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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Star Power of the Kimberley

Since its starring role in Baz Luhrmann's film Australia, Western Australia's Kimberley region has gained world-wide notoriety as one of the planet's most breath-taking and unique places - the ultimate 'bucket list' destination for travellers in the know.

This year, Lonely Planet confirmed the Kimberley's global attraction, naming it in its Best in Travel 2014 list as one of the world's Top 10 Regions to visit in 2014.

Lonely Planet described the Kimberley as “one of the most sparsely populated regions on the planet and one of the most starkly beautiful.” They went on to describe it as “carved by giant gorges, dimpled with deep, cool pools, and home to a coastline that could make Australian east-coasters weep.”

And it's not just the travel experts at Lonely Planet that think the Kimberley is extraordinary. In recent times, the region has attracted a plethora of high-profile guests including Sir Bob Geldof, Ewan McGregor, Jerry Hall, Miranda Kerr, Megan Gale, Nicole Kidman and many more - who've sung its praises to the world through traditional and social media channels.

When talk show host Elen DeGeneres asked Nicole Kidman where her favourite Australian destination was earlier this year - her answer was simple - “Kununurra”.

Kidman fell in love with the Kimberley during the filming of Australia in 2007 and has been an advocate ever since.

Luhrmann spent almost a decade searching for the ultimate Australian landscape that would etch itself indelibly into the public imagination - he chose the Kimberley.

“What's so exciting about the landscape which is on the one hand, harsh, brutal and unforgiving - but at any given moment can become the most awesome, majestic, inspiring, poetic and lyrical place to be,” Luhrmann said.

National editor of Australia's News Limited's Escape travel section, Brian Crisp, is another big fan of the Kimberley. The well-travelled Crisp raved about the region in one of his travel stories, following several recent visits. He wrote:

“It is impossible not to lose yourself in the East Kimberley. There is nothing else like it in Australia. It is stunningly beautiful. I've cruised the famed Amazon, I've explored Peru and I've touched the canyons of Utah in the US. All beautiful, and different in their own way, but none better than this remote part of Australia. Call it spiritual if you want, but the Kimberley changes you. Every Australian should come here at least once.”

In May 2013, Sir Bob Geldof was in business in Perth when he decided he had to tick off one of his 'bucket list' experiences – witnessing the awe-inspiring Bungle Bungle Range first hand.

“I absolutely love the Kimberley,” said Geldof.

“It's such a beautiful country and I got fed up not knowing this part of Western Australia”.

"I flew up to Kununurra for the Ord Valley Muster and was fortunate enough to visit the Bungle Bungles whilst I was there. I had heard so much about both of them and seen pictures but had to go see them for myself. It was definitely worth the effort as both were simply spectacular in asymmetrical ways,” Geldof said.

In the past, the Kimberley region was most famous for its livestock industry and crop production as a result of the the famed 'Ord River Irrigation' system. But now star surfer Kelly Slater has helped put one of the 'new industries' on the global map - putting his name behind the Chia Co. Chia is a super food that has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food on the planet. The conditions of WA's North West, 15 degrees south of the Equator, are arguably the best in the world to grow Chia which is now the largest crop grown in Kununurra and supplied all over the world.

Access All Areas

Although the Kimberley is a considered one of the world's 'final frontiers' and is famous for its vastly remote and epic landscapes - accessing the region has never been easier.

The Kimberley Aerial Highway - a network of remote airstrips at major attractions throughout the region – allows visitors to get up close and personal to this spectacular area that spans more than 423,000 square kilometres.

Visitors can fly over extraordinary attractions such as Mitchell Falls, Windjana Gorge and the Bungle Bungle Range in World-Heritage listed Purnululu National Park, then land and join on-the-ground tours.

For those visitors with more time, many accommodation providers are part of the 'highway', including El Questro Wilderness Park, Home Valley Station, Kimberley Coastal Camp, Faraway Bay, Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, Eco Beach, Berkeley River Lodge and the Bungle Bungles Safari Camp.

There are half-day, full day and extended options available in fixed wing, float plane or helicopter. Or visitors can create their own journeys and take a private charter.

If you're looking for an Australian adventure, a four-wheel drive road trip might be more your style. The 'iconic' drive of the Kimberley is the 660 kilometre Gibb River Road that stretches from Broome to Kununuura, taking in some of the region's most breath-taking sights along the way. In addition to the Gibb, there's several travel routes of varying lengths that allow you to explore areas such as the Dampier Peninsula, Mitchell Plateau and West Kimberley Circuit on your own self-drive journey.

If you're more like Jerry Hall, then cruising the Kimberley Coast might be your preferred mode of transport. Cruising the Kimberley was recently named by Australian Traveller magazine as number one in its Australia's 100 Greatest Holidays Of All Time list – the list was compiled following 12,000 nominations, and then judged by a panel of 20 travel experts and hundreds of hours of analysis.

Luxury vessels such as the True North, Kimberley Quest, Great Escape and Orion are a great way to see the extraordinary sights of the region from a different perspective. Spend your days fishing, taking a chopper flight out to explore remote gorges and waterfalls, witnessing Indigenous art and eating the freshest food imaginable prepared by the on-board chef. You don't have to be a rock star to live like one in the Kimberley.

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The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
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