Kimberley Expeditions Trip Report.
TRIP REPORT 25th APRIL 2022 BROOME TO DARWIN 11 DAY TOUR
Text and Photos by Paul Hogger – Trip Director on board Reef Prince.
Finally! With the WA and NT border opened to marine tourism traffic, we were able to start our regular route from Broome to Darwin and visa-versa. It had been a long time coming with our first 2 trips this year being Broome to Broome and most of last year being Broome to Wyndham.
The trip started great with an on-time departure and lovely weather for cruising up the coast. We set the lures out for trolling and within 5 minutes we had a large Spanish Mackerel on board. That was soon followed by a tuna and then 6 more fish within a 90 minutes trolling session. Yipee – fresh fish for dinner and we weren’t even in the Kimberley yet.
At sunset we enjoyed a great cheese board on the bow with the calm conditions.
The day 2 sunrise was all we could have hoped for as we cruised through Yampi Sound. Thank goodness it did turn it on as every guest got up at 5:30am for the spectacle.
Croc Creek was the first tour and aside from the crystal clear water in the swimming hole, we had 2 monitor lizards basking in the sun and lots of birds tending to their nests around the waterhole perimeter.
Then it was past Koolan Island and down into Talbot Bay where we went for a high speed ride through the Horizontal Falls and a late arvo Cyclone Creek scenic tour.
We even had a stack of large Tawny Nurse Sharks at the back of the boat for most of the afternoon.
Talk about a huge day 2!
Day 3 was just as packed with an early start at Red Cone Creek. We climbed to the Ruby Falls waterhole for a swim and had a scenic tour of the creek on the way back out.
After morning tea we jumped into the tenders for a tour around the iconic Raft Point, Steep Island and finally Bird Rock before catching back up with the Reef Prince which had continued its slow cruise towards Montgomery Reef.
Montgomery Reef is always a highlight and we saw a lot of marine life and managed to get right to the end of the gutter and even up into Turtle Gully.
Some of the guests decided to go for a troll around the reef after the tour. It was a hot day and we were all rewarded with a swim at the long sandbar before heading back to Reef Prince.
Day 4 started very early with a dawn scenic tour at Deception Bay. Not only did we transit the entire length of the creek system, we also managed a walk and a swim at Butterfly Gorge. We saw a long Black Whip Snake crawling along the rocks at the beginning of the walk.
Only an hour further north are the Slate Islands. The area is great for fishing and has some amazing weathered rock formations with some truly defying gravity.
On the way north we cruised past Kuri Bay (the Kimberley’s first pearling settlement) and Camden Harbour (the Kimberley’s first European settlement – which failed miserably) and did talks on the bow about both locations.
In the afternoon we did a walk at Hanover Bay to view the Brolga artwork and the Great Bowerbird’s nests before enjoying a bonfire and an even better sunset.
On day 5 we transited down through the St George Basin and marvelled at the iconic flat topped mesas of Mt. Trafalgar and Mt. Waterloo. We crossed into the Prince Regent River which is over 100km long and lies on the longest fault line in Australia. The Kings Cascades are around 40km from the river mouth so it makes for an excellent scenic opportunity to sit on the bow as we cruise up the river.
The Kings Cascades are in full flow early in the season and they didn’t disappoint with loads of water spilling over the rocks. Half of the group decided to do the walk/climb to the waterhole at the top while the other half continued for another 10km up the river to the Cathedral Falls. These falls are the highest in the area and are flowing strongly early in the season. We had timed it perfectly with the high tide and Nick our Engineer was able to get the tender right into the keyhole and directly under the falls.
All in all it was a sensational experience and there was no one else in the river so we had the place all to ourselves.
We did something unique for the early evening and we decided to go to Careening Bay and view the iconic Mermaid Boab Tree by torch and moonlight. It was a fun experience and made all the more special by the post sunset red glow which seem to go on for ages.
The guests woke on Day 6 to a magnificent sunrise over the glassy water of Porosus Creek.
We had a very successful morning with 3 activities all producing great results. The scenic group got some great reflection photos up the creek, the fishing group led by Cristina caught enough Golden Snapper and Fingermark for 2 full meals and Ken took a group crabbing and came back with a dozen Mudcrabs.
Needless to say we dined very well on seafood over the next 48 hours.
For the afternoon we went into York Sound to visit the sea caves and to do a 5-mile one-way scenic tour.
This is only a new tour and we are constantly finding new areas of this remote wilderness to explore. So far the tour includes multiple swimming spots, some incredible rock formations, caves & overhangs, a headland full of crystal seams and even 2 rock art sites.
For our Broome to Broome tours this was our turn-around point to head back south so it was with great joy that we headed further north for the first time in 2022. Overnight we headed off the coast to Prudhoe Island.
Once again the guests woke to another spectacular sunrise over a different type of landscape. By 9:30am we had already walked to Petroglyph Point, watched the sunrise, saw the very old petroglyph carvings in the hard basalt rock, saw some Turtle tracks on the next beach, visited Crystal Cove and had gone for a swim on the nearby island.
After a relocate and a rewarding seafood lunch we visited two of the art sites in Swifts Bay. The art in the area is extensive with 4 sites to choose from. Of the 2 sites, one has predominately Wandjina art while the second one has Bradshaw/Gwion Gwion art.
Vansittart Bay was the Day 8 location to stop and enjoy. We visited the DC-3 plane wreck site and heard the story about the fateful flight. The wreck site is surrounded by a diverse range of plant life and we found a few wildflowers were already in bloom.
We then headed down to the bottom of the bay to visit the Rocky Cove art site. This is a 1km long walk that has many smaller panels and galleries before finishing at a large cave filled with retouched Wandjinas. It is an excellent rock art site and offers a very diverse range of art spanning a lot of years.
That afternoon the wind picked up and we had no option but the bash into it for a few hours until we stopped under the lee of a cape for the late afternoon and dinner. Fortunately the wind dropped at sunset and we had a fine trip around the cape and into Koolama Bay overnight.
For our last full day in the Kimberley we set out on ambitious plan to do a lot of different things – and it all went like clockwork. After a 6am breakfast we went to Tranquil Bay and managed to get the tenders into the back lagoon on the spring high tide. It was picture perfect with great reflections of the rock walls on the lagoon surface.
We still had heaps of time so we also visited Pangali Cove with its shallow waterhole and waterfall. We saw both of the resident crocs that live in the area.
We crossed the shallow sand bar and entered the King George River at 9:30am. Reef Prince spent 90 minutes cruising slowly up the river while the guests marvelled at the high rock walls that shadow both sides. We even stopped to look at a Dugong that was happily swimming around on the surface.
Then Captain Jay did something very special and drove the Reef Prince right up and under the twin waterfalls at the end of the river. It was skilled driving at its absolute best and the guests stood on the bow and got many photos and a thorough dousing of cool fresh water.
We anchored out the front of the falls and jumped into the tenders and went back down the river system looking into all the side tributaries including the Fountain of Youth and Dugong Inlet.
There was a large croc that was hauled out on a rock ledge and on closer inspection, we found it had its left front set of claws missing and had only a stump remaining.
On return we put many of the guests under the falls in the tenders. The force of the water was quite a shock.
In the late afternoon we all got dressed up and had sunset drinks before an amazing alfresco dining experience on the top deck to the sound of the waterfalls in the background.
The guests did something special for the crew and made up a great set of lyrics to the classic “Sound of Music” song Goodbye, Farewell…
The next morning Jay took the Reef Prince back down the river at 5am and we got some fantastic photos of the river in the early morning glow.
The crossing of the Joseph Boneparte Gulf was quite uneventful with calm seas and the guests relaxed by reading, editing photos and eating yummy food that the girls made for a special movie afternoon.
We had a final dinner followed by the controversial quiz night and a well-earned sleep.
We arrived at Darwin Harbour at 9am and by 10am we were safely tied up at the Fisherman’s Wharf.
All in all it was a sensational trip! No one had Covid onboard (our 3rd trip straight with no cases….), the weather was sensational (well mostly) and all the 24 guests were fantastic people to be with.
There were a lot of people on board this trip with high-end camera systems so Paul the Tour Director did a camera course which comprised of 4 sessions and encouraged the 8 guests who participated to move away from “Auto” mode and start taking control of things like ISO, aperture, depth of field, shutter speed and even manual settings. It was well received and a great bonus for those who had invested in new gear for their holiday.
On board were a large group of very well-travelled guests who each night talked about their travels to Antarctica, Alaska, Africa, Asia and beyond. So when one-third of them got up at the end of the trip and said that this was the best holiday that they had ever been on, that was a very big thing for all the crew on board the Reef Prince.
Whilst the lure of international travel lurks once again after Covid, don’t forget that some of the best travel destinations on the planet are right here in our own backyard. And the one we are most passionate about is the incredible Kimberley coastline between Broome and Darwin.