Day 27: Mornington Wilderness Camp – Sir John Gorge

Distance: 28km return

Total drive time: 2 hours

Author: Mrs A

Apparently today was Sunday, though we have totally lost track of days of the week, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter! We had a slower start to the day and headed off around 10am to Sir John Gorge, one of the major attractions on the Fitzroy River. Each of the drives throughout the Mornington Wilderness is accompanied by an information book, full of facts and details of the environment we are travelling through. 

Today we learned about the importance of the termites, and how they are responsible for aerating the soils and the breaking down of plant matter, and the damage that feral animals do – particularly donkeys and cattle which trample the soil solid, meaning the delicate ecosystem can no longer maintain roots and plant life, thereby impacting all animals and birds as a result. It’s certainly a harsh environment here – 7 months of ‘dry’ when there is no rainfall, followed by 5 months of extremely hot temperatures and heavy rains (accompanied by high humidity and lots of mosquitoes) and the flora and fauna are well adapted to cope with it, assuming things are not interfered with.

Sir John Gorge was certainly peaceful and very picturesque. We rock hopped along the shore, spotting bird life and admiring the views, but the water didn’t look that inviting to swim in, despite the hot day. There is a plastic canoe you can  paddle here for the princely sum of $185! It is not a big gorge – this seems a bit of a poor deal, and definitely not worth the money, no matter the good cause it goes to! We pretty much had the place to ourselves the whole time, rare for The Kimberley!

We stayed a couple of hours before driving back towards camp, detouring at a waterhole called Bluebush. This was much prettier (as opposed to majestic), sandy beaches surrounded by paper bark trees and pandanus palms and teeming in bird life. It is about 6km down the Fitzroy River from the previous gorge. We lay in the shade beside the water watching the rainbow bee-eaters swooping and diving and trying the photograph the crimson finches which nested in the palms, and I scared a crocodile into jumping into the water on one of my explorations.

We returned to camp to make a hot chilli accompanied by a baked garlic damper on the BBQ, before an earlyish night.

Day 26: 24 June – Mornington Wilderness Camp – Twitching and Packrafting…

Distance driven: 28km

Total drive time: 2 hours

Author: Mr A

What a cracker of a day!! Up before dawn and out on a birdwatching trip, guided by the lovely Sally, an Australian Wildlife Conservation  (AWC) twitcher. She and 20 other staff live here on the property for 7 month sat a time. Most of the staff won’t leave the property for the whole time, given its a 2 hour rough drive just to get back to the rough “main road” then another 3 hours to the closest “town”. Quite a few backpackers among the staff I talked to are looking for a different experience from the usual booze tours down the coast. 

We saw an amazing selection of birds as the sun climbed its way up over endless plains of spinifex, with boab trees standing sentinel and providing great avian lookouts. We learnt about how the AWC is engaged across millions of hectares of NW Australia in a fire management program that ensures there are burns early in the season when the spinifex roots can resist and recover. Basically taking over from what the traditional aboriginal custodians of the land were doing for thousands of years, very successfully. 

Next on the agenda was an hour’s drive out down a rough track with numerous water crossings to reach Dimond Gorge on the Fitzroy River, where we inflated our packrafts and headed off down a fun little rapid and out into this stunning landscape where we were dwarfed by towering cliffs on either side of us. It was truly awe inspiring, to feel so insignificant on the water next to these sheer cliffs rising up 70 metres vertically over our heads. We drifted down the river – when there’s not much current a packraft is not the fastest thing on the water, but we weren’t in a rush, just spinning round admiring the scenery. 

It was soon time for our picnic lunch, up on a rock platform, what a spot. There was nowhere else I’d rather have been, no fancy restaurant could have lured me away from that spot, with a delicious smoked salmon and pasta salad, and a cuppa of course. 

All too quickly we we’re back at our little rapid and had some fun trying to see if we could get back up it. I love these little boats. If we had had our big plastic kayak with with us we would not have been able to get in and out of the water. A big tick for these lightweight boats. At the end of last year an Australian company started up designing their own boats to compete with the much more expensive US market leaders, Alpacka Rafts. Check out We have been very happy with them so far, and Geoff the owner has been super helpful.  They are a little heavier than the US boats, becuase they are double skin to their single skin, but for less than a kilo more, I choose robustness. 

We decided to have dinner in the AWC restaurant as we were pretty bushed, and locally caught barramundi was on the menu. We invited over the couple we had been birdwatching with that morning, they run a sheep farm outside of Bathurst, and all learnt something about the other couples very different lives. That’s one of the things we are really enjoying about this trip – mixing with people who otherwise our lifestyles would not put us at the same table. 

Another sound sleep coming up with the stars shining though our roof hatch…