Stretching along Australia’s northwest coast, the Kimberley Plateau is a vast and beautiful landscape of plunging waterfalls, wild sandstone formations, deep river gorges—and very few people. Aboriginal cultures here have remained largely intact, and traces of their ancient ancestors can be found at spectacular rock art sites along the coast. Experience the raw majesty of the Kimberley, exploring from the fully equipped National Geographic Orion. In the company of our naturalists, get acquainted with local mythology and culture, encounter a wide array of wildlife, and navigate the stunning coast in Zodiacs. King George Falls is flowing forcefully in May and June, while humpback whales begin to arrive in June and are most abundant in August.
Depart for Darwin, cross the international date line, and arrive on Day 3. Established on the coast of the Northern Territory, Darwin began as a frontier town of pioneering cattlemen, gold miners, and crocodile hunters and has developed into a thriving, multi-cultural city. Settle into your cabin aboard the National Geographic Orion and cast off this afternoon.
Settle into your cabin and prepare for the Kimberley's amazing photographic opportunities with talks and hands-on instruction by our National Geographic photographer and Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor. The ship makes a brief technical stop at Com, before continuing into the heart of the Kimberley.
Dock in Wyndham and spend the day in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Purnululu National Park, home of the breathtaking Bungle Bungle Range, where striped sandstone hills shaped like giant beehives give way to deep chasms filled with greenery. Get an incredible view of this otherworldly karst landscape during a flightseeing excursion. Or you may choose to cruise the Ord River to Lake Argyle, keeping an eye out for crocodiles, wallabies, jabiru (black-necked storks), and kookaburras in this remarkably lush ecosystem that has developed above the Ord River Dam. Take in views of the lake and learn about the area’s pioneers on a visit to the Durack homestead.
Drop anchor at the mouth of the King George River and ride Zodiacs up this waterway that weaves between nearly vertical canyon walls. Our destination is the river's dramatic falls, where water drains off the plateau in twin cascades, careening down some 260 feet. Early in the season, we will probably hang back in the mist to watch the thundering water. Later in the year, we will get right up close to the base of the falls, under towering red rock canyon walls. If you wish, hike to the top of the falls and cool off in a freshwater rock pool.
Enter Vansittart Bay and go ashore at Jar Island to experience the mystical culture of Kimberley’s Aboriginal people at an outdoor gallery of prehistoric Gwion Gwion rock art. The elegant images, dating from tens of thousands of years ago, are also known as “Bradshaw figures,” after Joseph Bradshaw, who first recorded the style in 1891. If time permits, explore the remains of a WWII DC-3 plane that crashed nearby.
With crimson cliffs jutting toward the sky and thick mangroves lining the waterways, Prince Frederick Harbour and Hunter River make for some of the most spectacular scenery on the Kimberley coast. Drop anchor near Naturalists Island and set off to explore Hunter River by Zodiac. Navigate the mangroves, on the lookout for crocodiles and numerous bird species, or take an optional helicopter flight to Mitchell Falls to get a unique perspective on the Kimberley’s vast, rugged, and hard-to-reach interior.
The Kimberley coast is known for its dramatic tides. We’ll arrive at the reef surrounding the Montgomery Islands at high tide and position ourselves to watch the water drop rapidly and miles of reef appear suddenly, as if rising from the sea. This is a fantastic opportunity to spot birds and marine life such as cormorants, egrets, sea turtles, and reef sharks as they forage for marine life trapped by the reef. Continue to Raft Point, where we climb up to a saddle of rock filled with ancient rock art. Trace the lore of the sacred Wandjina ancestors and their great fish trace in paintings depicting spirits and native creatures.
Sail into the Buccaneer Archipelago to witness an extraordinary phenomenon: the horizontal waterfalls of Talbot Bay. These double waterfalls, created by the sudden tidal rise and fall when conditions are right, surge up to ten or more feet, as the trapped water pushes inland or cascades out through the narrow gaps to the ocean side. Hop into Zodiacs to experience this exhilarating event. Later in the day, join our naturalists on an excursion to Cyclone Creek to explore the twisted geological folds of the ancient seabed.
A long finger of sandstone protruding from the mainland alongside Koolan Island, Nares Point provides great opportunities to explore by Zodiac and go on beach walks with our naturalists. In nearby "Crocodile Creek"—free of crocodiles despite its name—take a refreshing swim in cool natural pools.
Disembark in Broome and make your way to the airport for an overnight flight home.
Ralph Lee Hopkins
Ralph Lee Hopkins is a popular photo workshop instructor who has traveled to Antarctica more than a dozen times. His wildlife images have appeared in National Geographic's books, magazines, and online galleries, and are represented in the National Geographic Image Collection.
Ralph Lee will join the following departures:
May 30 - Jun 12, 2014
Jun 09 - 22, 2014
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
REV Indicates trip operates in reverse.
Prices are based on double occupancy. For single pricing in 2014, add $4,110 in Category 1 and $5,660 in Category 3. For single pricing in 2015, add $4,560 in Category 1 and $6,230 in Category 3.
International airfare to Darwin and return from Broome is not included in the expedition cost.