Sacred Australian Natural Wonder Implements New Ban To Stop Tourists From Visiting 

The Horizontal Falls in Australia are known for their coastal geography and powerful tide forces that, in the past, many visitors paid to see up close. Now, the falls are leaning back on allowing tourists to visit due to safety concerns, and complaints from the indigenous population in the area who have claimed for a while that the boat tours “desecrate” the falls.

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The Horizontal Falls are known as one of the strangest, but most visually stunning, natural attractions in Australia. Its powerful tidal forces alongside some beautiful coastal geography, has made the spot a major tourist attraction for those who want to get up close and personal with the falls. 

The falls are located at Talbot Bay on Australia’s northwestern coastline. They are described as two narrow cliffs where waterfalls are created due to surges of seawater that pour over the narrow gaps of the cliff. 

Now, Western Australia, the state in which the falls are located, has stated that boat trips and tours within the gaps of the cliff will be banned in 2028. The area’s Indigenous Traditional Owners have stated for decades that the land is sacred, and the amount of times powerful boats have pierced parts of the falls have diminished the value that the Indigenous people have on the landmark. 

Western Australia Environment Minister Reece Whitby released a statement over this new ban and what it means for the future.

“This decision reflects the government’s dual responsibilities to respect the cultural views of Traditional Owners and the need to protect and support WA’s tourism industry. We want people to experience Indigenous culture as an essential, vibrant part of visiting jointly managed national and marine parks.”

The falls are within Maiyalama, one of three protected marine parks created in 2022 by the Indigenous Traditional Owners and the West Australian government.

Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures is the main boat tour operator for Talbot Bay. The company announced they would stop traveling within the falls in March 2028, while all other operators will stop by the end of 2026. 

The Dambeemangaddee people are one of the Indigenous groups that has inhabited the area for nearly 56,000 years. There are dozens of other Indigenous groups that have populated the area for over 50,000 years, before Australia was colonized by the British in the 1780s. 

This ban on touring within the Horizontal Falls is mainly to restore the sanctity of the site, according to CNN. Local Indigenous beliefs state that the boats that pierce the gaps at the site disturb Woongudd, a mystical serpent who created the falls. The flowing tide at the falls is believed to be caused by Woongudd gliding between the cliffs. 

The Dambeemangaddee released a group statement expressing their happiness surrounding the recent ban. 

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“This has been an emotionally trying journey for many of us. With this decision, we finally feel we have been heard. Our ancestors lived there all year round, and we still feel their presence. It is a quiet, calm place. But it can be dangerous. Culturally, Traditional Owners would only travel through the (cliff) gaps for a specific purpose and always at the right time.”

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The Dambeemangaddee also stated that they hope tourists still visit the Horizontal Falls at a respectable distance where they can still take in the amazing natural beauty. 

“Respect the power of this place, and our cultural obligations to care for Country and keep you safe,” they requested. 

The Dambeemangaddee have also begun making new videos and brochures to explain their specific cultural and spiritual connection to Talbot Bay, and are even starting to work on new tours, welcome ceremonies, and visitor management plans for the destination, according to reports

[We will transition to a] culturally appropriate program that will allow visitors to experience the spectacular natural wonder of the Horizontal Falls in a respectful context,” Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures said in a statement.

Sally Shaw, CEO of Kimberley Day Cruise, supported the ban as well, as their Horizontal Falls tours have only ever showed tourists the site near the cliffs, not between the gaps due to the same reasoning the ban is being implemented in the first place. 

“We do not traverse the falls because of safety and cultural reasons and have never done this on our tour. Most people who do these tours have cultural understanding and recognize the future is a sustainable national treasure we can all appreciate in safety,” Shaw said.