The Bungle Bungle Range is one of the most fascinating geological
landmarks in Western Australia. Contained within Purnululu National
Park, the range is best known for its striped, beehive-shaped domes and
amazing rock gorges and canyons. The National Park was declared a World
Heritage Site in 2003.
From an aircraft, the Bungle Bungle Range is an imposing sight. The
orange and black stripes across the beehive-like mounds, encased in a
skin of silica and algae, are clearly visible as you approach from the
south. As you sweep further over the range a hidden world of gorges and
pools is revealed, with fan palms clinging precariously to walls and
crevices in the rocks.
Although the Bungle Bungle Range was extensively used by Aboriginal
people during the wet season, when plant and animal life was abundant,
few Europeans knew of its existence until the mid-1980s. The area has
been a national park since 1987 and its unique appearance has captured
the public imagination. The park offers a remote wilderness experience.
With its huge dome-like cavern, Cathedral Gorge is regarded as one
of nature's grandest amphitheatres. The entrance to Cathedral Gorge is
lined by steep, almost vertical, rock faces. The amphitheatre has
acoustic properties which, over the years, have encouraged many
self-proclaimed singers to try and impress others with their vocal
Mini Palms Gorge
It is difficult to appreciate the scale of Mini Palms Gorge, a place
where the afternoon sun creates a beautiful ethereal glow. Access to
the gorge is via a walking path along an ancient river bed between 500
Million year old conglomerate sandstone walls on which miniature
Livistona palms cling precariously. Where the gorge walls appear to
close in on themselves, a lush garden of head-height palms has sprung
up. At the very rear of the gorge, a large cave offers a deliciously
cool lunch spot, once our eyes had adjusted to the gloom.
One of Australia's most spectacular walking destinations. It is an
easy 2 km walk to Echidna Chasm along a trail dotted with Livistona
palms through towering bright orange cliffs. The cliffs slowly close in
on each side until the trail is only a metre wide and in a crevice a
hundred metres high. The light reflects off the orange domes above and
creates an eerie fluorescent glow on the creek bed below. It is simply
stunning. Similar to Standley Chasm in the Northern Territory, Echidna
Chasm is actually far more spectacular at about triple the length and
with great surrounding views. Created by the rains of a million wet
seasons, this is without doubt one of the most spine-tingling places of
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Where is it?
2,997 kms north east of Perth
How to get there
By road, 2,997 kms north east of Perth. The turn-off to the park is
250 km south of Kununurra or 109 km north of Halls Creek on Great
Northern Highway. The park access road is accessible only to
Scenic flights over the massif by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft
are available within the park or from Halls Creek, Kununurra or Warmun.
This is the best way to gain a perspective of the Bungle Bungle's
massive size and spectacular scenery.
The best time to go
The park is open only between April and December 31 (weather permitting)
About the Bungle Bungles
Purnululu is the name given to the sandstone area of the Bungle
Bungle Range by the Kija Aboriginal people. The name means sandstone or
may be a cordon of bundle grass. The range, lying fully within the
park, has elevations as high as 578 metres above sea level. It is
famous for the sandstone domes, unusual and visually striking with
their striping in alternating orange and grey bands. The banding of the
domes is due to differences in clay content and porosity of the
sandstone layers: the orange bands consist of oxidised iron compounds
in layers that dry out too quickly for cyanobacteria to multiply; the
grey bands are composed of cyanobacteria growing on the surface of
layers of sandstone where moisture accumulates.
The Bungle Bungle Range is one of the most extensive and impressive
occurrences of sandstone tower (or cone) karst terrain in the world.
The Bungle Bungles were a plateau of Devonian sandstone, carved into a
mass of beehive-shaped towers with regularly alternating, dark gray
bands of cynobacterial crust (single cell photosynthetic organisms).
The plateau is dissected by 100-200 m deep, sheer-sided gorges and slot
canyons. The cone-towers are steep-sided, with an abrupt break of slope
at the base and have domed summits. How they were formed is not yet
completely understood. Their surface is fragile but stabilized by
crusts of iron oxide and bacteria. They provide an outstanding example
of land formation by dissolutional weathering of sandstone, with
removal of sand grains by wind, rain and sheet wash on slopes.