Montgomery Reef

Montgomery Reef, to the south of Yawajaba Island in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia, is subject of one of the most significant and unusual tidal movements in the world. It is an extraordinary panorama of vast lagoons, tiny sandstone islets and a central mangrove island - but only when the tide is out.

Arriving by charter boat or by tourist cruiser to the area at high water, you drop anchor in what appears to be an endless ocean. As the tide falls right before your eyes, along a navigable channel running deep into the eastern reef, a stunning horizon of white water rapids is created. Suddenly, a loud, raging torrent of water erupts around you as Montgomery Reef appears to rise out of the ocean.

You find yourself in a narrow channel sinking slowly below the horizon. Contained by reef walls on both sides all you can see is the 'rooster tail' effect as the water cascades off the reef to the river forming below. What started out as a nice spot for a cuppa becomes a raging river as the waters rush past your vessel to battle its way out into open water.

What you are witnessing is the power of the immense Kimberley tidal movements which literally create daily hundreds of waterfalls cascading off the reef and a massive lagoon as the boat lowers almost up to 10 metres with the natural drop of sea level. 300 sq. kms of surrounding reef become exposed with natural cascades forming as trapped surface water rushes off the reef top.

Montgomery Reef offers a spectacular array of marine life. Here you may see whales, dolphins, dugong, turtles, manta rays and the black tipped reef shark continually patrolling the reef ledges.

Montgomery Reef was named by Phillip Parker King after Andrew Montgomery, the the surgeon on his survey vessel, Mermaid.

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The Mystery of the Yawijibaya

On the eastern edge of Montgomery Reef are little specks of land known as the High Cliffy Islands. Only 1 km long and barely 300 m wide, High Cliffy may seem relatively insignificant, but for over 100 years they have been a source of intrigue and mystery. High Cliffy was once home to the Yawijibaya people, who lived here for almost 7,000 years.

By the turn of last century, they had gained notoriety by passing vessels and explorers as "a physically superior race of tribal Aboriginals" and "the giants of the north". They had adapted to their environment superbly. They were big and strong, some over two metres tall. Their lives were intertwined with the massive tides, cyclones, intruders and the daily pursuit of food. In the 1930s, the Yawujibia people vanished and their disappearance sparked one of the north-west's greatest mysteries. What brought about their demise? And how could an entire tribe of over 300 people just disappear? Stories of a huge tidal wave or great wars with neighbouring tribes or visits from unfriendly aliens abound.

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