Kimberley’s Tides

All about the Kimberley Coast’s amazing tides

A stunning region of northwestern Australia, the Kimberley Coast is unique for many reasons including its isolation and its incredible biodiversity. Innately tied to both of those features are the region’s amazingly dramatic tides.

The physical characteristics of the Kimberley’s tides

As many of us know, the tides are governed by the moon’s pull. When the moon is full or new, it means that it is lined up with the sun forming a combined force of gravity from both of the bodies and thus creating the highest and lowest tide differences, known as spring tides.

But why do some places, like the Kimberley, experience such sizeable tides? In this case, the huge differences between low and high tide are due to the landscape of the coastal sea floor. This stretch of the coast is characterised by a shallow shelving nature making changes in tides extremely dramatic. The Kimberley Coast has some of the highest tides in Australia; differences have been measured at around 14 metres in some places in the region with a general tidal range of over 10 metres.

Most of our Kimberly tours often include a visit to the famed Horizontal Waterfalls where tides rush in and out of two narrow gaps in the McLarty Ranges creating an awe-inspiring natural sight.

Effect on biodiversity

The Kimberley Coast’s incredible tides have had a massive effect on the flora and fauna of the region. With the continental shelf extending 370 kilometres off-shore, the coast provides diverse habitats for species living in shallow waters close to shore, and deep-water creatures living further out to sea. Close to the coast, at depths of up to 20 metres, the high tides create strong currents that bring sediment from estuaries into deeper water, further diversifying the range of habitats. The currents also help break down coral reefs, providing food for invertebrates.

With an impressive diversity of different habitats, species on the Kimberley Coast are also benefited by the lack of human presence and access in the area. There are very few roads reaching the coast meaning that visitors must generally explore the region by boat, especially to appreciate the coast’s thousands of unpopulated islands. With extreme tides and a shallow coast, small ships are the main choice for Kimberley cruises and have the added benefit of offering an up-close and intimate look at this amazing region.

To see Kimberley’s incredible tides and creatures for yourself, Aurora Expeditions offers intimate cruises on small ships for in-depth journeys into this remote region.

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