Day 1: So far, the journey is off to a lovely start! There are 39 passengers, being looked after by the lovely (Australian) Coral Expeditions crew and 5 members of the Zegrahm Expedition Team. After one night at the Cable Beach Resort in Broome, Australia—where a casual sighting of adorable wallabies feasting on the lawn at both dusk and dawn was a highlight!—we did a brief outing by motor coach to visit the small town of Broome (population 15,000) before embarking the ship in the evening.
Today’s first excursion was a cruise aboard the Xplorer (a covered metal craft large with row seating, large enough to fit all of the guests and staff) and Zodiacs in the Lacepede Islands, which are a popular nesting ground for many seabird varieties, including brown boobies, frigate birds, pied cormorants, several species of terns (Caspian, fairy, and others), silver gulls, and a few others!
We also had the good fortune to see lots of little green sea turtles popping their heads above water, as well as an interesting fish called guitar fish. Most striking so far is the deep aqua blue of the water against the oranges and reds of the terrain. Coupled with the warm salty air, it’s a little slice of tropical-esque paradise.
Daty 3: Today we woke up in what our Expedition Leader, Brad, calls “the true Kimberley”, Talbot Bay. After rising early, we boarded Zodiacs to take a rocky ride through the iconic Horizontal Falls, which are a fascinating geological wonder where centuries of gradual erosion has created small gaps in between towering 1.8 billion (yes, billion) year old rock walls, and the rise and fall of the tide creates a rapid push/pull (think class 2 rapids but very, very swirly) through these narrow channels.
Thank goodness for the ship’s seasoned crew of Zodiac drivers who navigated us expertly through these “ripping” passageways and into a glassy passage on the other side of the opening where we could view from a short distance a second “horizontal waterfall” with a wall of water about 6 feet high trying to fight its way through from the other side. Much to my relief, that second “waterfall” was off limits for traversing in Zodiac, but just the sight of it was an adrenaline rush! Later we took a surprise HELICOPTER ride(!!) over the falls which was not included in the original itinerary. Just an awesome, awesome adventure, in all definitions of the word!
Day 5: What a feast for the eyes the incredible wilderness of the Kimberley is—towering rusty orange rock faces, bright green mangroves, and crystalline aquamarine water. After spending the morning cruising through precisely this landscape in Hunter River on the search for crocodiles—we saw 6!
I didn’t think there was any possible way the afternoon could top the morning...
...but then I boarded a chopper!
My second helicopter ride in 3 days! I could get used to this hyper efficient mode of transport. In 20-minutes we were at the incredible 3-tiered Mitchell Falls. The bird’s eye view from the sky was only rivaled by the vantage point of a fantastic little perch (only a short hike from the heli landing site) directly across from these powerful waterfalls. And the most magical part was how pristine and uncommercialized this area is, given its remote location (no roads or human infrastructure as far as the eye can see). Our small group had the place all to ourselves to just soak in the majesty of this unique and beautiful little corner of the Earth. Spectacular!
Day 8: We had a phenomenal few days making our way up the Kimberley coast, and then back down to Broome, hitting a variety of sites along the way. More saltwater crocodiles (affectionally nicknamed “salty’s”) and countless rare bird species have been highlights, as have picture-perfect beaches, sunsets, and rock formations.
One unique draw in this region is the aboriginal rock art that dates back 20,000+ years. The social anthropologist onboard has brought to life the fascinating history and culture of these first humans to inhabit Australia (migrating here 60,000 years ago!!) and it’s nothing short of incredible not only that their rock art has survived, but that we are able to walk right up and see it in such astounding detail.
All told, I feel fortunate to count the Kimberley region amongst the most unique and visually stunning places I have visited. I truly feel richer in the knowledge that such a remote and well-preserved little corner of Australia still holds so many anthropological secrets and geological insights into the fascinating history of our wonderful planet.