‘El Questro’. The very mention conjures up romantic images of towering waterfalls and outback adventure. The place where we all say “ I want to go there one day”
El Questro was originally an outback cattle station in the Kimberleys but was purchased in 1991 with the idea of turning the pastoral land into an outback tourism destination with both accommodation and activities, including hiking, 4WD tracks, horse riding, fishing, helicopter tours and much more. Everyone visiting the wilderness park and its attractions has to buy a permit, similar to the national parks permits. The permit fee is to cover the costs of maintaining the tracks, trails and attractions.
Visitors to the park have the option to join guided tours (obviously at a cost) or go it alone. Personally, I would recommend joining a tour unless you are confident driving on 4WD tracks as some of them are pretty hair-raising. We opted to do a few outings on our own and found them quite exhilarating.
The trails at El Questro are all signposted and each has an information board at the beginning with lots of advice. There are also maps and fact sheets available at the station reception.
Our first adventure took us to Saddleback Ridge and the lookout.
The 4WD trail to Saddleback ridge climbs up a steep, narrow track to a lookout platform that allows a 360 degree view over the surrounding countryside. The trail is also used by walkers who are obviously much fitter than I, as it is quite a trek. We only managed to drive around 3/4 of the way because of dislodged rocks, and had to walk the rest of the way, but standing on the viewing platform we were rewarded with a spectacular panorama.
Bolstered by our first drive we took off the next day to Brancos and Pigeonhole lookouts.
To get to Brancos lookout we had to drive through a very rocky shallow crossing over the Chamberlain River. Before entering there is a sign warning of crocodiles, it sounds more intrepid than it actually is as the crossing was only about 40-50cm deep, although to be fair we were at the end of the dry season so the water was at its lowest. That said, if we had got stuck I would have made my husband get out of the car first!
After the crossing, I prepared for more 4WD fun as we climbed our way to the top where we were rewarded with view – an absolutely breathtaking view.
Pigeonhole lookout is at the top of a very steep 4WD track with a very, very sharp, tight bend- so much so I had to close my eyes, good job my husband was driving! Once again the views are just spectacular.
Zebedee Springs was possibly my favourite spot. It is a short easy walk along a trail under dense palms which leads to a series of thermal pools rising up to the base of sheer cliffs. There was some clambering up and over rocks, but nothing too taxing.
The water cascading out of the rocks is crystal clear and about 28-32c all year round making it a wonderful place to relax under the shade of the palm trees and take in the tropical surroundings, and after all of the hiking we had bee doing, it was a welcome change to just sit in the cascading water; and I would like to think that all of those minerals in the water were working their magic on my aches and pains. Zebedee Springs is closed from 12pm so you need to plan to visit in the morning.
There are so many different trails and activities at the wilderness park that we actually ran out of time to do everything that we would have like to have done.
One of my big regrets was not going on a helicopter tour. I am terrified of heights and just couldn’t pluck up the courage. I am still kicking myself because I would have loved to have seen this amazing place from the air.
Simple words fail to describe the staggering beauty of this area, I felt like my mind was on repeat; stunning, amazing, beautiful, spectacular!
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