David Attenborough calls it “Australia’s most unusual natural wonder” yet very few people have passed through it, and even fewer will ever get the chance.
Famed for its untouched, rugged coastline, the Kimberly region also hides a secret natural phenomenon – the world’s only sideways waterfall.
There are no roads and very few boats off the northwest coast to get to the remote ‘Horizontal Falls’, so the best way to access them is to jump onboard a scenic seaplane, taking in the untouched islands off the Buccaneer Archipelago and the rustic colours of Cape Leveque’s coastline. This, coupled with an exhilarating fast-boat ride that takes you right through the breathtaking falls.
Located within the almost glassy waters of Talbot Bay, these unique falls demonstrate the power of the ebb and flows that make up the massive tidal movements. The fast-moving tidal current squeezes through two closely aligned gorges, and as the water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, the build-up forms a drop of up to four metres, creating the horizontal waterfall.
Interestingly, the direction of the flow reverses with each change of tide. As tides in the Kimberley can reach 10 metres, a peak tide gives rise to a significant difference in the sea level on either side of each gorge.
How to get there
A breathtaking 90-minute scenic flight from Broome takes you over the vast and untouched landscape of dramatic red cliffs, pristine white sands, remote reefs and lush rainforests.
Below, in the turquoise waters of Talbot Bay seen through the crevasses of the McLarty Ranges, there is a clear view of the majestic falls, nicknamed the ‘Horries’. Flying low, the Cessna circles the falls so you get guaranteed front-row seats to the spectacle from above.
After a smooth landing on the calm waters, you are escorted onto a luxury pontoon docked on its own in the middle of the wilderness, where a cooked brekky awaits and the chance to swim in cages with tawny sharks that are nudged to the surface by the lure of food.
Rapid boat ride
You’ve seen the falls up high, now it’s time to get up-close and personal in an exhilarating boat ride through the narrow opening between the two escarpments.
Due to its ferocity, sometimes the tide can be too dangerous to ride. But with an experienced skipper, who also explains how the tides work, you can pass through them when the drop is no higher than a metre.
Holding on tight, there are a few nervous squeals passing through the first gap, but it doesn’t take long to relax and enjoy the thrill of the rush, followed by the calm bay that is hidden on the other side of the McLarty Ranges. The immense power of the tide is felt even more so as you pass through the second, larger opening.
A quieter boat experience takes you to the end of the bay and out into Cyclone Creek. The Kimberly was once separated from the rest of Australia and it is here that two landmasses are thought to have collided. The towering pre-historic cliffs, providing boats with protection from cyclones.
The day ends with another scenic flight back along the untouched, fringes of the rugged coast.
Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures offer half-day morning or afternoon tours from Broome or Derby, and full-day tours from Broome, including flights and 4WD, that also take in Cygnet Bay or Cape Leveque.
The Derby Overnighter includes a stay on a houseboat, but the Horizontal Falls 24-Hour Stay is the only tour that lets you experience the incoming and outgoing tides up close.
Of course, for those with cash to splash, the 4-night Ultimate Kimberly Cruise Adventure is a must.
For more information of bookings visit horizontalfallsadventures.com.au.