Welcome to Kuri Bay Paspaley Pearl Farm

Every afternoon, after a long hot day on the boats chipping barnacle encrusted shells, I would walk past the sign welcoming me to Kuri Bay Pearl Farm, the home of Paspaley Pearls.

Kuri Bay
Come on in

As I would read the sign, the aches in my shoulders, the stinging slashes on my body from the fireweed, and the arthritic pain from my crippled fingers would melt away.

How lucky I was to be living in such a remote and beautiful area of the world; an area that many tourists would cruise on by in their $1,000 a night fishing vessels to see this hidden gem of the Kimberly region.

Kuri Bay Paspaley Pearl Farms
Morning sunrise over Kuri Bay

I was, instead, paid really good money to live here for up to 5 weeks at a time. 5 weeks of 4am bomb siren rises, cooked breakfast in the mess hall with bleary eyed grumbles from my fellow Pearl chippers, perhaps a dreaded mud walk, and a trip on the boat out to the open sea to pull and chip until the early afternoon (or even get caught in cyclone).

Kuri Bay
Mud walks- second biggest tidal movement in the world
Paspaley pearl farms
Ready for a day of pearling
Kuri Bay paspaley pearls
We had to pull all this seaweed up from the ocean

But, after the hard day’s work was done it was time to explore.

Hikes up above into the bush to explore the Aboriginal cave drawings, taking the boats out to fish the abundant sea life of the nearby bays and coves, exploring the gravestones of nearby islands and peninsulas, swims in the natural springs and visits to nearby waterfalls, jogs along the red dusty earth, holes-in-ones on the makeshift driving range or indoor cricket, followed by a smorgasbord dinner and a few quiet and cheap beers around the bar.

Sometimes that might extend into more of a party around a fire, or on someone’s veranda.

Aboriginal cave drawings kuri bay
Nearby Aboriginal cave drawings
Kuri Bay pearl farms
Taking a break after work exploring on the boats with my sis-in-law Chris
Kuri Bay pearl farms
A lone grave
Kuri Bay Paspaley Pearl Farms
Party on a verandah

Snakes often slithered across our path or verandah, green tree frogs lived in our toilets, dingos ran and howled about the camp, sharks would visit our boat during the day for scraps, and crocs always lay in waiting for the monthly mud walk to our boats.

Paspaley pearl farms
Feeding time

We lived in a one room shack off a verandah with about 4 other rooms. It was clean and tidy, yet sparse and bare. Who needs anything else?

My brother, Stilts, and his wife, Chris, lived next door. It was the first time since 95 that we spent a decent amount of time together, and actually experienced both of our passion of travel.

It was Stilts’ stories of Kuri Bay and his encouragement to come and work and earn great money that got me to that wondrous place and helped me to create some of my favourite and wildest memories of this beautiful country of ours.

Kuri Bay sea plane
Our commute

The nearest road was around 180km away so we would have to catch a sea plane to work from the nearest town of Broome. How cool is that?

The flight would pass over the Buccaneer Archipelago, again a place that people would pay hundreds, if not thousands to see.

It was just part of our regular commute. Our weeks off in Broome meant we could explore more of that fascinating outback coastal town and the surrounding Kimberlys.

Kuri Bay Paspaley Pearl Farms
Views on our afternoon hike of Kuri Bay
Buccaneer Archipelago
Buccaneer Archipelago

Paspaley are the biggest supplier of Pearls in the world and Kuri Bay is one of their biggest and most well-known pearl farms.

So if you have a pearl around your neck or are thinking of buying one, know that perhaps Craig and I had a hand in producing its splendour.

One of our workers was responsible for a farm at Kuri Bay that produced a perfect 20 million dollar pearl. Paspaley weren’t that forthcoming in giving him a percentage of that profit though.

Kuri Bay
Fun at the bar- Stilts and Wayno

Not only did we get to have a wonderful experience living and working with Stilts and Chris, but we also made a lot of terrific friends. Each person working there had a colorful story to share.My younger sister Jenny joined us for a short time.

We still speak to many of them today, and one special friend to my whole family was tragically taken while traveling Africa, which I wrote about in my post “When travel takes a friend.

Kuri Bay sunset
Sunset over Kuri Bay

There wouldn’t be many travellers or people in this world who have heard about Kuri Bay. You can’t discover it unless you are a Pearler or cruising around on expensive yachts.

Kuri Bay
Welcome to Kuri Bay

I hope I have helped paint a picture of an exquisite place and allowed you to visit it virtually for a short time.

Would you like an adventure like our Kuri Bay Pearl Farm one?

Caz
Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

18 Comments on “Welcome to Kuri Bay Paspaley Pearl Farm”

  1. A Pearl island, definitely an out-of-the-world experience, and you’re right, not a lot of us would know about divine places like these:) You’re so lucky, to be paid to stay there and enjoy your vacation??:) Oh well, at least we get a visual treat from your photos too!;)

    Reply
    • A vacation with a difference. if you are going to be working anyway you might as well make it a work adventure.

      Reply
      • Hi. I am just wondering how did you get into working on a pearling farm? After my friend and I read your blog we really want to do it. Even though it will be bloody hard work it sounds amazing!! Any help you could give us would be so great. Thanks for you time :)

        Reply
        • We went through an employment agency based in Broome. We had to have an interview, and pass a physical test. Unfortunately the farms are no longer operational in Broome because of the GFC. I believe there are only some now off Darwin and I am not sure how you will go about it there. Just do a bit of research online and see what you can find.

          Reply
  2. How did you get the clouds so perfect in that first sunset picture? Gorgeous!

    Reply
  3. hi there

    im Colin from Ireland, i am moving to Broome in just over 2 weeks to meet a friend from home living there, we would both love to do the hard working adventure that is pearl farming, do you have any advise on how to get work for a company such as Paspaley? we are both hard working with experience in physically demanding work

    cheers
    colin

    Reply
    • Hi Colin!
      Thanks for finding us! We can help point you in the right direction. As long as you have work visas you should be fine to work out on the farms, and if you are used to physically demanding work then you will have a good chance. There are lots of people wanting to get out there so you may have to wait awhile, or you could get lucky like we did and get straight out there. Most companies out there recruit through agencies which can be found in the Broome town centre. Pas are the biggest company but there are lots of smaller ones there in case you can’t land a job there. With the global financial crisis there has been a downturn in the number of jobs out there. You will also need to make sure you let them know you are keen to work for a few months at least as there is a high turnover there. I’m pretty sure you also need to have your first aid certificate. Not sure if they accept anything other than Australian certified. My brother has just returned to Broome and is now working on a barramundi farm, which brings about the same benefits. He should be coming back in this week from his swing so I’ll see what updated info he can give me about that and pearling. He has quite a few contacts in the area. I’ll keep you posted. Enjoy Broome, it is beautiful.

      Reply
  4. thats a million for the info caz, applied for my working holiday visa today :) , i have a first aid certificate from Ireland but as you said may need to do one in oz, thanks again and look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards

    Colin

    Reply
  5. Those are really nice pictures and I’m pretty envious of it. I have scheduled a tour in Broome through Experienceoz.com.au and I heard that this beautiful place is located near it. I will definitely pass by there when I arrive in Broome.

    Reply
  6. Hi Caz –
    Been enjoying your blog for a while, now! We’re planning on getting travel visas to Australia and going down there this October/November (we’re from the US). Will be help exchanging and finding paying work to fund the next stages in our travels (NZ and SEA). Do you know if there’s a certain time of year for pearling, or is it year-round? And would you recommend we head over to Broome, or try to find work long-distance? I’m sure actually being there will increase our chances dramatically, and maybe we can help exchange while we’re job hunting.
    Thanks for all of the lovely blogging that keeps so many of us inspired as we work toward our travel dreams!

    Reply
    • You are welcome Zoe. It is always better to arrive in Broome to find the pearling work. Those in the town always get preference over positions just because of the reliability factor. BUT, my brother was telling me the other day how badly the pearling industry has been hit by the GFC. Paspaley is now the only pearling company in operation there and they are struggling. Kuri Bay isn’t even a working farm anymore, so I think the chances of getting a job there now is really really slim.
      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. IT is such a shame.

      Reply
      • Good to know, thanks! It looks like fruit picking might be more in order, than. I’m sure we’ll find something. I’m qualified to do officey-stuff, I just wold really rather do anything…ANYTHING…besides that again. :)

        Reply
  7. Hi Caz, I hope this is relevant.
    Google Maps didn’t have Kuri Bay WA, but this:
    (15º 29′ 19.64″ S 124º 31′ 18.28″ E) did the trick.
    First up, I visited Kuri Bay after working at a ship re-fit facility in Darwin NT as a store man when Nick (Paspaley Pearling Co.,) bought it. Not much later, he asked me to be his Driver for 3 weeks as he was hosting a “little thing” with “some friends”. Turns out that that “little thing” was the Worlds largest Pearl Auction ever held, (at the time, around 1989??!) and the first Pearl auction ever held outside of Japan! He also gave me the keys to his 500SEL Mercedes to take home!! Rags to Riches!! What a trip!
    Anyways, the auction was unbelievable, and at the end of it, I was invited along on his new boat (Pas III) for its maiden voyage to his latest purchase, Kuri Bay Pearl Farm. As humbly as he could state such a fact, “that make’s me the largest producer of the finest quality pearls in the world.” I have never since met a wealthy person that had the qualities of Nick. No matter who you were, he allowed you to feel equal. What better quality could one attain to?

    Of Kuri Bay, if you are reading this and have not been to the Kimberley, you are truly missing one of our eras truly incredible eco locations/adventures. From the weather, to the colour of the water, the sky, the landscape, the environment, it is all encompassing. The isolation, the total isolation is breath takingly sublime. Nothingness, but then everything. Nature at its harshest, and nature at its most beautiful. Perhaps Hemingway, or Michener could paint a more vivid picture than I of Kuri Bay, but to climb a hill, look out upon the vista, and not only record the horizon as it is, unchanged for 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of years, and then do a 360 degree turn, and the awe travels from your brain to your soul, via your heart. The impact is indelible. I can still see it 2 decades on. What a place, what an incredibly beautiful natural isolated place.

    “Terrus nullius” (Land nothing) was the term used by the first white people to visit this land. (Dirk Hartog 1616 William Dampier 1698?) to describe the Kimberley, and thank goodness, comparative to rest of Australia, little has changed. It is everything but the Land of Nothing! (Just ask the oil and gas people now, or more importantly the original owners, the Australian indigenous people!)
    The Buccaneer Archipelago, Kuri Bay is more than mere words can describe.

    Caz you were so fortunate to not only see it, but to experience it. I too was fortunate to spend more time in the Kimberley, though I did swap the luxury of the Pas III to the rigors of a Prawn Trawler! My travels over 2 years between Townsville and Perth, via The Gulf of Carpentaria, and many months fishing the Kimberley allowed me to fall in love with the North, if not specifically the North West of Australia.

    Oh the romance of travel, the finest of drugs.**

    I was going to state that I am now settled down in S/E Australia, but then again, 10 days ago I was just returning from my 4th (Spring Festival) in China in 4 years. but that’s another story…

    Reply
  8. Awesome comment Yande!!! Thank you so much for sharing and I think you did a brilliant job of describing it–way better than Hemingway could have.

    It truly is a special and unique place. I have now heard that Kuri Bay pearl farm has sadly closed down due to the GFC.

    What an experience you had with the owner and company. I too have heard really great stories of what a wonderful person Nick was.

    Reply
  9. What an amazing experience! I was reading the post thinking I REALLY want to work here too so was gutted when I got to the bottom of the comments to find the bay has now closed.

    I’ve completed my three months of farm work which was an enriching experience and now I really wanted to try something else like this. I may try my luck in Broome.

    I’m currently in Perth and work is hard to find here too, don’t suppose you’d have any tips of where to try to find work over the winter in WA?

    Enjoyed reading your articles over the last couple of months, very interesting, great photos.

    Reply
    • Thanks Chris
      Yeah it is a bummer about Kuri Bay–such a great place. The pearling industry has really suffered because of the GFC. I’m not too sure about finding work over in WA. Perhaps look at some recruitment agencies, they are usually good at helping people find jobs.

      Reply
  10. Duncan Bell

    Hi Caz,

    Firstly thanks for such a great website. And all the information.

    I am planning on taking a year out in 2015 to head to Perth and Broome with the intention of settling in Perth after making some money. I see you need the “Australian” first aid certificate but I am in the process of booking and doing my skippers licence. I was planning on doing it in either England or South Africa but put on hold now after I have read.

    Do either of these 2 countries qualify towards the certificate or should I do that too in Oz?

    Thanking you in advance and dreaming of endless sunsets.

    Duncan

    Reply
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