Familiar to Aboriginal Australians for centuries, most Europeans knew nothing of the Bungle Bungles until the 1980s, when they became part of the 45,000 hectare Purnululu National Park in Western Australia. The mountains rise 200 to 300 meters above a forest and grass plain in the Kimberley and cover an area of about 35 km by 24 km.

Water is responsible for both the whimsical shape and colorful banding of these mountains. The beehive-shaped mounds are made of sandstone and other conglomerate rocks, deposited in the area by the meandering braids of ancient rivers.

Water has also created the colorful bands that circle the Bungle Bungles. Where layers of the rock are soft, water seeps in, allowing dark algae to grow in black bands. The orange bands are made by a thin layer of iron and manganese, which coats layers of the rock, making them less permeable to water.