Kimberley Cruise Trip Report

September 2019


We departed Darwin smoothly with our guests being welcome with morning tea, check-in and a walk around the vessel before undertaking our safety briefing. Udo, our onboard purser ensured that passengers were familiar with the ship and the many ways to maximise their experience onboard, before David Keech, our Expedition leader introduced himself and what guests can look forward to on their journey to the Kimberley. Soon after, we all converged for lunch and a presentation on ‘The Magnificent Kimberley’ before settling further into the leisurely pace of our cruise. Following afternoon tea, Rachel from our Expedition team introduced our options for the Mitchell Falls helicopter flights. Later at night, our Captain’s welcome drinks were held and our guests were treated to delicious canapes, our Captain JB gave his welcome and Expedition Leader David briefed our guests on the following day’s activities, introducing a brand new ‘hard option’ walk to the top of King George Falls. Soon after drinks, a sumptuous welcome dinner was provided and the documentary ‘Coast – The Northern Kimberley’ was played to provide more insights into the region, before retiring.


We started our day with a late breakfast ahead of our King George Falls walk.  The conditions in the gorge were close to perfect with mirror-like reflections. Guests enjoyed a briefing from Seb and Browny from our Expedition Team, including a short introduction to Koolama Bay before we cruised down the King George River, stopping for photos along the way, and dropping off the guests undertaking the ‘hard’ walk option. Browny from our Expedition team talked to guests about the local flora along the top track and at the very top, we stopped for photos before heading back down to meet the Xplorer, re-grouping for lunch and a presentation from Steve on ‘Jewels of the Top End: Birds Reptiles, Reptiles, Mammals and more’.  We then set off for Cape Rhulieres for a walk where we split into 3 groups: one beachcombing with Steve, Browny and Rach taking guests on an informative flora walk and Seb, Anne and David taking guests on a walk to a stunning lookout and rock platform.  All groups returned from their adventures to drinks on the Vista deck, briefing on the next day activities ahead of another delicious dinner.  We finished the evening with a documentary on ‘Cane Toads – The Conquest’ before retiring in anticipation of the next day.


The Anjo Peninsula greeted us with silky smooth conditions for our excursion to visit the remains of the wreck of a C-53 Skytrooper aircraft, that came down during World War II. Guests departed in the Xplorer tender with Steve and Seb from the Expedition team. On arrival, the team noticed a Flatback Turtle track and Steve described the egg-laying process. We then headed to the wreck site, looking at shells, tracks and fiddler crabs along the way. At the wreck, David told the story of the circumstances leading to the wreck, before heading back to the Coral Adventurer, encountering a variety of birdlife including Red Wing Parrots and a gigantic termite mound en-route. Back on board, we relaxed with morning tea before sitting down to Browny’s presentation on the ‘Rock Art of the Northern Kimberley’. On the menu was Mexican cuisine for lunch, before an afternoon Engine Room Tour with Chief Engineer Dave.  Soon after we departed for two activity options at Jar Island: Anne, Seb and David taking guests on a Moderate-Hard walk option, while Rach, Browny and Steve took guests on an alternate more relaxed route to a different art site.  Guests were treated to informative briefings at the Gwion Gwion art sites, including a deeper understanding of Jar Island and their indigenous community. Back onboard the Coral Adventurer, guests relaxed for pre-dinner drinks on the Vista Deck while Anne gave a short briefing on turtles of the Kimberley and David announced the itinerary for the day. The documentary ‘Kimberley from The Heart’ was available for viewing onboard, as everyone settled down for the evening.


We began our day with a hearty breakfast and smooth conditions, as we set off for our two walk options at the Twin Gorge site and the Rock Shelf site to see some Wandjina and Gwion Gwion art. Seb, Steve and David took guests on the ‘harder’ walk option providing guests with a briefing at the first Gwion Gwion art site and exploring the cave by headtorch light.  We then radioed for our transfer to the Wandjina site. Along the way, we found a 3-metre crocodile who was quite inquisitive and allowed for a closer look by guests in the Xplorer. After exploring the Wandjina site, we headed back to the Coral Adventurer for morning tea. Anne gave a briefing on the migrating shorebirds whilst we cruised to the Rock Shelf site. After a good morning of filled with insights into art, culture and history, we finished this part of the day with a presentation from Anne on ‘Indigenous Art & Craft’.  Soon after, the guests enjoyed a delicious lunch whilst Rachel gave safety brief for those taking the helicopter flight option. Around 2 pm, we arrived at Bigge Island for our afternoon activities at the art site, including Croc Rock and the Cathedral Cave. Anne, Rachel and David took the group for a walk along the beach to the art and ceremonial site before heading to Cathedral Cave and Croc Rock. Heading back in time for drinks on the Bridge Deck, all aboard were treated to a photo recap of the day before briefing for the following day and the documentary ‘The Wild and Dangerous Kimberley Coast’ being aired.


Our day at Naturalists started with a zodiac run to Porosus Creek. Meanwhile, Rachel took the first group to enjoy their helicopter flight over Mitchell Falls. The easterly wind picked up along the way giving us a slow ride down the Hunter River. Along the way we stopped for photos at the Nine Pin and a friendly 3m croc came to say g’day. We headed to look at one of the estuaries before changing groups. Due to the windy conditions, after having a good look at the creek, we headed back for an engine room tour with chief engineer Dave. The Captain gave us the good news that we could take the Xplorers after lunch, and so we set off for Wandjina Island and Thor’s Hammer. At the beach, Browny and I took small groups to admire the small Wandjina gallery before heading to Thor’s Hammer where Brian took us close to the sandstone cliffs while Browny told a yarn. At Thor’s Hammer, I picked up some crystals for the guests to pass around and inspect. At sunset beach drinks, a very jovial group finished the day by watching the sunset before preparing for dinner.


This morning, JB’s presentation was a big hit with the guests. They were captivated and asked lots of questions, showing a strong interest in Coral Adventurer and ship navigation. As JB was finishing his talk the deck team launched the Xplorers, however, the wind picked up and was suddenly blowing 35 knots straight out of the mouth of Prince Regent River. Whitecaps galloped towards us as we had the wind against tide.  After an attempt to head out on our expedition, it was decided for the comfort of the guests we would wait for the afternoon and see what the day gave us.  We had planned a picnic, but with the sudden change, the chefs stepped up and whipped up an excellent lunch.  Browny to give his fabulous plants and Bush tucker presentation following lunch, and the Bridge and Engine Room tours were also available for those interested. At 1300 the tide changed, and the wind started to drop. Brian went out for a spin in the Xplorer and deemed it was safe for guests to go exploring.  We took both Xplorers and headed straight up Prince Regent River to King Cascade. We stopped for some Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins who put on a good show for us. At the Cascade waterfalls, which were only slightly flowing due to the dry season, we enjoyed some afternoon tea.  After our return to the ship, guests mingled and relaxed over predinner drinks, while Steve shared the story of the naming of the area.


We woke to a Raft Point sunrise and enjoyed the view of Steep island and Raft Point Bluff as they were highlighted by the rising sun. After sunrise, the guests enjoyed a late breakfast before Anne gave the most interesting talk on Geology entitled ‘Kimberley Coastal Structures’ with lots of graphics and gifs to explain the processes and history.  Soon after the presentation Brian, Seb and I set off to set up the Red Cone rope for guests to climb up to the creek. With a group of 26, it was just the right number.  The guests enjoyed a good swim before we climbed back down to join the Xplorer. We spotted a crocodile on the bank on the way in and a small croc next the Xplorer as we were picked up.  While we were swimming, Browny entertained the rest of the guests with some bird spotting and after lunch, he finished his ‘Plants of The Kimberley’ presentation.  At 1615 we set off with Xplorers and Zodiacs for the spectacle of sunset on the Montgomery Reef.  It was a magical afternoon with Seb, Rach, Steve & Brian on the tenders while Browny, Anne and I assisted zodiac boarding and gave interpretation in the Xplorers.  As we watched the sun go down over the reef, we enjoyed champagne on board the tender vessels. The light started to fade, and we head back to the Coral Adventurer for dinner. Everyone had enjoyed a wonderful day and many guests come up to thank us for the experience.


Our day at Horizontal Falls started with an early breakfast and cruise down Cyclone Creek. Seb and Browny took the first group down Cyclone Creek and saw a Striated Heron and all three of the Kimberley raptors while Browny interpreted the geology of the landscape. The second group led by Rachel, Steve and Anne had similar good luck with the wildlife! Back at the Coral Adventurer, we were getting ready for Horizontal Falls while enjoying morning tea. The conditions for the runs through the Falls were magic and all guests enjoyed the morning very much. The guests then enjoyed lunch before Seb and I presented a photo recap and short drone clip of Monty and the High Cliffy Islands. A few sleepy Whales passed us by on the way to Iron Islands. We arrived early and once Xplorers were ready we set off with Mel at the wheel for a cruise to Ballast Rock where I took the group to wander through the hematite boulders. Soon after we were off again and headed to Koolan Is where Browny and I gave interpretation while we watched a ship being loaded by the gravity-fed conveyor belt. On the way back to Coral Adventurer, we stopped for a look at the folding at Nares Point and arrived just in time for BBQ on the vista deck. The guests enjoyed another wonderful BBQ and music set from Mel which was wonderful as always. Just before sunset, I gave the briefing for the next day before Mel played her final set as guests watched the sunset and the full moon rising over Nares Point.


Hidden Island greeted us with silky smooth conditions as we set off for Whirlpool Pass after breakfast. Once in the pass, we enjoyed interpretation from Browny before heading to the reef for our intertidal walk. All but a few disembarked for what was a magical morning of marine life. We found a variety of feather stars, blue-ringed octopus, mantis shrimp and giant clams spitting while we navigated the reef edge. The guests were a buzz of excitement by the time we reboarded the Xplorer before we headed off to see the Elgee Siltstone formations at the top of the pass. Back onboard Coral Adventurer, JB held a security piracy drill for the crew and got the guests involved as they were asking a few questions in his navigation presentation. Soon after the guests enjoyed scones for morning tea followed by Steve’s presentation ‘Crocodiles – Prehistoric Survivors’. After lunch, we set off for Silica Beach where we were greeted by some Derby locals playing music and swimming. While there, we took guests to see the Pardalote nests while Seb took an adventurous group rock walking. Soon after, we headed back to Whirlpool Pass to look at a White Belly Sea Eagle Nest with a parent and juvenile flying above. The guests enjoyed sunset drinks on the Vista Deck and Steve gave a comical recap before one of our guests entertained with three humorous short stories of his own. After dinner, Seb hosted Trivia to finish what was a wonderful day for the guests and crew alike.


Our final day of the expedition began with near-perfect conditions for our morning cruise to the Lacepedes. In the morning, Browny gave his final presentation for the trip entitled ‘The Last of the Great Explorers’. Soon after we set off for the Lacepedes with Seb, Rach, and Brian driving the Zodiacs and the Lecturers in the Xplorers. On the way in we saw one female green turtle mating with three males which gave the guests their first look at some ‘wild’ life before we made our way towards the lagoon. The birdlife was out in force with Brown Boobies escorting us in and while we waited for the tide to rise, we took the zodiac into the lagoon. It was a magical day with the most turtles I have ever seen at the Lacepedes. Along with the turtles, there were Cow Tail and Shovel Nose Rays and even a Tiger shark stalking the juvenile turtles. As the tide rose we were able to make it further than I had been into the back lagoon where various terns gathered at the water’s edge. Keeping them company were the Noddys nesting in the grass and Frigate Birds circling above. After 2 ½ hours in the lagoon, it was time to head back to CA for lunch. The guests were all on a high after their excursion and enjoyed lunch. After lunch, I showed the guests the time-lapse construction of the Coral Adventurer. Just before sunset drinks, Captain JB found three agreeable Humpbacks who breached and pectoral slapped for some time. At Captain’s farewell drinks the guests enjoyed another wave goodbye from the humpbacks that must have dived under the ship and popped out in view of the guests on the Bridge Deck. Captain JB gave his farewells to cheers before I thanked the expedition team and reflected on what has been a wonderful trip.

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