Saturday, May 15, 2010
Cruise Diary: True North in the Kimberley
Few places in the world cause Australian eyes to light up brighter than the Kimberley, and the True North, crowned by its own helicopter, is ultimate way to experience it. This is a very abbreviated account of what to expect on a one-week adventure.
Day 1: From Broome we're transferred by light aircraft to the Mitchell Plateau where our helicopter awaits. A 15-minute ride and we land on the True North in the Hunter River below. What a way to start a cruise! A group has already set off on a three-hour hike, while the later arrivals choose between fishing or sightseeing on one of the six tenders. We reunite for dinner and a chance to meet our fellow passengers, while entertained by special guest, guitarist Phil Ceberano, who performs an acoustic set every night.
Day 2: Dressed only in our swimwear, everyone gathers on the bow for an intimate encounter with King Cascade. The captain edges the boat so close to the waterfall that we're all drenched – and loving it. Afterwards, two tenders venture out to the Ampitheatre Waterfall for a heavier aqua-pounding. Others have spent the day fishing, mud-crabbing, walking, or taking a scenic helicopter flight, so there are many stories to share throughout the evening.
Day 3: The highlight of the trip takes place today: a "heli-picnic" at Melaleuca Falls. The chopper shuttles passengers to a beautiful swimming hole where we enjoy a BBQ of fish, crab, prawns, steak and salads. We walk up to the waterfall and sit on a ledge behind the cascading water – an exhilarating experience. The rest of the afternoon is passed with a few drinks under the paperbark trees, before the helicopter whisks us back to the boat for dinner.
Day 4: I join a tender ride out to Montgomery Reef, home to turtles, birds, sharks and dugongs. Back onboard, our local guide Jarrad presents a talk on the Kimberley wilderness as we head down the Sale River for a short walk to another swimming hole. While some passengers fly off for a night of "heli-camping", the remaining 20 have a fancy-dress party to celebrate crewmember Mikey's 21st.
Day 5: More fishing and sightseeing down the Glenelg River, followed by a Kimberley-style day spa at Ruby Falls where we smear ourselves with mud. Continuing on to Steep Island, we embark on a 30-minute trek up to see one of the region's most accessible sites of Wandjana rock art. After dinner is the lively quiz night, which my team wins, of course.
Day 6: A tour of the bridge and engine room kicks off the morning, then a helicopter ride over Talbot Bay and the mining islands of Koolan and Cockatoo. Unfortunately the effect of the Horizontal Falls is spoiled by the neap tide, but our disappointment is washed away with a couple of beers and a game of cricket on the snow-white sands of Silica Beach – a good Aussie end to a great Australian adventure.
For details, see www.northstarcruises.com.au.
Where to Stay in Broome: The new Pinctada Cable Beach Spa Resort is the only official five-star accommodation in town. Managed by Marilynne Paspaley AM, the 72-room resort has a pool with spa and lap lane, alfresco dining, poolside café, cocktail lounge, gym, day spa, meditative garden and landscaping by Jamie Durie.
A few minutes walk from Cable Beach, it's a relaxing and friendly spot to stay before and after your Kimberley cruise. The ambience is enhanced with native plants, boab trees, original artworks and breeze-capturing balconies on all spacious studios. Airport pick-up is available.
For bookings, see www.pinctadacablebeach.com.au.
Louise Goldsbury is the editor of Cruise Weekly, available FREE to all cruise lovers in Australia and New Zealand. Sign up at www.cruiseweekly.com.au