"Having never been to the Kimberley before, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this expedition. No matter how much I read or how many people I had talked to, I found it hard to visualise what it would be like. Nothing could have prepared me for the sensory overload I would experience on this trip. The stark beauty, accessible history and absolute remoteness of this land left me in nothing but awe for what must be one of the world's truly wild places.
Over the first few days of our adventure, my lasting impression was one of vivid displays of colour - the bright azure of the morning skies, shimmering aqua green waters, red rocks blazing bright through dusty sunsets. I was hooked!
Talbot Bay was the site of a thrilling experience for the group on the renowned Horizontal Waterfalls. Our 'Explorer' landing craft took us out into the bay and then we jumped in to the zodiacs for some adventure. Powering through the rapidly moving tidal water between two narrow sandstone chasms and the wind in our hair, the whirlpools and currents tumbled us about with smiles all round!
It became apparent very early on that the places we were visiting could only be accessed by small ship - making Coral Princess ideal to safely navigate the many rivers and isolated inlets we explored. The beauty of the ship to me was that even though we felt like we were on an expedition, the comfort of the ship meant that it was very easy to take it all in and relax. And with only 50 passengers, we all got to know each other throughout the voyage and everyone appreciated the informal, friendly atmosphere on board.
A personal highlight for me and many of my fellow expeditioners were the unforgettable Aboriginal rock paintings on Bigge Island - one of the most important indigenous cultural sites in this part of Australia. The stunningly preserved rock art of both the Wandjina and Bradshaw peoples is displayed on overhanging rock ledges and being able to stare into the eyes of spirits painted thousands of years ago was an experience I will always treasure. Garry Darby, our on board lecturer and Aboriginal art expert, was with us in these caves explaining the historical significance of the paintings and bought it all together beautifully. It was sad to hear that because there are no more aboriginals living in the area, this inspirational Dreamtime gallery is no longer being re-painted and will be left to fade with the elements.
Cruising around the Lacepede Islands just north of Broome provided the group with an awesome wildlife encounter. Beneath the harrowing cries of circling frigate birds, boobies and terns, dozens of turtles swam around the boat. A breeding ground for green and flatback turtles, this group of idyllic islands is now an important nature reserve.
Many of us decided to cap off our expedition with an optional helicopter trip over Mitchell Falls. It was an exhilarating ride and fantastic way to appreciate the remarkable variety of the Kimberley. Again it was the colours that captivated me. We spied mangrove-fringed green rivers falling away from the Mitchell Plateau, orange sandstone ridges snaking gently across the spinifex with the white flashes of the sun reflecting up from dark billabongs never visited by man.
And so after 11 days of crocodiles and boab trees, sunshine and swimming holes, our journey came to an end. Throughout it all, our friendly expedition leader, Mike Cusack was always on hand to look after us and guide us through the wonders of the Kimberley. Knowledge is the key to a rewarding expedition and Mike's passion, enthusiasm and expertise impressed us all. He took time to interpret the history, plants and animals we came across. His insights, combined with those of Garry's and our other on board lecturer Chris Done, gave us a deeper understanding of just what it is that makes the Kimberley Coast such an incredible corner of Australia.
To find out more about our Kimberley Coast expeditions, click here