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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Preparing for your Expedition Cruise

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on October 27, 2016

Getting ready for your expedition cruise depends very much on where you are going.

Obviously clothing and equipment for your Antarctic adventure will be completely different to a walk in the Amazon rainforest.

However, there are certain items and personal requirements that go hand-in-hand for all expedition cruises.

The very nature of most expedition cruises requires that you be reasonably fit. Now, I have seen people in their 80s handle a cruise to New Guinea or the Kimberley with ease, so you don’t have to be extremely fit.

However I would advise a certain amount of fitness and mobility is required if you are going to go ashore each day.

Having said that, you can certainly stay on board the ship for the duration of the cruise. You don’t have to go ashore if you are not confident.

For example, when I cruised on Coral Expedition’s Kimberley adventure some years ago, there were some guests who went on the Xplorer boat each day, but didn’t go ashore. This was easy for them because the Xplorer loaded right off the back deck. You simply walked out through the dining room and the boat was sitting right there, ready to step aboard.

Excursion tenders like the Xplorer make it easy for most people to visit wild places.

 

If you have a medical condition it is essential that you tell the staff on board, especially your expedition leader, so they can keep an eye on you.

The experts on your ship will never put you into places that require advanced fitness. They have to ensure that every expeditioner can get ashore safely and with ease.

To prepare, I always do some walking every day and I include a few gentle hills to put some fitness into my legs and body. I also walk on the beach and in shallow water along the shoreline. It helps in getting your balance and being used to 'wet' landings.

Each day your expedition leader will advise you whether it is a 'wet or 'dry' landing. On a wet landing you will require sturdy sandals or some sort of footwear that can handle being submerged and walking on rough surfaces like coral and rocks.

A wet landing like this one requires suitable footwear or good old bare feet.

 

Equipment required will be explained to you by your expedition cruise line well before you leave home.

However the 'no brainers' include a wide brimmed hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, a water bottle, wet wipes, sunglasses that are firmly attached, binoculars and very sturdy backpack.

If you have prescription glasses, make sure they are firmly attached and can withstand a substantial blow. I always recommend that you take a second pair of glasses and leave them on board the ship 'just in case'. A second pair of sunglasses is also suggested.

On one expedition cruise, I saw a lady from France lose her glasses under a waterfall.  She had a spare pair, but they were sitting in her apartment in Paris. The lady had a substantial vision impairment, so she struggled to get through each day for the rest of the trip.

Clothing includes a water resistant jacket, loose fitting comfortable day wear, casual wear for nights and, as I always recommend, a pair of shorts. It is amazing how many people show up for expedition cruises with clothing more suitable for the Queen Mary than a journey through the wilderness.

They are generally people who have done a lot of normal cruising but have never been on an expedition.

“I didn’t realise everyone would be wearing shorts and T-shirts with sandals. I wish I had known, I bought long pants and joggers,” is a common comment I hear.

Finally, a suggestion that is close to my heart. Purchase a water resistant, and preferably, waterproof camera bag for your prized possession. Spray is a constant hazard on expedition boats. I would go for Go Pro type camera if you are going to be doing a lot of exploring on the water or around waterfalls.

I destroyed a brand new Canon camera standing next to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The haze from the falls formed a faint mist that penetrated everything.

These days I download my photos on to a small laptop each night on board ship.  It’s too late when you get home and find you have lost all your precious photos.

 

Dallas Sherringham is a media professional, world traveller and regular contributor to our blog. Some imagery has been supplied by Michael Osborne.

The True Joys of Expedition Cruising

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on October 18, 2016

When I set off on my first Expedition Cruise in the Kimberley several years ago I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

After 100 plus cruises on conventional ships around the world, the whole concept of undertaking an expedition on board a small ship was totally foreign to me.

I had sailed on smaller ships before, but never on such an exciting and extensive itinerary as this.

Now, it is a part of human nature to be a little hesitant in suddenly surrounding yourself with a group of strangers. I was worried about having to spend the next 10 days with people I didn’t know.

When I turned up at the wharf in Darwin to board the Coral Discoverer (then known as  Oceanic Discoverer), I was greeted by half a dozen smiling faces, all eager to welcome me aboard and assist me with my baggage and camera gear. Little did I know these people would become firm friends as the cruise progressed and would turn my experience into the journey of a lifetime.

Within a couple of days, I realised that Expedition Cruising is as much about making friends and sharing experiences as it is about exploring new places.  Each day we would go out on the Explorer expedition boat and cruise through amazing gorges and go ashore on the wildest beaches anywhere in the world.

As a group, we found these places together and revelled in their wildness and their majesty. At every footstep in new places, we were guided by experts in wildlife and the ancient culture of this region. This gave our explorations a layer of enjoyment and self fulfilment that is impossible to achieve on a conventional cruise.

Then as the sun settled in the west, we would gather in the upstairs lounge for a cleansing ale or a glass of wine while our expedition leaders gave a short talk on the day’s experiences. This was followed by a sumptuous a la carte dinner in luxury surroundings.

The ship was abuzz with my fellow passengers excitedly discussing the day’s adventures. After dinner we sat on the back deck in the warm, clean Kimberley air watching the stars hung like chandeliers just above our heads.

We talked for hours about the amazing places we had seen, places most Australians never get to see. We talked about many things and along the way we all confessed we had been a little bit concerned about setting off for 10 days with total strangers.

This is the true joy of Expedition Cruising. It is all about the sharing of wild places with friends and crew members who genuinely love what they do.

The highlight of the cruise came when we anchored under the impressive cliffs of a legendary Kimberley landform known as Raft Point. The crew set up a bar and a smorgasbord on the top deck and we all gathered on high.

The air was still and embracing. Coral Discoverer was shrouded in a golden glow as the sun began to disappear behind us. All eyes were fixed on Raft Point as it suddenly blazed in a deep, rich red colour. We stood in silent wonder at what we were witnessing.

Yes, Expedition Cruising holds many joys for the experienced traveller, but its true joy is the shared experience of exploring amazing places with strangers who have become close friends.

 

Click here for more information about exploring the Kimberley Coast aboard Coral Discoverer.  

Contact us for bookings and information.

 

Dallas Sherringham is a media professional, world traveller and regular contributor to our blog. Some imagery has been supplied by Michael Osborne.

Kimberley Cruising's Seven Must See Wonders

Posted by Andrew Castles on October 13, 2016

Here's our check list of the seven greatest wonders of Australia's Kimberley Coast. When planning to go Kimberley cruising, see our hand-picked list of the best expeditions then give us a call to help you choose the cruise that is right for you, and includes all the must see icons!

 

Mitchell Falls

Mitchell Plateau

Mitchell Falls is perhaps the most photographed of all of the Kimberley’s wonders. The waters of the mighty Mitchell River cascade over four tiers, with a total drop of over 80 metres. There are a number of other falls in the area well worth seeing, including Little Mertens and Big Mertens, but Mitchell Falls is the main drawcard.

The Mitchell River below the falls is not navigable by expedition ship, meaning that you can’t cruise directly up to the base. Instead, you’re going to need to 'chopper in'. Two expedition ships - True North and Great Escape - carry their own private helicopters, whilst other ships call in HeliSpirit (a local operator based near the Falls) to provide scenic flights. Typically a two hour excursion, including scenic flight from the ship across the Mitchell Plateau to the falls and back, and an hour to swim in the Mitchell River (above the falls - no crocs!) and take photographs will set you back about $500 per person, but it’s well worth the expense.

 

Kimberley Cruise Mitchell Falls

 

Mermaid Boab Tree

Careening Bay

When Phillip Parker King (that’s a name you hear a lot in the Kimberley) careened his vessel the Mermaid for six weeks of repairs during his coastal survey in back in 1820, his carpenter carved details of their visit into a small boab tree. His inscription read:

HMC Mermaid 1820

The beach where King successfully carried out Mermaid's repairs is known as Careening Bay, and today - almost 200 years later - the twin-trunked boab tree is now twelve metres wide, the letters huge.

 

boab tree on kimberley cruise

 

Horizontal Falls

Talbot Bay

Legendary naturalist and documentary-maker Sir David Attenborough describes Horizontal Falls as ‘one of the greatest natural wonders of the world’ and we couldn’t agree more! Located deep in Talbot Bay, massive tidal movements create a waterfall effect as water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, to be repeated again on the turning tide. The tides in this area have a ten-metre variation which occurs over six and a half hours from low tide to high tide and vice versa. The effect of the waterfalls is created by the tide building up in front of the gaps faster than it can flow through them and there can be a four-metre high waterfall between the bays.

Most expedition cruise operators offer you the chance to have an adrenaline-filled inflatable zodiac ride through the falls, a real thrill and a highlight of any Kimberley cruise.

 

Horizontal Falls on Kimberley Cruise

 

Montgomery Reef

Camden Sound

Imagine being anchored 20 kilometres offshore, surrounded by endless blue waters, with just a speck of the far-off horizon in the distance. Then, try to imagine the tide turning and the sea levels dropping by ten metres to expose Australia’s largest inshore reef system, Montgomery Reef. Covering 400 square kilometres, Montgomery Reef is located adjacent to Doubtful Bay and is truly Australia’s greatest marine spectacle.

Transferring to the excursion tenders, as the tide ebbs up to four metres of reef is exposed and thousands of cascading waterfalls are created, each with sufficient power to make it hard work for the tender’s engines to push through.  You’ll be amazed by the array of marine life, from sea turtles to sharks, manta rays, black tipped reef sharks and dugongs. Thousands of migratory wading birds keep watch for a tasty morsel as they circle overhead.

After a few hours exploring the rivers and valleys of the reef system, the tide once again turns, concealing the reef. You would hardly believe what lay beneath if you hadn’t seen it for yourself.

Most expedition cruise ships time their visits to this area to coincide with the twice-daily 'reef reveals', and after all my visits to the Kimberley, experiencing Montgomery Reef at low tide never disappoints.

 

montgomery reef on a kimberley cruise

 

King Cascades

Prince Regent River

Not all expedition cruises feature a visit to King Cascades, as some of the bigger 100+ passenger ships are too large to be able to ferry their guests the 27 kilometres up the Prince Regent River to the base of the falls. That’s a real pity as King Cascades is one of the most scenic locales in the Kimberley. The waterfall itself is around 40 metres tall, with the flow cascading down tiered rock formations. The falls are also spring fed, meaning water will be flowing year round.  

If you’re feeling energetic, a hike to the freshwater pools above the falls for a dip is well worth the effort, but whatever you do, don’t swim in the river below the falls! Back in 1987 American model Ginger Faye Meadows famously took the plunge from a private cruiser and was tragically taken by a monster saltwater croc - who some say still patrols the Prince Regent today!

Contact us to find out which Kimberley cruising options include exploration of King Cascades.

 

The Kimberley Coast's King Cascades kimberley cruise

 

The Bradshaw Paintings

East Kimberley & Raft Point

When Kimberley cruising you’re bound to come face to face with lots of rock art. it’s everywhere you look; on cliff faces, rock overhangs and in caves. You’ll learn that there are two types of art found in the Kimberley. The more modern (around 5,000 years) and prevalent is the Wandjina art, easily recognisable by the pale, circles spirit faces drawn without mouths. The second type of art you will see is a major drawcard for many travellers – the mysterious Bradshaw Paintings, known as ‘Gwion Gwion’ to the locals.

Named after pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw, the first European to record this distinctive style of art work back in 1891, the origin of the Bradshaw Paintings is contentious. Dating back at least 20,000 years, some experts suggest that the paintings were drawn by the forefathers of the current local indigenous people, whilst others opine that the art has an Indonesian influence, and may have been produced by early traders.  Whatever the origin, these luminous, ochre figures - often decorated with tassels and ornate head-dresses are a sight to behold.

One of the best places to view both Wandjina art and the Bradshaw Paintings is at Raft Point, a spot visited by most expedition ships these days. A short hike leads up hill to a rocky overhang, where fine examples of both varieties of art can be viewed.

 

aboriginal art on a kimberley cruise

 

King George Falls

King George River

If you’ve seen Baz Luhrmann's epic 2008 film, Australia, you might recognise King George Falls. Located in the Northern Kimberley close to the town of Wyndham, some of the shorter ‘Southern Kimberley’ expeditions don’t have time to visit these imposing twin falls, however if you travel aboard True North, Coral Discoverer or Coral Expeditions I the journey down the King George River is bound to be a highlight. The best time to experience these falls is at the start of the cruising season, between March and May, when the water flow is at its most powerful. After travelling twelve kilometres up river, surrounded by towering sandstone escarpments on either side, the sheer volume of water flowing over the falls creates a distant roar that grows in volume as you approach. On some expeditions the active can also join a challenging hike to the top of the falls for outstanding panoramas and photo opportunities.

If witnessing the Kimberley’s waterfalls at their absolute best (right after the wet season) appeals to you, each March the Great Escape offers a nine day Waterfall Safari expedition that includes Mitchell Falls, King Cascades and King George Falls.

 

kimberley cruise at king george falls

 

And another thing….

If you’ve travelled all the way to the Kimberley it would be a pity not to spend a few days exploring Broome and venturing inland to discover the East Kimberley’s Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle), Ord River and El Questro Station. We’ve put together some great packages designed to be combined with your cruise for the ultimate Kimberley expedition adventure! Ask us for more information when you book your Kimberley expedition.

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