Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. – Maya Angelou
Silent Grove Campsite / Bell Gorge – 2 Nights – 26th, 27th Aug.
Silent Grove Campsite was the final destination on the GRR. It was 100km by road from Mt Hart, with breathtaking views as the road wound Westwards through the Wunaamin Milliwundi Ranges and descended to the vast Eastern plains. Imintji Roadhouse is 5km past the Silent Grove / Bell Gorge turnoff, so a detour was made for those two most essentials items, fuel and Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
The 30km access road to Silent Grove Campsite was in good condition although there were a couple of creek crossings, low of course in late August.
Creek Crossing – Silent Grove Access Road.
It was early afternoon when we arrived at Silent Grove and the campsite was only a quarter full. An excellent site near the creek was available, situated in a grove of trees providing all day shade. There had to be a catch, and there was.
We found out after we had set up camp that the shady conditions at the campsite were a hit with the mosquitoes and after 4pm it was essential to lather up in repellant! The old saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” came to mind. The all day shade however was indeed bliss.
Camp at Silent Grove.
On the previous visit to Silent Grove in 2018, I had found Verticordia cunninghami bushes dotted throughout the campground in full bloom, and attracting Savanna Gliders. The main flowering period is September and October, so late August we were a little early. A quick scout around the campground late afternoon found only two bushes in the early stages of flower.
After dark I used the thermal imager to pinpoint three Savanna Gilders in the Verticordia, two animals in one bush and a third in a second flowering bush, enjoying the nectar feast. It was interesting to note the similarity to the tail of their nearest relative the Squirrel Glider seen here in – Queensland Wildlife 2019 – Part 1 of 4 – Tolderodden Regional Park to Taunton National Park and Australia’s Rarest Wallaby
Savanna Glider in Verticordia cunninghami with a snout full of nectar.
The rocky escarpment at the rear of the campground had previously been excellent for Northern Quolls, it seems the arrival of the Cane Toad has impacted Quoll numbers at Silent Grove. Along the creek I found a recently arrived Cane Toad perched on a stone.
The final Kimberley Wildlife of the night was a Northern Brown Bandicoot foraging near the creekline.
Northern Brown Bandicoot.
The following morning we drove 30km North to the Bell Gorge Walk Trail. The road was littered with large rocks and was rougher than any of the roads encountered so far on the trip. I would usually have dropped my tyre pressures by 10psi in the Kimberley to accomodate corrugations, but with all roads recently graded and in excellent condition I overlooked this essential adjustment.
The Bell Gorge Walk Trail is a rugged trail that passes first over savannah, before descending into a gorge, and following a creek bed to the top of a spectacular multi-tiered waterfall. We disturbed two Common Wallaroos on the trail, and found a Freshwater Crocodile sunbathing on a ledge just below the swimming hole at the waterfall.
The Excellent Swimming Hole at Bell Gorge.
A gently sloping ledge to the left of the waterfall provided shade until lunchtime and we spent a lazy morning alternating between exploring the gorge, swimming and kicking back in the shade of the rock ledge. Using a combination of swimming, wading and rock clambouring we explored downstream and after 400m we found a much higher waterfall emptying into a large pool with a magnificent view further down the gorge.
On the return walk to the car we encountered a flock of Double-barred Finches drinking and bathing at a pool in the creek. Another 30km down the rough road and we were back at Silent Grove where we rested in the shade of the trees for the remainder of the afternoon.
That night our last camp meal was taken at the picnic table outside the tent,. After we had washed up and packed away Lorenz retired to the tent and I went for to check the verticordia for gliders.
On my return to the campsite ten minutes later I was thrilled to find under the very picnic table we had just eaten dinner a 3m Olive Python. I shouted out to Lorenz in the tent, and the conversation went something like…
Me:- Lorenz there’s a massive Python under the table where we just ate dinner!
Lorenz:- What are you fucking joking?
Me:- No really there’s a beautiful python, why don’t you come and have a look?
The python climbed a tree next to the tent and I attempted to capture the size of the snake on camera from the base of the tree.
Olive Python at our campsite in Silent Grove.
The head of the snake was at eye level, allowing a close up of the head, where the heat detecting labial pits were clearly visible. Kimberley Wildlife never fails to impress!
The following morning I was relating the experience of our late night visitor to the ranger, when another camper came up to the ranger to apologise for the dent his head had just made in the toilet roof. It seems on an early morning, bleary eyed visit to the toilet, he had found the olive python curled up at the base of the toilet bowl giving him the fright of his life!
Packing up for the long journey back to Broome I discovered a sharp rock from the previous day had caused a slow puncture in one of the 4WD tyres, a lesson to always drop tyre pressures, even if most roads are in good condition!
Broome – 3 nights – 28th,29th,30th Aug.
Once in Broome we had three relaxing nights in a hotel and although Kimberley Wildlife watching was definitely on the backfoot there were plenty of herps around the grounds of the hotel with all of a Northern Bluetongue, Gilbert’s Water Dragon, Black-headed Monitor and Green Tree Snake seen.
Gilbert’s Water Dragon.
Late afternoon the grounds of Cable Beach Resort are filled with Agile Wallabies taking the opportunity to graze on the well watered grass and we called in on our way to view sunset at Cable Beach.
Once the three nights in Broome were over I dropped Lorenz back at the airport and started the long return drive to Perth making it as far as Port Hedland, where I paid an astonishing $48 for an unpowered site at a caravan park. This unpowered site was actually a sandy patch on a median strip immediately past the main entrance, so I got the benefit of all vehicles passing within a foot on my sleeping head. What a bargain.
The Great Northern Highway South of Munjina winds through the Hamersley Range. This was the first time I had driven this stretch of road in daylight and I marvelled at the amazing views and rock formations in this spectaclular landscape of iron ore.
I spent a day at Dales Gorge in Karijini NP and although unsucessful with Rothschild’s Rock Wallabies I did have a couple of close encounters with Spinifex Pigeons. These birds can be a little edgy but both of the individuals seen happily tolerated my presence.
After overnighting at the excellent Tom Price Caravan Park I continued onwards to Carnarvon for the next two nights. During both days I drove the sealed Gascoyne Junction Road in the hope of finding Thorny Devils. On the first day I encountered a magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle feasting on a fly-ridden Red Kangaroo Carcass. This ravenous raptor eyed me cautiously as it continued to rip into the carrion.
Both days there were many Western Netted Dragons basking on the tarmac where many had succumbed to vehicle strike. The males of this species having a beautiful vivid orange colouration.
Central Netted Dragon.
The three day search for the Thorny Devil was ultimately unsucessful, although sadly I did find an animal dead on road North of Wooramel Roadhouse, in an area I had previously found a live Thorny Devil. A more successful trip finding this species is seen here – Wildlife at Dryandra – Boyagin – Tutanning Nature Reserve – 2017-2018 – Part 3 – Summer into Autumn.
Crossing the 26th Parallel back into the Southwest signalled the end of what had been an action packed trip. Although this trip had been a poor second to visiting my family in Wales during covid, to have seen the Kimberley Wildlife of both Mount Hart and Windjana again before they are impacted by the cane toad invasion, I count myself truly lucky indeed. #NatureNeverFailsToImpress