Karumba and astonishing dancing brolgas

Flying Brolgas

Our next destination was Karumba. After seeing dancing brolgas on Plenty Highway we were counting for more around Karumba.

Karumba is a small fishing town located in the Gulf of Carpentaria, 570 km from Mount Isa. First, we had to go east, pass Cloncurry and turn left to Burke Developmental Road. We heard that Karumba fishing is great.

Fires at Burke Developmental Road

In the morning I checked the road conditions and weather report. It turned out the day before the grass was burning somewhere close to Burke Developmental Road, the way we were planning to go.

The fire was quite intense and it stopped road trains with fuel tanks going any further creating a bit of a queue of cars. They were waiting for hours until the fire settled down, or at least moved away from the road. 

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Luckily, in the morning everything was under control, so we decided to move in this direction. We refuelled the car and toped up all four diesel canisters. We were going to less frequented places and we did not know what quality of diesel those places offer.

On the way to Karumba

First part of the journey was getting to Cloncurry. The highway was very picturesque as the road meander between small hills covered with little vegetation of burnt coal colour.

Flinders Highway
Flinders Highway before Cloncurry

Shortly after leaving Cloncurry, in the distance, we saw clouds of smoke from yesterday’s fire. We were really lucky that firemen were able to put out the fire, otherwise, we would have had to change our plans.

The landscape changed and now we were driving for miles of empty spaces with dry vegetation. Overall, it was a boring journey that had to be done to get to our destination – Karumba.

Bushfires on the road
Bushfires on the road

We were planning to stay for a night in Normanton as there are a few attractions to see. However, after reaching the town we changed our plans. 

The first thing we saw after entering the main street was a group of drunken Aboriginal people walking along the roadside. 

In addition, the emptiness in the streets and the feeling of abandonment meant that despite our trip exhaustion we decided to drive another 72 km to Karumba.

Karumba – paradise for brolgas

After leaving Normanton the surroundings began to change. We saw dry backwaters here and there and my favourite bird, brolgas, suddenly appeared.


Brolgas and wallabies in dozens

Before Karumba, there were dozens of Brolgas walking and dancing in a nearby channel. I was so amazed that I forgot to take pictures! 

Also, there were dozens (I’m not exaggerating, it was) of tiny wallabies looking at us curiously as we passed. We didn’t stop though as we were driving all day and we were too tired. The sunset was coming soon. After all, tomorrow is also a day and there will be time to admire nature. 

We stayed at Karumba Point Sunset Caravan Park which was conveniently located at the focal point of the coast where the Norman River flows into the sea.

Our campsite in Karumba caravan park
Our campsite in Karumba caravan park

After setting up our camp, we ran to the beach, but the sun had already disappeared from the horizon. Only the final rays illuminated the lazy clouds, turning them orange-pink that looked amazing. 

Sunset in Karumba
Sunset in Karumba

We also noticed that we are back in the crocodile country as there were warning signs everywhere. So, we had to apply our safety rule again – we watch and admire – no swimming.

Crocodile sings are everywhere in Karumba
Crocodile signs are everywhere in Karumba

Kurumba – the most humid place so far

Karumba is super hot and humid. We checked the weather statistics and it happens that October is the most humid month here. Day temperatures reach 40 degrees, and nights are almost 30.  

Marius’s face was glazed all over and Nell had a problem to fell asleep last night. She was so wet in the morning that her pyjamas could be wrung out.

Apart from the humidity, I have the impression I am in paradise. Despite these new weather conditions, everyone is in a great mood. All day we eat ice creams, visit the pool and enjoyed frozen oranges, which cool and soothe the thirst fantastically. 

Nell eating frozen orange
Nell eating frozen orange – it was over 35 degrees and super humid

The trailer stands between coconut-clad palm trees, and on the other side, there is a beautiful, sprawling mango tree with slowly ripening fruit hanging from it.

In search for dancing brolgas

We also went for a walk as according to locals, it was clear that brolgas hang around in the area all the time. 

It was early afternoon and we were quickly discouraged from this walking idea as the sun was warm like a smelting furnace and the path led through the reeds right next to the mangroves. Also we found remains of a kangaroo and no brolgas so it was pointless to go any further.

Watching dancing brolgas, wallabies, horses, pigs and black cockatoos in the evening

In the evening we drove up to town passing some backwaters as we were rewarded again. The sun was setting red and we could feel smoke in the air. Everything looked a bit unreal in these colors, but very picturesque especially when the tall, golden grasses turned orange. 


It was the same spot we passed the day before and surprisingly nothing was changed. There were dozens of dancing brolgas around. 

My camera got hot as I shoot hundreds of photos. I was staggering on my feet as that was a lifetime opportunity to get so many brolgas in one place. But, let’s start from the beginning…

Brolga family with chicks

I saw the first brolga just by the road. It stood majestically, not doing anything. Then we met the sarus crane family – dad, mum and a young.

Brolga family
sarus crane family

I noticed that brolga males have more red colour on their heads (as if the red sock is pulled on), and females have only a strip on the top that looks like a beret. 

Young brolga chicks are brown and have no red at all. 

Grazing horses

Grazing horses
Grazing horses

Walking after the birds, I got to the horses grazing nearby, they stood by the forest in a shady place and looked incredibly beautiful. 

I didn’t want to violate their privacy especially because there were foals around as well. I only took a few photos through the tall grass to keep my memories.

Red-tailed black cockatoo

We also encountered red-tailed black cockatoos. These, when flying, display beautiful red feathers in their tail. However, when they are on the ground they look incredibly clumsy.

Wild pigs crossing the road

On the way back from watching brolgas we were driving at around 80 km/hour. Suddenly, a small wild black piglet ran across our way. Wild pigs are not unusual in this area.

We press the brakes, which was a reasonable solution because it turned out that on both sides of the road there are dozens of little wallabies. 

Wallabies next to the road
Wallabies next to the road

We call them suicidal because they love to stand on the side of the road. They often decide to cross it at the last moment just in front of the speeding car. Often they escape just a few centimetres from the wheels.

Wallaby soccer team

We stopped to take a closer look at them. It happened there was a soccer field just behind the fence and the wallabies were everywhere. 

They sat in large groups and looked like they were playing a soccer game. You wanted to shout: ‘pass it to the goalkeeper!’.

Wallabies soccer team
Wallabies soccer team

Late in the evening, we managed to get to the coast and see the sailing ship returning to the port. The sun was hiding behind clouds of smoke and disappearing from our eyes in the red cap. 

The evening was very hot again. Marius complained that it was impossible to sleep in such temperatures. It was in fact 27 degrees at night and very humid. All the windows were open but the air was still.

Karumba summary

Karumba is a one of a kind place where we spotted so many animals right in town or its outskirts. The biggest reward for us was seeing so many dancing brolgas. We love these majestic birds that dance only for pleasure.

Karumba has a nice outback atmosphere where fishing is the main attraction. We did not have a boat and fishing from river banks is not safe here as big saltwater crocodiles are everywhere. We will definitely return here.

Brolgas fying away
Brolgas flying away

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