The Jewel of the Kimberley
I could be talking about the rare and exquisite pink diamonds which are mined in this Lake Argyle area but I found another jewel a bit more accessible and affordable for everyone!
We only moved 70 kilometres from our last stay but this destination was on our must do list and it was one that had a reputation for being a place to stay for a while.
Again we were met by fabulous friendly staff and could take our pick of sites as it’s still not the busy season and there were only a handful of caravans around. Naturally we picked a lovely shady spot which just happened to be the closest we could find to the well-known infinity pool in this Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park. We quickly set ourselves up for our two night stay then made our way to the much talked about infinity pool.
Yes it is as amazing and the views as breathtaking as the pictures suggest. The luckiest thing for us, because it is still the end of the wet season there are very few people about and we had the pool entirely to ourselves on a number of occasions.
Apart from people staying at the resort and in the caravan park, day visitors can also pay to have use of this pool while they are visiting Lake Argyle but there weren’t even many day trippers while we were there.
When we could drag ourselves away from the pool we went for a drive to a couple of lookout areas where you can take in the magnitude of this man-made lake and dam.
You can drive over the dam wall and following the winding road down you will end up at a green and lush picnic area.
Back towards the bottom of the dam wall you can fish at the top of the Ord River and if you’re lucky, bag yourself a good eating fish including the Silver Cobbler, a type of catfish which we’re told are very tasty and cost a pretty penny, with fillets going for $40 a kilo.
It was this one’s lucky day though he had his photo taken and was sent back to continue growing. There were plenty out there but not as big as the first one caught.
We also kept our eyes out for the resident ‘freshie’ (freshwater crocodile) which we were told lived here, and sure enough we spotted him as soon as we arrived. He soon slipped off into the water and only surfaced a couple of times to see if we were still ‘in his spot’. We were keeping a very watchful eye out when fish had to be taken off the hook and sent back into the water, but he is obviously so well fed with the amount of fish in the river that we had nothing to worry about.
As we were fishing, one of the Lake Argyle employees came by to let us know that we wouldn’t be able to leave the area for a while as a truck was bringing one of the river cruise boats down to the water ready for its first cruise of the season which was starting the following day. We were booked to go on this cruise, a sunset tour, so were keen to see the boat being launched.
Our second day at Lake Argyle was a copy of the day before with a lot of time spent in the infinity pool (voted one of the best in Australia by Qantas), a little more fishing – more catch and release and back to the pool. We met more travellers of all ages who like us, were living the dream (even if it is only temporary) and swapped stories about things to see and places to stay and life on the road. Some would be going on the sunset cruise with us later that day.
Before going on the cruise you’re encouraged to watch a video in the café area which shows historical footage on the damming of the Ord River, the building of the dam wall and the creation of Lake Argyle. The facts and figures on the amount of water storage and how much goes out the spillway every year are mind boggling and something to make us water thirsty South Australians cry.
The conditions the workers endured to build the dam wall were just incredible, without the same health and safety regulations we have today of course, so there were many pictures of the men wearing just shorts and boots, occasionally a hard hat, no shirts, probably no sun protection and working in hellish heat and dust. What was more amazing was that work was halted every wet season as there would be too much water to contend with but every dry season they would pick up from where they left off the previous year.
After the introduction movie our group of only 20 were onto the bus for just a short ride down to the water and to our boat the ‘Kimberley Durack’. Our bus driver Charlie also joined us on this first cruise.
A very comfortable boat, we were the lucky small group, usually the boat takes 50 passengers, to enjoy the first cruise on the newly refurbished boat. With its twin hull there was very little movement felt as we powered around this massive lake. The commentary on the cruise was extremely informative but delivered in such a humorous way that it was never dull, thanks to our skipper Tracey. Apart from all the facts and figures about water storage you also learn about the wildlife, birds and events on the lake and get some up close and personal looks at the islands (once mountains) in the lake.
And then what else would you expect when you are in the middle of a lake with a depth of 36 metres than to jump in and have a swim. This happens right on sunset time and after you’ve been able to help yourself to tea, coffee, soft drinks, water and bickies throughout the cruise. A mermaid line is thrown in behind the boat and you are welcome to jump in with a noodle or two (for the sinkers) or without (for the floaters) and enjoy the sunset from the water with a beer or two as well.
Or if you’re happy to stay on board you can take photos while enjoying beer, wine and nibbles all put on.
Half an hour or so later and with everyone back on board we motor back in the last evening light to the boat ramp where Charlie takes us back to the caravan park. An afternoon well spent and one to remember.
And just a few of the many interesting facts to come from the cruise:
- The boat ‘Kimberley Durack’ was named after the Durack family who were the owners of this land before the dam and lake were created. Kimberley Durack was the one who had the vision for this project but unfortunately died before the dam was completed.
- Lake Argyle has the biggest freshwater crocs ever recorded in Australia, some up to 4 metres long, due to the ideal conditions, food source and no predators.
- And our bus driver / tour guide Charlie, whose input and information on the cruise was so informed, in depth and passionate….well it just so happens he is the leaseholder of the Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park and he grew up around the area and spent many hours out here as a child while his dad worked on the dam construction.
I don’t think tours get much better than this.