Three times larger than England yet with a population of fewer than 50,000 people, the Kimberley region in the northwest of Australia is often described as one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers.
Boasting one of Australia’s bucket list 4WD roads, freshwater swimming holes, outback stations and an abundance of wildlife, it sounds like an adventure, right? No wonder you want to go there.
Before you do, just make sure you do a little preparation. Here’s what we recommend you consider before heading off to explore the stunning Kimberley.
Prevention is better than cure – get your 4wd serviced
If you’re doing the Kimberley by 4WD you will absolutely be tackling the Gibb River Road and countless side tracks. Depending on the season and how long its been since the road was graded, this could mean corrugations, washouts and/or river crossings. Those side tracks? Well, you’re not going to know how bad they are until you get there.
You know what this means, don’t you? Your 4WD needs to be in tip-top shape to tackle the Kimberley. If it’s not, you risk a break down which, given how remote the region is, will be quite an expensive and difficult repair and/or recovery.
Is your suspension up for the job?
You know those corrugations I mentioned earlier? I wasn’t kidding. The majority of the Gibb River Road between Lennard River and Pentecost River is unsealed. This means around 470 kilometres of loose gravel, potholes and/or rocks and often, heavy corrugations. There are a small number of sealed sections that provide a short reprieve but for the most part, your suspension is going to get a workout.
If you’re planning on tackling side tracks and getting in on some real off-road action (not just corrugations), then giving your suspension a good once-over is a no-brainer. If an overhaul is on the cards, check out Terrain Tamer or TJM’s new XGS range.
Get a snorkel if you don’t already have one
Although there is a definite wet and dry season in the Kimberley, it doesn’t always follow the rules. Also, I’m sure you will have noticed lately that the weather across Australia seems to be more and more unpredictable with a lot of wet in the dry season and vice versa. This means potential water crossings when you’re not expecting them.
At the end of the day, snorkels are a cheap and necessary insurance for water crossings. The Pentecost River is the major river crossing on Gibb River Road and given the healthy crocodile population in the region, you really don’t want to get caught out.
Another advantage to a snorkel that isn’t discussed much is that they raise the air intake up and out of the dust. When it’s not wet, dust is something the Kimberley has plenty of.
Have a plan B for road closures
The weather forces road closures on a regular basis. In particular, Gibb River Road is often closed in the wet season from December through to April. The road is only reopened when it’s safe to do so.
Keep up to date with road closures with Western Australia’s Main Roads travel map. Some roads may be closed completely, or open only to high-clearance 4WDs. Further information on road closures can be found in the Shire of Derby Road Condition Report and the Shire of Wyndham Road Condition Report.
Do you have a backup plan for these road closures? An alternative route? Extra days up your sleeve to wait out a road closure? Enough food and water to last multiple days while you wait it out? Make sure to have a plan B just in case!
Get your passes sorted before you go
While you don’t need to pay an entry fee to enter the Kimberley region, it is required for several of the National Parks (NP) and to visit certain regions. If you plan to hit up more than one NP, it’s worth looking at a Parks Pass which will gain you entry into all the fee-paying NPs in the Kimberley including Mitchell River National Park and Bungle Bungles National Park. Print your pass out before you go and display it on your window.
Those visiting Mitchell Falls are required to have an Uunguu Visitor Pass. You will need to get this online before arriving as there is no public internet/phone access on Wunambal Gaambera Country. Those wishing to travel to Kalumburu require two passes. A valid community permit is the first and can be purchased on arrival via the Community Resource Centre or the Uraro Store. The second is for those wanting to transit through Aboriginal Reserves (including Kalumburu). For this, get your free entry permit online from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Prepare to pay more…for everything
Everything costs more in the Kimberley, with fuel most likely being your largest expense. If you thought it was getting expensive on the east coast, you’re going to get a rude shock when you head over to the west. Add in the remoteness of the region and the additional fuel consumption from 4WDing and lugging the extra weight of either your camping gear or a trailer. Your holiday fuel budget is now blown through the roof.
Grocery shopping is over the top expensive as well but that’s not entirely unexpected in remote regions of Australia.
This list isn’t exhaustive when it comes to preparations for an epic trip through the Kimberley. However, it is a good starting point. Like any adventure, ensure you have extra fuel and water and expect the unexpected.
So…what are you waiting for?