The magnificent Boab Tree

If you want to see a Boab Tree, head to the Kimberley region of Western Australia.  This unusual looking tree is found everywhere across the region, from around Kununurra all the way down to Broome you will see these incredible trees.  They are quite the sight to see and we really love these beautiful ancient trees.


Boabs are a very slow-growing tree and it takes many hundreds of years for these to grow.  They love well-drained sandy soil and the Kimberley region is the perfect growing environment for Boab’s as they receive plenty of warmth and water during their growing season (which happens to be the wet season) and then during their dormant period (the winter months / dry season) they prefer the drier conditions.

The boab tree is deciduous and loses all its leaves during dormancy in winter.   As these winter months are the ‘dry season’ this is the time most travellers are in the area.  Therefore, it’s generally a bare brown skeleton of a tree that is seen.   The new flowers usually start to open around November.


Every boab tree is unique and some of them are said to be over 1500 years old.  As for the history of the trees, the Aborigines used them for shelter, food and medicine.  Once the white settlers arrived they were more commonly used as meeting points, or as described later, prison cells.

We’ve heard a few stories of why the boab tree looks the way it does, but one such story is that, initially the boab was one of the most beautiful majestic trees ever created.  After a while it began to boast of its beauty to the other trees.  It was after this that a higher being decided to punish it and turned it upside down to expose its roots and hide its beauty forever.



Boab trees have a ‘nut’ which grows and inside the nut are seeds.  As mentioned previously, the indigenous people used this tree as a food source as most parts of the tree are edible.  Apparently parts of the tree are very high in Vitamin C content.

Nowadays boabs are grown commercially and the boab roots are sold and make their way into many gourmet foods.  We actually purchased the most amazing mango and boab chutney while we were in WA.

Art & Craft

The nuts themselves are covered in a fine hair which, once scraped off, reveals the dark brown boab nut.  In many of the art galleries and craft stores around the Kimberly you will see the most amazing carvings that have been carved out on these nuts.

Boab Prison Tree

While on our Western Australian trip a few years ago we visited to Boab Prison Tree in Derby (pictured below).  This tree is said to be around 1,500 years old and has a girth of 14.7 metres.  It was used as staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby in the early days.  This tree is now a registered Aboriginal Site.


As the trees age, their trunks become hollow.  It was said that this tree was used as a “prison cell” in the 1890s by the local police to lock up Aboriginal prisoners over night, on their way to Derby for sentencing.  It’s recently been reported that there is no evidence that this particular tree was ever used as a prison, but there was also another similar one at Wyndham.


We really do love these trees, there is just something about them.  At the end of the day it is just a tree, but they are all so different and there is something slightly magical about these ancient creatures.  We even brought our own boab home with us which sits proudly on our front entrance.



We spent a night at Fitzroy Crossing before heading to Derby for 2 nights. We stayed in a great park at Fitzroy Crossing, but there really isn’t that much else there!  At dinner we happened to run into some people we knew from back home so spent a bit of time with them catching up!  The one thing we did do in Fitzroy Crossing was to take a drive out to The Crossing Inn. This is the oldest hotel in the Kimberley which is still standing on its original site. This hotel was established in 1897. As always, we had to go in and have a beer! Strange little pub and it’s obviously still very popular with the local aboriginals as it was quite busy when we called in.

After our overnight stay we headed to Derby. Just happened to go past this sign and look what we found again!!Arriving in Derby we went to see the Boab prison tree.  This Boab is huge and has a girth of 14.7 meters and is believed to be about 1500 years old.  It was originally used as a staging point for prisoners being walked in to Derby.  It’s now a registered Aborignal site and has cultural significance to the Aboriginal community.The picture below is of a cattle trough built in 1917, which is 120 meters long and can handle up to 500 bullocks at any time.  This trough also has the claim of being the longest in the Southern Hemisphere.Frosty’s Pool (below) was built in 1944 as a bathing area for the troops stationed in the area during the Second World War.   It was named Frosty’s pool after platoon member, Charles LV Frost.  Surprise, surprise, Shelly wanted to visit the jetty to take more sunset photos …. because we really need more!IMG_6821IMG_6823IMG_6824The Derby jetty experiences some of the highest tides in the world, with tides in excess of 11 meters. It’s amazing to see how quickly these tides turn around and just how much difference there is between the high and low tides. The current is so strong as well, for water that is so flat you can see it moving so quickly.IMG_6836On our second day we went to visit the Old Derby Gaol. Some of the stories of how prisoners, and Aboriginies in particular, were treated is astonishing, it’s hard to believe that we could have treated our fellow men this way.IMG_6851IMG_6853We also went to visit the Derby Pioneer and Aboriginal Cemetery (yes Shelly loves visiting  cemeteries!).Unfortunately this also told of the way Aborigines were treated back in the day, really made you wonder how we could have thought it was ok to treat another human that way.  IMG_6854There were stories of how Aboriginals were never given a coffin to be buried in, only a blanket. How they were never listed on any registers so relatives had, and will never have, any way of finding their loved ones.The Pioneer cemetery contains graves dating from back to the 1890’s including Constable William Richardson who was killed by the aboriginal outlaw, Jandamarra. The story of Jandamarra is one that we knew a little about, but have since found out a lot more and it’s quite interesting, we might write a seperate blog about that at some point.IMG_6855Quite a few people mentioned to us that there wasn’t any reason to visit Derby and that we shouldn’t bother. Well we are both glad we did. It’s not a huge town, but we both enjoyed our two days there. Everyone was friendly and we wouldn’t hesitate visiting again if we were in the area.