Boab trees line the track into Mornington Wilderness Camp and the birdlife comes alive as you make the almost 100km trek from the Gibb River Road to the wildlife refuge. Having fond memories of visiting the camp almost 10 years ago, Ashley and I wanted to take the boys to this special place. Managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, the area has been destocked and is void of feral pests, making it a safe haven for threatened species.
As the last wet season was almost non-existent, the levels of dust on the road and at the campsites was unfortunately more than our last visit. We found a nice site along the Annie Creek trail and after the kids set up their swags, their bikes were offloaded and they were busy exploring new ground.
The wilderness camp is famous for spotting the rare Gouldian finch and Austin’s foray into bird watching was becoming an ever increasing passion. Armed with his bird book and binoculars, Austin was busy twitching and adding new birds to his list. Cooper and Bailey kept themselves busy discovering new bike routes and they soon mastered the mountain bike track - officially known as the Annie Creek trail which is actually designed for bird watching. They were however mindful to use it during the heat of the day or at night when it was empty.
Trying to catch up on a bit of school work, we had to start early as by the time it hit 9.30am, it was almost too hot to do anything. Once the heat had started, all we wanted to do was head to a gorge to cool off.
Austin and Ash decided to ride their bike to Bluebush waterhole, which was 10km from camp. We finally found them after they took a wrong turn but even in the heat, Austin managed a 35km ride by the time he got to the waterhole, had a swim and returned to camp with Ashley. It always amazes me that you can find such large, cool, clear waterholes between the harsh rock, spinifex and arid landscape of the Kimberly. A rope swing added to the excitement for the kids as they plunged into water that supports birds, mammals and reptiles such as the freshwater crocodile.
Diamond Gorge is a beautiful spot where the Fitzroy River carves through the King Leopold Rangers. We hired two Canadian canoes to meander the couple of kilometres down the gorge and back. The high red cliffs were stunning and as we paddled past, we marvelled at the height of the water level, which can rise further 20 metres during the wet season. We stopped to explore the trickling waterfall and the kids enjoyed watching the frogs and tadpoles in the pool below. It was a pleasant day swimming, leaping into deep holes from the rock ledges and paddling our way along the gorge.
Austin and I were keen to learn more about the local bird population and hopefully glimpse the Gouldian finch, so we joined a bird watching tour at the crack of dawn. We sat at Boundary Pool and waited for the birds to come as the orange sun peaked over the range. This was my first bird watching tour and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the different birds come to drink and spotting them dart between the gums, fig and boab trees. It wasn’t long before the finches came down and we were lucky to see about 30 Gouldian finches and Austin and I were delighted. We saw a number of birds such as finches, doves, lorikeets, corellas and pigeons, which soon disappeared as soon as a sparrowhawk goshawk charged in to the waterhole.
Whilst there are many tracks, gorges and walk trails to explore, you can’t visit Mornington without a trip to Sir John Gorge. The rocks at the gorge are some of the oldest in the world, which are up to two billion years old. Watching the sun set over the gorge, with the red glow and the full moon rise overhead made us realise just how lucky we are to have the opportunity to travel and experience Australia at its finest.