Birding around Broome & Ashmore Reef During the Build-up Part 1

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Birding around Broome & Ashmore Reef During the Build-up Part 1
From: L&L Knight <>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 21:01:16 +1000
I spent a week around Broome and went on this year’s Ashmore Reef trip in October, and have finally got around to putting down some thoughts about birding in that neck of the woods. [Apologies for any errors of recollection / transcription]

Broome is a tourist/port town at the southwestern corner of the greater Kimberley region. Both Broome and the adjacent Roebuck Plain are as
flat as a tack and totally devoid of interest to a bushwalker.  The
beaches are obviously the tourist drawcard, but they are pretty much
the same as dozens of other beaches in Western Australia.  I suspect
the place got its start as a tourist destination for sandgropers
looking to escape the cool wet winters in the south-west of the State. Now there are quite a few resorts & lodges, and Cable Beach is a
marketed brand.

The main thing to remember is that the weather round Broome & Derby
during the build-up is either hot or very hot [you can get maxs in the low 40s], the sun is directly overhead at that latitude in Oct/Nov [so the UV is at peak intensity] and the humidity can be pretty high [not
ideal tourist weather].  There are often threatening storm clouds in
the afternoons, but they generally deliver little rain.  However, the
build-up is the time when the migratory waders are there in numbers and you can still get around before the roads get cut in the wet.

Due to the significant tourist traffic, there are plenty of flights to Broome, which is handy for twitchers heading for the birding hotspots
in the region.  The main challenges for the interstate birder are
working out economical accommodation and hire car arrangements.

While there is plenty of upmarket accommodation to choose from on the
web, the ensuite caravan park cabin is not a concept that has taken
root in the Kimberley. The Broome Bird Observatory is clearly the best place to stay, not just because it’s in the birdzone, but because it is
by far and away the cheapest option – you can stay in an airconditioned
room for $35 a night. Overall, it’s a bit like a birding youth hostel where you have your own room.

There are fewer options around Derby, but I spent enjoyable night at
the Kimberley Cottages – a nice quite setup just off the start of the Gibb River Rd. An airconditioned room there was $35 a night, and that came with a communal lounge/kitchen that is shared between 4 rooms and free use of the laundry. Plenty of birdlife around the place in
addition to the chooks.

If you decide to stay at the BBO, the main problem is getting there.
It’s about 30 km from the airport with a 15-20 km drive down an
unsealed road. There are quite a few hire car companies in Broome, but they don’t like people driving anything less than an expensive 4WD on the dirt [so you don’t have insurance for accidents on unsealed roads] and none of them offer unlimited kilometres. Another problem is that they don’t staff their offices after 5.30 pm, so it gets a bit tricky to pick your car up if you are on a late flight.

I hired a Daihatsu Terios from Broome Broome [who have taken over
Broome Discount Hire Cars]. The Terios was a reasonably competent AWD vehicle for the bumpy and soft surface stuff, but it felt a bit unstable on corrugations, and was relatively heavy on fuel consumption [it has low gearing – you change into 4th at 40 km/hr]. Broome Broome will pick you up from your accommodation first thing in the morning, or will leave a car for you at your accommodation if you have already done the paperwork. The trick to getting the best deal is to match the
insurance excess to the level of cover you get from your travel
insurance [which is something you want to get when you are going out to Ashmore Reef].

In terms of supplies, both the Woolworths and Coles shops are well
stocked and, in many respects, are comparable to their counterparts in much larger population centres [again a consequence of the tourist

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