Voyage Log: The Kimberley – Coral Geographer
Broome to Darwin | 25 June 2022 – 4 July 2022
This trip diary was compiled by: Mike Sugden
25 June 2022
The passengers began gathering at the Broome Civic Centre at around 1400, to meet the Expedition team and the ship’s medical officers, Jodie and James. To keep the ship virus free medical checks had been carried out prior to arrival and then checked at the center. When all passed and been checked in for the cruise, we boarded the bus and headed out to Broome Wharf to board the ship Coral Geographer, which would be our home for the next eleven days.
We had a chance to meet our fellow passengers over tea or coffee as we waited to be shown to our cabins. We had time to explore the ship and watch as we departed Broome wharf on a beautiful sunny evening and calm sea. At 1845 (Ship Time) we had our mandatory Safety Briefing in the Bridge Deck Lounge. We met the hospitality crew led by Josh and found out about the running of the ship and safety. Soon after we were called down to our first meal aboard ship, a delicious sea-food dinner. We were beginning to become comfortable on-board ship as we headed north into the Kimberley.
26 June 2022
A leisurely breakfast was enjoyed as we continued steaming towards the Buccaneer Archipelago and Nares Point. At 0930we met the expedition team in the Bridge Deck Lounge. Our Expedition Leader, Dawn introduced us to the team, before outlining our coming expedition into the Kimberley. We were then briefed on the optional Mitchell Falls Helicopter Flights.
At 1100 Mike gave us a taste of what we could expect to see during our voyage through the Kimberley with his presentation “Introduction to the Kimberley”. As we enjoyed lunch, we could see some of the islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. By 1345 we were heading off in our first trip into the Kimberley on the Explorer to visit Nares Point, and view the remarkable folding found there. We also had a chance to explore the beach there and see the metamorphosed quarts sandstone which had been converted to quartzite. A Great Bowerbird’s Bower was also found at the top of the beach.
Next, we visited a spectacular bay over on Koolan Island before heading around the island to view the active iron mine found there. We continued on around to the Iron Islands and were able to see some of the heavy rock rich in iron which makes up this group of islands. Finally, we headed out to the waiting Coral Geographer. At 1800 Captain JB welcomed us aboard with drinks in the Bridge Lounge and Bar. We had a chance to meet the captain while enjoying Canapes as the sun began to set. After the captain welcomed us aboard, Dawn outlined the planned activities for the following day.
27 June 2022
As the sun rose to another beautiful day, we cruised into Talbot Bay past Slug Island. We enjoyed breakfast at anchor in Talbot Bay as the sun slowly lit up the spectacular country around us. We were all keen to begin our exploration of this spectacular bay. We set off in the Explorer and visited the outer parts of the Horizontal Falls. We were at the start of a flooding tide, so water flow was beginning to flow into the embayment behind the falls.
Next, we visited the rocky ridges before Cyclone Creek to try and spot some rock wallabies, and were fortunate to spot a number of these skillful rock hoppers. We then moved into Cyclone Creek to view the spectacular rock formations shaping the land. Massive folds with major portions weathered away could be seen. We continued on up this very protected creek to view further spectacular country and spotted a number of different birds including Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike, Striated Heron, Eastern Reef Egret, Wood Swallows, Greater Bowerbird, Friar Birds, Corellas, Brahminy Kites, Brown Honey-eaters and some White Quilled Rock Pigeons starting to rise as the sun warmed them up. We also saw Darwin Woolly Butt, wattle trees and Kimberley Rose in flower. The country here was breath takingly spectacular.
We returned to ship for an excellent presentation from Captain JB, before a delicious lunch, which we enjoyed with excellent views of the spectacular country around us. As the tide began to ebb, we began our trips into the Horizontal Falls for exhilarating rides through them. The more adventurous expeditioners waited until later for the flow through to increase and a more thrilling ride as a result. After we had all had a chance to ride through the falls at least once we had the opportunity to enjoy an Engine Room tour. This evening we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks on the top or Vista Deck, with great views of Talbot Bay as the sun began setting and lighting up the sky in vivid reds and orange colours. Dawn briefed us on the activities planned for the following day before we headed down to dinner.
28 June 2022
A sunny but windy day greeted us as we enjoyed breakfast. We were making our way north to Freshwater Cove (Wijingarra Bard Bard) and very soon after breakfast we had anchored and were preparing for our exploration of this part of the Kimberley. Those going ashore to meet the locals needed to complete a RAT test to make sure no Covid was transmitted to the indigenous people welcoming us ashore. The alternative was a cruise along the coast to Langgi, a place sacred to the locals and central to the “Great Fish Chase”. Those going ashore were welcomed to country and given dabs of ochre on their face. Then the group split up into the walkers who travelled up onto the escarpment, nearly a kilometer away to a cave with rock art being maintained by the locals and explained by the guide. The other group stayed at Wijingarra Bard Bard with the locals and enjoyed finding out a bit about their culture. The expeditioners on the cruise enjoyed a look around Langgi, learning about the great fish chase and seeing some of the local wildlife, include Brahminy Kite and nest, Striated Heron and Short-eared Rock Wallabies. On the way back to the ship a large Eagle Ray jumped out of the water in front of us.
After lunch we began our steam across to Montgomery Reef and at 1330 another group completed an Engine Room tour to see how the ship ran. Chris gave a stimulating presentation at 1500 on “Montgomery Reef”, so at 1600 when we began our exploration of Montgomery Reef, we were well prepared. As we travelled up the inlet into Montgomery Reef, the coral reef was beginning to appear on both sides of us. The origins of the reef were explained to us and we began to see some of the wildlife associated with the reef, such as turtles and birds. We spotted Grey Tailed Tattlers and Eastern Reef Egrets. Very soon the reef was well above us as the tide continued to fall. The spectacle of the water pouring off the reef in great cascades was awesome. This was another of the unique icons of the Kimberley, made possible by the huge tidal movements. Back on-board ship, we headed up to the Vista Deck for pre-dinner drinks and Dawn briefed us on the following day’s activities before we headed down to another delicious dinner.
29 June 2022
Early in the morning before breakfast we had cruised around the coast to Hanover Bay. We enjoyed breakfast as the sun rose exposing a beautiful little beach in from our anchorage, this was Brolga Beach. We explored the nearby coastline on the Explorer, sighting a White Bellied Sea-Eagle and turtle tracks on the beach near Treachery Point where Montgomery was speared. We then headed into Brolga Beach. We could see some Wandjina art from the boat at the base of the cliffs above us, as we neared the shore. We also spotted a pair of nesting Osprey next to a Livestona Palm on the cliff above us. Once ashore we had time for a beach ramble and a visit to a beautiful Bower Bird Bower. Upon leaving the beach we continued our exploration into Hanover Gorge and were lucky to be visited by a Great Bowerbird. We returned to ship for another delicious lunch.
After lunch Mike gave a presentation on Philip Parker King, one of Australia’s greatest explorers and map maker. We had now anchored off Careening Bay, made famous by King from his landing here in1820. He had used the beach to careen his cutter, the Mermaid, and make urgent repairs. He found damage to the stern of the boat and worse still he found the boat was nail sick. In India, the boat builders had used iron nails instead of copper nails on the hull and they had rusted away leaving holes right through the hull. The carpenters and metal workers were able to make repairs to the visible problems, but unfortunately the boat was still badly leaking when they refloated it on the next spring tide. While they were there, they had carved the name of the vessel and date on a Boab Tree. We travelled ashore to see the Boab Tree. We also had time to explore the beach, and were joined by a young crocodile which sat on the beach watching.
Back on ship we had time to prepare for our pre-dinner drinks and BBQ on the Vista Deck. The chefs and hospitality crew did a great job in setting it all up. Bat Island and the spectacular coastline around provided an amazing backdrop to our sunset BBQ. Dawn gave us a briefing on the planned activities for the following day.
30 June 2022
Early the next morning after breakfast we travelled into Bat Island before following the coast into a beautiful beach lying under sandstone and basalt buttresses. Her we had a chance to explore this remote untouched beach. We found tracks of Northern Quoll, Wallabies, goannas, and signs of turtle nesting. On the way back to the ship we enjoyed further exploration of the coastline, spotting White Faced Herons, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes, Wood Swallows and a Short-Eared Rock Wallaby. The basalt country above us was covered in an array of different shaped boab trees.
Back aboard ship Chris gave his next presentation, “Wildlife and Travel Photography” in the Bridge Deck Lounge as we began steaming towards St George Basin and Prince Regent River. The expedition team then outlined the safety requirements for the helicopter flights on the following day.
The Explorer began the long trip up the Prince Regent River to King Cascade after lunch. The twenty-five nautical mile trip took us about fifty minutes. It made a spectacular sight as we rounded the mangroves and looked into the small bay where the falls cascaded over a series of ledges into the water below. As we moved in for a closer look, we spotted a crocodile watching us from a rocky ledge. Many photos were taken as we enjoyed the spectacle of the cascades. We then moved under the falls so that those needing a wash could go to the bow of the Explorer and stand under the cascading water. We spotted a mob of Corellas waiting their turn to use the fresh water. Our next stop was a beautiful little tributary of the Prince Regent River. Here we spotted Little Egrets, Intermediate Egrets, Ibis, Corellas and a Spoon Bill. As we continued back to the Coral Geographer, we spotted a group of dolphins. When stopped to observe them the dolphins swam over to us playing on the surface. The pod of dolphins included the newly discovered Snub Fin Dolphins and a few Indo Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins. We spent a few memorable minutes with them. We finally made it back to ship in time to prepare for pre-dinner drinks. During pre-dinner drinks, Dawn outlined the program for the following day before we headed down to the Dining Room for another delicious meal.
01 July 2022
We enjoyed breakfast as the sun began rising to exposed another breathtaking coastline, this time in Prince Frederick Harbour. We were anchoring off Naturalist Island on a calm but overcast morning. An early start to the morning allowed the expeditioners, who were first away to Mitchell Falls, to meet their helicopter as it arrived on the nearby beach. Soon after the rest of the expeditioners headed out in Explorer for a cruise into Hunter River followed by an exploration of Porosis Creek mud flats. Here we spotted small crocodiles, juvenile Brahminy Kite, Great Billed Heron, mud skippers, Striated Herons, Eastern Reef Egrets and Sacred Kingfishers. We stopped at the Nine Pin, a coastal feature named by King on his last voyage on the Mermaid. He named Hunter River after the ship’s doctor. We then cruised around Naturalist Island enjoying the spectacular coastline with its pockets of rain forests. On the way back to ship.
By 1345 we were off again to explore more of the coast around Prince Frederick Harbour. Initially we travelled over to a spectacular bay surrounded by shear sandstone cliffs. We could also see the intruding dolerite below the cliffs. Across the bay we found impressive quartz veining in the sandstone, and some lovely Cycads nestled under the cliffs. We then headed around Prince Frederick Harbour to a rock formation called Thor’s Hammer. On the way we spotted some Ospreys on their nest. Thor’s Hammer, is a spectacular geological feature of this area. A large square rock was balanced on a column of rock inundated with a network of quartz veins. Dawn was able to show us some examples of the quartz found there.
The second Explorer took the people who missed the morning cruise into Porosis Creek, back into Hunter River and into Porosis Creek for their exploration of this spectacular Mangal Community. We were all back aboard ship by 1645, in time to prepare for evening drinks on the Vista Deck. The views from this deck of Prince Frederick Harbour were amazing. Dawn gave us a briefing before we headed down to another delicious dinner.
02 July 2022
Early in the morning we reached Bigge Island for our morning exploration. By 0845 we were travelling into a small and inviting beach on Bigge Island. The group headed straight up to the art galleries to view the special art site depicting contact art and fascinating Kaiara (Wandjina) Figures. This was a beautiful location for us to wander and explore. We discovered tracks left by turtles and numerous Monjon Rock Wallabies, across the sandy beach. We also had a chance to view a ceremonial site with spectacular views of the nearby country. We also explored around the coast to a spectacular sea cave exposed as the tide dropped.
After another delicious lunch, Mike gave a photographic presentation on the birds of the Kimberley. We had now anchored near Winyalkin, with its beautiful coastline. By 1430 we were heading off in the Explorer to visit Wollaston Bay. The sea around us was slightly ruffled by wine as we headed across the bay. As we made our way into the beach, we could observe fresh crocodile tracks on the beach and then we could see the fairly large crocodile swimming past us as we headed into shore. We made a landing on the small beach before we headed off over a rocky escarpment to a spectacular Wandjina Art Gallery. This spectacular art gallery was situated in a cave in the bush a little way back from the coast. We also had some time to explore more of this rugged sandstone country before heading back to ship to prepare for evening drinks on Veranda Beach. A great way to finish our day of exploration. We returned to ship for another delicious dinner.
03 July 2022
The early morning light revealed a low-lying hinterland stretching away from us along Anjo Peninsula. The sun was out and despite a bit of wind, it was a beautiful morning as we began our trip in Explorer to the nearby beach. After crossing over sand dunes, we found a flat lagoon, empty of water but certainly not of marine life as this was explained to us. There was considerable evidence of the life hiding under the surface of the sandy lagoon. After crossing the lagoon, we found a largely intact DC3 wreck which crash landed here in 1942. We had a chance to explore this and the flora and fauna found in this area with a nearby fresh water spring. We headed back to ship for much needed lunch.
Soon after lunch we were heading into the Jalandal Rock Art Site. We landed on a rocky shore in ideal conditions despite a lurking crocodile and walked through the freshly burnt bush to the art site. We were rewarded with some excellent Wandjina Art at one site, and Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) Art at the second. The early afternoon was ideal for this sort of exploration through the bush.
At 1600 the Engineer put on a presentation, showing the Engine Room and its workings. We then had time to prepare for pre-dinner drinks on the Bridge Deck. Dawn outlined the activities planned for the following day before we made our way down to the Dining Room for another delicious meal.
04 July 2022
During the night we had cruised around to Koolama Bay. The sun had not risen as we enjoyed breakfast in preparation for our early morning exploration of the King George River.
Soon we were cruising into the entrance of the King George River. We cruised over sandbars guarding the entrance to the river with waves breaking around us. The river had only been discovered just over a hundred years ago and had been missed by the early explorers. The story of how Koolama Bay had been named and why was explained as we made our way up the river. Very soon we were awed by the rugged sandstone cliffs rising around us and we had time for some photo stops, with the sun lighting up the sandstone. Finally, after rounding a bend in the river we could see the mighty King George Falls, although the amount of water falling over them was greatly diminished at this time of the year. The Zodiacs were waiting for us and the expeditioners had an opportunity to view the falls up close and get quite wet in the process. We also found a young crocodile near the falls, also enjoying the spectacle. Finally, we headed back to the waiting Coral Geographer and prepare for our departure across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. Dawn gave a presentation on possible future cruises with Coral Expeditions before lunch.
After lunch we enjoyed a video on the riddle of the Bradshaw Art, before Chris gave his presentation “Images of a Naturalist”. At 1600 we were able to participate in the Coral Geographer Quiz, before we had a slideshow presentation of the trip, with photos from the Expedition Team. As the sun rose over the “Yard Arm”, Captain JB put on his farewell Drinks on the Bridge Deck. After Captain JB’s farewell speech, Dawn outlined the procedures for departure before we headed down to the Dining Room for our final dinner for the trip.
On behalf of Chris and myself, I would like to thank you all for your interest and involvement in our exploration of the Kimberly.