Our Kimberley Flying Adventure ended up even better than we had envisaged. Over 11 days we have seen some of the most spectacular sights Western Australia has to offer and had an all round great time. Flying really opens up the Kimberley to those of use that do not have the time to spend weeks or months driving the massive distances that is part of the unique nature of region.
Some facts and figures for the pilots and those interested:
Aircraft: Cessna 182
Distance: 2968 nautical miles (planned estimate, well over 3000nm if include airwork over attractions)
Time: 26.6 hours flying (air switch)
Pilot's Note: A couple of things that really assisted in planning this trip was the AOPA National Airfield Directory and Avplan. The directory has the information you need for planning refuelling. Avplan is revolutionary in flight planning in my opinion with the ability store all relevant maps, ERSA, weather, notams etc and have them updated live and all displayed on the iPad is fantastic. The ability to log Sartimes for each stage of the planned flights is very handy and makes the process so quick and simple when you have flight planned before leaving home. I used a column mount to mount the iPad and the moving map facility on Avplan was fantastic as a second GPS.
Final day today. We could not resist stopping for a snorkel in the crystal clear water over the amazing coral of Coral Bay. Snorkelling gear is only $10 for 4 hours at the dive store conveniently located right on the 1km walk from the airport to the beach.
Coral Bay from the air
Coral Bay from the beach
After lunch at the Coral Bay Bakery we headed for a final fuel stop at Carnarvon and on home to Jandakot.
Today we took a whale shark tour, along with fantastic fishing, Exmouth's greatest tourist attraction. We were right at the end of the season so we were lucky to see any at all. We only saw one shark but we got 5 swims with it. An amazing experience.
Our whale shark was about 4.5m. About a mid sized whale shark but a big fish to be swimming with.
The day also included two snorkels on the Ningaloo reef, beautiful and packed full of fish. We went with Ningaloo Whaleshark-n-Dive and had fantastic guides and skipper. They make the day a lot of fun.
It was hard leaving Broome so we delayed it as long as possible with a late breakfast at Cable Beach after dropping off our scooters. Scooters are available for hire from several locations in Broome and we found them a great way to get around.
We left Broome at about 12pm and we amazed by the number of whales we got to see as we cruised down the coast. We lost count at about 20.
Our track took us over Port Hedland and a fuel stop in Karrartha.
For the Pilots
We stopped off for fuel at Karratha. Karratha is controlled and the tower is very helpful. It is very easy to fly into this controlled airspace. Karratha is a good stop in that fuel is readily available, well priced for the north west and food is available from the terminal cafe.
We called at Drysdale River Station on the Gibb River Road. It appears to be used as a halfway house for the Gibb River Road with some rudimentary mechanical services available as well as diesel, petrol and basic food supplies from the shop. Otto runs the shop and he can also help out with Avgas with prior notice. The restaurant does the famous Kimberley Beef Burger, definitely worth a try.
It is a short flight from Drysdale River Station to Prince Regent River which has made a spectacular gorge with tributaries flowing into it over beautiful waterfalls.
Mt Trafalgar pretty much at the mouth of the Prince Regent rises up into a flat top mountain with sheer rock walls.
Flight down from Mt Trafalgar to Talbot Bay and the Horizontal Waterfalls reveals amazing waterways that would be fantastic to explore by boat.
The Horizontal Waterfalls really are incredible to see from the air. Apparently you can also get a seaplane to Talbot Bay and take a boat ride into them.
We dropped into Cape Leveque for a swim. We then headed down the coast to Broome.
For the Pilots
In the 182 it is no problem to fly direct Kununurra to Broome with some air work in between but depending on wind and how many attractions you want to see or linger over you may need some fuel which is available by prior notice at Drysdale (and expensive) or the bowser service at Derby.
There are numerous tour charter flights operating in the area and there are surface to 5000 feet CTAF frequencies in place for the north Kimberley and west Kimberley. Check those out before you fly as you need to communicate to keep separation over places like horizontal waterfalls.
Flying into Broome is quite easy if you check out the ERSA and call the tower on the number provided in the ERSA before you fly in. They will give you instructions for entry into Broome controlled airspace. You also need to call the airport ground operations to arrange parking.