Karumba and astonishing dancing brolgas
As we continued our trip around Australia, our next destination was the small town of Karumba. The sight of dancing brolgas on the Plenty Highway had left us charmed, and we were hoping to see more of these graceful birds in the area around Karumba.
Nestled in the heart of the Gulf of Carpentaria and located roughly 570 km away from Mount Isa, Karumba has a unique charm that is hard to resist.
To reach Karumba, we had to go eastward, passing through the historic town of Cloncurry before turning left onto Burke Developmental Road.
Fires at Burke Developmental Road
In the morning, I checked the road conditions and weather report. It turned out that a grass burnouts were happening somewhere close to the Burke Developmental Road, which was the route we had planned to take.
Hema’s HX-2 Navigator
Explore Australia with Hema’s HX-2 Navigator, the ultimate GPS system for on and off-road navigation.
The fire had been quite intense and had halted road trains with fuel tanks, resulting in a bit of a queue of cars. They had to wait for hours until the fire was put out or at least moved away from the road.
Fortunately, by morning, everything was under control, so we decided to go in that direction. We refueled the car and topped up all four diesel canisters since we were headed towards less frequented places, and we weren’t sure what quality of diesel those places offered.
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.
The first leg of our journey was traveling to Cloncurry, which proved to be a beautiful drive. The road meandered between small hills that were covered with sparse vegetation in a burnt coal color.
Shortly after leaving Cloncurry, we spotted clouds of smoke rising in the distance from a fire that had occurred the previous day.
As we continued on our journey, the landscape changed, and we found ourselves driving through kilometers of empty space with dry vegetation. It was a somewhat boring drive, but one that we knew we had to take to reach our final destination – the charming town of Karumba.
Originally, we had planned to spend a night in Normanton, as there were a few attractions we wanted to see. However, upon reaching the town, we quickly changed our minds.
As we entered the main street, we saw a group of drunken Aboriginal people walking along the roadside, which left us feeling uneasy. Moreover, the streets were empty and had an overall sense of abandonment.
Despite feeling exhausted from the journey, we ultimately decided to drive another 72 km to Karumba, where we felt safer and more at ease.
Karumba – brolgas paradise
As we left Normanton behind, we noticed that scenery began to change. Dry backwaters began to appear sporadically, and we couldn’t help but feel excited as we spotted our favorite bird, the elegant brolgas, suddenly appearing in the area.
Their striking appearance and graceful movements against the backdrop of the dry landscape left us in enchanted, and we couldn’t resist stopping to watch them for a few minutes. It was a reminder that even in the harshest of environments, nature can still thrive and offer moments of pure beauty.
Brolgas and wallabies in dozens
As we approached Karumba, we noticed dozens of brolgas walking and dancing in a nearby channel. The sight was so mesmerising that I completely forgot to take any pictures!
In addition to the brolgas, we also spotted a large group of tiny wallabies curiously watching us as we passed by. However, despite the temptation to stop and admire them, we were simply too tired after driving all day. We knew that we still had tomorrow to enjoy nature’s wonders.
A few facts about Karamba:
- Karumba is located on the southern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is one of the largest estuarine systems in the world.
- The town is located at the end of the Savannah Way, a famous 3,700 km route that stretches from Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia.
- Karumba is famous for its spectacular sunsets, which attract visitors from all over the world.
- The town is home to a large number of saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to 7 meters in length.
- Karumba is a popular destination for birdwatchers, as the region is home to more than 200 bird species, including the brolga, sarus crane, and red-tailed black cockatoo.
- The town is also known for its fishing, particularly for barramundi, which is a prized sport fish in Australia.
- Karumba is home to the largest barramundi fishery in Queensland, and is a popular destination for recreational fishing.
- Karumba hosts an annual Sunset Beach Party, a popular event that celebrates the end of the fishing season and attracts visitors from all over Australia.
- Karumba was originally a telegraph station established in the late 1800s and later became a port for the cattle industry.
- The town has a small population of around 500 people, but attracts many visitors during the peak tourist season.
Eventually, we arrived at the Karumba Point Sunset Caravan Park, which proved to be a convenient location. Situated at the central point of the coast where the Norman River flows into the sea, we were perfectly positioned to enjoy the stunning sunsets that Karumba is famous for.
After setting up our camp, we quickly made our way to the beach, but by the time we arrived, the sun had already dipped below the horizon. Nevertheless, the sky was still awash with a warm glow, casting a beautiful orange-pink hue across the lazy clouds.
Despite missing the actual sunset, the afterglow was still a sight to behold, and we spent some time simply taking in the stunning scenery. It was the perfect start to our time in Karumba, and we couldn’t wait to see what else this charming fishing town had in store for us.
We couldn’t help but also notice warning signs reminding us that we were back in crocodile country. With this in mind, we made sure to stick to our safety rule: we watched and admired from a safe distance, avoiding any temptation to swim in the Karamba waters.
While it was tempting to take a dip in the refreshing water, we knew that the risk was simply too great. Instead, we contented ourselves with soaking up the stunning scenery and enjoying the local wildlife from a safe distance.
Kurumba – the most humid place so far
Karumba is known for its extremely hot and humid weather, especially in October, which is the most humid month of the year. Temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees during the day, and barely drop below 30 at night.
As soon as we stepped out of our air-conditioned car, we could feel the beads of sweat forming on our skin. Marius’s face was glistening with sweat, and Nell had trouble falling asleep due to the really warm nights. In fact, when she woke up in the morning, her pyjamas were so drenched with sweat that they could be wrung out like a wet cloth.
Despite the humidity, we couldn’t help but feel like we were in paradise. The stunning scenery, the relaxed atmosphere, and the friendly locals all contributed to our overall sense of happiness. To cool off, we spent our days eating ice cream, lounging by the pool, and enjoying frozen oranges, which provided a refreshing relief from the heat and quenched our thirst.
We set our trailer between the coconut palm trees. On the other side, a magnificent mango tree sprawls, its fruit slowly ripening and swaying gently in the breeze. We couldn’t help but feel like we were in paradise.
In search for dancing brolgas
We also went for a walk in the early afternoon, hoping to spot some brolgas in the area as locals had suggested. However, we quickly became discouraged as the sun beat down on us with intensity and the path led right next to the mangroves.
To add to our disappointment, we came across remains of a kangaroo and no brolgas in sight. We decided it was pointless to go any further and retreated back to the caravan park.
Watching dancing brolgas, wallabies, horses, pigs and black cockatoos in the evening
In the evening, we took a drive up to town and passed by some backwaters. Once again, we were rewarded with a stunning view. The sun was setting and its red glow mixed with smoke in the air, creating an otherworldly ambiance. The tall, golden grasses glowed orange in the sunlight, making the scene incredibly picturesque.
As we passed the same spot as the day before, we were happy to see that nothing had changed – there were still dozens of brolgas dancing around. It was an incredible sight to see so many of my favorite birds gathered in one place.
I quickly grabbed my camera and began shooting hundreds of photos, not wanting to miss a single moment of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was so absorbed in capturing the beauty of the brolgas that I was staggering on my feet from exhaustion. Nonetheless, it was all worth it in the end as I knew that these photos would be cherished memories for years to come.
Brolga family with chicks
I saw the first brolga just by the road. It stood majestically, not doing anything. Then, we encountered a sarus crane family – a father, mother, and a young one.
I noticed that brolga males have more red colour on their heads, as if they’re wearing a red sock, while females have only a strip on the top that looks like a beret.
Young brolga chicks are brown and don’t have any red on their heads.
As I walked chasing the birds, I came across some horses grazing nearby. They stood by the bushes in a shady place and looked incredibly beautiful.
Red-tailed black cockatoo
We also encountered some red-tailed black cockatoos. These birds are truly a sight to behold – when they’re in flight, their tail feathers fan out in a brilliant display of red and black. But when they’re on the ground, they can seem a bit awkward and clumsy, waddling around on their big feet.
Wild pigs crossing the road
On our way back from watching brolgas, we were driving at around 80 km/hour when suddenly a small wild black piglet ran across our path. Wild pigs are not unusual in this area.
We hit the brakes, which was the best solution because it turned out that on both sides of the road, there were dozens of little wallabies.
We call them suicidal because they love to stand on the side of the road, and often decide to cross it at the last moment just in front of a speeding car. It’s a dangerous game, and they often escape by just a few centimeters from the wheels.
Wallaby soccer team
We stopped to take a closer look at them and noticed a soccer field just behind the fence, with wallabies scattered all over it.
They sat in groups and appeared to be playing a game of soccer. It was amusing to watch, and we couldn’t resist the urge to shout, “Pass it to the goalkeeper!”
Late in the evening, we reached the coast and saw a sailing boat returning to the marina. The sun was hiding behind clouds of smoke and disappearing from our view in a red cap.
The evening was still very hot, and Marius complained that it was impossible to sleep in such temperatures. It was 27 degrees at night and very humid. Despite having all the windows open, there was no breeze.
Karumba is a unique 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. Unfortunately, we did not have a boat, and fishing from river banks is not safe here as big saltwater crocodiles are everywhere.
Our trip to Karumba was a truly unforgettable experience. From spotting brolgas dancing in the wild to encountering wild pigs and wallabies on the road, we were constantly surrounded by the beauty of nature.
The town’s unique outback atmosphere and fishing culture only added to the charm of the place. We left Karumba with a sense of awe and appreciation for the diverse wildlife and natural wonders that Australia has to offer. It’s safe to say that we will definitely be returning to this incredible destination in the future.
From red dirt to tropical rainforest. Ten places anyone should add to their bucket list. Subscribe and receive ten colourful infographics.
Please subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter
Enjoy outdoors with Tentworld equipment
Read more from our guides
Learn how to start a travel blog like this (step by step guide)
Learn more about off-road driving from our guide
Learn 11 Tips about outback camping from our guide