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Swift Bay, Australia

Swift Bay lies within the maze-like Bonaparte Archipelago off Western Australia’s northwest coast. This is land of the Wunambal Gaambera people, whose ancestors were among the first to settle Australia. It also is home to some of the oldest and most abundant rock art in the world. When Aboriginal marine voyagers first arrived in the remote Kimberley from Africa upward of 50,000 years ago, they started decorating the fractured sandstone walls with paintings. Some of the finest adorn the rock shelters, caves and overhangs found around Swift Bay, which early Australian explorer Phillip Parker King named in honor of Jonathon Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. The T-shaped bay features massive galleries with both Wandjina and Gwion Gwion art, offering a unique opportunity to compare these two distinctive styles. Wandjina spirit images, created about 3,500 years ago, are wide-eyed, richly detailed, and often appear alongside fish, turtles, crocodiles and other creatures. The much older Gwion Gwion paintings are unique to the Kimberley region and feature elongated humanlike figures, some of which are hunting, dancing, and even sailing in ships.