Camden Sound is a large body of water on the mid-north Kimberley coast bounded by Montgomery Reef to the south, Augustus Island to the north, and various islands and reefs to the west including Champagny Island, The Heywood Islands and Wildcat Reef.
Widely regarded as the maternity ward for the Breeding Group D population of Humpback whales, Camden Sound marks the northern limit of the migration for the bulk of the population. The sound’s islands and reefs provide important shelter for the Humpback cows as they nuture their calves, which are particularly vulnerable in the first weeks of life. The calves are suckled in the warm, tropical waters for several months until they gain the strength for the long and arduous journey back to the Antarctic for summer feeding. The whales also appear to be opportunistically feeding along the Kimberley coast.
An area of remarkable natural beauty, Camden Sound has numerous islands and reefs, coral and sponge gardens, intertidal flats rich in marine life, and several species with special conservation value including humpback and pilot whales, dugongs, saltwater crocodiles, several species of marine turtles, sawfish and dolphins. One of the most intriguing features of Camden Sound is the gravelly sandbank revealled in Deception Bay on only the lowest spring tides of the year. Covered in an abundance of marine life inlcuding woolly seahares, gelantinous creatures exuding royal purple dye, one has to keep one eye on the sandbanks’s edges as the tide turns, rapidly covering the banks underwater.
Camden Sound is home to several island groups which are remnant emergent features formed by the sandstone and basalt rock formations. The islands, including the Wailgwin Islands, have subtidal features with a complex arrangement of habitat. Almost all of the islands are surrounded by fringing reefs covered in hard and soft corals, turtles, molluscs, fish and a rich array of marine vertebrates and invertebrates.
The sound is a drowned valley of the western section of the Kimberley’s MacDonald Range. The coastal sections of the range suffer constant erosion as they’re pounded by the tides, which vary in amplitude by 11m on a spring tide cycle, whilst rain run-off down gullies and rivers causes major errosion of the terrestrial landscape. Several creeks and river systems lined with dramatic sandstone gorges empty into Deception Bay and Sampson Inlet, bringing an influx of freshwater and nutrients in the Wet Season.
The area features a complex bathymetry, with shoals, rock platforms and soft sediments to its south. The rocks forming the mainland and islands consist of sandstones and basalt lava flows belonging to the King Leopold Sandstone, Carson Volcanics and Warton Sandstone of the 1800-million-year-old Kimberley Group. These formations were deposited in shallow seas, deltas and river braid-plains of the ancient Kimberley Basin.
On 3 October 2009 Donna Faragher, Western Australia’s Environment Minister, announced that Camden Sound would become the Kimberley‘s first Marine Park, largely in recoginition of the area’s status as nursery and breeding area to the world’s largest population of Humpback Whales. The boundaries of the Marine Park are yet to be finalized and will cover approximately 7,062 square kilometres (or 706,200 hectares), including the mangrove forests of St George Basin, a large tide and flood affected estuarine inlet to the north.
On the 7th November 2013 a joint management plan between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Aboriginal group Dambimangari was announced by Minister Albert Jacobs in Derby.