Western Australia: The Horizontal Falls

If David Attenborough tells you to go see something in the world, you’d probably listen. I honestly did not know much about this incredible natural phenomenon besides that. I had watched the special explaining it but it is not something you can really capture. When we found ourselves just a couple hours away by plane we decided it was a must see.

From Broome via a sea plane, you can be at the falls in an hour. We snagged two spots on an afternoon tour after a couple got stuck in another state with covid-19 boarder closures. Spontaneous travel favors the open minded. We boarded the little plane with 14 other people and had to weigh ourselves before boarding. I looked away and appreciated my captains lack of judgement as he scribbled some number down. When you are flying something this small every kg counts.

Cape Leveque

In the hour flight we crossed over the north of the Kimberly’s, one of the most stunning pieces of land not only in Australia but in the world. The red iron ore dirt can be seen from the skies as it fades to the yellow sand, into the white surf, then to the turquoise waters, the shadows of the reefs, ending in the dark blue of the ocean. The plane lands on the water causing a wake around us and we alight onto the pontoon in the middle of the ocean. I feel like the richest person in the world.

Landing by the Horizontal Falls

The afternoon floats by as we swim with nurse sharks, learn about the local waters, and are served a delicious barramundi lunch. Finally, it is time for the main event, the horizontal falls. I will explain them as this; the current is pushed from the ocean through two land breaks which create two lakes. Between each land break the velocity and quantity of water is so great that in essence a river flows in with one tide and out with another. Again due to the velocity and quantity and the small space between land water can literally not move fast enough and it “falls” sideways.

Swimming with nurse sharks

For 40m from the surface to the ocean floor water is surging through this land break desperate to get into the first lake and then the second only for the tide to turn and then it is desperate to get back out to sea. Depending on the tide some of the water differences between lakes can be multiple meters. The result is like nothing I have ever seen.

The wild rushing waters of the Horizontal Falls

We take the speed boat through both breaks like we are white water rafting. The distance between each mountain is 20m at the first and then 10m at the second. With the boat occupying most of the space you feel like you are squeezing through rocks while the water below you twirls threateningly. After going between the two falls the water seems to be moving in more ways than imaginable. It is pushed and pulled, twirls and spins, falls and dives, all while creating the sound of a waterfall hitting the pool beneath it all without the gravity from the cliff.

On the way back to Broome we fly above them to see the water movements from the ocean through to the lakes. From here the water’s force is visible still and the strength I felt in the boat seems just as powerful as from the plane. The ride back is quiet as we take in the tree covered vast countryside. The sunsets just as we land back in Broome and we watch the sun, which seems larger in the west coast, sink in the distance, leaving us with an orange hue that melts into the yellow sand which fades into the white surf which meets the green waters eventually leading you back out to the deep blue sea.

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