East Arnhem Land and the Wessel Islands are two of the most remote reaches in Australia and our last frontier before Papua New Guinea. So why do we choose to travel here in the wet season? Put simply, for the beauty and power of Mother Nature. You travel through the scattering of islands between January and March for the phenomenal, natural drama that ensues.
The waterfalls on the string of islands, which make up the Wessel Islands, only flow for around 30 days per year, which is in the wet season. It is incredibly rare to sit in freshwater lagoons cascading straight into the ocean. We bring this rarity to you. The rainforests glisten and the wildlife is abundant, wildflowers bloom and everything transforms from dry, cracked and brown to lush, tropical and green almost overnight as the monsoon trough drifts through. Everything bursts into life. Mother Nature comes alive in wet season.
Have you ever heard of light bulb lightening? This is caused from incredible cloud formations called hectors. It is a cluster of julio nimbus clouds. Witnessing these storms from 10-15 mile away is unbelievable. These hectors only happen in the Northern Territory and in Mexico. Nowhere else in the world can you experience such a phenomenon.
Imagine this… the sky grows as dark and cloaks itself around you as if someone has switched off the sun. You sit on the bow of the M/Y Wildcard with a wine in hand. Watching. Waiting. For 40 mins to up to an hour and half, you witness spectacular storms inside the hector. Everything is eerie. Dark and grey as the raw forces of nature throw long fingers of lightening, sometimes 10 or 20 fingers at once, to the sea below and the sky illuminates like a hydrogen bomb exploding. The rumbling sky stops. It is suddenly deathly quiet. The only sound, your gasps of wonder and amazement at what you have just witnessed. #Bucketlist
Chatting to our Captain Bruce, who has spent 50 years in the Gulf of Carpentaria, he shares that in all his decades at sea he has very rarely been affected sailing through the Wessel Islands by weather. Plus, there are plenty of precautions that are taken.
Let’s do some myth busting on the concerns travellers may have around travelling in the wet season.
1. Heat & Humidity
Due to the changeable weather, often days can be overcast. 99% of the rainfall in wet season takes place at night, not affecting the day’s activities. Many people are unaware that Gove, in East Arnhem Land, is one of Australia’s coolest places in Jan-Mar, with daily temperatures averaging between 24C – 31C. Yes, there is humidity. But then, you are visiting Australia’s tropical north!
2. Westerly Winds
In the wet season, the winds predominately blow in a westerly direction. This means the M/Y Wildcard operates solely on the sheltered eastern side of the Wessel Islands, so that comfort and safety can be delivered to guests. The +100m high cliffs, provide a shelf of protection where the waters are still, calm, flat and like glass.
3. Wild Weather
Early weather warnings are reliable and allow for plans to be changed if required. In Captain Bruce’s words, to witness a cyclone on the distant horizon over the ocean is incredible. To travel through East Arnhem Land and the Wessel Islands in the wet season is the most stunning time of the year.
It is thrilling for guests to witness a wild storm from a distance. Us city slickers are out of our comfort zone as the experienced and confident crew, with their cheeky nature, play it up to add to the excitement. The cloud formations, lightening performances, bursts of thunderstorms and rainstorms, is something you need to witness to believe. Imagine waterspouts, sometimes three at a time, twisting around each other, chasing each other through the storm across the ocean. The raw beauty of nature.
Mother Nature is spectacular and this natural phenomenon is not to be missed. You choose to travel to East Arnhem Land and the Wessel Islands in the wet season for an experience that will leave you in awe.
Make this experience yours and join our East Arnhem Land & Wessel Islands small group tour.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.