A dingo

Wildlife : The Dingo

Name: Dingo

Scientific Classification: canis lupis dingo

Alternative Names: bush dog

Location: they are found all over Australia and in parts of Asia.  Their habitat ranges from desert to grasslands and the edge of forests

 

A curious dingo on the Nullarbor

 

Fast Facts:

  • Dingoes are related to wolves and might possibly be the oldest breed of dog in the world.
  • An apex preditor of Australia, they are opportunistic hunters and either search for food alone or hunt in packs.
  • Dingoes are seen as a pest by sheep farmers because they sometimes kill sheep.  Their usual diet consists of lizards, birds, kangaroos and rodents.
  • They rarely bark and communicate using long howls.
  • There are three kinds of dingo – island, alpine and desert dingoes.  Their colours can vary from sandy cream to deep red.
  • It is believed that dingoes were introduced to Australia but legally they are considered native because they’ve been here for so long.
  • It’s hard to find a purebred dingo because they tend to interbreed with domestic dogs.  The purest dingoes live on Fraser Island, but they are under threat from overculling.
  • Dingoes have special wrists that allow them to rotate their paws.

 

Cuteness Rating: If you like dogs, then you’ll think dingoes are pretty cute.

Danger Rating:  They have teeth like a dog and may attack if they feel threatened.

 

Our Encounter:

Our first encounter with a dingo was on the Nullarbor.  We were heading back to the highway after spending the night at Murrawidginee Caves and the dingo was hanging about by the track.  A really curious fella, he just stopped and looked at us as we stopped and looked at him.

 

We saw dingoes again at Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park and learnt about the efforts to save the dingo from extinction.

 

A dingo crossed our path again in the Kimberley on the way up to Mitchell River.  He was hanging about by the road to get a drink from a puddle.

 

Thirsty dingo

 

Frogs love the Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 2

About halfway along the Gibb River Road is a turnoff that heads north to Mitchell Falls.  If you are well prepared for the trip, do it – the drive might be long but the hike to the falls is worth it.

 

Mitchell Plateau

Located in the Northern Kimberley, the Mitchell Plateau is home to the Mitchell River National Park, which covers about 115,000 hectares of rugged wilderness.  The road in is more rough than the western end of the Gibb River Road, with lots of sharp, rocky bits, river crossings and muddy tracks with big red puddles.

 

We saw a few dingoes that looked more like wild dogs and passed forests of livistona palms which really added some great character to the landscape.

 

 

Miners Pool

Our first stop along the Gibb River-Kalumburu Road, Miners Pool is a great place to stop and rest.  The camping area is equipped with oil barrel toilets and camping fees are payable at the Drysdale Homestead.

 

Drysdale Homestead

We needed to top up on fuel and water so we pulled into Drysdale H/S.  As expected, fuel prices were through the roof – even more expensive than the Nullarbor – petrol was about $2.40 p/L while diesel was $2.35 p/L.  The store wasn’t much different, with flour going at $6 a kilo and a box of shapes was just over $5.

 

Drinking water was free though, and we filled up every vessel we could.  There is also a beer garden and food outlet, and the people that we met were really friendly.

 

 

Lawley Lookout

In between the King Edward River and the Mitchell Falls National Park is a rest stop that overlooks a valley filled with livistona palms.  It’s a great view and worth stopping to take a look and stretch your legs before you continue on towards Mitchell Falls.

 

Mitchell Falls (Punamii-inpuu)

Located within the Mitchell River National Park.  Entry fees apply but if you have a WA Parks Pass you’re all sorted.

 

The 8km walk to the falls proved to be a great day out.  Some parts of the track were rocky and difficult while other parts are level and easy.  There were heaps of flowers along the way, as well as lizards and frogs.  Make sure you wear your togs because there are heaps of waterholes for a nice swim.  The area is sacred to the Wunambal people, please respect the area and approach waterholes quietly and courteously.

 

 

Little Merten Falls – This was the first water feature of the day, and even though it’s called Little Merten Falls, it’s a long drop down into the waterhole.  We saw a goanna basking in the sun, and climbed down behind the waterfall to check out an Aboriginal art gallery with a few Bradshaw style drawings.  We stopped here on our way back to camp to cool off under the spray.

 

Big Merten Falls When we arrived, we could see why this was called the Big Merten Falls.  The drop down in the gorge was at least 100 metres and it was daunting to look down.  We crossed the river via stepping stones at the top of the waterfall.

 

Big Merten Falls

 

Mitchell Falls – Wow – so much water, power and noise!  The hike was definitely worth the view as the Mitchell River cascades 150 metres down into the gorge.  The water in the river is drinkable so we sat down, had lunch and rehydrated before heading back to camp.

 

 

Camping

It’s $7 per adult per night to camp, and the facilities include Jumanji drop toilets, fire pits and generator/no-generator zones.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter whether you were camped next to a generator or not, it was bloody noisy all day because of the helicopter operation next to the campsites that flew tourists over the Mitchell Falls.

 

The campfire curfew was between 4pm and 8am, which is just enough time to make dinner and breakfast!  While we were cooking up some faux fried rice, we got some camping neighbours and they turned out to be a great couple.  Andrea and James (aka Fox & Lamb) were holidaying for 2 weeks in their Lambcruiser and were on their way back home.  We sat around the fire, chatted and sucked cans well into the night, shared stories and had some great laughs.  It was totes awesomeballs to meet these guys – absolute tits!

 

The Lamb

 

Surveyor Pool

After spending the night at Mitchell Falls, we headed north to Surveyor Pool in the morning.  Access to the pool is via a 4WD track with 2-3 metre tall grass on either side, plus a short walk to the river.

 

It was like an oasis – the river tumbled down into a beautiful pool surrounded by pandanus and livistona palms.  We only saw one saltwater croc – and that was enough to confirm that we weren’t going to climb down into the gorge.  We stayed on top of the falls and had a refreshing dip in the shallow rapids.

 

 

Eastern Kimberley

The scenery in the east of the Kimberley is really picturesque. In the distance and at the side of the road, there were fantastic rocky outcrops, escarpments and mountains.  Once we got back on the Gibb River Road, the scenery became more striking but the road became shittier.  We were now a few days into our Kimberley adventure and we were definitely grateful for all our recovery gear, but felt silly that we didn’t properly stock up on supplies.

 

Eastern Kimberley

 

Take care of your vehicle

Don’t go during the Wet Season between September and April.  The roads are often closed or impassable and if you get stuck, it’ll cost you big time. The Dry Season is best – and if you go at the start of the season there will be more greenery and water.

 

Check with locals about the road conditions and always be prepared with spare tyres, a tyre repair kit, and even a snorkel to get you over the river crossings.  Petrol vehicles need not apply.

 

Stock up!

We did a shocking job of stocking up before entering the remote Kimberley.  Sure, there are stores within the homesteads where you can buy essential items, but we couldn’t justify playing $6 for a kilo of flour when we could have prepared better and got it for only $1.

 

Good things to stockpile include WATER, crackers, peanut butter, rice, tinned tuna, carrots, potatoes, canned vegetables and meals.  If you want to make damper, you’ll also need flour, butter and milk or milk powder.

 

 

Emma Gorge 

As soon as we got there, we wanted to leave.  Emma Gorge is occupied by a big, fancy pants resort with green grass, a gift shop, restaurant and stylish accommodation.  Plus, we had to pay $10 each just to be there.  We declined and left.

 

The Grotto

When you reach the end of the Gibb River Road, turn north at the Great Northern Highway and head towards Wyndham.  The Grotto is about 15kms up the road and is a shaded waterhole within a gorge.  There are 140 manmade steps down into the gorge and it’s a nice place to cool off.

 

During the Wet Season, there is a gush of water that pours down into the gorge.  It was a little dry when we were there so the water was murky and stagnant, but it was still a nice place to be.  Plus, the water can be up to 175m deep.

 

 

Warmun (Turkey Creek)

The roadhouse is a great place to stop and shop for groceries or a decent steak sandwich, and there is a nifty mechanic in town in case you need any spare parts for your 4WD.  Warmun is one of the Kimberley’s largest communities with a population of over 400.  Please be respectful – Warmun is a closed aboriginal community.

 

The Bungle Bungles

A relatively new discovery in the Kimberley, the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park are definitely worth the 2 hour drive along the 50km dirt road.  Check out our post on the Bungle Bungles here.

 

Reflections - The Bungle Bungles

Echidna Chasm - The Bungle Bungles

Experience : The Bungle Bungles

The Bungle Bungles are located within Purnululu National Park, which is about 300km south of Kununurra.  The national park covers about 239,000 hectares of land and is relatively new.  The Bungle Bungles was known only by the local aboriginals and cattle farmers until 1982 and in 2003 the area was recognised as a World Heritage area because of its geological value and natural beauty.

 

The Bungle Bungles

 

The Bungle Bungles are made up of domes made from sandstone deposits from about 360 million years ago.   Over thousands of years, the sandstone has been eroded by creeks, rivers and general weathering to create the domes and chasms.  The domes at the southern end of the park are banded with orange oxidised iron compounds and grey cyanobacteria that protect the sandstone from erosion.  The Bungle Bungles is the world’s most exceptional examples of cone karst formations, meaning land that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks like limestone, dolomite and gypsum.  In other words, flimsy, crumbly rock has been dissolved by mildly acidic water to create a kooky shaped landscape.

 

The road into the park is about 50km of rocky, corrugated road that rises and falls over the landscape like a rollercoaster.  It’s slow going and there are also a few river crossings so it’s best to have a 4WD and allow around 2 hours to get to the Visitor Centre from the highway, and vice versa.

 

Entry fees apply to the park, but if you have a WA Parks Pass, you’re all sorted.  Camping is about $11 per adult per night, and while campfires are only allowed in designated fireplaces, make sure you bring firewood with you because you’re not allowed to collect firewood in a national park.

 

The Southern End

We started exploring the Bungle Bungles from the south.  All the walking trails were connected in some way so we managed to get all of it done in one go.

 

The Domes

A quick 1km loop to introduce you to the beehive domes of the Bungles. Check out the orange and black layering but don’t climb the domes – these layers are what protect the sandstone from erosion!

 

Cathedral Gorge

An easy walk into the gorge ends at a cavernous amphitheatre with a still pool.  The acoustics are wonderful and if you’re brave enough – SING!  The echo is magnificent and you will be awe-struck at the enormity of this place.

 

 

We also had a go of skimming some stones along the still water – our French mate Boris was by far the best at it, but Dave didn’t do too bad either.  On our way out, we encountered some bush passionfruit.  Check out our post on this bush tucker here.

 

Piccaninny Gorge Lookout

An 800m diversion from the track back to the car park will bring you to a platform that overlooks the Piccaninny Creek and surrounding domes.  The view would be absolutely spectacular at sunset.

 

We finished all the walks in two hours with a total distance of around 4.5km.  This gave us just enough time to get to the Northern End before midday.  If you’re an experienced hiker, you can register at the Visitor Centre to do the Piccaninny Gorge Walk, a 2-7 day hike into the remote areas of the gorge.  You have to bring all your gear – tents, food, water – and some of the track can be fairly difficult, so make sure you’re well prepared.

 

 

The Northern End

We made our way back to the Visitor Centre for a snack, a toilet break and a look at their book exchange before jumping back into the Troopy and heading for the northern end of the Bungle Bungles.  The landscape was very different to the south – the rocky outcrops lacked the bands of black and were smoother and more vegetated.

 

The Bungle Bungles

 

Echidna Chasm

We were given an insider tip that the best time to explore Echidna Chasm was at midday when the sun’s rays can stream down into the narrow corridor.  We were glad that we took the advice!  This unique experience takes you about 300 metres into the chasm and the way the light reflects and illuminates the path is beautiful.

 

 

Osmand Lookout & Kungkalanayi Lookout

On the way back to the car park is a track to the Osmand Lookout.  It provides great views of the Bungle Bungle Range and the Osmand Range in the distance.

 

We also checked out the Kungkalanayi Lookout on the way back to the Visitor Centre.  This lookout provided fantastic panoramic views of the Bungle Bungle Ranges on one side and the Osmand Range on the other.

 

The Bungle Bungles

 

We would have loved to do the Mini Palms Gorge walk or stick around at Kungkalanayi Lookout to watch the sun set but it was time for us to head to camp.  We were exhausted, the day was getting really hot, and we had a long drive back to the Spring Creek Rest Area.  This is a great spot to stay if you plan on exploring the Bungle Bungles.  It’s located right next to a little creek with picnic benches and fire places, there are heaps of places to set up camp and there are lots of people to chat with.  You might even have a bull graze through your campsite or find some buried treasure (hint hint)…