HORIZONTAL FALLS, WA
Man we've been hanging out for this one! By far the most expensive attraction of our trip at $850 per adult (the kid missed out on this one!) but totally worth it!
If you've never heard of the Horizontal Falls, they're found in the stunningly beautiful Bucaneer Archipelago, a remote area of the Kimberley north of Derby, Western Australia. And they can only be accessed by seaplane or boat, hence the hefty price tag or the tour.
The Horizontal Falls are a naturally occurring phenomenon due to the extreme tides in the area. This part of the world boasts the highest tide changes in the Australia, and one of the highest in the world, with tides frequently reaching over 10 metres. As a result there are some pretty massive movements of water everyday, and when that water movement has to fit through a narrow gap, these horizontal waterfalls occur.
We were picked up from our accommodation at 5.30am, taken by bus to the airport (which is right in the centre if Broome!) and divided into two groups to fit on two seaplanes. Our pilot Tonya then allocated our seating in the aircraft and Nathan scored the co-pilot seat (both Kiwis, they had plenty to chat about on the way out & even have a friend in common).
The flight out was a 70 minute journey that took us low over the Dampier Peninsula and Bucaneer Archipelago providing us with excellent views of this beautiful area. We then landed on the water and sped through the gorges in the seaplane before stopping at a floating pontoon in Talbot Bay, complete with dining area, multiple bathrooms, helipad, staff quarters (what a job!), boat & seaplane moorings, and even a shark swimming cage.
We'd arrived more or less on low tide so we quickly jumped into a jet boat and were whisked out to the horizontal falls so see them in all their glory. There are two gaps in the rock that the falls flow through - we were able to safely jet boat through the wider gap, but there was a massive 4 metre drop in the water flowing through the narrower gap meaning it wasn't safe to jet through at that time. But watching that amount of water flowing through was phenomenal - particularly with the knowledge that 6 hours later it would be flowing through in the completely opposite direction!
After we'd had a bit of fun speeding over the rapids we popped back to the pontoon for some bacon & egg roles, after which we got a chance to jump in the shark cage! No one seemed to be jumping at the opportunity but I was keen to give it a go so was first in. There's a decent local population of Tawny Nurse Sharks that the staff refer to as their free range 'pets'. They're more than happy to pop by for a feed (of squid, not fingers) so you get a good chance to see them up close and personal!
Then it was back on the speed boat out to the falls. But the falls were no longer falls! The incoming tide had reached a point of equilibrium and where previously there was a 4 metre drop and raging torrent was now completely flat - meaning we got to jet boat through the narrow gap after all.
And then our time at the falls was over - we were back on the seaplane for the 60 minute flight straight back to Broome - this time with me in the co-pilot seat.
Seriously a fantastic experience! And while I thought it was once in a lifetime, I'm now thinking that when we pass through this area next we'll have to do it all again - but next time we're doing the overnight trip!