Gateway to the oldest and most elusive of all Australia’s nine regions, Broome is where your Kimberley adventure begins. The ancient landscape has long held travellers spellbound: The Kimberley is three time larger than England but has a population of just 35,000, is over 65,000 years old and is home to 2,000 km of coastline. Almost impenetrable, incredibly remote, the red baked earth, prolific wildlife, majestic canyons and swimming holes are the stuff of Australian wilderness dreams.
English explorer William Dampier was the first explorer to set foot in Broome in 1668. However, the land had long been used as a trading route between east and west Kimberley for Aboriginal families. These semi-nomadic tribes respected strict unwritten rules regarding ownership of the land. The Yawuru people remain the Native Title holders for the township of Broome to this day. Broome itself has over 84 Aboriginal communities affiliated to it, 78 of which are considered remote.
The city grew from its nascent pearling industry of the late 19th century. Pearl diving was dangerous in the waters surrounding Broome and for many years divers were limited to Aboriginal slaves, skin divers who faced cyclones, sharks, crocodiles, ear and chest infections in order to bring up as many pearl shells as possible for their masters. Natural pearls were rare and extremely valuable, and when found, were placed in a locked box. At the peak of its industry, around 1914, Broome was responsible for 80% of the world’s pearl trade.