HeliSpirit’s new luxury six-day helicopter safari drops participants in and out of one of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet.
Story + photos Ken Eastwood
It’s like flying through a work of art. The morning has only just broken, and the Bell Longranger follows the curves of the Ord out of Kununurra, over sun-kissed mango, sandalwood and banana plantations and through salmon-coloured ranges, where the spines of the country poke through. The landscape is bathed in yellows and golds, pinks and browns. Ghost gums and grand old boabs stand out like flecks of paint among the spinifex and spear grass.
Pilot Sam Coppock gently raises the chopper to 2000 feet to see the patterns in the tidal mud flats where the King River snakes towards Wyndham, or drops it lower to examine the details in this vast painting: a party of five brumbies, a mob of white cattle forming a line on Carlton Hill station, or a big salty in the lower Ord.
“There’s plenty of crocs down there,” he says. “There’s one swimming along now. They move pretty quick. I’ve heard the cattle stations around here lose one head of cattle a day to crocs.”
Sam grew up on a Merino property in New England, NSW, and has been flying choppers with HeliSpirit in the Kimberley since 2013. In wet season floods he’s flown choppers to rescue people in Daly River, but much of his dry-season work has been taking people on heli-fishing tours, sunset picnic flights or joy rides over Mitchell Falls, as HeliSpirit (formerly Heliwork) have been doing in the Kimberley for 33 years. On this new, luxury six-day helicopter safari, he also gets to play the host with the most, conjuring up full picnics, replete with red tablecloths and chilled wine or beer, as well as a tour guide who knows just how many snippets of information to give his guests as they zoom over the landscape at up to 180km/h. Nights are booked at luxury, remote accommodation, but days can be flexible, with trips adapted to focus more on Aboriginal art, fishing, nature or history, depending on the travellers’ interests. Every party gets its own helicopter – whether two, three, four or five people – so there’s a real sense of exclusivity and adaptability as you explore different parts of the Kimberley masterpiece.
This story excerpt is from Issue #112
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2017