Watching the water rush past as the speed indicator on the GPS slowly climbed towards the 95Km/h mark was exhilarating to say the least, to do it in a place like Lake Argyle was a once in a lifetime privilege. Located 70 kilometers South East of Kununurra, Lake Argyle is a man made body of water located in the beautiful Kimberley region of Western Australia. Formed in 1971 by the damming of the Ord River, Lake Argyle is the largest body of freshwater in Australia and covers an area more than 1,000 square kilometers. A volume of water equivalent to 27 Sydney Harbour’s creates what is officially classified as an inland sea and this figure can double during the wet season.
With over 900 kilometers of coastline and countless islands, Lake Argyle is the perfect place to get out on your Jet Ski, kayak or boat to explore the myriad of bays and islands. The sheer size of Lake Argyle should not be underestimated and you’ll need to have your wits about you, as getting lost would be very easy. You’ll need some basic navigation skills at least or use your GPS as we did. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your fuel gauge as well and letting someone know what time your due back is a good idea along with a rough idea of the area you intend to explore for the day.
There is an estimated 35,000 fresh water crocodiles in Lake Argyle and with their shy and timid nature it was no surprise that we didn’t see any in our time on the water whilst on our jet skis. One area in particular is referred to locally as ‘the crocodile nursery’ but we were unable to find it until we headed out on a sunset cruise onboard the Kimberly Durack. The lake is also home to a variety of native fish species, twenty-six in total so if you’re a keen angler there is definitely some fun to be had here.
The boat ramp into the lake is pretty sketchy and is effectively just a graded gravel ramp, it drops off fairly quickly when the water is low so try and avoid dropping the trailer wheels in to far. We decided to err on the side of caution and winched the skis both off and on to the trailer as opposed to riding them like we normally do. It’s also important to be aware of the amount of weed in the shallows, not to mention submerged rocks and trees, a disaster waiting for those who let there attention wane.
Seeing as how Lake Argyle is classified as an inland sea, all of the usual off shore safety equipment must be carried, flares, V-Sheets, Radios, EPIRB’s, the lot. So if your lacking in any of this gear make sure you beg, borrow or steal some otherwise you’ll get there and be a wee bit annoyed if your checked and have to wear the ensuing fine. As an aside we never encountered any authorities during our weeklong stay.
Getting to Lake Argyle is a bit of a drive regardless of the direction you come into it from. From Kununurra it’s a 70 Klm drive on good, albeit narrow sealed roads. I’ve mentioned Kununurra as it’s the closest town and whilst there is food and fuel available at the Lake Argyle resort you will pay dearly for it, so fuel up at Kununurra and bring some extra jerry cans if you have the space and the intention of doing lots of riding.
The resort at Lake Argyle is about a kilometer from the boat ramp and has everything you could ever need including views to die for, along with the most amazing infinity pool I have ever seen, although it could do with a little solar heating as it is freezing cold. There is a bar and restaurant and the food is pretty damn good. Accommodation ranges from unpowered campsites right through to luxury cabins overlooking the lake. There is also a range of tours available including 4WD, boat and scenic flights as well as a bunch of walking trails if you want to see the lake from a different perspective. As I mentioned earlier, we opted for the ‘Sunset Cruise’ as many travellers we spoke to along the way recommended it. It was great to have the knowledge of the guides pointing out some of the more interesting aspects of the lake, and yes we got to see some freshwater crocodiles, lots of them!
We also lashed out for a half an hour helicopter flight. They give you the option of removing the doors, which we went for and I have to say the only way to really appreciate the vastness of Lake Argyle is from the air. It isn’t cheap at $250 per person but if you can squeeze it into the budget, do so you won’t regret it. You can save a few bucks by booking a couple of tours at the same time, so make sure you investigate what you want to do as it saved us a hundred bucks between us. You can read a little more about the helicopter flight here.
We also spent a day on the Ord River, which runs from the dam wall at Lake Argyle all the way down to Kununurra, about 80 kilomteres. We decided to do the river from the Kununurra end as we wanted to be going down stream when our fuel was running low figuring if we got it wrong and ran out of fuel we would eventually end up at the boat ramp. Speaking of boat ramps the one we used at Kununurra is the one closest to the weir as opposed to the one in the large pond closer to town. It’s a decent ramp albeit shallow and it has no pontoon or jetty to tie up to. The was a sign posted reporting the sighting of a Estuarine, or Salt Water Crocodile a week prior to our day there, so you certainly need to keep a keen eye out when launching and retrieving your ski. The boat ramp at the Argyle dam end of the river is steep and very gravelly and the tonne and a half of tandem jet ski trailer also added to our decision to drive to Kununurra to start our tour of the river. The river itself is wide for the most part with some spectacular red rock cliffs as the gorge narrows, the further you get up stream. We didn’t get all the way the dam wall as we spent to much time slowing down to observe the fresh water crocs that we encountered swimming near the edge of the banks, occasionally getting as close as two or three metres away before they dived and swam to safety. There is also plenty of reed beds along the Ord so again keep an eye out and be prepared to clear your intake grate or tow your skis back to the ramp. All in all the Ord River is a fantastic part of the Lake Argyle experience so make sure you leave a day in schedule to get in and check it out.
We spent a week at Lake Argyle and could have stayed longer, there is plenty to see and do and of course the opportunity to explore this vast waterway by Jet Ski is definitely a bucket list item for any serious enthusiast. When we say that we had the lake pretty much too ourselves we aren’t lying. It was peak season and with only three of four charter boats on the water doing two or three cruises a day there was no problem with trying to avoid the crowds. Throw in a couple of tinnies sitting close to shore trying to catch dinner and that’s about the extent of the waterway traffic you will encounter. We sat on about 60K’s an hour for the most part weaving around and carving up the surface to our hearts content. If your up for a jet skiing adventure you could do a lot worse than heading to Lake Argyle for some really remote ‘got the place to ourselves’ action. Living on the east coast of New South Wales means that your about as far away as you can possibly get living in Australia and it was a huge adventure just getting there in the first place but as jet ski enthusiasts we were glad that we undertook the arduous journey.
For more information on Lake Argyle you can check out their website here.
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