MICK FOGG, PONANT's Australian Expedition Manager, tells us about one of his favourite regions on the planet, The Kimberley.
It’s like nowhere else on earth, a wild land of remote, spectacular scenery spread over vast distances, it’s the Antarctica of the tropics. The sheer size and age of the landscape is humbling and it is a privilege to experience such a pristine environment that has so many facets. It is home to the oldest continuous culture on earth, the world’s largest living reptile, the only two ‘horizontal falls’ on the planet, the world’s largest inshore reef and the largest population of migrating humpback whales on the planet. The Kimberley is one of the world’s last great Wilderness areas, and one of Australia’s greatest natural assets. It is a destination that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
What do you continue to watch in awe, even after having experienced it over 100 times?
Montgomery Reef seemingly rising from the ocean is always a sight to behold no matter how many times I've been there!
We’ve heard the tidal changes in The Kimberley are something that need to be seen to fully appreciate the sheer volume of water and power of the tides. Is this true?
Absolutely! Talbot Bay and the ‘Horizontal Falls’ provide a great opportunity to witness the power of the tides. The Kimberley has, arguably, the 2nd largest tidal change in the world, creating a truly unique phenomenon. It’s amazing to think that there are only two ‘Horizontal Falls’ on the planet and both are in our own backyard! David Attenborough has described these Falls as one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. PONANT will take guests in Zodiacs to coincide with the peak flow at the Horizontal Falls taking you right to the mouth of the falls to feel the power of up to 1 million litres of water passing through the falls every second!
The Kimberley is home to an incredible number of Indigenous rock art sites, and this is one of the primary reason for it being put forward for world heritage listing. Is there any style of Indigenous art that is close to your heart?
The Wandjina Rock Art Gallery of Ngumbre at Raft Point is a special place. There is a sense of tranquillity that spreads over you as you sit and contemplate the activities that have gone on in this significant location of the Worrorra people. I take great pleasure in watching PONANT guests interact with the traditional custodians of the land and learn about their ancient culture and stories in stone. The Wandjina images came to prominence during the 2000 Sydney Olympics when a Wandjina image was chosen to represent Indigenous Australia. The image of a 40-foot-high Namarali rising from the ground was a very special moment. During the 2016 Vivid festival in Sydney, there was a spectacular projection of Wandjina figures onto the Sydney Opera House and that is certainly an image I won’t forget for a very long time.
Is it true that in The Kimberley you will find the oldest depictions of the human form on the planet?
Whilst no exact dates on the age of the Gwion Gwion style of rock art unique to the Kimberley has been validated, it is generally thought that they are at least 15,000 years old and may be as much as 40,000 years old. These intricate and complex depictions of the human form may be more than 5 times older than Egyptian Hieroglyphs. They were once known as ‘Bradshaws’ but their correct name is Gwion Gwion or Gyorn Gyorn. It is yet another fascinating aspect of our Kimberley experience.
What’s an unknown fact about The Kimberley that people will discover?
When they travel to The Kimberley with PONANT in July and August, guests don’t realise that this is the prime breeding time for Humpback Whales. In fact, in The Kimberley there were 36,500 Humpback Whales there last year – the largest population of migrating Humpback Whales on the planet.