Tucked into the folds of the King Leopold Ranges, about 90km off the Gibb River Road, Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary is a Kimberley highlight (THE highlight some might argue); a jewel which crowns this vast treasury of ancient geology and abundant flora and fauna.
A 3,000km2 cattle station until 2001, when the Australian Wildlife Conservancy added it to its portfolio of sanctuaries around the country, Mornington is now a place where feral animals are endangered and travellers can get up close and personal with flora and fauna and the prehistoric Fitzroy River.
You can camp or enjoy catered en-suite safari tent accommodation in Mornington Wilderness Camp. The Camp’s open-air Bush Restaurant-Bar offers breakfast, hamper lunches and two-course set-menu dinners. Perhaps try the saltwater barramundi with lime butter and risotto cakes infused with lemon myrtle followed by Mornington-made ginger ice cream with vanilla-poached pears – washed down with delicious Western Australian wine.
Bats fly overhead as you wander back to camp and boobook owls call throughout the night.
Camp is the departure point for guided and self-guided walks and drives in this remote Kimberley corner, with 4WD tracks crossing spinifex seas and black-soil plain. Wildlife survey in hand – visitors are invited to assist Conservancy research by recording fauna seen – you can stroll along Annie Creek counting crimson finches or spend a day lazing beside Cadjeput Waterhole and step into cooling water as green clouds of budgerigars wheel overhead and red-tailed black cockatoos cross enamel-blue sky. (Cadjeput is a variety of paperbark which grows on mass here.)
And then there is the Sir John Gorge day trip, restricted to two people. Carrying a paddle and buoyancy vest and following a mud map, you walk about 750m up the Fitzroy River to a secreted kayak, paddle up one waterhole and pick up another kayak to explore the next. Here you can spend hours wandering and swimming between soaring red stone cliffs (look for rock wallabies), the only human sounds being the dip of your paddle, the splash as you slide into water, darkening from olive in the rock-shelf shallows to bottle green where millennia of wet seasons have carved out the gorge, and your delighted laughter.
Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary is about 6½ hours’ drive from Broome via the Gibb River Road. The Wilderness Camp operates May to October. Visits must be pre-booked (no drop-ins).
Camping is $18.50 a night (no generators); full-board safari-tent accommodation is $285 per person per night. The Sir John Gorge paddle costs $165 for two including lunch.
For detailed information visit www.australianwildlife.org.