THE eastern sky is touched by a subtle brush of pre-dawn pink when the first bird breaks the silence and sends a melody across Berkeley River Lodge.
It’s as if this morning bird is a sentry – like the man in the mosque calling the faithful to prayer – with the duty of announcing dawn to the squadrons of native birds that live in the Kimberley’s coastal dunes.
The call is abrupt, with the plea repeated to wake birds around Berkeley River Lodge’s 20 hilltop villas, and in seconds I lose the sentinel in a chorus of chortling kookaburras that marks the start of a new day in this remote corner of northwest Australia.
The arrangement becomes frenzied as light stretches across the seared landscape, with the sun hauling itself above the horizon and throwing a golden glow on the scrawny shrubs and skeletal trees carpeting the sandy hills.
There are now so many birds singing I forget the individual performance to appreciate the ensemble.
It’s a daily recital, perfected by centuries of evolution and seclusion, but one I’m appreciating in glorious detail for the very first time thanks to this most isolated of Australian destinations.
I’m far from other people with the time to simply listen to nature at sunrise, and it’s this inaccessibility and inactivity that lets me appreciate the subtleties of dawn when Mother Nature is at her most remarkable without the light and sound pollution that exists elsewhere.
Berkeley River Lodge sits on the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf where the rocky canyons of the Berkeley River meet the Timor Sea, 150km from Wyndham and a 60-minute flight in a light plane from Kununurra.
It’s so secluded that air and sea are the only routes into this place with no tracks to arrive by land.
The remote location is reinforced when, at a few minutes before 5am, I hear the hum of a golf cart passing my room ferrying the chef to the kitchen to make the fresh bread that will get us through the day.
There’s no dashing out to the bakery here, with everything the small band of occupants requires arriving by barge, flown in on small planes that deliver guests or fished from the deep.
Berkeley River Lodge manager Jennifer Fitzmaurice, who runs the seasonal property with partner Ross Penegar, explains that while “operating in such a remote location requires great organisation skills”, the reward is showing guests a corner of Australia that most people never see.
“The chefs need to ensure they have everything ordered and on site as we can’t just pop down the shop to collect supplies,” she says.
“We produce an outstanding degustation-style menu requiring a lot of pre-planning, and flexibility and quick-thinking is also needed as plans do change … and that same organisation is required in every department of the lodge.
“But our guides take guests to some of the most remote and spectacular places in the world and our scenery, the wildlife and the location itself is the advantage of Berkeley River Lodge with only a select few walking where our guests go.
“The landscape is vivid and colourful, the sunrises and sunsets spectacular, the fishing and activities outstanding with each day better than the last, and you can’t top eating your own freshly caught barramundi for dinner the evening it was caught.”
Berkeley River Lodge is a destination where guests can do as much or as little as they desire and activities stretch from soaking in the swimming pool with panoramic views to exploring the wild landscape.
During my visit, I join Ross and Jennifer for a day-long cruise along the Berkeley River that includes birdwatching and crocodile spotting, a walk to explore rock pools and a gourmet picnic in an amphitheatre that becomes a roaring waterfall during the wet season.
There’s another boat trip to fish for dinner and we dine on fresh sashimi that night, with sunset drinks that turn to star gazing.
And when I’m not busy exploring, I find myself standing on the red road to my suite staring at the sparkling blue of the Timor Sea and ochre of the landscape stretching inland, and listening to the sounds of the Outback in this most inaccessible of locations.
The writer was a guest of Berkeley River Lodge and Tourism Western Australia.
… posted Sunday, April 10 2016