Tuesday, June 2, 2015

5 Days and Nights in The Kimberley W.A - Day 2:Our Chopper Awaits

9.00am It's blowing a gale outside our window at McAlpine House this morning. Not the best weather to be up in a chopper. Our pilot, Rachel from KAS helicopters is the consummate professional and despite the blowy conditions, we know we're in very safe hands.

We take off from the General Aviation section at Broome airport and start making our way along the coast to Eco Beach resort where we will be touring the resorts sustainability features and enjoying a light lunch.

This is just the most spectacular landscape I've ever flown over. You do need to see Broome and it's coastline from the air to truly appreciate it's staggering beauty.

Every angle provides an eye-popping vista.

There are no superlatives. I just keep looking out the window and saying 'Wow! in amazement.

We fly over Gantheaume Point on the town's fringes, which is famous for its National Heritage-listed dinosaur footprints.
Apparently during the Cretaceous period, Broome was a massive river delta rich with dinosaur life. At least nine species of dinosaur footprints have been identified in the 130 million year old Broome sandstone.

At Gantheaume Point you can see good examples of three-toed theropod prints belonging to a Tyrannosaurus-type predator and enormous round sauropod prints from a 30 metre long, 70 tonne Brontosaurus-type dinosaur.

If you're at Gantheaume Point during a low tide of 1.7 metres or less and the sea is calm, you can make your way down into the intertidal area and see these extraordinary dinosaur footprints up close.

We fly over some tidal mangroves and watch the strong winds create deep ripples over the water.

What a garden of Eden this must have been for the dinosaurs..... these tidal flats would have been teeming with wildlife - as they still are.

We fly over Jack's Creek - a famous estuary with local fisherman. Here you can find abundant schools of barramundi, estuary cod and Mangrove Jack.

The buffeting winds have slowed us down a bit but finally we see Eco Beach lodge ahead nestled in the dunes.

11.00am Rachel lands the chopper expertly on the sand ( who needs a helipad when you have an entire beach) and we walk up to the resort's pool area for our tour to begin.

Eco Beach is usually a 25 minute helicopter flight from Broome airport or a 1 and 1/2 hour drive.

If you want luxury in a remote setting - this is the place for you. There's an on-site spa, bar and restaurant. You can build your own adventure from kayaking, to fishing, to sailing - or just taking a long beach walk.

Accommodation is in safari-style eco-tents and luxury villas. They sit amongst the native scrub and dunes causing minimal disturbance to the environment but still maximising ocean views and privacy.

Raised boardwalks connect all the villas to the main building as the shifting sand dunes beneath can move around a bit. The villas have solar panels on their roofs which drive the internal air conditioning and heating systems. Excess generated electricity is stored in a state-of-the-art battery room containing $750,000 worth of waist-high heavy duty batteries.

Bringing in food to the resort can be an expensive and environmentally-damaging process, so where possible fruit and vegetables are grown on-site.

Seedlings for herbs, lettuces and root vegetables have just been planted.

12.30pm After a light lunch of barramundi and salad, we're back in the chopper for our trip home.

Eco Beach resort has certainly earned its eco credentials without compromising on any of the luxuries travellers expect.

The winds have subsided and the helicopter gently dips and weaves like a bird on an air current.

The light bounces off the red dust and makes the white sand glow iridescently.

Nature can come up with the most wondrous colour palette, can't it?

Shifting sands....

...turquoise streams...

..... all the way to the ocean bed.

This landscape changes endlessly.

Our pilot Rachel says she has one of the best jobs in the world and we can see why.

1.30pm We land back at Broome airport and - because there is no rest for the wicked - we almost immediately join Wil Thomas and his walking tour of Broome run by the local historical society learning about the town's dark pearling history and it's near destruction in a Japanese bombing raid on March 3rd in 1942.

Back at McAlpine House we refresh for the evening and head off to experience some local food and music at 'The Taste of Broome'

5.30pm The event is organised by Goolarri Media and is held in a large tree-fringed field with a stage and food stalls serving local Asian, indigenous and European foods. This is where you see the multicultural richness that Broome is famed for . There are so many cultures and ethnicities represented here - I feel a little vanilla!

After a Welcome by Country from a local indigenous Yawuru elder ( 'Us blackfellas never had didgeridoos - so if its that you've come to see you'll be disappointed!), the main action begins on stage. Broome has produced some national music stars including tonight's performers the Pigram Brothers and Stephen 'Bamba' Albert who starred in Bran Nue Dae.

There is singing and storytelling accompanied by haunting images from Broome's historical archives. We hear songs of the dispossession of indigenous land, the 'blackbirding' or enslaving of Polynesians and local indigenous to pearl dive for the white pearl masters. We also hear of the humour and resilience of the local people. This is a really good night out.

I'm beginning to understand what makes this place so special. Yes, the landscape is a visual feast but it's the soul vibration of the place that makes it unique. Dozens of cultures from indigenous to those from across the seas have made their home here. Potts Point in Sydney feels a little bland in comparison.

Saucy Onion travelled to Broome with the assistance of Tourism WA.
photography: Mark FitzGerald and Indira Naidoo

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