Hiking guide Hamish Gibson discovers the secrets of the Bibbulmun and makes a compelling case for hiking its forested paths. Until now, Hamish was one of our star guides on the Cape to Cape Track in the Margaret River region. And this year he’s added guiding on our 6-day Bibbulmun Track ‘Walpole Wilderness Experience’ to his repetoire. This is his story.

Cockatoos in the canopy and an invitation to explore

Hearing the red-tailed cockatoo’s ‘karack’ high in the canopy against the azure sky between the huge Tingle and Karri trees, a grey fantail flirts dangerously almost hitting me in the face, showing the forest’s awareness of my presence. The petrichor below accentuates the smell of peppermint leaf between my fingers, awakening my senses like an espresso. I hear the rustle of one the forest’s marsupials, a beautiful quenda. Stepping into a landscape for the first time bombards us with different shapes, colours, textures, sounds, smells and tastes.

It feels as if the land is inviting us to be part of its story, asking us to dive a little deeper to discover its secrets. It’s a rare privilege in this fast-paced existence to feel a primordial force that this wilderness represents. A reminder of our own need for biophilic relationships, a world away from the COVID-dominated conversations and busy dynamic of modern life.

Bibbulmun hikin in the Walpole-Nornalup Conservation Park

Walking the Bibblumun Track in the Walpole-Nornalup National Park is a perfect place to observe the intricacy of interconnections in the natural environment and escape from the pressures of our working and family lives.  Much of the flora and some of the fauna originated on the vast supercontinent of Gondwanaland. As the continents of South America, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica split apart so too did the distinct, but related plant groups. Geologically speaking the separation occurred a relatively short time ago, approximately 50 million years.

Since then, the stability of the region has led to the further diversification of plant species and the development of a myriad of symbiotic relationships between, plants, fungi, mammals, and birds. When we immerse ourselves in an environment as isolated as the south-west corner of Western Australia and the Great Southern region we really are stepping back in time, to an island within an island, bordered by the ocean to the west and south, and desert to the east and north.

Hanging out for a change of pace on the Bibbulmun

Perhaps like me you’ve been hanging out for a change of pace. A chance to take in some new scenery and find yourself a comfy cabin or secluded campsite nestled in nature. Well, a hike with friends or in solitude, winding through massive stands of eucalypts, or meandering through wattle and banksia country towards the spectacular coastal vistas, might be just what the doctor ordered.

I am fortunate enough to work as a forest guide for Cape to Cape Explorer Tours, which offers a 6-day guided Bibbulmun hike called the Walpole Wilderness Experience in addition to its hikes on Margaret River’s Cape to Cape Track. Basing ourselves at Coalmine Beach Holiday Park, within walking distance of the Walpole township, the park is meticulously kept by Phil and Cathy, providing a range of accommodation options from 2-bedroom self-contained cottages & safari style eco-tents to roomy powered sites for caravans and tucked away corners for vans, camper trailers and tents. A literal stone’s throw away from the inlet, it is an idyllic location to unwind and unplug, whilst still having access to creature comforts in the games room complete with TV and table tennis tables.

Wow factor to eco-cruise on the Nornalup Inlet

The region is a special place rich in European and Indigenous history. The best way to learn about the cultural and biological diversity of Walpole is to step aboard a WOW Wilderness Ecocruise with Gary Muir. He takes you on a journey reminiscent of a romantic scientific voyage, moving from the micro view of the botanical grim reapers, Heartleaf poison and Dieback bacteria, to the macro perspective of anthropogenic factors impacting climate change.

Delivering a rich silk tapestry of precise nomenclature, cheeky wit and humour and quizzing guests with infinite amounts of information, Gary and his crew use photographs and props (fluffy toys) to provide interesting facts and explanations from multiple scientific disciplines, unique historical stories and occasional dissertations and translations in a foreign language. Stimulating even the most curious minds, Gary generously imparts an intimate sense of place with countless insights about the Walpole region where 5 generations of his family have grown up in a place they love so dearly.

What’s stopping you from ticking the Bibbulmun off your bucket list?

The Bibblumun Track itself is well-managed by a large group of benevolent volunteers from the Bibbulumun Foundation who work closely with the Department of Parks and Wildlife to maintain the track and the huts that provide important shelter and water sources along the way. The track is exceptionally well-signposted and offers hikers a multitude of difficulty levels ranging from laconic walks along the inlet to challenging climbs through the Tingles and coast heath.

So what’s stopping you? Maybe the logistics of organising accommodation, meals and transport to and from the sections of track? Or feeling like you’ll be ‘roughing it’ in order to get the hiking job done? Think again. Our crew, along with the extended team of people in Walpole, take care of every fine detail, down to sourcing beautiful local produce including wine, cheese and preserves as well as visits to local restaurants The Nornabar and Peaceful Bay Fish and Chips. All manner of dietary requirements for breakfast, lunch, dinner and track snacks are fully catered for and hikers of all ages and a wide range of abilities are encouraged to participate. The 6-day guided Walpole Wilderness Experience could be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to reconnect with nature, flip the script and do something that truly nourishes the mind, body and soul.  So no excuses, get your hiking gear ready and we’ll see you in the greenroom!

To book your Bibbulmun adventure or for more info, dates and prices click here.