The region known simply as The Kimberley takes its evocative name
from its most imposing landmark; an ancient mountain range visible from
the rugged sea coast. Covering more than 400,000 square kilometres (an
area three times larger than England) in North West Australia, it is a
place universally acknowledged as the world’s last - and possibly
most beautiful - wilderness.
The Kimberley is a place of magnificent vistas created by towering
rock ridges, silent secluded gorges, wide savannah plains and
waterfalls which defy both nature and belief.
Though the majority of Australian don't even know it exists, of
those who do, few have seen it as it is in one of most remote corners
of the country. There's one pretty average gravel road in and out to a
tiny section of it, but apart from that, the only way to experience the
Kimberley coast is to either fly over it or take a cruise.
While the large ocean going cruise liners can sail the shores of a
rugged coastline like the Kimberley, and some do, the extreme tides
experienced there, the shallow waters of the estuaries, islands and
reefs and the relatively narrow river gorges crying out to be explored,
demand much smaller vessels with shallower draughts be employed to
unlock the secrets of this pristine wilderness area.
There are a number of cruise operators and cruise vessels that ply
the coast of WA's Kimberley region, the Oceanic Discoverer, operated by
Coral Princess Cruises, is one of these vessels. Tiny by normal cruise
ship standards, it was purpose built to access the remote estuaries,
islands and reefs that are inaccessible to large cruise ships, yet has
the amenities, facilities and passenger comforts comparable to those of
larger cruise vessels.
On its 10-day cruises along the Kimberley coast, the Oceanic
Discoverer is accompanied by a smaller vessel, the specially design
aluminium Xplorer, which is used for landings and extensive exploration
of rivers and estuaries. It can accommodate the full company of
passengers travelling aboard to mother vessel. In addition, two
inflatable landing craft are carried aboard, to assist where landing on
the beach is required, or special places like Horizontal Falls, where
the craft come into their own zipping through the gaps in the rocks.
The Xplorer and the inflatables are pulled out at regular intervals as
there are plenty of river gorges to travel up, waterfalls to get so
close as to feel the spray, and sandy beaches and reefs to comb for
shells and other sea life.
Perhaps because of the cost and also because of the time taken do do
a journey up or down the North west coast of Australia, the majority of
people to take the cruise are over 65 and retired.