Navigating your way through the various tours offered in the Kimberley can initially be a daunting option as there are literally hundreds of websites offering “the best” tour.
And what is the best tour anyway, this is a personal thing, some people are looking for adventure, some people are looking for luxury
This post is designed to help with this process.
Ask and You Shall Receive.
Asking the right questions will get you most of the information you need to select a tour which is right for you.
Here’s the important questions.
Is it an Operator or a Re Sellar.
Whilst there are hundreds of options online for Kimberley Tours, in reality, there is only about 10 tour operators who actually run tours, the rest of the websites will sell you a ticket on one of these tours, but they are not involved in running vehicles or organising the tours.
So the first thing to establish with any tour that you are viewing online is to ask, is the tour on offer actually run by to the owner of the website, or is it a website which is simply selling a tour operated by someone else.
Agents & Re Sellers are not evil and can offer a valuable experience, they can often add value to your travel dollars by packaging multiple tours, flights and hotels together, and ultimately and they take care of all the hard work of putting it together.
At other times resellers will not disclose who the operator is, their websites can be out of date and you are relying on them to actually pass the money that you pay them onto the operator. With the de regulation of the travel agency industry in Australia several years ago, there is no longer automatic protection for customers when a travel agent fails to pass on money you have paid then, if they don’t you may find that when you turn up for the tour, you will not be permitted to board.
At the very it’s a good idea to establish the facts about the tour you are about to invest a lot of money on. All you need to do is ask the question, “are you and operator or a reseller?”
What Type of Accommodation Is Used.
Another big difference between the tours is the type of accommodation which is used.
Pretty much all tours have some version of camping, tours go from wilderness camping under the stars, to tent style hotels complete with ensuites, and chef’s.
Each type of accommodation has it’s pros and cons, typically a tour offering a permanent camp, or campground style accommodation will have more comfort, but you may be surrounded by other tour groups and campers.
Comfort may out weigh your desire for solitude.
Other tours offer remote camping in wilderness areas with lots of solitude, in general this results in less facilities and comforts.
The Kimberley is unforgiving and can destroy the toughest of vehicles.
As a customer, what you don’t want is to be stranded out in the Wilderness because the vehicle you are has broken down, not only will it disrupt your tour experience, but it may result in missing flights and hotel bookings if the tour is delayed.
It is a good idea to have a look at the vehicles on offer, most operators have modern vehicles, if the operator you are looking at is using older vehicles, then there is a higher risk mechanical issues along the way.
So again, ask the question, “how old are your vehicles?”
Group sizes vary a lot, what is common amoung all operators is they they will claim to have small groups, but actual group sizes will vary from couples to 30+ people.
Every one recognises the in general, smaller groups are a good thing, and anyone can claim small groups. Small is simply a relative number and can mean anything. The sun is small compared to the universe.
Thankfully it’s easy to spot the fakers, those who claim to have small groups, but who then do not disclose the actual size of the groups, probably have big groups.
Another trick that operators will use to disguise their big groups is to quote an “average group size” so they might have a 25 seater truck and claim an average groups size of 15, but who knows what their average is? Really they can just make this number up, there are no “group size police” out there patrolling the bush and checking busses for empty seats. And every operator is working as hard as they can to sell every seat, if they can sell 25 you can bet they will.
On a plus side, a larger group size may result in a cheaper price as the operator has economies of scale.
Typically small groups are better because larger group sizes can suffer from access issues, larger vehicles cannot get down narrow bush tracks, there are plenty of these in the Kimberley, and they suffer from organisational blues, getting up and going in the morning can take longer with very large groups, they are not as personal and the poor guides who lead them are worked hard on organising the trips instead of guiding them.
So again, ask the question, “how many seats are in your vehicles?”
Finally it’s not hard to check the credibility of operators, look for someone who has great reviews on sites like Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor is quite good at weeding out fake reviews so you can trust the majority of what you read, and ideally select an operator who has a history of good reviews going back over the years.
If the operator you are looking at does not have reviews, I would be asking why.
There is a huge range in prices charged for Kimberley Tours, and as with most things, this is a reflection of what you get.
So it all comes down to your budget, but make sure you compare apples with apples.
Each we see new operators starting up and charging discounted rates, they buy cheap ex mining vehicles from auctions and off they go, but they don’t last very long. They soon realise that there is a significant cost to keep vehicles going in this tough and rugged region.