The idea of a Horizontal Waterfall sounds preposterous so of course, we had to see it for ourselves. We were camped in Derby for a week and investigated the best way to get to what David Attenborough calls “Australia’s most unusual natural wonder.” It is 110 km north of Derby but can only be accessed by air or sea. We opted for a seaplane flight and an overnight stay on a houseboat.
The waterfalls are formed by intense tidal currents hurtling through two narrow coastal gorges. Massive tidal movements create a waterfall effect as water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, to be repeated again on the turning tide.
The twin gaps are part of the McLarty Ranges, which have two ridges running parallel approximately 300 metres apart. The first gap is about 20 metres wide and the second, most spectacular gap is about 10 metres wide. The tides in this area have a 10-metre variation which occurs over six and a half hours from low tide to high tide and vice versa.
At 2.15pm a courtesy bus picked us up from the caravan park and took us to the airport where we boarded a 14 seat turboprop jet seaplane.
The scenery below changed from mud flats to crystal clear water and then we saw it. The two narrow gorges with foaming white water rushing through. After landing beside a long houseboat we watched sharks being fed from the deck while some brave souls sat in a cage to get as close as possible to the experience of being eaten.
Finally, we were off in a 900hp boat to experience the sensation of riding on a waterfall (horizontally). Maybe it wasn’t quite as amazing or scary as I had imagined but it was still lots of fun. We then cruised through bays and creeks marvelling at colourful rock strata and observing a helicopter land on the roof of a boat.
It was BYO drinks but they had been chilling in an esky so we sat on the deck watching the sunset across the shining water. Barramundi was served for dinner and after watching the stars in the night sky and chatting to fellow guests we retired to a small but comfortable cabin. Next morning we watched the sunrise as some took off on helicopter flights. We boarded the boat for yet another trip through the Horizontal Falls as the water was flowing in the opposite direction.
The seaplane trip back was spectacular as we flew over the Buccaneer Archipelago and King Sound. Finally, the grey water of Derby appeared along with its enormous circular jetty. We were back on dry land ready to turn south on our circumnavigation of Australia.