During the Devonian era, 350 million years ago, a large barrier reef grew around the then-submerged Kimberley plateau. The limestone remnants of this reef are today exposed in the national parks of Geikie Gorge, Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge, known collectively as the Devonian Reef national parks.
A turn-off south 124km from Derby leads to the most impressive remainders of the reef, the towering ramparts of Windjana Gorge. A walking trail leads into the spectacular gorge, where freshwater crocodiles sun themselves in the afternoon at a small permanent pool, and fruit-bat-filled paperbark and Leichhardt trees line the riverbanks. Look out also for the striped archer fish, which kills insects by spitting jets of water at them. Three kilometres east of the gorge are the ruins of Lillimooloora Police Station, where a Constable Richardson died after an altercation with his Aboriginal tracker Jandamarra or “Pigeon”.
It’s a further 37km to fun Tunnel Creek National Park , where the creek has burrowed its way under the range, creating a 750m tunnel hung with ghost-faced and fruit bats. Although the collapsed roof illuminates the cavern halfway, the wade through the progressively deeper and colder water to the other end still takes some nerve, especially with the golden eyes of freshwater crocs following your progress from the side of the pool – they shouldn’t bother you, though. You’ll need a torch and sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting soaked. Moving into the Wet, check weather conditions at Fitzroy Crossing, as the tunnel can fill quickly if the Fitzroy River receives a lot of water.