Recently I wrote a blog setting out my 7 top ‘must sees’ of the Kimberley. You’ll find it here.
But there is more to Kimberley cruising than the wonderful waterfalls, reefs and rock structures of the coast. So here are my top 7 Kimberley cruise activities:
I must confess to hearing myself once say ‘I only fish in the Kimberley”. Can I firstly apologise for sounding so snotty!!! I’m not really a person that fishes but I can tell you that up in the Kimberley is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon or morning.
The Kimberley’s huge size and remoteness lends itself to amazing fishing opportunities. The diversity in fish habitats; coral reef, salt water, mangrove inlets and fresh water streams, ensures there are many species to be caught. Obviously obviously is the one that most people want to catch but there is also mangrove jack, salmon and Red Emperor – just to name a few.
All of the smaller vessels (50 passengers and less) are Western Australian based so they can offer fishing as part of your Kimberley cruise and most on-board chefs prepare whatever you catch. Fishing equipment is provided free of charge.
But if you are not into fishing don’t worry – these trips are first and foremost about seeing the Kimberley sights and if you don’t care about fishing there are always other activities. But I do recommend you give it a go – at least once. You end up in the tiny little estuaries, in less known river systems that you would never visit otherwise; they are so remote and serene it’s worth going just to experience them.
“Can I swim (or snorkel) on a Kimberley cruise?” is one of the questions I am often asked. For swimming in the sea; off the vessel the simple answer is NO! Saltwater crocodiles and sharks have claimed this water as their own.
However, there is still good news – most of the cruises, especially the smaller boats, offer opportunities to hike to gorges and waterfall to enjoy a beautiful freshwater swim – way above the crocodile line. Here are some great places that can be offered.
- Mitchell Falls – Accessible only by helicopter (additional cost) the tiered rock pools offer a fabulous place to cool down and enjoy the Kimberley Landscape.
- Camp Creek – Known as a great spot for birdlife and waterlilies, Camp creek is spring fed and surround by paperbark trees.
- Kimberley Shower – Many of the vessel will take their smaller, expedition boats, and cruise up to the waterfalls. Once the boat has been butted against the rocks, many a forewarned and brave passenger will stand at the bow of the boat and let the fresh (cold) water flow over them. This is what’s called a ‘Kimberley Shower’.
I have written a longer blog post on swimming in the Kimberley here.
The walks in the Kimberley are many and varied and the degree of difficulty is very much dependent on which cruise you choose. Intrepid adventurers will enjoy the more challenging walks that include climbing over rocks to the top of King George Falls. Walks such as Raft Point take you view amazing aboriginal art sites and then there are opportunities for strolls along the beach.
As a general rule, to get the most out of your Kimberley Cruise, you need to be steady on your feet and able to walk over rocky and uneven ground. I have written a separate blog on ‘how fit do you need to be for a Kimberley cruise?’
Kimberley cruises are expeditions; you don’t just see the Kimberley, you experience it on these cruises and so there is plenty of activity on most days.
Nevertheless it is a holiday not an endurance test and there will be plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the Kimberley scenery, read a book, enjoy a drink. To be honest it is nice to grab a cold drink after your last excursion of the day, perhaps watching the sun dip over the horizon, before popping back to your cabin for a quick shower ready for a relaxed dinner. You and your fellow passengers then meet up prior to dinner for a relaxed review of that day’s events.
Most cruises involve at least two off ship excursions per day. You are not obliged to go on them all of course and sometimes people opt to stay onboard and enjoy the quiet of a ship with hardly any passengers. The larger ships have spas, gyms and, on the Ponant expedition ships, a pool.
You never go hungry on a Kimberly cruise. Eating good food is part of the experience and the active nature of the trip leads to healthy appetites. All the vessels that we book include all meals and some also include alcohol with meals. If you are really into your cuisine then your choices will vary from the bigger vessels offering a choice of dining options and specialised Fine Dining to others that offer communal dinning with wonderful locally sourced (where possible) fresh produce. Whilst meals vary from vessel to vessel here is a good guide of what you can expect.
- Breakfasts are usually a choice of cereals, toast and sometimes hot breakfast options. If it’s an especially early morning maybe just toast. Then comes morning tea with scrumptious cakes and biscuits (I usually promise myself I’ll only have half but sometimes…..).
- Lunch can be a buffet** with a great selection of fresh meats and beautiful salads, soups and desserts. This is quite often backed up with afternoon tea when you return to the boat after your afternoon adventure.
- Dinners are always a great place to sit back and relax and share the day’s events. El a carte, beach BBQ and seafood buffets can all be on offer. For those on a boat that has the appropriate fishing licences the chef will be happy to prepare your catch.
Most dietary requirements can be catered for when enough notice is given (a couple of weeks prior).
** While COVID safe practices are in place buffets may be changed to sit down or served by staff instead of self service.
6. Bird watching – You don’t have to be a twitcher to enjoy spotting the birds up in the Kimberley. There is extraordinary variety of birds, including the Brolga the jabiru the white build Sea Eagle, the Red-tailed black cockatoo and my absolute favourite, the blue winged kookaburra. Many of these birds you will only ever see in this part of the world. The diversity of habits tidal mud flats, bush, mangroves, wetlands, grassy plains and rocky outcrops makes the Kimberley one of the most striking landscapes to a view so many species. What never ceases to amaze me is how clever the guides are at spotting them or identifying their distinctive calls.
7. Whales and Wildflowers
Every year whales make an epic migration from the feeding ground in the Antarctic to spend the winter months from June to September in the Kimberley’s warm tropical waters. Humpbacks, Southern white and blue whales make their way along the west along western Australian coast. Here, they give birth in the calm protected waters of Camden Sound, the biggest nursery and calving area for the largest Humpback whale population on the planet. they often come so close that you can see them with binoculars or even the naked eye. The success of WA’s humpback whales appears to be a combination of good feeding grounds in Antarctica, coupled with calving grounds in the Kimberley that ease the demands the migration places on mother and calf.
Many people do not realise the unique and diverse range of wild flowers and flowering trees are blooming in the Kimberley all year-round these include the Bloodwood Tree Flowers, Bush Caper Flower and the boab flower. One of the most fascinating is the WOOLLYBUTT Eucalyptus miniate. This tree has a spreading canopy and grows up to 15 metres high. The bark is reddish brown and stringy at the base of the trunk but smooth and white on the upper branches. Its “woolly butt’ protects the tree from fires. It flowers from May to September and the striking orange flowers attract many nectar eating birds and insects. Aboriginal uses: The bark is used to construct waterproof roofs. The woollybutt is a good source of sugarbag honey, as native bees frequent the hollows in trunk and branches.
Everyone is different and has their own likes and dislikes. You might love fishing or have no interest in it at all. You might want lots of walking and swimming opportunities or you might need something less frenetic. No one cruise is the same and if you make the wrong choice you could end up on a trip that is completely wrong for you. I have sailed on four different vessels along the Kimberley coast and each time I travelled with fellow passengers who I believe had been booked on the wrong cruise (not by me I hasten to add!).
The worst example was a couple I met when I was travelling on a trip with my mother. This lovely couple were very fit and active and wanted as much swimming and walking as they could get – the ship they were on was completely unsuitable for these interests and quite frankly they did not enjoy it. They had been booked by their local travel agent who had no knowledge of the Kimberley and simply booked them a cruise out of a brochure!
If you have specific preferences on what you want to do on your Kimberley cruise why not book a call with me to discuss the many varied cruise options in the Kimberley?
I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here and I will call you then.
Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements. If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here. I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.