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Kimberley Areas

Bushwalking in the Bungle Bungles

Hiking up Picaninny Gorge

Purnululu is the park which contains the famous Bungle Bungles. ("Purnululu" means sandstone in the local Kija Aboriginal language. The name "Bungle Bungle" may come from the corruption of an Aboriginal name for the area, or from a misspelling of "bundle bundle", one of the common Kimberley grasses found here.)

For all its fame, few have taken the time to put on a pack, hike up the creek and really explore this wondrous area of deep gorges and sandstone domes. There is far too much to see in a day or two, far more than you can see on any number of day hikes from a vehicle. Our treks take you far up Picaninny Gorge to a base camp from which you enjoy leisurely hikes into the surrounding gorges, beautiful places forever inaccessible to non-bushwalkers.

Bushwalking and the beehive formations

Sunset camp, Picaninny Gorge

The distinctive beehive-shaped towers of the Bungle Bungle are made up of a very fragile sandstone. When the overlying rock which holds the sand grains in place is removed, the sandstone is easily eroded. Water flowing over the surface will exploit any weaknesses or irregularities in the rock, such as cracks or joints, and rapidly erodes the narrow channels that separate the towers. The distinctive orange and grey banding is caused by differences in permeability. Where water can move through with relative ease, moisture seeps through to the rock surface, promoting a dark algal growth. The less permeable layers are covered with a layer of iron and manganese, creating the orange bands. These outer coatings (the rock beneath is a whitish colour) help to protect the lower parts of the towers from erosion.

Palm Valley High view, Picaninny Gorge

The extreme fragility of the sandstone means that hiking up the domes is not permitted. We can, however, hike up watercourses into narrow side gorges such as the one shown at far left and trek to high points which give us outstanding views down the valley as shown in the photo at the near left.

World Heritage

Hiking past a Picaninny pool

Purnululu was listed as a world heritage site in July 2003. The following quote is from the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage website.

"Famous for the 45 000 hectare Bungle Bungle Range, with its huge expanse of striking banded beehive structures, sandstone cliffs and towers, Purnululu has been listed as an outstanding landscape that is a superlative natural phenomenon, revealing the history of its formation over hundreds of millions of years. Purnululu National Park has such outstanding universal natural values that it enriches the world and should be conserved for the benefit of all people. Before 1982, when aerial pictures were first released, it was virtually unknown except to pastoralists, scientists and the local Aboriginal community. It is now seen as one of the scenic jewels of outback Australia."

For more information on Purnululu's World Heritage status, see the

Additional information

We include treks in the Bungle Bungles on our Bungles in the Wet, Bungles-Osmond and Kimberley Highlights No. 1 trips.

We have three Bungles Photo Galleries.

Finally, for some good general information about the park, see the WA Department of Environment and Conservation Purnululu page.

Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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