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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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Two FREE nights when you cruise the Great Barrier Reef

Posted by Andrew Castles on September 21, 2016

great barrier reef liveaboard cruises

 

We can't think of a better way to experience Australia's World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and tropical north than by small ship, and Coral Expeditions can take you to the best parts of the 'Reef, Rainforest and Islands' on their intimate 44-guest classic catamaran Coral Expeditions II.

Departing from Cairns, these 3, 4 and 7 night cruises provide ample time to swim, snorkel and dive at exclusive reef moorings away from the day tour crowds. A marine biologist leads included glass bottom boat tours and informative presentations about the myriad marine life that calls the reef home. You'll also enjoy plenty of time ashore exploring rainforests and pristine islands, including Lizard, Fitzroy and Pelorus. Back on board, the chef serves up fantastic dining experiences, including one of the best seafood buffets you're ever likely to encounter whilst the all Aussie crew take care of your every desire.

Cruises depart weekly, year round. Click here for more information.

 

Special Offer

Coral Expeditions has an incredible package on offer to ensure that you make the most of your stay in Tropical North Queensland. Book any 3, 4 or 7 night Great Barrier Reef cruise by 31 March 2017 for cruises departing until 30 June 2017 and enjoy 2 FREE nights at the renowned Reef House in the picturesque village of Palm Cove plus transfers to and from the ship.

 

great barrier reef hotels palm cove

 

During your stay at the Reef House, enjoy the Brigadiers Punch & canapés served in the Lounge Daily at Twilight; hosted by the General Manager, luxury concierge services and porterage, free Wi-Fi and use of DVD player and DVD collection. You will also have access to the Brigadier Lounge book exchange, secure car parking, bottled water in your room on arrival, as well as bikes, fishing gear and sketching kits. Book today on a 3 or 4-night cruise, or combine the two for the ultimate 7-night reef experience!

 

palm cove australia

Conditions: Special offer is combinable with Coral Expeditions 'Xplorers Club' past guest discount. Cruise & accommodation is subject to availability. Enquire for full details.

 

Review: Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness

Posted by Vicki Briggs on September 01, 2016

 

Vicki & Tony Briggs review Lindblad Alaska cruise

 

Tony and I were lucky enough to join Lindblad Expeditions in August to cruise Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park aboard one of their expedition ships, the National Geographic Sea Bird. We had wanted to explore this part of the world for many years, and it’s fair to say that Alaska didn’t disappoint. Here’s our review of the trip.

 
The Itinerary

We chose the seven night Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness expedition between Juneau and Sitka, both relatively easy small cities to reach. Highlights of the expedition included exploring Glacier Bay National Park, a visit to historic Petersburg and lots of wildlife encounters. There were excursions each day, and regular walks ashore (moderate difficulty). We also loved the opportunity to jump in the kayaks (they have both single and double) to paddle out from the ship amongst the glaciers. Happily for us we encountered lots of wildlife, from feeding brown bears to playful whales and that most iconic American symbol, the Bald Eagle. You can view a map of our voyage below.

 

Lindblad Alaska cruise map

 

You don’t need to be super fit to join the expedition, anyone with a general level of mobility will be able to get a lot out of the trip. There were some longer walks (optional) that do require a bit of stamina if you are inclined to join them.

Although we travelled in August - the peak of the North American summer - being so far north it was of course still quite cool. When packing for this voyage always think about layers. On some of the walks ashore the sun did manage to peek out and having the ability to peel off a layer or two was a godsend.

Being seven nights long the itinerary was an ideal length for us as it was part of an extended trip in the US. If you’re after a longer expedition however, Lindblad Expeditions do offer a 15 day adventure between Sitka and Seattle, which includes Haida Gwaii.

 

The Ship: National Geographic Sea Bird

Lindblad Expeditions currently operate two sister-ships on their seven night Alaska programmes, Sea Bird and Sea Lion. Tony and I travelled aboard Sea Bird. Launched in 1982, she carries 62 guests (plus 25 crew) and at just 50 metres in length she is small enough to access all the coves and tributaries you want to explore on a cruise like this. Indeed the ships are small enough to pull close to shore to allow guests to see brown bears feasting on a kill, an encounter we were lucky enough to experience.

 

Lindblad's National Geographic ships in Alaska

 

While not state-of-the-art, both Sea Bird and Sea Lion are hardy little ships with a lot of charm, and once you’re settled in you will realise they have everything you need for a successful expedition, including a fleet of zodiacs and a number of single and double kayaks. Recent refurbishments have brought the ships up to date somewhat, but you do need to moderate your expectations; these ships were built as true expedition ships over 30 years ago and don’t have all the bells and whistles you are likely to find on new ships today. Having said that, we thought the ship was very comfortable and was well suited to the itinerary. There was a pleasant dining room and other spaces to gather with fellow travellers to check out the stunning views whilst underway. For those seeking a little pampering there is also a small spa / beauty salon.

 

Take an expedition cruise in Alaska with National Geographic

 

Both Sea Bird and Sea Lion will be retired over coming years as two new ships join the Lindblad Expeditions fleet, the first being National Geographic Quest in 2017 followed by a yet un-named sister ship for 2018. Slightly larger than the existing ships, these new vessels will accommodate up to 100 guests.

 

The Cabin:  Category 2

Our first thought once being shown to our cabin for the week was “wow, it’s compact!”.  At around 8 to 9 square metres (about 100 square feet) there’s not a great deal of space, but once you’ve unpacked, put the suitcases under the bed and settled in you will find there’s more than enough room to relax. Our cabin, which was designated Category 2, had two single beds, as is the case in most of the cabins on these ships, and they are laid out in a ‘L-shape’ fashion.

 

Comfortable rooms with Lindblad in Alaska

 

All rooms open directly on to the deck, and with a large window you’ll always be reminded that you’re in Alaska by the wonderful views right outside. For added privacy there are curtains on all windows. Other amenities include temperature control and also WiFi access, which does incur a small additional cost.

Of course each cabin has its own smallish en suite, with toiletries including shampoo and bodywash replenished daily. The rooms are serviced daily by the unobtrusive crew with towels regularly changed.

Slightly larger Category 3 cabins also offer the option of a Double bed.

 

The Dining

Dining during the cruise was hearty and plentiful. Breakfast and lunch were served as buffets in the dining room, whilst dinner was offered as table service from a small a la carte menu. Outside of meal times there is always something to nibble on if you’re a bit peckish. Each night Tony and I marvelled at the massive platters of cheese and local Dungeness crab served during pre-dinner drinks, we had to be very restrained to ensure that we would be able to fit in our clothes by the end of the week!

 

The dining room aboard Lindblad's ships in Alaska

 

Dinner was always a popular event, with a throng of travellers eagerly awaiting the nightly dinner call… exploring Alaska takes a lot of energy that needs to be replenished! Inside the dining room the seating is open, meaning you can choose to sit with friends, or mingle about and join others on their tables. It’s always great to sit with some different folks for dinner, you’ll find that you end up meeting many fascinating people who have interesting stories to tell.

The dining is by no means Michelin-star quality, however it is plentiful, hearty, and fresh. Lindblad Expeditions also pride themselves on their sustainable food program, meaning that all produce used on board must me sustainably produced and farmed.

 

The Expedition Team

Lindblad Expeditions are noted for their expedition teams, and we couldn’t fault ours. Made up of three Guest Lecturers, along with Expedition Leader Linda, and a photographer/videographer, the expedition team ensured our experience in Alaska exceeded our expectations. The expedition team know this part of the world like the back of their hands. They knew where we were likely to see brown bears, the best places for walks and had a wealth of knowledge that was simply incredible and a joy to listen to. On most trips a native Tlingit interpreter joins the ship for a day to share some local tales and secrets.

 

Wildlife on Alaska cruise with Lindblad

 
Our Verdict

Tony and I loved our time aboard Sea Bird, and Alaska certainly surpassed our expectations. For us, no one “does” Alaska better than Lindblad Expeditions, and in a large part these plaudits are due to their exceptional expedition teams, certainly ours was the best we’ve ever travelled with.

This is a trip we highly recommend to everyone, and with Lindblad’s two brand new ships coming online over the next 18 months we’re sure the experience will be even better.

This expedition departs during the northern summer, between May and August each year. For more details and upcoming departures click here or telephone us for further information and bookings.

Choosing the Best time of year for Kimberley Cruising

Posted by Andrew Castles on August 30, 2016

Ready to tick that that once in a lifetime Kimberley expedition cruise off your bucket list but unsure about the best time of year to experience Australia’s wilderness coast? Our guide outlines each of the Kimberley’s three distinct seasons to help you choose the time of year that is right for you.

As a starting point, cruises on the Kimberley Coast only operate between mid April and October each year, so you can put a line through October to March straight away as its simply too hot, humid and wet, not to mention the added danger of the cyclone season.

The Kimberley’s three seasons:

 

Waterfall Season (April & May)

One of the main drawcards of the Kimberley Coast is its iconic waterfalls - including the towering 80-metre King George and four-tiered Mitchell Falls. Most of the coast’s falls are fed by the Kimberley’s drenching wet season rains, so the earlier in the season you go the more spectacular the falls are. The landscape will also be covered in a brilliant green hue, as vegetation regenerates thanks to the downpour.  It’s not uncommon for the occasional grey and rainy day during this period, and it can still be quite humid, which can make walks ashore a bit more taxing. In our view seeing (and hearing) the full force of the falls more than makes up for the extra humidity and an occasional wet day.

king george falls on a true north kimberley cruise

 

Peak Season (June, July and early August)

The most popular time of year to travel to the Kimberley, probably because the ‘dry season’ weather is characterised by clear blue skies and balmy days, which makes for a welcome escape from the southern states’ winter chill. Depending on the amount of rain during the wet season, there might be some water still flowing over the big falls as late as August, but it will be a trickle at best. One notable exception is the iconic King Cascades on the Prince Regent River; these falls are spring fed and will have a flow year round. If you can’t bear the thought of another chilly winter then June and July are probably your ‘go to’ months to experience the Kimberley Coast.

kimberley cruising at montgomery reef aboard Great Escape

 

Whale / Wildflower Season

From August to early October each year the Kimberley Coast is the world’s epicentre for whalewatching. Up to 30,000 humpbacks make their way from the Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm tropical waters of the Kimberley Coast to breed and give birth, and you will have the best seat in the house when travelling on an expedition cruise. It’s common practice for the skipper to idle the ship’s engines and drift with the tide whilst these majestic mammals put on playful displays around the ship. This late in the season it’s likely that Mitchell Falls and King George Falls will be dry (you can always see Talbot Bay’s Horizontal Falls at least!), but you’re likely to have more wildlife encounters due to native fauna having to travel further, out in the open in search of water. Wildflowers are also blooming, covering the ground in a carpet of colourful native blooms.

whale watching on a kimberley cruise

 

Our Verdict

So which should you choose? It really comes down to where your interests lay; waterfalls or whales. But we think it would be a real pity to miss the grandeur and jaw dropping beauty of some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls. So if we were forced to choose, then May, when the humidity has started to drop off, is the ideal time to explore the Kimberley Coast on a small ship cruise.

For more top tips or to book your 2018 Kimberley Cruising call us on 1800 90 20 80 or contact us via email

Top 3: Most Luxurious Amazon Cruise Suites

Posted by Andrew Castles on July 13, 2016

It used to be that a cruising expedition in the Amazon Rainforest required not just a sense of adventure, but also the ability to ‘rough it’ on ships that had seen much better days. But now - with new ships featuring all the mod cons seemingly being launched every year - you can still have all the adventure of an Amazon expedition, whilst travelling on some of the most stylish small ships in the world.

So, we got to thinking about which of these ships offers the most spectacular suites that will leave you picking your jaw up from the floor whilst simultaneously adding an Amazon expedition to your travel bucket list! We’ve done all the hard work for you and narrowed down the choices to rank what we think are the three most opulent suites on the Amazon today.

Here’s our countdown – be warned though, the WOW factor is high!

 

Number 3

The Ship: Aria Amazon

The Suite: Design Suite

 

Aria amazon cruise suite luxury

Designed by the innovative Peruvian architect Jordi Puig, all 16 Design Suites on the Aria Amazon measure a spacious 23 square metres (250 square feet), meaning there’s plenty of room to sit back and relax. Floor to ceiling windows offer uninterrupted viewing of the passing river scenery, polished timber flooring adds to the ambience and of course each suite has individually controlled air-con. The en suite bathrooms feature a rain shower and luxurious, organic bath amenities incorporating the latest eco-sensitive technology.

Soft lighting, natural fibres and neutral hues create a relaxing and luxuriously comfortable enclave where one’s only challenge may be to decide whether to gaze upon the Amazon from atop the California king size bed, dressed with 100% Peruvian cotton high thread count sheets or while lounging on the cozy window-side day bed, binoculars in hand.

See Aria Amazon Expedition

 

 

Number 2

The Ship: Delfin III

The Suite: Amazonia Suite

 

Delfin II cruise suite amazon luxury

The 43-guest Delfin III (formerly Amazon Discovery) was launched in October 2015 - making it the newest ship operating in Peru's Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. The single Amazonia Suite is the ship’s most sought-after room, and at 55 square metres (597 square feet) it’s larger than some of the apartments I’ve lived in! Located on the second deck at the front of the ship, those lucky enough to call it home during their expedition will enjoy breathtaking views of the river and rainforest through forward-facing 180 degree floor to ceiling windows.

Awaken to a breathtaking vista from the comfy bed, complete with luxurious Peruvian linens and European duvet. A cosy sofa is positioned to allow for reading, whilst keeping a close eye on the passing scenery. A standalone bathtub really turns up the feeling of luxury. But that’s not all; guests will also receive a complimentary 60-minute spa treatment, a fully-stocked mini bar and laundry services during the expedition.

See Delfin III Expedition

 

 

Number 1

The Ship: Delfin I

The Suite: Deluxe Suite

 

delfin luxury amazon cruise suite

For several years now it’s been our favourite Amazon suite, and even with the arrival of some new contenders we still think Delfin I’s Deluxe Suite has more WOW factor than any of its nearest rivals.

With interior space measuring 34 square metres (360 square feet), there is plenty of space to enjoy, even before you consider the additional 32 square metres on the private terrace. The cool water plunge pool is a real jaw-dropper and makes Delfin I the first and only river vessel with this luxurious feature.

Located on the main deck, the two spacious Deluxe Suites feature a king size bed that are wrapped by 180° panoramic windows stretching from floor to ceiling, a mini bar, in-suite seating area with a sofa bed, fine Peruvian cotton linens, environmentally friendly amenities, silent A/C units, hot water, hair dryer, safe deposit box and internal communications system.  

See Delfin I Expedition