called the Bungle Bungle, and often simply the Bungles. The Bungle Bungle get their distinctive orange-and-gray stripes from algae found in the permeable layers and mineral staining in non-permeable layers. The domes look spectacular from the air, which is the only way to see them in the Wet, when the roads are closed. They are even better from close up, with sheer cliffs and narrow gorges slicing deep into the massif. Several of the gorges end in enormous precipitous amphitheaters, where giant boulders squat like king-size dollops of cake mix. High up, straight up, watercourses come to an abrupt end where the runoff just drops into the gorge.
Highlights are the beehive-shaped walls of Cathedral Gorge, the rock pool at Frog Hole Gorge, and palm-filled Echidna Chasm. Keep an eye peeled for rainbow bee-eaters, flocks of budgerigars, and rare nail-tailed wallabies. The Bungles aren't intimidating, but this is one place where you feel incredibly small and insignificant. It's quiet, contemplative, and seriously dramatic.
Visitor Information -- For information, call the Department of Environment and Conservation (tel. 08/9168 4221) in Kununurra. There's also a visitor center/ranger station (tel. 08/9168 7300) in the park.
Getting There & Getting Around -- One road leads into the Bungles, a 52km (32-mile) bone-shaker four-wheel drive; no caravans are allowed. The road is closed Jan 1 to Mar 31. Scenic flights from Kununurra are available with Slingair Heliwork (tel. 1800/095 500 in Australia, or 08/9169 1300) or Alligator Airways (tel. 1800/632 533 in Australia, or 08/9168 1333). The flight takes about 2 hours, incorporates a flight over Lake Argyle and Argyle Diamond Mine, and costs about A$315 adults and A$265 children 3 to 12. Slingair also has 55-minute scenic flights from Turkey Creek on the Great Northern Highway for A$225. Both companies have day trips that combine the flight with ground tours, though they're pricey, starting at A$645 adults and A$595 kids. Heliwork has a helicopter option over the Bungles from the local airstrip, the 30-minute award-winning flight costing A$325 adults and A$275 kids. APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures and East Kimberley Tours run an array of four-wheel-drive and fly-drive camping (using semi-permanent camps) tours, with some 1-day "express" versions.
Midday & Sunset -- Try to be in Echidna Chasm at midday. This incredibly narrow gorge runs straight back into the rock. The walls rise to impossible heights, curving and slipping out of sight. At midday, impenetrable shadows give way to roseate glows and sudden, glaring flashes of sunlight. A great sunset spot is on a small ridge near the Kurrajong Campsite, where you watch the rock face turn orange and fiery red in the fading light. If you're lucky, you may then get a big fat full moon rising over the Bungles.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.