A Summer Holiday Down Under

Part 7: Kimberley Coastal Camp

13th June to 15th June, Days 16 to 18.

In brief : We fly in to the Coastal Camp and quickly fall into luxury, seascapes, fishing and indigenous Aboriginal art, all to the highest standard. Pass the sunscreen !

Weather : Still that predictable Kimberley Dry, with the odd fluffy cloud to add texture to the photos.

Click here for our holiday travel map


After the coastal cruise, the timetable was tight.

We had to get to Derby by 1pm in order that the next aircraft could fly us to Mitchell Plateau Airstrip and get home before darkness fell.

After a brief half hour delay due to the flight from Broome being late, we climbed aboard another small Cessna, met the pilot and said hello to John and Baz who would be fellow guests at Kimberley Coastal Camp for the next five nights.

Once again we were flying north over outback Kimberley.

Flying at eight thousand feet, coastal inlets and islands were clearly seen on our flight north.

An hour and a half later and we were on the ground again, this time at Mitchell Plateau.

We transfer our luggage for the last part of our flight - There's a weight and space restriction here - I hope it all fits in.

The fifteen minute flight was over all too quickly, as we circled our destination - Kimberley Coastal Camp.

There are our cabins in the trees below. There's not much space left and I was beginning to wonder where he was going to land ?

No need for a runway this time. We just descend slowly down onto the head of the beach.

Helicopter flights like this will be remembered with pleasure for many years to come.

The small cabins seen from the air now assume their correct size.

We transfer our bags into this one, just a hop, step and crunch across the shell and coral path from the beach.

The main building, the 'Shed' as it was called, houses the reception, the kitchen, the lounge, the dining area, it had the campfire adjacent

and is in fact it is the heart and soul of the camp.

We meet Bella and Rocky our hosts and are introduced to our other fellow guests, John and Baz who we flew in with and Michael and Glen who were here already. There will be just six guests here for the next few days.

Rocky the owner was a builder and joiner in Perth before he decided on a lifestyle change and set up the camp, designing and building the whole thing himself.

He probably had a help lifting the roof on to the building, but that's what I call a practical bloke !

The whole place was finished with decorative stones, artworks, artifacts and one or two more unusual items.

The floor was the same beach shell and coral that covered the whole camp.

In the heat of the afternoon, and after all that travelling,

Ann settled back for a few moments in the chair, to relax and to soak in the atmosphere.

Afternoon turned rapidly to evening, as it does in the tropics,

and that view of the western sky shone bright, then faded as the sun set across the bay.

After an excellent evening meal our host, Bella lit a few lamps around the pool to complete the scene.

[ If it was done to make sure we didn't fall in the pool on the way to bed, then it was the prettiest health and safety feature I've ever seen ]

- - - o o o - - -

Early to bed, early to rise again. The light and the dawn chorus greet us once more.

Early morning from our bedside

The cabins were constructed with a door and four low tin sheet walls, the rest being made up of a heavy duty fly screen. Not a glass window in sight.

As a result, they were private from outside but open from inside, and as the dawn broke we could watch the colours change from darkness to light.

[ Hold your cursor over the picture above to see the difference.]

After breakfast Bella guided us on a walk out of camp in search of several local aboriginal art sites.

We followed up the bed of the creek that they use for gathering water in the wet season. The creek has now stopped running and only a few of these pools still survive. From now on through the dry, the camp is running on water stored in their large water tank.

The outback is not all beautiful scenery and benign waterholes . . . these are green ants.

They can be eaten as bush tucker as their bodies are high in vitamin C, but their sting is painful and nests of folded leaves like this one are best given a wider berth.

Bella introduces us to the first art of the day.
These Sash 'Bradshaw' art pieces are still very clear to see.

Bradshaw Art, or it's Aboriginal name of Gwion Gwion, is a name given to a very early type of cave painting that was investigated and catalogued by a Mr Joseph Bradshaw at the turn of the twentieth century.

The art is thought to be between 20 to 30 thousand years old but is very difficult to date, even by carbon dating techniques, as the paints used were themselves made up from ground up ochre and rock of previous millennia. They were dated by association with organic remains that were found alongside, such as fossilised bees nests or plant resins.

The sandstone caves gave shelter from the daytime heat . . .
. . . and were often prime places to search for paintings

Younger than the Bradshaw type, the Wandjina Art takes on an all together different form. Here we have more rounded , decorative art.

A yellow ochre River Serpent, a design tied in with stories of water, rivers and potential floods.

Later Wandjina Art figures come in many forms.
These humorous looking ones are known as Jemee Wallai

The painting of people or heads with no mouths is classic Wandjina.

A labour of love, multiple circles cover the rocks.
Different colours and styles (different ages) are often found together.

More Jemee Wallai paintings.

An altogether different style, more Bradshaw in style and colour, but nowhere near as sophisticated as the Sash drawings.

- - - o o o - - -

Bella explained the caves, the paintings, the lifestyles of the indigenous peoples and some of the myths and legends that surround the art.

This was only the start. She would take us to see many more sites over the next few days.

- - - o o o - - -

A delightful Kimberley Christmas Tree in bloom despite the dry conditions.

The fine flower has rather a bottle-brush appearance.
A flat slab of rock as we neared the top of the small hill.


The observant amongst you may have spotted some curious elongations, two of which I had emptied of stones.

These turn out to be knife or spear sharpening hollows, worn away by continued sharpening of native tools and weapons.

Time to make our way back.

The water bottles are significantly lighter now as we have been drinking copiously in the hot midday sun.

Mitchell Plateau in the background as we pass another pool on the way back to camp.

Back at our cabin, time to relax and enjoy the camp itself.

One of the other huts has prime location in respect of the swimming pool.

Swimming in the sea is not recommended, and anyway this is just as good.

Due to the lack of abundant fresh water, the pool is supplied with pumped sea water and it is pleasantly warm.

I relax under the blossom of the Frangipani tree.

Meanwhile Ann relaxes under the shade of the main building, and browses through their extensive library.

Tea is served on the tray, the vases holding some Kimberley Heather we had picked earlier.

We were not alone . . . George, the wild Dingo, has called by to take advantage of a few scraps from the kitchen.

After the swim, time for a rinse in fresh water before the salt dries. Chance for me to describe the unique open air toilet block to you . . .

Well . . . there was this spare rock face to hang a mirror on so Rocky has fixed a basin in front of it.

Salt water in the tap, fresh in the filter jar, toothbrushes in the mugs.

The showers are in similar vein, both fresh and salt, with modesty screen . . .
. . . just along from the toilets, open to the sky but not the world !

Each was suitably decorated to the highest standard again. . . . corals, shells and this time the sun bleached skull of a sea turtle.

Before dinner we had the chance of an hour's walk out along the headland.

More fine rock turrets.
Sandstone sculptures to look at.
From the high ground we could look back at the camp.
Back at the beach, Mick is fuelling the boat ready for tomorrow.

Every good garden has a bird table, and Coastal Camp was no exception. The difference here was the size of the bird table and the size of the bird .

Rocky had placed some fish on the rock and whistled a few times into the air . . .

Down swooped a White Bellied Sea Eagle and carried off his dinner without stopping to say thank you.

The eagle called several times during our stay provided that the boys had been out and caught some fresh fish for his supper.

The light fading fast, the spectacle over, we adjourned for dinner.

- - - o o o - - -

Next day we had the chance to join Rocky, Mick and our four fellow guests on their fishing trip, out towards the islands further around the bay.

We're not great fishermen ourselves but it was chance for us to explore more of the local area.

Rocky at the helm, took us out across the bay . . .
. . . and motored close to Steep Head Island.

The boys had been fishing with rods and lures off the back of the boat and caught some notably large fish !

They had some successes and some failures. Some were edible and some were non-edible and others probably edible but had escaped or been eaten by larger fish before they had chance to be landed. The basis of great fishing stories for years to come no doubt.

Ann and I went ashore and did a bit of beach combing . . .
. . . and gathered a small pile of driftwood ready for a lunchtime fire.

We were alone on a very remove and deserted coral beach . . . I hope the boat comes back !

Boab trees behind, sand and spinnifex grass at the head of the beach and mangrove trees on the waterline.

All set the scene for our lunch on the beach.

Ah good they're back . . . the beer's arrived !

Mick started a fire and builds a large bed of embers on which to cook the fish, Aborigine style.

This was a rather large Queen Fish that had just been caught, it would serve eight of us for lunch with some to spare.

Recipe: Grill on the embers for fifteen minutes and then turn for another fifteen.

Myself, Rocky and Mick watch lunch cooking.
Salad and bread from the camp complete the feast.

Time perhaps to introduce the lads,

(l to r) Mick (crew member) John (New Zealander but living near Brisbane), Michael (South Australia), Baz in the grey shirt (NZ), and Glen behind, also an Aussie.

[ A better picture of Glen is the one as he left the boat, a few photos above.]

The fish which were caught and kept were destined for the dining table.

- - - o o o - - -

So, another very different day today. We had enjoyed the islands, the scenery and the lunch.

The lads had enjoyed the fishing ( John reckoned 25 different species in all, most caught and released )

and Bella, Steph and Pixie back at base had a full fridge and the basis for some more wonderful meals.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with my Cannon G7 or Ann's Ixus 75 Digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . a hearty appetite on a deserted beach.

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