Kimberley cruising chronicles: waterfalls, wildlife and Aboriginal art

The Kimberley in north-west Australia has stunning waterways and landscapes to explore - and a cruise might just be the easiest way to see it all.

Writer Alana House is a cruise junkie but she didn’t want to visit The Kimberley - until she actually did. Read how she went from “too remote” to “too wonderful” in this travel story for Citro.

By Alana House

Confession: I didn’t want to visit The Kimberley. It wasn’t on my bucket list. I thought it was too remote and too expensive.

But my partner was obsessed with cruising there and talked me into accompanying him on a 10-day expedition from Broome to Darwin.

Spoiler alert: I had the trip of a lifetime and I guarantee you will too.

Cruising the Kimberley wasn't on the bucket list for Alana House (pictured above left) - but her partner talked her into it. And she doesn't regret it at all.

North-west Australia hosts the Kimberley coast

The Kimberley is one of the world’s most majestic wilderness regions.

Inflatable rubber boats cruise Proposis Creek on the Kimberley coast. Image: Graeme Snow

Spread over Australia’s vast north-western corner, it is filled with native wildlife, ancient indigenous art, dramatic rivers and canyons, pristine beaches, waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes.

We chose the perfect vessel for exploring it all - The MV Reef Prince, which only has 18 ensuite cabins, serves delicious gourmet meals and provides spacious common areas for relaxation, either in air-conditioned comfort or on deck.

The beauty of a smaller boat is that it can visit parts of The Kimberley that larger vessels can’t reach.

Alana travelled on the MV Reef Prince, pictured here near the Kings Cascade waterfalls. Image: Kimberley Expeditions

At King George River, for example, most ships can’t get over the sandbar and transfer their passengers to tenders to make their way to the famed King George Falls.

The MV Reef Prince can slip over the sand bar at high tide, which allows you to sit in comfort to enjoy the scenery as you cruise towards the falls.

King George River double waterfalls

King George River was named in honour of King George V and the landscape is suitably grand, with dramatic ochre cliffs towering over us on both sides. The piece de resistance comes as we turn a corner and see its famed double set of falls tumbling down into the 60-metre-deep water below.

We clamber into tenders in our swimsuits and our shouts and laughter fill the air as we are nudged under the thundering cascades.

Afterwards, we relax on deck and eat our lunch with a front-row view of the falls.

The writer Alana House with her partner David in the Kimberley. Image: Supplied.

Equally thrilling is our visit Horizontal Falls in the turquoise waters of Talbot Bay.

The falls are named after the fast-moving tidal current that squeezes through two narrow gorges of the McLarty Range, pushing the water into rapid-like formations that produce waterfalls turned on their side.

Located in the Buccaneer Archipelago, the Horizontal Falls are not accessible by vehicle, only by boat or seaplane.

We speed through the falls in a tender and it is thrilling when the boat becomes airborne, then crashes down into the tumultuous current.

Caption: Montgomery Reef is the the world's largest inshore reef. Image: Tourism Western Australia

The Kimberley is also home to Montgomery Reef, which has been described by David Attenborough as the eighth natural wonder of the world due to the rapidly falling tide that creates a series of rivers and mini-waterfalls off the reef.

As we motor along the main channel marvelling at the thousands of waterfalls, turtles pop out of the water, their heads looking like mini submarine periscopes.

Kimberley wildlife is magical

The wildlife in The Kimberly is spectacularly diverse.

We explore river tributaries among the mangroves, filled with crabs waving giant red claws, as jewelled kingfishers, egrets and eagles perch above us, the water teems with fish, sharks and golden bell jellyfish and crocodiles lurk near the shore.

As we glide down the Hunter River one morning, flocks of corellas and brolgas swoop over our heads and we catch a glimpse of a pom-pom tailed short-eared rock wallaby leaping on the rocky ledges that line the shore.

On a beach walk one afternoon we see large bird footprints in the sand and look up to find three elegant brolgas standing metres away from us on the grassy dune.

The ‘Carol of the Birds’ echoes in our heads … Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing. Lifting their feet like warhorses prancing… as the majestic birds launch into the air and circle above us.

Fishing is wild in the Kimberley

The Kimberley is a fisherman’s dream and there are numerous opportunities to throw a line during our trip, either from the back of the boat or on tenders.

My partner returns from his first fishing attempt with a 10kg Spanish Mackerel, which the chef crumbs and serves with pineapple salsa and soft tacos for our lunch.

Early one afternoon hundreds of fish start leaping out of the water all around the boat, while birds swirl eagerly overhead.

My partner climbs into one of the two fishing seats at the rear of the Reef Prince and reels in the first catch of the day – a golden trevally.

A fellow passenger catches a bonito tuna, which the chef slices into sashimi for our afternoon tea.

And the fishing is spectacular - especially when the chef prepares it straight away for a meal.

Indigenous art lives on rocky overhangs

We are fascinated by the Aboriginal art we discover hidden throughout The Kimberley.

At Rocky Cove there are thousands of examples under virtually every rocky overhang. Their age varies from 400 years old to around 19,000 years old and we are fortunate to see both Wanjina and Bradshaw art styles.

The Bradshaw art is almost ethereal, with the long, slender figures that seem to float across the rocks, boomerangs in hand. It is vastly different to other paintings found in the region and so intriguing, as experts know very little about its origins.

On our final night aboard the MV Reef Prince we anchor at North Perron Island.

Tables draped in white tablecloths and decorated with shells and candles are arranged on the front deck so we can enjoy our last dinner together under the stars.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen the Milky Way so clearly above me.

The air is balmy, with a gentle breeze - the perfect end to our holiday. We sip pre-dinner cocktails and watch the glorious sunset before dining on slow-cooked pork shoulder and asparagus pasta.

We feel blissfully relaxed and wish our journey wasn’t ending so soon. It has been good for our souls to disconnect from our electronic devices and immerse ourselves in nature.

While The Kimberley wasn’t on my bucket list, it has woven its magic on me.

My partner and I would cruise there again in a heartbeat. It isn’t a budget destination due to its remoteness, but it is worth it to have the experience of a lifetime.

Citro travel tip

Cruises depart from Broome or Darwin and are expensive. Tourism Australia has tips on how to cruise the area.

Read more about things to do in the Kimberley.

Image: Tourism Australia
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