From Bali, Indonesia, we sailed south to the northwest coast of Australia, the world’s only country that is also a continent. Broome, the northern boundary of Western Australia’s Eighty Mile Beach, is an appealing fusion of Aussie and Asian, rough and tumble outback and stylish resort. Still known for a mother of pearl industry (“pearling”) that began in the late 1800s, Broome now produces fine quality cultured pearls as well. Some of the original corrugated metal buildings with peaked roofs in Chinatown now house coffee shops and boutiques.
Our tour around the Broome region started with a drive from the pier to Gantheaume Point which has the world’s highest concentration of extant dinosaur footprints. Estimated to be more than 130 million years old, these footprints were first discovered in 1935 at the base of the Gantheaume Point cliffs and in the surrounding coastline. The footprints can only be viewed at low tide; a good level of mobility and sturdy shoes are required in order to walk along the slippery, steep rocks to see the footprints. A plaster cast of the tracks has been embedded at the top of the cliff for anyone who visits during high tide or does not wish to walk on the rocks. After seeing the Cast footprint, we ventured down to the mudflats to explore for the real “deal” with our guide.
Gantheaume Point is a promontory that encompasses a stretch of white sandy beach as well as a red rock cliff face overlooking the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, about a ten minute drive from the town centre of Broome. The Gantheaume Point beach area adjoins Cable Beach and is a popular meeting place on the weekend for locals to gather with family and friends. The spectacular views from the cliff section of Gantheaume Point are down a short trail from the interpretive signage centre which showcases the history of the area. Heading past the interpretive signage there is a well worn track which leads to a cast of dinosaur footprints, always a popular attraction with children. There are outcrops of Broome Sandstone, deposited in shallow water in this area in the Early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago. Footprints from dinosaurs of that time, and plant fossils, are preserved in the sandstone. At very low tide, dinosaur footprints can be seen about 30 meters (98 feet) out to sea. – Sources: Australiasnorthwest.com and Wikipedia
Our guide was Bart Pilgram, a Yawuru man from the West Kimberley region of northwest Australia with a passion for telling the complete story of life in Broome. He was very generous with us and shared his Aboriginal and multicultural perspective, drawing on knowledge gained from living a saltwater lifestyle as well as professional training as a curator. He comes from a family of pearling workers (oyster shell and oyster pearl divers) and musicians. When we stopped for local refreshments at the Runway Bar & Restaurant in Broome’s Chinatown, he played the guitar while his sister accompanied him, singing local songs, including some written by their father. Bart started his company, Narlijia Tours, in 2015. Narlijia means ‘true for you’ in the Yawuru (Australian Aboriginal) language reflecting Bart’s wish to tell the ‘entire’ story sharing his Aboriginal and multicultural background.
Our tour was timed to coincide with the low tide which enabled our guide, Bart, to show us some dinosaur footprints that he had personally discovered recently and reported to the national registry; pictured is a footprint of a Theropod Dinosaur, a bipedal (two-legged), ancestrally carnivorous dinosaur that had comparatively small forelimbs and walked erect. Note that Theropods include the well known Tyrannosaurus rex, although the dionsaurs that roamed Gantheaume Point were much smaller. Also, today’s flying birds around the earth are descendants of the flying dinosaur cousins of the Theropods!