It’s been around for 350 million years and revered by its Aboriginal custodians for 40,000 years. But the striking Bungle Bungle Range in World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park was a secret from the outside world until 1983. Today this maze of orange-and-black striped sandstone domes, often likened to giant beehives, is one of the Kimberley’s best-loved attractions. Take in the awesome Bungle Bungle Range on a scenic flight. Or hike, camp and 4WD amidst Purnululu’s geological wonders, discovering ancient rock art, rare wildlife, tropical pools and craggy gorges.
Purnululu National Park sits in the East Kimberley, around 100km from Halls Creek and 250km from Kununurra. Helicopter and 4WD tours leave from both towns, or you can hire a 4WD and journey into the park on a self-drive adventure. You’ll journey along the Great Northern Highway, past sprawling cattle country, before turning onto the rough, narrow 50km track to the park’s entrance.
Despite sitting so close to a main highway, The Bungle Bungle Range was only known to local Aboriginal owners and pastoralists until a documentary team brought it to the world’s attention in 1983. Today it is enshrined as part of Purnululu National Park, which covers a total of 240,000 hectares and won World Heritage listing in 2003.
The landmark Bungle Bungle Range, which took the name of a nearby cattle station, sits in the park’s south. Its beehive-like towers rise up hundreds of metres on the edge of the range, sheltering cavernous gorges, and palm-fringed rock pools. Take a scenic helicopter flight over its incredible sandstone formations, thought to have been forged over 350 million years from the sediment of an old river bed. The unique orange, grey and black stripes are the result of alternating bands of sediment, each with different clay content.
In the southern part of the park you can also hike into enormous Cathedral Gorge, known for its incredible natural acoustics. Test out your vocal chords here or tackle the scenic trail to Piccaninny Creek. Do the 3km return loop or press on to soaring Piccaninny Gorge, where you can camp overnight. In northern Purnululu, the much narrower gorges offer a completely different experience. An easy 2km walk leads into Echidna Chasm, where you can stare up in awe at the sheer rock walls, towering a hundred metres on either side of you. Or try the 5km return hike to Mini Palms Gorge, home to clusters of slender Livingstonia palms and a traditional Aboriginal fertility cave.
Aboriginal people are thought to have lived in this region for more than 40,000 years, and the park holds rich, enduring traces of their occupation. Ancient rock art and burial sites can be found across the park, which the Djaru and Kija Aboriginal people help to manage. The name Purnululu, meaning sandstone, was the name given to the area by its traditional Kija custodians.
Don’t miss out on experiencing their ancient home, which has just been discovered by the rest of us.