This was a day when reality not only met expectations, but smashed those expectations to smithereens. This is not a cheap bucket list item, and is one we had saved for before leaving home nearly three years ago. It is one, that I am saving up to do again, but I am thinking we will do a full 24 hour experience next time.
We flew out of Derby at 2.30pm on a sea plane. Now, I have been in helicopters, planes of all shapes and sizes, but I had never been in a sea plane. We were all excited to have the experience of landing on water in an aeroplane, and of course experience a runway on water.
We flew over the Kimberley’s and had a bird’s eye view of pristine, natural, untouched isolated landscapes, areas that are well known to be inhabited with crocodiles, abundant in bird life as well as fish and other fauna native to Australia. To describe the view in words is impossible, to say that it was breath taking, awe-inspiring and simply stunning is not enough. It was so much more.
At the end of the 45-minute flight, standing proud in the isolated inland sea of Talbot Bay, we were able to catch a glimpse of the spectacular Horizontal Falls in all their glory. The plane flew over the top, around them and gave us all a bird’s eye view of what we were soon to discover was a later afternoon tidal change, causing a waterfall of epic proportions.
After landing we were given a quick safety briefing, handed life jackets and ushered onto the jet boat. The tide was changing and we didn’t want to miss the experience of seeing the falls up close and personal, and riding the boat through the falls.
Now, the Horizontal Falls are not actually waterfalls, but is a natural phenomenon of intense tidal currents tearing through two narrow coastal gorges. The massive tidal movements create a waterfall effect, sometimes up to 10 metres high, as the water rushes into or out of Talbot Bay on the changing of the tide.
The two narrow coastal gorges are part of the McLarty Ranges, and have two ridges running parallel that are about 300 metres apart. The first gap, and the one closest to the sea is about 20 metres wide, while the second gap, and in our opinion, the most impressive, is only about 10 metres wide.
Taking the jet boat through the smallest gap, with the tide filling Talbot Bay, was a highlight, or so we thought. With a 1 metre water fall between the sea and Talbot Bay at this point, we were mesmerised. Watching the water bubble, and form swirling sink holes as it rushed into the bay was just amazing.
Returning from our jet boat ride, meant it was time to swim with some gummy sharks and watch them being fed. There is a tiger shark that comes to visit as well, but he won’t go near the swimming cage for a feed. The gummy sharks live around the pontoons and can be easily seen at night time. If you walk near the swim cage at night, the gummy sharks will swim in to see if there is any food on offer. This kept us entertained for quite a while after dinner.
After swimming with sharks, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise around the estuaries of King Sound, looking for Salt Water Crocodiles, Rock Wallabies and all kinds of marine and bird life that call this slice of paradise home.
Nibbles, drinks and then dinner were all served on the houseboat and we all settled in to enjoy the tranquillity of this special part of Australia at night time. To see the sun set as we cruised back to the house boat, and to see the milky way looking down at us in this setting is something that we will never forget.
We awoke to the smell of coffee and bacon and eggs cooking the next morning, and we were soon experiencing the falls and King Sound from the cockpit of a helicopter. Seeing the water rushing out of Talbot Bay back to the open waters of the Indian Ocean was a sight to behold. Experiencing this at sunrise, when the earth is awaking, was special.
We were then surprised with another jet boat ride through the Horizontal Falls, something I think we could do again and again and never tire of. To feel the boat drop a metre as it went through the larger gap, to see the water rushing to get out of the bay and to see the 5 metre fall at the smaller gap was an experience of a lifetime. The water was rushing at a rate of at least 12 knots a minute (for those not nautically minded, that is equal to about 22.22 km), and this happening for at least 40 feet under the surface of the water.
Flying home in the sea plane was exciting, and sad at the same time. We got our last glimpse of King Sound and the Falls before flying over Buccaneer Archipelago back to Derby. I am sure that every last one of us on the tour wanted to get back on the plane and redo the experience again. It was just plain amazing to know that we could experience this spectacular part of the Australia.