Horizontal Falls

We were still waiting for parts from Kedron so we left our problems behind in Derby and headed for the horizontal falls!

The horizontal falls is the name given to a natural phenomenon on the Kimberley coast first described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world”. It is a fast moving tidal flow through 2 narrow gorges (one 20 metres and the other 12 metres), of the Mclarty Range which is on a wild remote area of the Kimberly coast.  Tides in this area can be 10 metres, so it’s easy to see how this can occur. We had been told by friends from Darwin that we HAD to do this trip and they raved about. IT WAS AMAZING! Thanks Rick and Louise! M

horizontal falls boarding
The falls are in a wild area with no development nearby so you fly in to the area by float plane and must have your life vest ready to go around your waist before boarding.
steve getting excited
Steve’s getting excited.
horizontal falls map
We did this trip with Horizontal falls Seaplane Adventures who have won numerous awards for their trips and for good reason. They were fantastic. We took the route from Derby to Talbot bay. It is only a 25 min flight to this pristine area from the already remote Derby. They take you a different route out and back so you see as much as possible.
mud flats on flight 2
The blue water is from nutrient in the water coming from mangrove plants lining the creeks and bays.
buccaneer from plane
Buccaneer archipelago coming into view.  This is a group of around 1000 islands green in a sea of turquoise. Blue and green should always be seen!
arriving at hories almost not flowing
The horizontal falls from the air around the time of the turning of the tide. There is only one minute when things are slack otherwise it’s moving one direction or the other and fast.
leaving falls from plane
Taking off and landing was amazingly bumpy for something floating on water.
float plane
Getting our luggage out of the floaties on arrival to the pontoon.
The floating pontoon
The main pontoon had 3-4 boats 3 planes and 2 helicopters on it at the beginning and end of the day. We were transferred to a speed boat and then went out to our own floating hotel boat for the night in our own secluded bay.  We were on the 24 hr tour and there were only 11 of us and 3 crew members.
going to pick up the next group
Within minutes the pilot was off to pick up the next group. It was a very busy but well run operation and the staff were all young, enthusiastic, well trained and fun.
plane departing
We met our guide and boat driver Louie. The very FIRST thing we were told was NOT to put your hands or feet over the edge of the pontoon as there were sharks and crocodiles. There was an enclosed pool to swim in if you wanted and next to it was an area open to the sea where tawny grey nurse sharks came up to be fed .
shark feeding
Tawny grey nurse sharks waiting to be fed chunks of barramundi. They were like huge Wobbygongs and made the strangest noise when they sucked in the fish with their mouths clamping shut with great pressure and a whoosh of air that made you jump!
shark patting
They all had names and one that came up to be stroked was Steve, believe it or not. They felt like sandpaper.


We met all the other people we would be spending the next 24 hours with. We were a group of only 11. We had a nice group of people who were mainly grey nomads traveling. We also met the resident sharks and heard about the bull and reef sharks that sometimes show up. Then we jumped in our speed boat and headed over to see the falls around the turning of the tide. On this tour we were to see both an in going and out going tide but we were also taken out this first time to see it comparatively flat, so we could see the difference. The boat had 3x 300hp motors, so that we could sit in between these narrow gaps in the rock with turbulent water and whirlpools everywhere. You needed to be very skilled with the boats to hold them in this position. Louie was a pro!I think he was a NZ jet boat driver in another life and gave us a bit of speed now and again which was a lot of fun. M

falls at high tide no glow
The narrow falls a few minutes after the turning of the high tide starting to flow outwards.   The rhino horn on the right was only about 3m above the water at this point.  A few hours later it would be about 10m up
The Faraday was our floating hotel for the night. It was an old pearling lugger converted to take 12 passengers. Rowena was our chef and the food was delish. Sophie was the gorgeous Swedish girlfriend of Louie who was an all around crew member and kept Louie in line. Sophie kept us entertained with her stories of what it was like when she first arrived in the wild west to visit her sister who’s partner was an Aussie pearl diver. He gets 50% of Paspaley pearls!
faraday cabin
Our room on the Faraday.
lunch on faraday
The view from the outdoor dining table. Barramundi and yummy salads for lunch.
tea on faraday
Tea in the lounge inside.
faraday top deck
The bar and BBQ area with beautiful views in every direction. Helicopter pad is behind the bar.

After the excitement of speeding through narrow gaps in gorges at full speed with the feel of a roller coaster at times, we went for a slow cruise up Cyclone Creek into a bay and did a bit of fishing near the mangroves. We were told we already had dinner sorted but we could catch our entree if we liked. There were a few keen fisherman on the trip hanging out to wet a line. There were also 2 newbies like Steve who had a go. M

steve having another try at fishing
Steve seeing if he can entice another crocodile!
a rock cod
Steve and his Rock Cod. You can eat these, but they threw this one back. The fishing is so good up here you keep only the very best fish. The other newbie fishman got a good sized fingermark which we ate panko crumbed by  chef Rowena and dipped in a delicious sauce. One of the experienced fishers caught 2 overly small snapper that were also thrown back.

Cyclone creek is so named because it is a very safe harbour. The old pearlers used to bring their boats in this bay during cyclones for safety. This business does the same thing in the wet season when there are no trip for 4 months. The boats and pontoon and left up here and spend a good deal of their time sitting on mud at low tide so there is less decrusting of the bottoms of the boats. M

cyclone creek fossilised riverbed
Fossilised riverbed up cyclone creek
heading up cyclone creek
The waters of cyclone creek was the most beautiful blue!

We then headed back to the falls to see the outgoing tide. It was now 2 metres high and it was now unsafe to squeeze through the narrow gap only being safe up to a metre. It was pretty exciting just having the boat sitting just outside getting very close to the rocks and in the middle of the turbulence.  M

narrow gap
Only a few hours later the water was pumping out of the narrow gap.  The rhino horn is now far up on the left

falls outgoing tidefalls

upper falls running outupper falls running out 2

lower falls running out
Tide going out from the large gap. We sped through this at speed and then we were taken back through slowly while Louie held the boat in position with whirlpools spinning all around us. There was a bit of “jet boat” type driving in there as well, which had a few of us shouting like we were on a roller coaster. It was as fun as the location was amazing. The boat was handled expertly by Louie our boat driver.

And if all THAT wasn’t exciting enough, we next went on a helicopter ride to view the falls from the air a bit more slowly. The 2 choppers from the pontoon came to pick us up and take us up for the sunset. M

robinson 44 chopper
We got the little chopper the Robinson 44
helicopter arriving
Chopper landing behind the bar.
Eleni excited about sitting next to the pilot!
Eleni from Tassie was the only single on board and excited about sitting next to the pilot! I was excited for her!
chopper over the falls
LOVE a chopper flight with no doors!

helicopter 1helicopter 2

no doors was good for photos
No dirty windows to get in the way of your photos!
falls from chopper 2
Both gaps seem from the air.   It was now pretty close to low tide, so the wide gap did not have much turbulent flow left.
upper and lower falls from helicopter
Narrow gap below and the more sedate wide gap behind
horizontal falls pontoon
The main pontoon in Talbot bay in the evening.   All the seaplanes have gone to roost on the mainland.   Our accommodation lies about 2km to the right in a quiet secluded cove.

upper falls from helicopterboth falls from helicopter

coming in to land
Coming in to land on the Faraday
other helicopter landing
The others went in the larger chopper
sunrise on faraday
Sunrise on the Faraday

We got up very early the next morning to see the sunrise on the speed boat out in the bay and returned for a relaxed breakfast. It was a bit cool but a lovely way to start the day and this fantastic trip. If you are up this way, it is something worth saving up to do. A trip you wont forget. M

maddy and steve on sunrise boat trip
Sunrise on Cyclone Creek
talbot bay serenity
Later that morning we went for a final trip to see the falls on an incoming tide.   Here we can see a few of the boats in Talbot bay including a rather large cruise ship.  Louie told us that after dropping us off he needed to take 160 people from this cruise ship on a ride through the falls.
pontoon in the morning
The main pontoon, now populated with a good complement of day trippers
upper falls rinning in
Going through the narrow gap on the incoming tide.   It was nearly high tide by this time and you can see the rhino is not too high above the waterline.  The water had also slowed to the point that we could go through the narrow gap
inside upper falls slowing in
Looking back out the narrow gap
below lower falls
A final view back to the falls.   The gap in the distance is the wide gap and as the water is flowing away from us you can’t see too much turbulence




12 thoughts on “Horizontal Falls

  1. Wow this must surely be the highlight of your travels, seaplane, helicopter, floating houseboat, amazing. So “jelly” Love Glenda

    On Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 4:56 AM Maddy and Steve Norman’s gap year wrote:

    > maddyrichter posted: “The horizontal falls is the name given to a natural > phenomenon on the Kimberley coast first described by David Attenborough as > “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world”. It is a fast moving > tidal flow through 2 narrow gorges (one 20 metres and th” >


    1. Hi, Yes it was really fun and nice to be off the land for a while. The Kimberley region is pretty amazing by land too, but the coast is stunning. Unfortunately you can only really experience it by boat or plane which is rather costly. It was over way too soon.


  2. Wow! Just wow! My wish list is getting longer by the day. What a fabulous and beautiful place. Thanks for sharing….
    Nice catch Steve!


  3. Yes Chris, I can see you and Greg on this one. No danger of camping on this one either Greg! Steve is going to end up a fisherman if this keeps us. M


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