Exploring El Questro.
WORDS: Alexis Buxton-Collins
It would take a week to follow every one of the walking trails crossing El Questro, but after several days of exploring on foot I decide it’s time to take a break and let one of the guides show me around. Exploring Chamberlain Gorge by boat provides an opportunity to examine the meticulously layered deposits of 1.8 billion year old sandstone on either side. These burnt orange cliffs reveal their secrets far more easily than the glassy green water below, which my overactive imagination soon populates with ravenous saltwater crocs. So, I assume the guide is joking when he announces that it’s feeding time.
Seeing my worried look, he assures me the resident archerfish are unlikely to take my arm off. These cheeky little creatures have learned to spit jets of water than stun insects in mid-air and bring them down to the water’s surface where they can be gobbled up. In recent years, they’ve discovered that pellets of fish food held up by tourists make even easier prey.
I leant out cautiously with a pellet, keeping an eye on the water and almost jump out of my seat when I cop an expertly directed faceful of fish spit. Lessen one when feeding archerfish: hold the food away from your face. Trying again, I quickly realise lesson two: staying dry is impossible. Streams of water shoot upwards from every direction and all around me people are giggling as they watch this one-way water fight. Before long, the feeding frenzy has attracted larger catfish and barramundi and the archerfish become more elusive.
“You can feed the barra as well if you like,” the guide calls out as one breaks the surface and snatches some food straight from his hands. “Who wants to have a go?” I decline, as I’m rather attached to my fingers. Soon, I’m able to them to better use trying to point out some of the expertly camouflaged rock wallabies hiding in the small caves discreetly hidden in the rock walls on either side of this beautiful gorge. The Kimberley may be famous for its vast, empty spaces by spend some time in the canyons and gorges of El Questro and it seems that there’s life everywhere you look.