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Horizontal Falls, WA

"one of the greatest natural wonders of the world"

The Horizontal Falls are a unique experience and a reminder of the incredible power the moon has over the Earth's oceans and tides. Surprisingly the falls are still little known although they are unique and the experience is unforgettable.

Location

The Horizontal Falls are located approximately 270 km from Broome (65 minutes by seaplane) on the edge of Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago north of Derby and north-east of Broome on the Kimberley coastline.

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Origin of Name

Reputedly the name 'Horizontal Falls' was coined by the TV naturalist, David Attenborough, seeking to find a suitable description for the phenomena.

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Things to See and Do

What are the Horizontal Falls?
In essence the Horizontal Falls are tidal waterfalls created by narrow channels in the McLarty Ranges. The location of the falls is Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. There is no road access. Only boats and seaplanes can reach Talbot Bay where the tidal range is typically around 8-9 metres and which, during the summer king tides, reaches a huge 13 metres.

The Indian Ocean is separated from the bay by two narrow, rugged cliffs where sheer iron-red outcrops rise 150-200 metres. The cliffs are cut by two narrow gorges. When the tide is turning these two gorges - one is about 10 m wide and the other is about 24 m wide - look like wild rivers as the tide rushes through them.

The effect is like water falling in a waterfall. It is actually rushing water produced by the ebb and flow of some of the planet's largest tides. The water in the gorges is up to thirty metres deep.

Riding the Falls
The morning "adventure" is typical of the experience. Passengers are collected from their hotels at 5.30 am, taken to Broome Airport where ten people (that is all the plane holds), board a seaplane at 6.05 am.

The flight, mostly over the scrubby, desert land north of Broome, takes 65 minutes. Before landing the pilot makes multiple passes over the falls so passengers have a good idea of the terrain and the phenomena. The seaplane lands on Talbot Bay and moors beside the houseboat. Safety jackets are donned and the ten passengers board a high speed Jet Stream boat which is powered by two 250 hp engines and is capable of speeds up to 60 knots (110 km/hr). The boat is constructed with two rows of seats that are more like saddles or gym vaulting horses. You hold on to a metal bar at the front and dig your knees hard into the sides to gain a firm grip. The experience is like shooting the rapids on a particularly violent river with the water boiling and bubbling as it breaks from what appears to be a mirror-like lake and cascades into Talbot Bay. The total experience lasts about thirty minutes - and it is unique.

The Journey Home
After running the falls the Jet Stream boat returns to the pontoon where breakfast is served both to humans and to sharks that gather beneath the boat. There is a viewing of the sharks and then a short trip up Talbot Bay where the cliffs, which was once part of a mighty mountain uplift, have been reduced over 350 million years to gnarled and twisted bedding. At 9.40 am the seaplane departs for Broome (the flight takes 90 minutes) via the ranges of the Buccaneer Archipelago, Cape Leveque with its dramatic red cliffs, and the 20 km long Cable Beach. It is a rare opportunity to see the coast of the Kimberley far from the tourist development of Broome.

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Visitor Information

Contact Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures who run three experiences of the Horizontal Falls each day during the season. They can be contacted either by tel: (08) 9192 1172 or booking enquiries can be made at their website: http://horizontalfallsadventures.com.au/. There are also upmarket cruises around the Kimberley coastline which include a visit to the falls.

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Accommodation

The Derby Overnight Tour departs Derby at 2.15 pm and returns 8.15 am the following day. It includes afternoon tea, dinner and breakfast, an aerial crossing of the Horizontal Falls, a ride through the falls on the Jet Stream boat, the opportunity to swim in a croc and shark free cage and accommodation on a luxury houseboat which has air conditioning, flush toilets, tiled bathrooms with showers, accommodation with double beds and a large lounge area where visitors can relax. It runs from May to September weather permitting. Check out http://horizontalfallsadventures.com.au/derby-seaplane-flights-overnight-stay.htm for details and pricing.

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Eating

All meals are provided on the pontoon. Breakfast includes cereals, fruit, bacon, eggs and bread rolls with tea and coffee. The lunch and evening meal includes barbecued barramundi.

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Useful Websites

The only company providing the experience has a website - http://horizontalfallsadventures.com.au/ - with prices and booking details. There is a good description at http://www.kimberley-australia.com/kimberley-attractions/horizontal-falls/

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8 suggestions
  • How were the falls originally formed? I’m having trouble finding information about who they are useful to and why?

    Hi Abby,
    The falls were formed by a geological weakness in the cliffs which was slowly worn down until the water could race through at high and low tide. They are not useful to anyone – apart from the tourism operators who take people through on fast speedboats. They could be used for hydroelectricity but that will never happen because it would destroy their function as a tourist attraction and they are too far from any centres of population.

    abby
  • What are some of the Dreamtime stories or songs that the Indigenous people believe about The Horizontal Falls? And I’m having trouble finding information on how the Dreaming explains the origin of the landform from a Aboriginal perspective.

    Jamira
    • You will need to consult with the local Aboriginal people. There are a number of organisations in both Derby and Broome who will be able to help. I would, in the first instance, try the the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre on Gibb River Road outside Derby. Check out http://www.mowanjumarts.com.

      Bruce Elder
  • Hi, I was looking for background information on Horizontal Falls specifically for a geography project.
    thanks.

    I’ll cross my fingers for you. This is all I have.

    kaija
  • What is the Aboriginal dreamtime story on horizontal falls?

    Short answer: I don’t know. Maybe someone out there will offer an answer but it is never mentioned in the flights to the falls.

    kayla
  • Does the tide always line up with tour time ?

    Phill
    • Short answer: yes. But check with the tour operators. They change their times to suit the tides. Not much point going if the tides are not running.

      Bruce Elder
  • Hi guys, does anyone happen to know how old the Horizontal Falls are? It’s for a geography project and I can’t find any information on it.
    Thanks, I need answers ASAP!!??

    Matilda Gardner