If I haven’t already captured your attention with the awesome name of Bungle Bungles, then don’t worry, this will get even better.
The Bungle Bungle Range is a series of distinctively striped limestone formations that can be found in the also wonderfully named Purnululu National Park in The Kimberley, Western Australia.
Geology is not my cup of tea, you may be thinking, but read on because I promise that you will as staggered by their unique beauty as I was.
Introducing Purnululu National Park
Immediately intriguing from the names alone, these fascinating orange and black domes, nicknamed ‘the beehives,’ also have a cool backstory. Although geologists believe the Bungle Bungle Range has existed for at least 350 million years, it was known only to local Aboriginal tribes for over 40,000 years plus a few farmers. Despite a main highway running past the area where the Bungle Bungle range was to be found, they were only ‘discovered’ in 1983 when a documentary film crew flew over the area.
So, they’re not only staggeringly ancient, they’ve been tucked away in almost plain sight for hundreds of years, and I think that makes them pretty special. Nowadays, Purnululu – which means sandstone in the indigenous language- National Park is a main draw for tourists who are exploring this remote part of Australia.
The national park is now recognised as a World Heritage Site and is located 300km south of Kununurra.
Just What Exactly Are The Bungle Bungles?
The beehive like formations are believed to have formed from the sediment from an ancient river bed. Over time, wind, rain and intense heat has eroded portions of the stone, leaving these domed shaped ranges. The uniquely distinctive orange and black stripes on the domes are a result of bands of sediment with different levels of clay content.
I started off our morning by taking on a few short walks around the Piccaninny Creek area. Firstly, I took the easy 1km circular walking track around The Domes, which enables you to walk up close to these giant ‘beehives’. I spotted Aboriginal art on the face of one of the domes and learned that this area was incredibly significant to the men of the local indigenous tribes as a place where stories and knowledge were passed on to the younger men in the tribe.
Afterwards I walked to Piccaninny Creek Look Out. From here you could see the outlying Bungle Bungle Range as it spans off into the distance towards the Ord River.
Walking along the dried out river bed here was like exploring a lunar landscape. The smooth, undulating rock surface beneath my feet contrasted to the humped formations towering above me.
The name ‘Cathedral Gorge’ conjures up an image of vastness and quiet reverence. This incredible gorge is known for its natural acoustics, and if its sheer size doesn’t stun you into silence you could test out your vocal cords in this giant amphitheatre.
But I find that in these moments I prefer to quietly take in my surroundings. The size and the wonderment at its history and formation was enough to have me sitting or walking quietly through this magnificent space.
Cathedral Gorge is an easy 1.4km stroll from the Piccaninny car park and well worth the visit to that you can feel humbled by nature’s achievements.
Now, from the wide open space of Cathedral Gorge to something completely different. Echidna Chasm is a narrow slice through the rock, over 100 metres high in some places, which was carved out of the limestone by a river millions of years ago.
I’d been gazing at pictures of Echidna Chasm on my Instagram feed for a while now. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in the pictures so I was really looking forward to experiencing this place for myself. Having said that, I knew that I needed to battle my expectations of the quality of photograph I was going to capture. The perfect images on social media would be hard to replicate, I feared.
As I wandered deeper into the chasm itself, the walls narrowed on either side of me and the light dimmed in places. Eventually, I was so in awe of my surroundings that I realised that I was never going to be able to capture it perfectly on camera. So I dropped my concerns and simply let myself roam this incredible space.
Sunset Over The Bungle Bungle Range
I adored the sunsets I witnessed over the Bungle Bungles. There was nothing more perfect than feeling the ferocious heat of the day dwindling into a soft, dusky warmth whilst watching the Bungle Bungle Range glow red in the setting sun.
There is always such a tranquil hush surrounding a sunset.
And I also loved the viewpoint we watched the sunset from, as it gave me a feeling of scale. Here I was, a small dot in the middle of this vast open space, with this magnificent limestone range on the horizon.
Almost as epic as the chasms and gorges themselves is the 53km long access track that winds from the highway into the heart of the National Park. This access track is unsealed, meaning it is a dirt road. The road twists and turns through incredible landscape as you rattle over the corrugations on its red surface. Take a 4WD vehicle into the park and expect the drive to take over an hour on rough terrain.
As crazy as the road was, I found that it added to the sense of adventure that exploring the Bungles gave me. You had to work for it, but your drive was rewarded by breath taking beauty on another level.
Where To Stay
You would be a fool to drive all the way into the national park to carry out several walks and then drive all the way back out to the main road again in search of accommodation. There’s no point in rushing your time here, as sunsets and sunrises will add new dimensions to your stay, plus you will be exhausted from all your explorations.
Luckily, there are two campsites available in the national park: Walardi and Kurrajong. Make sure you bring all of your own food, water and other supplies with you into the park as there are no shops or conveniences.
When To Go
The best time of year to visit Purnululu is during the dry season, which runs roughly from April to October. Be prepared for extremely hot weather. Bring plenty of drinking water, wear a hat, sunscreen and clothes that protect you from the sun.
It is best to start your day early to avoid the heat. By early I mean as close to dawn as you can muster, as believe me, the days will heat up rapidly as the sun climbs into the sky. I thought the order in which we explored the area made sense as we spent the early morning walking in the more open areas around Piccanniny Gorge. As the heat of the day increased we ventured into the cooler temperatures and shade of Echidna Chasm.
What do you think? Has the sensational Bungle Bungle Range captured your imagination like it did mine? Would this be a place you would like to visit in Australia? Have you even been here before? Tell me what you think in the comments.
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