Simply gorge-ous: El Questro

Walking through the gorge it’s as if we have been dropped in the middle of Jurassic Park. Craggy red escarpments tower overhead while thick rainforest surrounds us. The ancient 25m-high rock walls are covered in rambling vines and ferns, and now and then we spot a rock wallaby. We come to a stream so clear and pure it is hard not to jump right in. We follow it to our destination, a beautiful oasis at the base of a small waterfall skirted by large boulders upon which we relax. The waterhole is large enough for a cooling swim.

Just to get to the El Questro Wilderness Park & Homestead in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia requires a flight to Darwin, then on to Kununurra before embarking on a 100-minute 4WD journey to the homestead. Getting there is part of the adventure.

Our suite is perched above the Chamberlain Gorge. An oversized bathtub sits on the edge of the verandah and there’s a generous outdoor shower. Two comfy, large-cushioned chairs are the ideal spot from which to look out over the gorge and El Questro station to the wilderness beyond. Most of the walls in the suite have floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for amazing views in all directions.

Accommodations perched on a rocky cliff at El Questro

After meeting the other guests at cocktail hour, we sit down for a superb meal. El Questro’s menu always includes prime Australian beef and its famous barramundi, paired with the finest West Australian wines. We are not alone in our intention to get to bed early, with the promise of so much to see and do over the next few days.

At El Questro, you want to hit the ground running every morning. We fit in several hikes and a river cruise on the Chamberlain – notable for archer fish spitting water at us from two metres away!

Undoubtedly, our favorite excursion is the hike to Emma Gorge. It’s a 45-minute drive from the lodge and then another 45 minutes to hike into the gorge, but the swimming hole is beautiful. Surrounded by steep rock walls with mini waterfalls cascading out of crevices and, allegedly, a small freshwater croc – we looked, but couldn’t find him – Emma Gorge is a glorious place to swim, relax and recharge. It’s one of three spots you can stay in the park, aside from the official campsites. Our guides keep us informed about everything from the flora and fauna to the geology. We even enjoy some Aboriginal bush tucker, discovering that sugar ants have a sweet-and-sour flavour.

In the evenings we talk with other guests about their adventures while enjoying delicious canapés and cocktails. Dining choices are: at the communal table, at a table for two overlooking the gorge, or on your own verandah. Sometimes you also get to see Charlie being fed. This chubby freshwater croc patiently waits below the cliff for fish to be tossed down.

El Questro is a popular start/end point to the True North Kimberley cruise. An unexpected bonus is that half of our group is joining the cruise, which means we get to know many of our shipmates before we even set foot on the boat.

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