Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

The Amazing Karumba Environment

The Gulf Savannah extends from the Great Dividing Range in the east, to the Northern Territory border in the west - covering around 186,000 sq kilometers. There are vast flat plains around the southern Gulf area stretching to the south. To the east and southwest of the region there are rising uplands. Savannah grasses, shrubs and trees along with a rich variety of wildlife provides a landscape which really is - amazing!

The southwest area of the Gulf region is heavily mineralized and is part of the north west mineral province. The Gulf's land area can be compared to being approximately 80% the size of Victoria. There is an annual water run-off equivalent to almost 30% the national total - this is larger then the Murray Darling basin!

The Gulf Savannah features a tropical climate - wet season in the summer and dry season through the winter. The temperatures range from a daily average maximum of 33°c and minimum of 20°c, with an approximate rainfall of 900 mm per annum.

There are two bio-regions in the Gulf:

  • The Northern Gulf - Resource Management Group - NRM and

  • The Southern Gulf - Catchments - NRM

The role of these groups is to produce strategies for the management and protection of the bio-regions. Supporting this process at the catchment level, are catchment co-ordination and Landcare groups.

There are 20 wetlands in the Gulf region and the Gulf is drained by 28 drainage basins, with the majority of streams flowing north and northwest into the Gulf of Carpentaria. These river basins include the Mitchell, Flinders, Gilbert, Leichhardt, Nicholson, Norman and Staaten.



The regions water courses provide a range of natural and economic functions, including habitat and nursery grounds for marine life, water supply for domestic, natural and agricultural purposes, sport, tourism and recreation as well as the overall role in the supporting the complex Gulf eco-systems.

This backdrop provides the perfect setting for an incredible diversity of birdlife including numerous migratory species - and many avid ‘twitchers' and birdwatchers travel to the region each year. Karumba, being located on the coastline offers the unique situation of bringing this Savannah Outback environment to the sea. The marine plains extend inland for up to 30km and as well as the prolific birdlife - provide a home for the fascinating prehistoric saltwater crocodiles.

Gulf dolphins, dugongs, sharks and all manner of fish and marine life abound in the Gulf waters. There is also a stark contrast between the wet and dry seasons each year - bringing migratory birds to the area.

Mutton Hole Wetland - between Karumba and Normanton, covers 9000 hectares in the Gulf Plains bio-region. The Mutton Hole area contains Karumba plains wetland vegetation communities. These amazing wetlands are of local, state, national and international significance for breeding, feeding, moulting and drought refuge for a variety of water-birds that include Whistling Ducks, Sarus Cranes, Brolgas and waders. The wetland is listed under the National Estate, to be the leading light of how local communities and government can work together to protect important nature values, cultural values as well as maintain an income for local businesses.

The Savannah Way is a themed tourism adventure drive linking Cairns in the east and Broome in the west - this route actually passes through 4 World Heritage areas and 15 National Parks

The Morning Glory phenomenon adds further fascination for visitors - these cloud formations generally pass through Karumba before dawn and arrive shortly after first light in the Burketown area - usually during September and October each year


Carpentaria Ghost Nets Programme

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost accidentally or abandoned at sea and incredibly, in the past 20 months alone, over 60,000 metres of discarded nets have been collected in Australian seas. The United Nations General Assembly has now identified ghost nets (and marine debris) as an issue of international concern.  The nets travel through the ocean with the currents and tides, capturing endangered sea turtles, crocodiles, sharks and other marine animals in a lethal process called ghost fishing.

The Carpentaria Ghost Nets Programme (CGNP) involves removing decades of accumulated ghost nets from the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria & Torres Straits to stop them re-entering the ocean.  The rangers record information about the nets which will help negotiations to stop the problem at source.  A big part of the project for the rangers is when they are able to find animals, especially turtles, still alive and are able to release them back into the wild.  The project works within five natural resource management regions including Cape York, Northern Gulf, Southern Gulf, Torres Straits and the Northern Territory.  It is managed by the Northern Gulf Natural Resource Management Group.

In 2005, this project was recognised for its work, taking out the coveted Queensland Coastcare Award. Coastcare is a community group movement, consisting of 60,000 volunteers working to protect our coastline, and the achievements of the CGNP rangers made an exceptional winner.

Even though the work is physically demanding numbers of participating Indigenous caring for country groups has grown from seven in 2005 to eighteen today.  Of that 18, seven of them have never performed any form of "caring for country" work in the past and have enthusiastically elected to become involved in ghost nets work.  Some of these Sea Ranger teams are trained professionals with the latest equipment, while others are father and son teams equipped mainly with passion and determination.



In the past 18 months the Rangers (approximately 90) participating in the project have removed from the accessible parts of the coastline (equivalent distance as Adelaide to Perth) 2174  pieces of net with an average size of 28.3 metres.  This equates to approximately 58.896 kilometres or approximately 60tonnes; enough net to cross Sydney Harbour Bridge over 100 times.  The Sea Rangers demonstrate the huge impact dedicated Coastcarers can have on our coastline.

The largest net was a 6-tonne Taiwanese Gill net found off the coast of Arnhem Land in November 2006.  The removal of this net was a massive cooperative effort, using the resources from Customs, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Dhimurru Rangers, NT Parks & Wildlife and 2 x local charter vessels. It took five very long hours to get this net from the waters edge to the landfill.

Individuals learn skills in project planning & management as well as information recording and reporting.  They are encouraged to design their own work plans to cater for the resources they have, realise the resources they need to complete the task & how to get them.  These are valuable skills as they can be transferred to other ‘caring for country' projects such as coastal surveillance of illegal fishing operations.

The flexibility of the project allows for the high variation in literacy and numeracy skills from simple data entry in the survey sheets supplied to GIS mapping  The project encourages individuals to self assess and improve their skills; continually raising the bar by providing a range of training from one-on-one numeracy & literacy to courses in GIS mapping. 

For more information and learn more on this initiative:-

Contact: Riki Gunn - or go to