One of the most compelling expedition cruising regions, with itineraries selling out a year in advance, is here in Australia.
Straddling the far northwest of Australia across Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the Kimberley is one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers.
The Kimberley coast is spectacular with thundering waterfalls, plunging gorges, ancient Aboriginal rock art and pristine swimming holes around Doubtful Bay and the Sale River. Then there are the seabird breeding grounds on Adele Island and one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Horizontal Falls.
The best way to explore the fascinating coastline is by sea and a range of expedition ships ply the waters between Broome and Darwin from March to September.
Popular boutique ships, carrying up to 260 passengers with expedition leaders, Zodiacs and helicopters for exploring inland often sell out a year in advance. If money is no object, you can charter a family-owned catamaran that caters to just 14 guests.
There are also budget expeditions on motorised sailing yachts where you can sleep in a swag.
APT’s Wilderness Adventures arm takes more guests to the Kimberley than any other operator. MS Caledonian Sky accommodates 114 guests on an all-inclusive cruise between Darwin and Broome. The ship has a fleet of Zodiacs to take passengers closer to region’s amazing sights.
In the past, the French cruise line sailed L’Austral which can accommodate 264 guests. On board there’s a swimming pool, full spa and 14 Zodiacs. The 10-night round-trip Jewels of the Kimberley itinerary includes popular spots such as King George Falls, Mitchell Falls, Montgomery Reef and Horizontal Falls. In 2021 though, the Le Bellot, which can accommodate 184 guests, has two restaurants and a decadent spa.
Next year, the line has a number of itineraries between Darwin and Broome on the Silver Explorer. Carrying 144 passengers in ocean-view suites, the ship has a shallow draft and can get close to shore. It has a pool, fitness centre and a fleet of 12 Zodiacs. An all-inclusive 10-day cruise, with shore excursions and a helicopter ride, is priced from $12,780 per person.
The custom-built Kimberley Quest II accommodates 18 passengers in nine cabins. It has six crew members and three excursion tenders. A 10-night Northern or Southern Quest cruise starts from $10,500 per person.
The line operates three ships in the Kimberley, including the Coral Discoverer, Coral Adventurer and the new Coral Geographer. They carry Zodiacs and an excursion boat that can take all passengers on shore excursions. A 10-day Broome to Darwin cruise starts from $9,350 per person.
The Great Escape Charter Company
The family-owned company has a 26-metre luxury catamaran that caters for 14 guests with six crew including a chef. Each cabin has a queen bed, flat-screen TV and bathroom. A helicopter sits on the roof. A 7-night Broome to Mitchell Plateau starts from $11,620 per person.