The king of luxury cruising, Steve Odell, was onboard the Silver Explorer on a once-in-a-lifetime Kimberley cruise. Pictures by Tim Faircloth.

We are sitting in our Zodiac with an expedition guide. The flat-calm ocean stretches into the horizon. You could mistake this for a scene of singular tranquillity.

In fact, we are waiting for what Sir David Attenborough describes as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.

In minutes there is Mother Nature’s version of mayhem. The waters drop eight metres, exposing a huge reef system. Seawater gushes over the sides. We are surrounded by swirling water and hundreds of mini waterfalls.

Egrets and huge Sea Eagles swoop to pick up exposed fish and crustaceans. Turtles and manta rays adjust to the lowering tide were all around us. It is truly extraordinary and totally unique.

We have run out of time and head back to our ship. But one guest is so overwhelmed she begs to be taken back for one last look. So our guide, marine biologist Jamie Watts, is happy to oblige and we return to the swirling waters one last time.

Want to know why a Kimberley cruise is one of the world’s most sought-after holidays? This is why.

Montgomery Reef

244 Koolama Bay King George Falls

Montgomery Reef is a 400-square kilometre marine ecosystem, located fifteen kilometres off the Kimberley coast. And there are no other places like it on our planet.

To round off such a spectacular afternoon, the crew of the Silver Explorer greet us with a glass of Champagne on a sand spit located at the end of the reef and en route home to the ship.

The Kimberley region is all about ‘rare and remote’. Rock formations that are two billion years old, towering ochre cliffs, flat waterfalls, and rock art galleries that scientists believe may be the oldest in the World. This corner of Australia is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas and an explorer’s dream. 

In Darwin, we joined 120 fellow travellers on board Silversea’s Silver Explorer. We are on a 10-day Kimberley cruise expedition experience that would take us along the extraordinary coastline to Broome.

Our team of experts, led Lea McQuillan, included Kimberley region experts in marine biology, geology, biology, ornithology – even art specialists.

There was a videographer to record our experiences and share with us a recap of our trip (with the bonus of a take home copy on a USB).

Whatever your interest, the Kimberley quickly draws you in. The region had been on our ‘bucket list’ for years. As was the case for many others who were on board. There were a considerable number ‘first-time’ cruisers; a group celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday and even a honey-moon couple.

Tim Fairclough pix

The Bungle Bungles

Our exploration began in Wyndham, a settlement of nine hundred people located in the Cambridge Gulf. Wyndham was established back in 1896 with the Halls Creek Gold Rush.

We took a complimentary two-hour flight inland to view the spectacular Bungle Bungles. This major geological landform in the Purnululu National Park are an incredible spectacle.

We were lucky to be able to appreciate the vast scale of the Bungle Bungles from our twelve-seat flight that also took us over stunning Lake Argyle, remote cattle stations, and the famous Argyle Diamond Mines. The mines were, at one time, one of the World’s largest supplier of diamonds, producing twenty million carats east year.

The next day, Silver Explorer arrived in Koolama Bay, where we joined an eight-person Zodiac cruise, again with expedition team leader, Jamie Watts at the helm.

King George Falls

The journey along the river to King George Falls was stunning, with near-vertical red rock formations, one more impressive than the next. We witnessed saltwater crocodiles, prolific birdlife including giant raptors, Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kite. At King George Falls, Jamie gently edged our Zodiac into the waterfall tumbling from ninety metres above.

On Jar Island, we hiked to view Bradshaw (Gwion Gwion) style rock art and later in Freshwater Cove (Wijingarra Butt Butt) the family of traditional owners the Damibmangari people greeted us.

They spend the drier winter season living on Jar, proudly enthusiastic to show off their territory.

Naomi greeted us as we stepped onto a stunning sandy beach from our Zodiac. We spotted Reef Sharks remarkably close to shore, feeding on the volumes of fish.

It was truly a family affair with Naomi’s cousin hosting a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony. Her father and brother personally guiding us to see the most magnificent rock art.

In the wet season between October and March they return to their family base further south in Derby. Life is about protecting family heritage and respecting their association with this land.

Naturalist Island at the end of the estuary has the capability to land helicopters. So we took advantage of a ride up to the famous Mitchell Falls where four tiers of waterfalls plunge into the deep pools that flow into the Mitchell River. The window seat of a helicopter with no doors was the thrill ride of a lifetime.

Our final day on the Kimberley cruise

297 Koolama Bay

On the final day of our breathtaking trip, we arrived at Talbot Bay to visit the renowned Horizontal Falls. This natural phenomenon consists of a pair of gorges in the McLarty Range through which a massive amount of water is forced by the tide. For the more daring like us, a high-speed boat trip provides the opportunity to pass through the first of the two gaps only twenty metres wide on the lowering tide.

Arriving at the small town of Broome, we had travelled almost two thousand nautical miles and enjoyed countless ‘experiences of a lifetime.’

We even took a ride on the famous camel train with Red Sun Camels at Cable Beach – the sunset was just sensational.

The verdict

The Kimberley leaves you wanting more – either to come back to the area, by land next time, or onwards to other Silversea expeditions!

Bitten by the bug, there was much conversation among our fellow travellers about the Arctic, Antarctica, Galapagos. And new for Silversea, the high Arctic in the northern reaches of Greenland.

In all respects, our voyage was a beautiful experience, from a highly engaged expedition team to the excellent people who took care of us. It is a testament to Silversea Expeditions Head, Conrad Combrink, who was at the foundation of this business back in 2007.

The highlight was most definitely our visit to Montgomery Reef. Our biggest regret – that we did not stay on board and do it all again back to Darwin!


Get a two-category suite upgrade on Ocean-going voyages – or a one-category suite upgrade on Expedition cruises – a $1,000 shipboard credit per suite ($500 per guest), and a refundable 15% reduced deposit. Our limited-time Suite Upgrades offer applies to a global collection of itineraries departing November 2023 through May 2025.

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