Australia ~ Kimberley

10 May 2023

King George Falls (Oomari Falls) in The Kimberley

The Kimberley is a vast, beautiful region in northwest Australia. I'd heard travelers rave about it so I made it a post-eclipse priority. Really glad I did!

My cruise along the coast started in Broome and ended in Darwin without encountering any towns or habitation along the way — just spectacular nature.

First stop was the flat, sandy Lacepede Islands, home to perhaps the world's largest breeding colonies of brown boobies, along with a huge colony of Lesser Frigate birds. I think these are mostly brown boobies above. We also saw turtles, reef sharks, and a ray.

This afternoon we got our first glimpse of the famous geology of the Kimberley as we went up Talbot creek and saw twisted and folded multi-colored rock layers.

The Kimberley coast has extremely large ranges between low and high tides. One dramatic result is seen at Montgomery Reef, the world's largest reef on a continental shelf. At high tide, the reef vanishes. But when the tides drops, miles of cascading waterfalls rise up as the reef emerges some ten feet or more out of the ocean!

Another "tidal waterfall" occurs inland when surging tides spill though narrow gaps into small bays. At the so-called "Horizontal Waterfall," we rode in zodiacs (gyrating around to add to the thrill) up and down the tidal spillway. Not Class 5 rapids, but fun.

Beautiful zodiac ride up Red Cone Creek...

to where we disembarked to begin a tricky climb...

up to see striking views....

and splash around in a cool, refreshing pond.

Always enjoy seeing baobab trees (called "boab" in Australia) and this is a big historic one inscribed by the explorers on the HMC Mermaid in 1820.

The Kimberley coast has a series of wonderful waterfalls. Our first big one was the terraced King Cascade (Mambulbada).

Taking a zodiac up Porosus Creek and through the mangroves was a blast to get to see (my favorites) lurking crocodiles as well as flame fiddler crabs and birds. On our return to the ship, tawny nurse sharks performed a graceful pas de deux while waiting for someone to fall overboard. Happily, Karen, Warren, and I stayed safe.

A 20-minute helicopter ride yielded a fantastic view of the triple cascades of Mitchell Falls. The view from the ground was equally impressive.

Another day's adventure was exploring Wandjina rock art that was painted over 3,000 years ago. We also got to see some examples of the even more ancient and elegant Gwion Gwion rock art from over 12,000 years ago! Above is Karen and a kangaroo, along with an example of that basic impulse to trace our hands as shared with Aborigines thousands of years ago.

Our early morning trip to King George Falls was the grand finale. The cliffs along the way were even higher and more stunning than earlier in the trip.

What an outstanding ten days on this Kimberley cruise. Here are my three top tips:

❶ Big cruise lines are rushing to the Kimberley as the next big thing, but go with Coral Expeditions! They use small ships, making the zodiac excursions far easier. My ship had about 70 friendly Aussie guests (plus this one Yank). And they pioneered Kimberley cruises.

❷ Go in the second half of April after the end of the rainy season, when the waterfalls are still full, and before it gets really hot. Also, go from Broome to Darwin so the drama will build.

❸ Go soon before the virtually empty Kimberley coast is overrun with tourists.