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Exploring The Horizontal Falls At Talbot Bay

horizontal falls


Called “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world” by Sir David Attenborough, the surging water of the Horizontal Falls at Talbot Bay is a truly mesmerising spectacle.


What Are The Horizontal Falls?

The Horizontal Falls are a natural phenomenon where the water of Talbot Bay and the huge tidal currents are forced through two narrow gorges of the McLarty Range, forming a whitewater rapid-like formation. The water rushes through the gaps at such a rate that it looks as though a waterfall has been turned on its side. The powerful tides of the Kimberley can reach more than 10 metres, with the direction of the flow going both ways each day. The Horizontal Falls can be experienced from the air on a scenic flight, or alternatively up close on a powerboat ride or Kimberley cruise. Cruise operators are able to traverse the wider gap, providing they have the correct permits. Although we try to offer guests powerboat rides on every cruise, Ocean Dream Charters holds a permit allowing us to use our own tender boats when tides are right.


Indigenous Significance

The Horizontal Falls, or Garaan-ngaddim, are a place of significance for the Traditional Owners of the Kimberley. To understand that significance, understanding of Lalai (Indigenous History) and Mamaa (meaning all Country is sacred) is crucial. Lalai holds traditional rules and customs, songs, performances and stories of Wandjina and Woongudd creating country. According to Indigenous customs Wandjina, the spirit ancestors, and Woongudd, the snake, created the land, sea and all living things – making the laws by which to live, as well as setting out the ways in which culture, plants, animals, people and Country are looked after. Mamaa means all Country is sacred, and throughout the Kimberley, there are sites and stories everywhere. The Traditional Owners of the land have a cultural responsibility to care for them, respecting cultural protocols and keeping visitors safe.


Garaan-ngaddim was created by the writhing body of the Woongudd woman, the spiritual snake. The Woongudd crawled along creating places by using her tail to strike the Country as she moved. She went and returned again, splitting up the Country, modifying the land and seascapes. Her path can be seen on the rocks and land formations. Woongudd is powerful – a sacred life force, this power is in the tides, waves, islands and the reefs. The Woongudd is the whirlpools at Garaan-ngaddim, moving and creating when the salt water is moving. When the tide slows, Woongudd is at rest.


horizontal falls


How Do You Get To Horizontal Falls?

With suitable boats, it is possible to navigate through the Horizontal Falls while they are in flow. Aboard Ocean Dream, after anchoring the vessel nearby, our guests board tender boats to traverse the natural wonder. Life jackets and various safety procedures are a necessity to experience the Falls up close. When the tides are suitable, guests can experience the turbulence of the water and the power of nature.


The Horizontal Falls can also be experienced from above via helicopter or seaplane – giving a broader perspective of the vibrant colours, sheer beauty and scale of the Kimberley landscape. The beauty of seeing the Falls from above is that the full force of the rushing tide can be experienced, giving you a new perspective on all the water moving through the McLarty Range.


What’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit?

The tour season, which gives guests the opportunity of the power boat ride through the Falls, runs seasonally – from around March to November annually (depending on the weather and wet season). Water flows rapidly through the falls during spring tides, while there is weak tidal movements during neap tides – those on a boat will experience a more mellow flow of water. While tidal movements are year round, approved operators can advise on the best times to experience this natural wonder. Average temperatures around Talbot Bay and the Falls are in the ball park of 33 degrees Celsius.


Why Choose Ocean Dream Charters?

Experience the Kimberley region in style and luxury aboard Ocean Dream Charters. Our 86 foot twin-hull catamaran is the epitome of elegance and sophistication, ensuring you’ll enjoy a getaway you’ll never forget. With six staterooms on board, our vessel comfortably accommodates 12 guests ensuring an exclusive and intimate Kimberley experience. Our friendly and professional crew work diligently to provide you with a memorable holiday, as you marvel at some of the world’s largest and most untouched wilderness. You can experience the Horizontal Falls, one of the most prevalent locations in the Southern Kimberley, on all of our 6 & 8 Night Southern cruises, as well as the 13 Night Kimberley cruise.