Destination Kimberley Region - Feature
September 7th 2007 01:52
The Wild Kimberley's
With the assistance of Paradigm Expeditions and Outback Encounter, we will be bringing you both sea and land-based excursions to some of the most extraordinary, exclusive private accommodations in the World.
Many of the experiences however are brand new and Seaspray Magazine has been given the exclusive on them so they are available to you first.
I will personally be visiting each of the destinations I write about and based upon my last two experiences I would highly encourage you to pick up the phone and start planning your “Trip of a Lifetime”.
My trip to the Kimberley region of Western Australia aboard “True North” was absolutely breathtaking and a “must do” entry into every travellers diary.
12 day, 13 night cruises operate between Broome and Wyndham and 6 night cruises are also available where guests may join or finish their cruise at the Hunter River. Half way through their 12-day trip they are flown out by helicopter and light aircraft via the 4-tiered Mitchell Falls to Kununurra.
Cruises operate between March and September each year and cruises are limited to 36 guests so book early.
The crew aboard the True North are outstanding. They are young, professional, capable, friendly and enthusiastic – no request is ever too much trouble and they are really world class.
Onboard cuisine is truly awe inspiring with two great chefs. The focus is on fresh seafood, much of which is caught fresh each day. There is plenty of fresh fish, huge black-lip oysters and mud crabs and guests are often afforded the opportunity to assist the crew in catching and collecting such.
The owner of the ship Craig Howson is a gracious host and a real visionary. The design of the vessel, purpose built for the Kimberley can be largely attributed to his vision and experience in the area as he was one of the original operators in the Kimberley beginning operations in the region in 1987.
The vessel itself has the capacity to cruise at high speed that cuts down on steaming time between destinations and maximises the time spent ashore or doing other activities. Additionally, True North is the only vessel operating in the Kimberley to carry its own helicopter.
Helicopters really open up the Kimberley and are inclusive for guests aboard True North.
It grants them the opportunity to visit otherwise inaccessible places inland from the coast, such as great rock art galleries, isolated freshwater swimming holes and gorges alongside Heli-fishing spots and virgin waterways that may have never been fished before.
In any given 12 day trip, up to 30 different sites may be visited. While it would be impossible to mention all of them, here were a few standouts for me personally.
After boarding in Broome at 5pm, the ship heads north and steams through the night, waking up in the Kimberley within the 800 islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. It is a destination with beautiful pure silica beaches and many places to explore, but the highlight of the region would have to be the Horizontal falls.
It’s not a conventional freshwater waterfall, but rather a tidal rush that’s produced as the rampant 10m tides force their way through 2 narrow gaps. As the tide comes in faster, the water bottlenecks on one side and a tidal rush is produced.
A few hours away, is the unique and vast Montgomery Reef. Also under the influence of the 10m tides, the reef top is completely submerged but as the tide falls, a wall of cascading water is produced in the middle of the ocean as the reef 'rises' up to 5m clear of the surface.
A deep channel cuts into the reef and it is filled with large turtles, sharks, sea snakes and other marine life. The reef top holds pools of water where coral, giant clams and epaulette sharks take refuge between tides and sometimes you can see huge turtles stranded on the reef top between tides caught out by the speed of the falling tide.
Raft Point offers a great anchorage with imposing scenery and features a huge orange sandstone bluff that changes hue in the setting sun not unlike Ayers Rock in Uluru. Additionally, there is a vast stand of huge Boab trees possibly up to 1,000 years old in this place and a nice walk up the slope will allow you to view wonderful Aboriginal rock art of the Wandjina style.
Great fishing is to be had right along the coast and species caught include Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Fingermark, Estuary Cod, Threadfin Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna and much more.
In a number of places like Ruby Falls and the Sale River, you can take the tenders for kilometres up to a mangrove lined creek which gradually narrows and never gives up a clue as to what might lay around the next bend. You turn one corner and all of a sudden you hit a towering sandstone gorge and the cool air hits you as does the sound of the waterfall and just like that, your horizon is changed.
The Prince Regent River is one of the straightest rivers in the world because it runs along a massive fault line and the ship is able to travel about 40nm up the river with the tide to reach the King Cascades, a wonderfully terraced cascading waterfall that empties into the tidal water.
The ship repositioned back down the river and anchored at the mouth of Camp Creek for the night.
The next morning some chose to take the helicopter for a champagne sunrise breakfast atop Mt. Trafalgar while others went off to explore Careening Bay to stand in front of a 500 year old Boab tree inscribed with "H.M.C Mermaid 1820.” This is the site where the greatest Kimberley explorer Phillip Parker King careened his cutter Mermaid in 1820 for much needed repairs.
Little about the Kimberley has changed since those days and the privilege of being one of very few travellers to see it since, was humbling.
The Hunter River is next as you head north and is about the same size as Sydney harbour. It is home to a number of rare and fascinating wildlife such as the Great Billed Heron, Emerald Ground Dove and the extremely rare Rough-Scaled Python native to the region and only about a dozen have ever been captured from the wild.
The Mitchell River contains the best Barra fishing in the Kimberley and is the launch point for Helicopter flights to Mitchell Falls. There is also great rock art of the Bradshaw style in this region and is one of the oldest recorded rock art styles in the world dating back as far as 40,000 years. It is mysterious yet elegant and fascinating.
One of the best stops of the trip is the King George Falls. There is something special about being out on deck as the ship manoeuvres the shallow bars at the mouth and winds it’s way up river for miles watching the gorge getting narrower and higher before the trip crescendos at the thunderous twin falls.
The Captain stuck the bow under the falls that drop from a height of about 80m straight into the sea. We were able to go out for the most interesting shower of our life. It is great for scenic helicopter flights or you can hike to the top of the falls, go fishing or swim in the freshwater holes at the top of the falls.
The ship dropped anchor at the falls and admittedly it has to be one of the most spellbinding places on earth to drop the hook. Overnight the ship repositioned and it was like falling asleep in one paradise and waking up in another.
The experience of the Kimberly (as will be the case with many of these “Trips of a Lifetime”) is simply indescribable and I am unable to do it justice in either picture or text.
“If you only ever plan to do one more thing in life, make this the one thing on your list.
Paradigm Expeditions: 61 07 4057 5555 or www.paradigmexpeditions.com
Text by Andy McCutcheon
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