The northern most region of the state of Western Australia, Kimberley, is one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions on earth. It is largely undeveloped and untouched, yet is a bounty of pristine landscapes, archaeologically significant, pre-historic treasures and wild adventures that predate almost anything of their kind around the world. The coast is especially abundant and difficult to access.
Fortunately, an intrepid few have now made it possible to more easily travel to the area. The Great Escape charter company is one of these, so we recently set out on a seven-night excursion to experience the iconic destination. With a guest-crew ratio of 2-1, the yacht was the perfect blend of intimacy and luxury.
To get to the Kimberley Coast, you will need to fly into Broome International Airport. As so much of the maritime movement in the region is controlled by the tides, it is highly advisable to get to Broome at least a day before departure. Better still, stay a few days before and after and get to know this historic and eclectic fusion of cultures that is one of Australia’s most northern tropical towns.
Once in Broome, guests are transported via a chartered flight along the coast to a small landing strip on the Mitchell Plateau where a helicopter awaits. From up above, it is abundantly clear why this is, literally, one of the least inhabited regions on earth. Everything about this place is challenging. The tides alone have to be experienced to be believed. Spring tides rise and fall around 30 feet up to twice per day. Everything on the water in this region is controlled or influenced by these challenging conditions. Yet, it is difficulties like these that have caused the preservation of Kimberley, allowing it to maintain its pristine environment.
Each evening, skipper Jeremy outlines the course to be plotted for the next day and the array of sights and experiences on offer. The setting is personal, tailored to suit each guest. One of the highlights is boarding the helicopter for an exploratory flight to a new and more amazing location. There are however no daily excursions to tourist towns. Days away from civilization, guests are flown to ancient waterfalls cascading into fresh water pools for an afternoon to swim.
The ship has three fishing tenders in tow and most days, guests set off in teams to target fish species of their choice. Among its sea life are an array of fish including the mighty Barramundi. Clive, one of the owners of the Great Escape, is a 20-year veteran of targeting these iconic sport fish. He generously shares the secrets of landing the catch of a lifetime. When caught, fish are either safely released back to the ocean or are handed over to the onboard chef.
Although Kimberley’s stunning lakes and waterways beckon guests to dive in for a refreshing swim, doing so is not advised thanks to resident salt-water crocodiles. Sharks are also plentiful in the region's waters.
To better understand the region, passengers get to learn about the area’s history from a qualified Kimberley archaeology and anthropology specialist. During our trip we flew to large overhanging boulders perched on weathered cliffs to witness the world’s most ancient cave art. Some of the art we visited was even discovered by the Great Escape crew on exploratory journeys. All around us, we witness untouched settings such as stone cutting tools left in the place of their last use eons ago.
Traveling south out of the majestic Prince Regent River, we headed back out to the coast through hundreds of islands. Moving to the next adventure we passed humpback whale breeding grounds. Located about 12 nautical miles off shore, Montgomery reef covers 154 square miles, making it Australia’s largest inshore reef. It is dominated by extreme tidal movement. As low tide accelerates, the reef appears to rise up from the ocean like Atlantis reforming from the deep. When the waters recede, the ocean rushes from the surface of the reef resulting in deep channels.
But the most undeniable demonstration of the Kimberley’s tidal power are The Horizontal Falls. Enormous water bodies rushing through two narrow rock passages result in a phenomenon of the ocean being at two levels and the appearance of a horizontal waterfall. After a close encounter by boat, we rise above in the helicopter to get a bird’s eye view of this unrelenting source of power. It was only once back in the air high that the scale and artistry of this event could be fully appreciated.
Leaving the reef, we were treated to a barbecue on a private atoll. Swinging into action, the team built a bonfire and prepared a feast bathed by the light of the fire and the Milky Way above. Throughout the trip, so many more wonders and experiences can enjoyed. Choices include being dropped off by helicopter on the cliffs of Raft Point for Champagne at sunset, or hand feeding Tawney Nurse sharks from the swim platform after breakfast.
On the final night, we pushed off toward civilization, not at all ready to relinquish this adventure. The small group was keenly aware of how lucky we were to have shared such a unique experience. During the trip, crew members became friends and they worked tirelessly to ensure this would be a bucket list voyage. And it most definitely was. The seven-night Southern Kimberley Experience begins at around USD $9,243 per person.