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Kimberley and NT News: New permit required for Mitchell Plateau! 2018 wet season forecast.
December 13, 2017

13 December 2017, Issue #059

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In this issue:
  • Wet Season Forecast
  • New Permit Required For Mitchell Plateau!
  • Direct Flights From Singapore To Broome
  • Reader Feedback


This will be your last newsletter issue for the year 2017. Christmas and New Year are approaching scarily fast and I still have presents to buy, cookies to bake and a huge, big mess of a house to clean before the whole family descends on me for Christmas, as every year.

The Kimberley is nice and wet already and the Top End even more so. Like all of Australia's North both received early rains, some places as early as October, that even caused isolated flooding and road damage.

But don't be fooled by events like that. This is the so called "rainfall onset", defined by the amount of rain that needs to fall to cause plants to grow again and our red country to turn green.
It is not the same as the "monsoon onset". Rainfall onset has nothing to do with the amount or duration of the rainfall during a wet season. Monsoon onset does.

The monsoon onset is defined by a change of wind directions which then brings widespread and lasting heavy rains. It does not usually occur before late December, later in most El Niño years, earlier in most La Niña years. (If interested, you can learn more about the Australian monsoon here.)

So far we have seen the usual "isolated showers and thunderstorms" that are characteristic for this time of the year, called "the Build Up". The amounts are steadily increasing, from under 50mm a week, to 50-100mm/week for most of November, to over 100mm in the last week. But we haven't seen any monsoon activity yet.

Naturally, everybody who is planning a trip for next season would like to know how big the wet season will be and how long it will last. Why?

Because people want to know when the roads will dry, when the Gibb will open, and when the waterfalls will become accessible again.

And they also want to know how spectacular those waterfalls will be in 2018 and for how long they will be flowing.

Of course it is impossible to make any precise predictions. In fact, it is impossible to really say ANYTHING at this time of the year.
However, just like last year, there are observations and an outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology...

Wet Season Forecast

If I had to sum up the outlook for the 2017/18 wet season in one word I'd say: average.

I am not using this word with any negative connotations. I simply say this wet season is expected to be neither particularly dry nor particularly wet.

The Pacific Ocean is approaching La Niña threshold and a La Niña alert is active.

Remember: La Niña would mean early monsoon onset and lots of rain.

However, the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean patterns are not typical of a La Niña year. And therefore this La Niña event, if it even develops, is expected to be short lived and weak. Particularly wet conditions across the north are not expected. It is expected to be warmer than usual.

So... not that much rain but stinking hot. Nice. (Not!)

Can you count on this forecast to be accurate?
Rather than giving you only my opinion (which long term readers know very well: you can't predict ANYTHING) let me quote what the bureau of meteorology says about the accuracy of its own forecast, which isn't really a forecast anyway, it's called "climate outlook":

"Historical outlook accuracy for summer is moderate for eastern and western parts of Australia, but generally low elsewhere."

(No, we are not really "western parts". We are northern.)

So there you have it. This was your generally low accuracy forecast for this wet season :).

If you want to see last year's outlook and compare it to what happened last year, check newsletter issue 49 (forecast) and 50 / 51.
In a nutshell: It was a huge wet season and everything ended up opening very late.

We'll see what happens this year. As always, I'll keep you in the loop!

New Permit Required For Mitchell Plateau

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news: 2018 brings an important change for the Mitchell Plateau.

Sadly, from the start of 2018, if you want to visit as an independent traveller, you will need a permit to access the Mitchell Plateau, called the Ngauwudu Road Zone pass.

The pass is valid for five days and for 2018 costs $20 per person.

Yes, unlike the national park passes, which are issued per vehicle, the Ngauwudu Road Zone passes are issued per person. Every passenger of a vehicle needs to buy a pass.

In 2019 that fee will increase to $45 per person!

Here and here you can read what the traditional owners say about the permit.

Here is a map of the Ngauwudu Road Zone.

Ngauwudu Road Zone passes can be purchased online here.

(If you are visiting on a commercial tour, your - hopefully UVP-registered - tour operator will organise your pass.)

Destination Kimberley has been updated accordingly.

A big thank you to Monica (author of Destination Red Centre) for alerting me to this. Embarassingly, I had almost missed it.

Direct Flights From Singapore To Broome

Next year sees Silk Air - the regional wing of Singapore Airlines - trialling a direct Broome - Singapore Service.

The trial will consist of only four return flights starting from mid 2018, but if it proves successful it could become a permanent fixture and very handy for overseas visitors!

The fares and flight schedules should be released soon and the tickets will also be available on SilkAir’s online reservation system.

This, by the way, will be the first international flight connection to the Kimberley in over ten years.

Reader Feedback

Below are some excerpts and examples of emails and other messages from my readers, sharing their experiences and containing tidbits of information that I thought you might find useful.

  "Hi Birgit,

  I read your guides and found the information extremely valuable to prepare for our great Kimberley adventure. As the driver, I felt better prepared and I knew far more about The Gibb etc. There were no real surprises. 

  We self-drove from Broome to Kununurra via the Gibb, stopping at a number of places along the way. This was a fabulous adventure for us and we loved every minute. We met fabulous people and saw fabulous places. Then we drove back to Broome via The Great Northern Highway (not so good, litter, grubby towns and road stops, locals unfriendly etc). Still, that was only two days.

  We did our trip between 6 and 18 Sept. It was very hot, 39°C, but being so dry, it was fine. We were very pleased that ALL creeks and rivers were flowing. Swimming holes were fresh and clean. Such a relief! The Gibb had some other traffic, but I would describe it as 'very quiet'. Road conditions were also generally very good.

  Without doubt, this Kimberley trip was one of our best ever holidays and this was due in some part to your guides.

  Best Wishes,
  Colin and Sue"

  "Dear Birgit, We had a great 4 weeks in the Kimberley area and saw a lot of the sights.

  Our favourite was the magnificent pools at Manning Gorge and the friendly atmosphere at Barnett. We were absolute fools not to spend another day there, especially as we then realised we had 'done' the Gibb a bit too quickly.
  The Apollo campavan served our needs perfectly, we clanked up the road with our 21 bottles of wine! We were irritated at being unable to buy casks.
  I did find it a bit too hot, my husband was fine, but it was the only time we could go and we had no problems with crowds. You can’t win ‘em all!

  We had to do Windjana and Tunnel Creek on the way back as it was closed due to fires on our outward journey, they were a high point, along with Emma, Bell, El Questro gorges and some great cruises on Lake Argyle and Geikie Gorge. Because of the heat we cheated and had two nights at Savannah Lodge for Purnululu with flights in. It was very expensive but what an awesome area, the walks were amazing.

  All in all it was a great holiday and a bit of an adventure, although thanks to your reassurance not too much of one. We only decided to tackle it after finding your guide. You met our needs perfectly and your guide book was never far from reach.

  By the way, my husband, a retired zoology lecturer who has worked with crocs and cayman various, and myself were totally blown away by the sheer power and raw aggression of your salties. We went to the croc farm outside Broome and it was absolutely amazing. The keeper was fantastic and he knew his animals. He was superbly funny and really entertained the crowds but the crocs were the stars. They were not the slightest bit institutionalised, totally wild, and to be treated with immense respect.

  Thank you.

  Kind regards,

  "Dear Birgit, thank you for your informative book. Just a note on the roads during our trip, Gibb Rd to Drysdale & Mitchell Falls.

  We were unfortunately late heading north so didn't arrive in Broome till the 25th June. Then onto Gibb River Road. This part of our trip the road was rough but no worse than we were expecting. Turning north on the Kalumburu Rd to Drysdale & onwards was something else. We have traveled all over Australia, i.e. Cape York, Central Highway, (4times) Plenty Hwy, Birdsville Track, Sandover, Oodnadatta, Cape Leveque to name a few. But nothing had prepared us for the drive from Drysdale to Mitchell Plateau. Never in our wildest imagination did we expect the road to be that bad.

  We weren't overloaded but we were pulling a Kimberley Kamper (Kakadu). In retrospect we might have been better off leaving it at Drysdale instead of taking it onto the Falls. We averaged about 30-40 km per hour. It took us 3 hours to travel to the lookout on the Mitchell Falls Rd from Drysdale then another 1.5 hours to the camp ground at the falls. On our return the Mitchell Rd had been graded in places thank goodness so the trip out was much easier until we entered the Kalumburu Rd! Unfortunately the grader hadn't arrived there.

  I feel as a tourists if you can't get up here early don't bother unless you're prepared to leave half your tyres, shockers, fuel tank, springs & accessories behind. The recovery truck was doing a roaring trade & the business in Derby & Kununurra. We got out with just a broken aerial, spotlight bracket & a shock absorber on the trailor. First repair on trailor in 20 years so understandable.

We had a wonderful time despite the roads. I feel more grading would help people have a more enjoyable experience when they visit this amazing part of the world. Thank you for all your suggestions  Even though we were unable to do all the wonderful things in your book we will save them for our return. Making sure we go in after the grader. Haha!

John & Annette"

Thanks Colin, Sue, Vicky, John and Annette!

A note here for new readers: Do not be put off by this description of the roads. I talk about this issue a lot in Destination Kimberley: The state of our roads and tracks varies a lot. And naturally it is worst just before it gets graded again, which happens several times a year.

(Also, the Kalumburu Road last year was the worst it's been in a looong time.)

Dig through my website and newsletters and you will find just as many people writing about roads being fabulous and having no problems at all, as you find people writing about their worst road ever. And they are talking about the same roads :).

Even if in a bad state, the roads are not difficult to drive and you will not have to worry about leaving parts of your car behind if you follow my recommendations. What you need to do, however, is allow enough time for tracks like this one. If it's really bad then a track like this will slow you to a crawl. And this is the main problem and is what leads to the many bigger break downs that John and Annette mentioned. People just do not have that time and drive too fast for the conditions.

And of course, as Annette and John already said, think twice about towing if you are told a road is currently in a bad state.

See Destination Kimberley for more info, and also dig through the website, the reader pages and trip reports on there (also here and here), and the old newsletter issues. You'll soon get the picture.

And that's it for today!

If you are new to this newsletter and this is your first issue, then I want to encourage you to read the last issue, too. It had a section about planning and booking 2018 trips. I realise that everybody has plenty of other things to do right now, but as soon as Christmas and New Year is over, peak booking season will start. Depending on when and how you plan to travel, you may need to think about finalising your bookings pretty soon. See the last newsletter issue and also the last pages of the Pocket Guide for more info!

I want to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and great start into the New Year!

Enjoy your holidays and let's talk again in 2018 :)


Destination Kimberley, Destination Top End and Destination Red Centre have all the information you need to put together your dream trip.

To sign up for this newsletter and receive the free Kimberley Pocket Guide go here.

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(c) 2005-2017, Birgit Bradtke. All rights reserved.
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