Apart from a legion of deadly animals, the Kimberley is home to an equally colourful variety of the human species. The Kimberley has always attracted adventures, drifters and oddballs – the type of people who find it hard to settle into the conventional world – like Kimberley Spirit tour guide, Scotty Connell.
Scott is a dedicated adventurer. He’s facilitated military training in the Kimberley with the Nepalese Gurkhas, and regularly hikes into the bush in the inhospitable wet season with little more than a backpack and a mate. In years of exploring, he’s come to known the Kimberley better than anyone else of similar European descent.
A passion for adventure has led Scott to a career as a tour guide. He draws on a wealth of experience to share the fleeting phenomena of the Kimberley, and he hopes to preserve one of the world’s penultimate wildernesses and most ancient cultures by exemplifying principals of sustainable tourism.
“There is a certain spirit about the Kimberley. It’s an ancient land like nowhere else; one of the few last remaining wildernesses on earth, and it’s here, right on our doorstep,” Scott says.
“A lot of that stems from the people who have inhabited this region since forever. All the history, the stories, knowledge, dreaming, all the different language groups and people. It needs to be protected and preserved. A big part of it is showcasing the cultural significance of the place, and empowering the Indigenous population to know their stories matter to us.”
In a vast and inaccessible region, Scott has united a legion of like-minded people through the power of Instagram. He manages @thekimberleyaustralia, which has attracted over 150,000 followers, and he’s a leading figure in developing a sustainable economy that promotes, rather than exploits the natural resources of the region.
“This online community has brought everyone together to realise we’re all working for one cause: to showcase this place and protect it; develop it sustainably and sustainably develop tourism,” he says.
“Now is the time to get good sustainable practices tourism practices in place, for our Indigenous brothers and sisters, as well as the Aboriginal ranger groups. That’s the key to improving a lot of the social issues up here. Get people working on-country, doing something that’s relevant to who they are and where they come from.”
A kartiya, or non-indigenous person, Scott is well-versed in the historical and cultural knowledge of the region. He often partners with Aboriginal elders and youth on his tours in the hope of engaging them in sustainable economic practices on-country, and sharing intimate experiences with his guests.
Scott was born and bred in the Kimberley. He grew up in Broome, where his mother ran an eco-tourism business, and Scott spent much of his youth on Cable Beach. He grew accustomed to an influx of tourists every dry season, and his curious and friendly nature attracted him to these people. He considered it his duty to show them around his town, and soon, he realised his dream of becoming a tour guide.
Once he completed school, Scott worked odds and ends to fund his dream. He explored the most extreme parts of the Kimberley, working a variety of positions and sourcing invaluable personal connections along the way. In the wet season, when oppressive heat stifles the flow of tourists to a trickle, he made ends meet by picking mangoes and digging holes.
He’s since been operating independently for 13 years, and this year, he’s covered over 40,000km in just six months. In 2016 and 2017, Scott has been a finalist in the WA Tourism Awards, and despite having spent his whole life exploring, he admits he hasn’t even touched on half the region.
“The Kimberley is just one of those places,” he says.
“There is still just that raw element of discovery. Everyone that comes here discovers something, something unique they want to be a part of. The Kimberley is one of those places, it’s so big and so diverse, you need a lifetime of exploring to really see it.”