Our Karijini tour makes the press – part two

Nov 15, 2023

In part two of Great Walks editor Brent McKean’s experience on our Karijini National Park Walk and Ningaloo Reef pack-free guided walk (read part one here) he travels deepers in the the Pilbara.

Early up, myself and one of the other men on the tour explored Cheela Plains Station and spotted some disused mining trucks – well, they were hard to miss as they’re two-stories high and you needed to climb a long ladder to get into them. We were like kids in a sandpit with a new toy!


After brekkie we set off deeper into the Pilbara, first stop Hamersley Gorge for a short walk and a bit of a swim. Swirls of rock swept down through the gorge and waterfalls rushed into tranquil pools. It was that kind of place.
Afterwards we drove to our accommodation for the next few nights, Karijini Eco Retreat, offering safari-tent style glamping and an excellent restaurant. Before dinner we had time to explore Joffre Gorge, just a few minutes from the retreat. There’s a tonne of metal steps to get you in and out of the gorge and if you can brave the cold water (which I did) you can splash about in the waterhole or just sit down and listen to the silence.


Another comfy sleep, another filling brekkie (and pretty good coffee) and we were on the bus heading to Mount Bruce, WA’s second highest mountain. The 9km return walk is on a clear and well defined track but there are some uneven, rocky and exposed sections and I could see it was challenging a couple of the guests. I asked Janaya what her advice was for guests who were a bit hesitant to take on some of the more challenging walks.


“All of the walks within the Karijini National Park are graded from 1-5 making it easy for guests to decide what walks are best suited to their ability. Most gorges can be slippery in the wetter areas and some have sections that require a small amount of climbing,” Janaya told me.

“We always recommend guests to walk within their limits and to not be afraid to ask for a helping hand. We are there to assist guests through those trickier sections and encourage people to book on a Life’s An Adventure tour for support, encouragement, and of course a good time!”

The top of Mount Bruce (1234m) offered incredible views of the Hamersley Range and Marandoo mining operations run by Rio Tinto. It was very windy at the top so we didn’t stay long, then we headed down the trail a little bit to find a sheltered area for lunch. We got back to the retreat in the early afternoon and some of us explored Joffre Gorge again before another hearty dinner washed done with some tasty Margaret River wines. That night I slept to the low howling of dingoes.


Our penultimate day saw us heading to three gorges – Kalimina, Dale and Knox. It’s here you really witness how the power of water has shaped Karijini. There are impressive waterfalls, and deep, cold pools as well as spectacular lookouts. We spotted some beautiful flora during the walk, but my favourite was the white cypress pine which has no flowers, instead it has male and female ‘cones’ that are wind pollinated.

“They evolved after ferns but before flowering plants,” Glen told me. “This ancient conifer links us with our Gondwanan heritage and like many of the plants in the deep gorges is a reminder of what our open country looked like before Australia drifted so far north and our planet warmed.” After a big explore we stopped for lunch at Fern Pool which was busy with tourists doing the same thing as us. The water was much warmer here than in Joffre Gorge and we had plenty of time for a splash and rest.

I ask Janaya what she most liked about Karijini and the gorges she was showing us. “I love the contrast of colours against the ironstone. The vibrant red sap on the bloodwoods, the smooth white bark of the snappy gums and the lush green spinifex hummocks amongst the afternoon light is my favourite time of the day.”

Now one of the things I love about this trip is if you do the north-south tour, the climax is swimming with the whale sharks but if you do the south-north tour, like ours, then the climax was what we were going to experience on the last day of the tour, and it didn’t disappoint.

Two of Karijini’s finest and most famous gorges – Hancock and Weano – were on our itinerary. There was some wading through water and clambering over rock ledges, but the walks were not difficult and the gorges were truly amazing. At times, the gorge walls were just an arm’s length apart and the rich red colour and banding of the rock was breathtaking.

Beautiful jade pools nestled deep within the gorge complex, including the famous Handrail Pool, were a welcomed sight. Handrail Pool was my favourite swimming hole on the tour and maybe that was because of what it took to get there. It’s a bit like this trip, whether in the choppy ocean swimming with whale sharks or clambering along narrow gorgeous, that extra bit of effort you need can get you to some amazing places offering the greatest rewards.

Words and photos_Brent McKean


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