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Kimberley Expedition: Australia’s Wild Northwest

Kimberley Cruise

Summary : Discover a land so old that vast tracts pre-date the very existence of fossils—and see it in the manner befitting its immense scale: by sea, aboard a fully-equipped expedition ship, National Geographic Orion. Explore the immense and complex landscape of western Australia, encompassing spectacular gorges, waterfalls, caves, rainforests and wildlife. See signs of the immense geological forces that over the course of eons have buckled the earth’s crust leaving contorted folds of ancient rock. Discover a seemingly infinite, varied coastline crowded with islands, bursting with marine life, and rivers that lead to vertiginous waterfalls. View indigenous rock art of ethereal Wandijina spirits and the elegant Gwion Gwion figures of pre-history. Be among the few to visit this land where primeval crocodiles rule, and only a trickle of savvy travelers venture each year.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography


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Day 1 – 3
U.S. / Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia / Embark

Depart for Darwin, cross the International Date Line (lose a day) and arrive on Day 3. Australia’s tropical capital developed as a frontier town of crocodile and buffalo shooters and pioneer cattlemen, and this small town retains much of this flavor today. Make your way to National Geographic Orion and set sail.

Day 4 – 5
Com / At Sea

Settle into your cabin and prepare for amazing photographic opportunities in the Kimberley with talks and hands-on instruction by your National Geographic photographer and National Geographic certified photo instructor. The ship makes a brief technical stop at Com, before continuing into the heart of the Kimberley.

Day 6
Wyndham & The Bungle Bungle

Wyndham is the perfect staging point to discover Purnululu National Park, home of the breathtaking Bungle Bungle range. These ancient hills resemble giant beehives forming deep chasms with palm trees and long gorges. This strange landscape is even more remarkable from your included charter flightseeing excursion. Alternatively, you can enjoy an Ord River Cruise to Lake Argyle. The Ord River is one of the most stunning river systems in Australia. Navigate a massive stretch of river between Kununurra and Lake Argyle (Ord River Dam) and then view the Lake from a scenic lookout, and have a visit to the historical Durack homestead.

Day 7
King George River & Falls

National Geographic Orion will drop anchor here and Zodiacs will take you up the spectacular King George River, with its almost vertical sheer canyon walls. The river drains the Gardner Plateau here into the highest single-drop falls in the Kimberley. Early in the season, you may hang back in the thundering mist. Later in the year, get right up close, even under, the cool fresh waterfalls. For guests looking for even more adventure, there is a challenging walk to the top where you will have the opportunity to cool off with a swim in one of the freshwater rock pools.

Day 8
Vansittart Bay

Today, naturalists will lead you to an outdoor Gwion Gwion Aboriginal art gallery. Discovered by Joseph Bradshaw in 1891, the rock images are estimated to be up to 40,000 years old. Nearby there is a wreck of a DC-3 aircraft that became lost and crashed during WWII. If time allows, you may have an opportunity to explore the crash site and the remains of the plane.

Day 9
Hunter River

One of the most scenic parts of the Kimberley coast, the Hunter River is lined with green rainforest, mangroves and soaring red cliffs. Drop anchor near Naturalists Island, the proper name of which is “Wunumpurramarra”—a stunning backdrop to the day’s explorations. The Hunter River has many crocodiles and you may be lucky enough to see them on a Zodiac foray through the mangroves. For those wishing to explore some of the Kimberley’s vast interior, today presents a wonderful opportunity. The distance from Naturalists Island to the famous Mitchell Falls and Plateau is about 30 miles, and you may choose to take an optional helicopter excursion over spectacular terrain.

Day 10
Montgomery Reef & Raft Point

Arriving at high tide, very little of Montgomery Reef will be visible. However, if conditions are right, the tide may drop rapidly away and a raging torrent of water will erupt, as miles of surrounding reef appear to slowly rise out of the ocean. A Zodiac will maneuver you into a channel in the reef as water cascades down on either side. It’s the perfect spot to watch cormorants, egrets and sandpipers forage for sea life trapped on the surface of the reef. Below the waterline, opportunistic sea turtles, reef sharks and many larger fish also take advantage of this feast. Next, land by Zodiac at Raft Point, where you are guided on a climb up to a saddle of rock that forms nothing short of a spectacular outdoor Aboriginal art gallery. The art is an account of the mythical Wandjina clan on the ‘Great Fish Chase.’ There are images of the Wandjina spirits with their distinctive halos, plus dugong, crocodiles, fish and snakes.

Day 11
Talbot Bay / Horizontal Waterfalls

The Horizontal Waterfalls in the Buccaneer Archipelago are created by the rapid tidal fall on the ocean side of the cliffs. When conditions are right, a ‘waterfall’ up to ten feet high may form as the trapped landward waters cascade out through the narrow gap to the ocean side. Zodiacs will take you for an exhilarating trip to witness this extraordinary phenomenon. Later in the day, join naturalists on an excursion to Cyclone Bay to explore the twisted geological folds of the ancient seabed.

Day 12
Nares Point & Crocodile Creek

Just off Koolan Island, this geological finger of sandstone protruding into the ocean provides great opportunities for Zodiac safaris and guided beach walks. Nearby Crocodile Creek defies its name, with several vertical embankments keeping it ‘crocodile free’ allowing you to take advantage of the cool freshwater natural swimming pool to relax and beat the Kimberley heat.

Day 13 – 14
Broome, Western Australia / Disembark / U.S.

Disembark in Broome and make your way to the airport for an overnight flight home.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Reverse Itinerary (Broome to Darwin):
6/15/2015, 7/5/2015, 7/25/2015

Photo Expeditions:

The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.

Accommodations as indicated; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages aboard the ship; all shore excursions and sightseeing; chartered flightseeing over Bungle Bungle region; transfers to and from group flights; tips (except to ship's crew), taxes and service charges; services of a ship physician and expedition staff; use of kayaks.

Not Included:
International air transportation; passport and visa expenses; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, email and laundry; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; optional helicopter excursion to Mitchell Falls; fuel surcharge may apply.

PHOTOS: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (King George River, Ship, Bungle Bungle Range, Crocodiles); © Michael S Nolan (Rock Art, Dolphins)

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