Sunsets, Crocs & London Buses

Broome was always a major point in our trip. It’s another isolated major town, and a key hub for the grey nomad annual northern migration. The town has been around for almost 150 years, but has recently undergone a major tourist boom.

Speaking of the oldies, the first question most of them have asked us as we have travelled up the coast is ‘have you booked Broome yet?’ You all know we hate to book, but the questioning had us worried. So we caved into the pressure of missing out, and manage to book in a week at the park out of town. Apparently we got the last weeklong spot for June/July.

Ironically, Broome was also the place we met up again with our travelling friends, the O’Callaghan’s. We last saw them two months ago, as we left them behind in Perth, post royal wedding. They have caught up with us, and the kids were so very excited about their impending arrival a few days after us.

Camel trainCable Beach Sunset FootyThere were so many things we wanted to do. We dived into it straight away by bouncing away on a camel ride on the famous Cable Beach. As the kids were both under five, we all squeezed onto one very strong camel, called Cairo, for the 30 minute trek. This was an absolutely fantastic way to start our week. We all loved it, and even though we didn’t do the sunset trip, our photos are pretty good.

Another first adventure was the Broome Top Deck Bus Tour. We realised early on a week in Broome was probably not enough, as there was so much to see and do. We decided to condense it all a bit by doing the bus tour around town early on, and then planning the rest of our stay. To read more about this fabulous trip around Broome, click here.

We managed to find time to visit both of Malcolm Douglas’ wildlife parks during our stay. We first went to the Crocodile Park on Cable Beach Road. It’s only open for 3 hours in the afternoon, but we had a great time looking around the park and watching the famous crocodile feeding tour. A few days later we visited the Malcolm Douglas Wildlife Park, which holds heaps of different species of birds, reptiles and marsupials, including bilbies and other nocturnal creatures in the new night walk. The parks were a bit hit with the kids. To read more about our park experiences, click here.

Coby catches a waveBroome was also a great opportunity to chill out a bit. We made use of the pool at the caravan park, having some great pool parties with the O’Callaghan’s. We also visited the free playground and Aqua Park at town beach. We also managed to find time to meander around town to shop and take in the sites and history of the place. I kept getting major feelings of Déjà vu with the climate, architecture and scents of the place. I felt like I was in an Asian town.

I was very disappointed that we missed out on going to the Sun Picture Theatre, the world’s oldest running cinema. Our friends went the night after we left to see the latest kid’s film, and they all had a great time. I’m adding this one to my list of things to do.

Cape Leveque BeachesCape LevequeAnother must do for us on this trip was Cape Leveque. Mike saw a ‘Lonely Planet’ documentary about the Cape around 15 years ago, and it was cited as one of the world’s best beaches. We couldn’t book a campsite for love nor money, as you had to book months in advance, and it was expensive. But we camped 60 km down the road and went up for a day trip. We spent the day treating ourselves to coffee and cake in the restaurant, and swimming on the pristine beach. Horizontal falls FlightHorizontal falls

Mike also had a big desire to have a flight over the Buccaneer Archipelago and Horizontal Falls. Mike had a great time viewing the spectacular scenery from a five seater Cessna plane.

Now I am going to have a little soapbox moment. There is currently a contentious issue within the Kimberly. There is a huge reserve of oil and natural gas just off the coast of James Price Point. Woodside (who have a huge plant at Dampier) are planning to build a plant to take advantage of the reserves here. Obviously there are many problems with this. The Kimberly’s is one of the most untouched and pristine places on the face of the planet. No know species of fish or animal have become extinct here, and they have healthy populations of many endangered species. They also have some of the strongest aboriginal cultural communities, and sustainable industries (pearling, tourisms, controlled fishing etc).

Anyway, James price Point is currently one of the biggest humpback whale breeding grounds in the world. If this Gas project goes ahead, they will be dredging around 7 km of the bay, destroying any possibility of humpbacks breeding here. Personally I find it ironic than a government that is supposedly for the whale, with the anti whaling campaign against the Japanese, would then have no problem destroying a prime calving ground for one of the most endangered species of whale.

One top of this, Broome is such a lovely place. It is built around long term sustainable industries. This project would turn it into another industrial wasteland such as Karratha and Port Hedland. Once it’s gone you could never get it back.

The alternative to building a plant at James Price Point would be to pipe it all to Port Hedland. This place is already set up for these industrial activities, and they want it there. Building the plant here would just open the region up to bauxite mining, at Mitchell’s plateau, and other major projects which will threatened and destroy the unique environment. You also have to consider the social cost, as rentals for normal people in places like Port Hedland and Karratha are $2000 per week for an average house, and all retail outlets cannot get staff because wages would not even cover their rent.

OK, I’m getting back off my soapbox now. But speaking of unique, local and sustainable industries, we decided to visit Willie Creek Pearl Farm. Pearling has been a part of Broome’s history for over 100 years, and has been the pearling capital of Australia for almost the entire time. This region is home to the gold lip and silver lip South Sea Pearl, the largest species of pearl producing oyster. The pearls they produce are the largest and most lustrous in the world. The industry is also well managed to protect the wild oyster populations.

Matts Pearl Farming TalkAnatomy of a south sea oysterThe tour takes place a Willie Creek, in the gardens overlooking the beautiful blue waters. Our guide, Matt, took us through a 30 minute demonstration of oysters, seeding, pearl characteristics, and how pearl farming works. I found it especially interesting that absolutely every part of the oyster is used and nothing is wasted. The shell is used for other products, and the pearl ‘meat’ is sold as a delicacy to the Asian markets.

After our demonstration, we had a wonderful fish and salad lunch on the terrace of the cafe overlooking the magnificent view. We were also treated to ‘Kimberly Damper’, which is damper made with beer instead of water. Yum

We were then taken out on a boat, to see where all the action takes place. Of course, only Keshi, (poppy seed in Japanese) pearls are actually grown here. They are oysters where the seeding was unsuccessful, so they produce misshaped pearls that can still be used for jewellery. The real oysters are housed in a secret location, for obvious reasons.

To all my British subscribers, they do employ backpackers for 3 month stints to help with the oyster cleaning. This would qualify you to a 12 visa extension under the agricultural work rules, and you get a certificate showing you are a qualified marine shellfish cleaning technician.

Willie Creek ViewWe then had an opportunity to look at their showroom, and perhaps buy a pearl or two. Unfortunately our budget doesn’t allow for such a treat at the moment, but at least now I have some education into what to look for when buying a pearl. Perhaps I am also happy Mike also knows (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). We all really enjoyed the tour, as it was really different to anything we had seen before, and learning about the process was just fascinating. Because it was quite a hands-on tour, with touching and seeing examples, it held the children’s attention as well. I felt like they were getting something out of it. I’m also starting to notice that Coby is becoming a really girly girl, as she was captivated by the jewellery and pretty products made from the shell.

Willie Creek Pearls have showrooms in Broome and in Perth, well as Willie Creek itself. But if you ever visit Broome, it is certainly worth doing the tour for yourself. Check out their website for yourself.

Getting back from our camping trip, we really wanted to do a Playgroup before we left Broome.  Playgroups will be few and far between for a while, and school holidays starts this weekend.  We had a wonderful visit to Broome Jack and Jill Playgroup Centre.  Read about our visit here.

It was with great regret we had to leave. We are now headed mostly eastward, coast to coast across the Savannah Way (with aside trip to Darwin & the top end). The National Parks and gorges of the Kimberly beckon, as we watch our last sunsets over water in WA.


One Response

  1. Love the photos and stories of all the places you have been.
    Look forward to reading your newsletters.

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