After much anticipation and researching etc we were really keen to get up to the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome.
It’s about 200 kms to the top at Cape Leveque, half of it unsealed and half sealed. The part that’s sealed is owned by the Bardi people who welcome visitors with open arms and encourage them to enjoy all that the cape has to offer. The bit that’s unsealed goes through a cattle property and is owned by the Shire council who do nothing to maintain it and because it’s not actually a “through” road they don’t really care. It’s a shame but maybe one day they will seal it. So consequently, you’re not allowed into the Cape Leveque campground with a caravan or motorhome so there was lots of camper trailers and it’s a small place so it’s very close quarter camping. But it’s so worth it. We had read some people who had complained about the “not so squeezy” camping but what they don’t understand is that there are not many people who can get up there so the beaches are not packed and it’s absolutely amazing to have all that open space and not many footprints! The first arvo we got there we set up and then drove down to the western side which has amazing vivid red rocks on the beach and the beauty of the indian ocean and then as we were having sunset drinks there was whales breaching and tail slapping not too far out!! Holy shit – another surreal moment. I’m just continually blown away by how beautiful this country is!
We had only booked 3 nights and unfortunately we could not stay longer -it was heavenly, fantastic swimming on the eastern beach, fishing, views, everything- the whole package – could have stayed a week!!!
We left there and then had 3 nights further south at Middle Lagoon which is a wilderness retreat that’s privately owned and has lots of room for camping and you can have fires so we enjoyed it. We tried but didn’t catch any fish but it didn’t matter, lots of lovely swims and walks on the beach.
There are quite a few aboriginal communities spread throughout the Dampier Peninsula but not all of them offer camping. We popped into the sacred heart church in beagle bay which has an alter made out of mother of pearl and lots of shells and we visited the Arayloon Trochus shell hatchery which was so interesting and amazing. The community there harvest the tiniest shells from the reef and then grown them in the big tanks until they get to a certain size then they take them back out to the reef to grow for a couple more years and then retrieve them and keep them alive. They have some artists who then use them to decorate and polish and make jewellery but the main thing they’ve been exporting them overseas for is making buttons. There was some very cool fish to see, my favourite being a pair of barramundi cod who just eyeballed us!!!
We joined a 4wd tag-along tour the next day with Brian Lee who is a local who has been seriously involved with setting up Kooljaman as a tourist destination and so is very knowledgeable. His great grandfather was one of the original lighthouse keepers back in the old days before the lighthouse was automated. I think we had about 9 4wd’s following him as we explored the local beach, complete with a stop for a swim and Brian giving traditional spear throwing lessons, spent some time digging some of the cars out of soft sand (not us!) and then we headed to a creek where Brian snorkelled and speared 4 mangrove jacks and then cooked them on an open fire for us to taste. In the meantime, we had a fish with some lures and Mr C caught himself a very feisty Golden Trevally, fairly big and a beautiful looking fish. He did throw him back to fight another day. It was a great day and we learnt a lot about the traditions of the local people who lived there years ago and also about how they have got Kooljaman up and running.