When you think of Western Australia’s Kimberley region, you picture towering escarpments, secluded waterfalls and swimming holes, and red-dirt highways leading straight to the beating red heart of the Australian outback. But the jewel in the Kimberley’s crown is the mesmerising World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park, home of the Bungle Bungle Range, which erupts from the scorched desert plains around 300 kilometres from Kununurra.
Aside from their natural beauty and scientific significance, the Bungle Bungles have fascinated travellers for decades because they are home to an Indigenous culture dating back more than 20,000 years. This network of soaring sandstone rock formations remained the secret of the Purnululu’s Indigenous land owners, the Kija tribe, until the 1980s, when a film crew stumbled upon the range. The Kija’s cultural ties to the site are so strong that they still occupy and use the Bungle Bungles for cultural traditions handed down by their ancestors.
Since Europeans learned about the site, scientists have studied the Bungle Bungles intensely, hoping to unlock the secrets behind the range’s, and the Earth’s, formation.
The result of 200 million years of erosion, the dark bands that ring the domes of the Bungle Bungles were formed by cyanobacteria – tiny prehistoric bugs that have been found in fossils as ancient as 3500 million years old in the surrounding region. These dark bands are interspersed by rings of bright orange sandstone, giving the Bungle Bugles their distinctive striped pattern. (If you’re lucky enough to be in the park on a rainy day, you’re in for a treat; the coloured bands of the Bungle Bungles’ domes put on a striking colour show before your very eyes during a downpour.) But as much as the Bungle Bungles have taught geomorphologists what they know today, many of the site’s mysteries remain intact, with modern science still having a long way to go to fully understand how the range – and Earth – was formed.
To really get acquainted with the Bungle Bungles, you’re going to need to get your hiking boots dirty. Taking the not-too-challenging four-kilometre walking trail along Piccaninny Creek, you’ll find Cathedral Gorge nestled among the domes: a natural amphitheatre shaped by cascading rainwater carving through the stone escarpment during the wet season. Named for its astounding acoustics, sound bounces off the rock walls in Cathedral Gorge with quality so good you could host a congregation.
Once in Purnululu NP a chopper flight over 'the Bungles' is highly recommended
If you’re up for a bigger trekking challenge, take the two-kilometre walking trail to Echidna Gorge, complete with boulders to scramble over and a climb at the end to get the heart pumping just that little bit more. But the payoff at the end of the walk is worth it; 200-metre-high sheer rock walls soar skyward, with the sun reflecting a kaleidoscope of colours against the rock face in a private light show. You’ll definitely need your camera for this one!
Venture North Safaris offer tours to the Kimberley, including a stop at the Bungle Bungles. We can also arrange helicopter flights over the range, so you can grasp of the sheer magnitude and drama of the site from the air – enquire or book today.