Good news for sun-loving adventure junkies … expedition cruising doesn’t have to be cold! Despite the growing popularity of cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica, the stunning north-west of Australia is emerging as a hot spot in more ways than one. As well as the reliable sunshine and high temperatures, Kimberley is also a remote wilderness, threaded with winding rivers and framed by a rocky coastline, home to thumping waterfalls, deep gorges, dangerous crocodiles, scorching desert and rocky mountains burning red in the fiery light.
Small ship cruising is a fantastic way to explore this fascinating wilderness. Ponant, Silversea and Lindblad all offering stunning itineraries. Generally Kimberley cruises are bookended by tropical Darwin, a lively outpost surrounded by the turquoise water of the Timor Sea, and the cosmopolitan beach town of Broome, famous for a stunning beach and friendly atmosphere. This part of Australia follows a tropical monsoon climate with distinct dry (May to October) and wet (November to April) seasons. The best time to cruise is immediately following the wet season when waterfalls and rivers are at their most exciting, although cruises do depart all through the dry season until May.
Here are our top highlights for an expedition cruise to Kimberley.
Wyndham is the gateway to the Bungle Bungle mountain range in Purnululu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rich in Aboriginal culture, the area is known for the strange orange and black geological formations found across the landscape. Scenic flights are offered here, as are trips along the Ord river where freshwater crocodiles, fruit-bats, short-eared rock wallabies, mangrove herons and mangrove gerygones are sure to be spotted.
The breathtaking King George Falls are twin cascading waterfalls with drops of 80 metres, making them the highest in north-western Australia. Zodiac tours travel to the base of the waterfall, past towering ancient Warton sandstone cliffs.
Hunter River is an immense network of narrow mangrove channels, home to the notoriously dangerous saltwater crocodile. Many cruise lines offer helicopter flightseeing excursions to the famous Mitchell Falls Plateau and Mitchell Falls, where four tiers of waterfalls plunge into deep pools that flow out into the Mitchell River.
Raft Point is the is the site of the incredible outdoor Aboriginal Wandjina art gallery. Guided hikes take guests to the top of Raft Point to enjoy far-reaching views of the bay in the shade of the overhanging cliff, which is home to the Wandjina Spirit.
Montgomery Reef is one of Kimberley’s iconic wonders. This famous tidal movement is massive; at just under 400km2 it is Australia’s largest inshore reef, containing large areas of shallow lagoon, seagrass beds and corals. As the tide drops a raging torrent of water cascades off the top of the reef and the entire reef appears to rise from the ocean. Zodiac tours take guest close the the myriad of waterfalls appearing along the reef.
Talbot Bay, described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world” is also known as the ‘Horizontal Waterfalls’. This pair of stunning breaks in the McLarty Range are approximately 300m apart with massive tidal differences of up to 10.8m on a spring tide. As seawater builds up faster on one side of the gaps than the other, a waterfall appears up to 4m high.
Images courtesy of Silversea