Set sail for the wild and grandiose landscapes of the Kimberley coast, home to ancient rock art galleries and extraordinary artistic traditions on this exceptional Ponant itinerary. From Broome to Darwin, embark aboard Le Bellot for a 14-day expedition cruise to one of the last unspoiled regions on the planet.
Discover spectacular examples of the regions massive tides, including the cascading mini-waterfalls of Montgomery Reef and the unique phenomenon of the “Horizontal Falls” in Talbot Bay. Experience the pristine mangrove forests of the Hunter river, where saltwater crocodiles live alongside many species of birds. Marvel at the 90m high sandstone gorge of the King George River culminating in the majestic Twin Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in Western Australia.
This wild area is home to the oldest continual culture on earth, whose ancient stories and traditions can be found on the walls of the many rock art galleries across the region. The Gwion Gwion are regarded as the oldest depictions of the human form on the planet and the magnificent Wandjina represent the creator spirits of the dreamtime.
On the Tiwi islands, thousand-year-old artistic traditions continue thanks to art centres dedicated to local artists and craftsmen. You will admire ochre paintings on canvas and bark, ironwood carvings, screen printed fabrics, ceramics, bronze and glass sculptures and discover the daily life in the remote communities.
Located in the northwest of the Kimberley region and in the far north of Western Australia, the town of Broome is reputed for its history and its glorious pearling era. The fascinating Chinatown district, which is the historic city centre, and the famous Japanese Cemetery, dates back to 1896, and has a past marked by the immigration of numerous Chinese and Japanese workers, attracted by the prosperous pearl industry at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. Broome is also famous for the “Staircase to the Moon”, an optical illusion created by the Moon reflecting on the sand banks at low tide, like a staircase climbing up towards the sky, a unique spectacle provided by nature.
The Lacepede Islands are Western Australia’s most important breeding habitat for Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), and have been named by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The breeding colony of Brown Boobies is possibly the largest in the world. Up to 20,000 Roseate Terns have also been recorded here. Other birds breeding on the islands include Masked Boobies, Australian Pelicans, Lesser Frigatebirds, Eastern Reef Egrets, Silver Gulls, Crested, Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns, Common Noddies, Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers. Join your expedition team for a guided Zodiac tour to view the prolific wildlife. Due to the sensitive nature of the environment, landings are prohibited on the Lacepede Islands.
Lying to the east of the Buccaneer archipelago, the ancient landscapes of Collier Bay have been shaped by the massive tidal movements the region is renowned for, creating a photographer’s paradise. With a tidal range exceeding 14 metres, recorded near Yule entrance at the southern end of the bay, they are among the largest in the world. This massive daily movement of water creates unique phenomena that occur nowhere else in the world. Nestled in the centre of the Bay is Montgomery Reef, the world’s largest inshore reef system. As the tide falls a raging torrent of water cascades off the top of the reef, creating turbulent ‘rivers’ and mini waterfalls. At the Southern end of the Bay, Talbot Bay is home to the world’s only ’Horizontal Falls’ described by Sir David Attenborough as “One of the greatest wonders of the natural world.” Hidden in the many caves and grottos of this ancient landscape are a multitude of ancient Rock Art galleries. Here you can find spectacular examples of the Wandjina and Gwion Gwion styles.
As you are at the mercy of weather and tide conditions in this region, the activities mentioned above are only possible experiences and can’t be guaranteed.
Named by Phillip Parker King in 1819 after The English Judge and royal commissioner John Thomas Bigge, Bigge Island is known as Wuuyuru to the Wunambal people of the Kimberley Coast. Wuuyuru is a significant site for Aboriginal people and is the resting place of the boss Wandjina Aarwarrndju. The easily accessible galleries are also home to more recent images of sailing ships and what appears to be figures smoking pipes. Some have suggested that this is evidence of first European contact with Aboriginal people on the Kimberley coast. Whether it was Dutch or English sailors of the 1600s, French sailors of the Baudin expedition or New South Wales surveyors such as Philip Parker King or John Lort Stokes of the early 1800s, we will never know. Join your expedition team ashore for a guided walk to a number of rock art galleries depicting the Wandjina style.
Arguably one of the most scenic parts of the Kimberley coast, Prince Frederick Harbour and the Hunter River are lined with ancient rainforest pockets, pristine mangroves and mosaic sandstone cliffs. They are considered to be some of the most pristine mangrove forests in the world, containing up to 18 different species, supporting a rich and diverse fauna. The sandstone escarpment at the river mouth, known as “Kampamantiya” rises over 200 metres high before giving way to extensive mud banks and mangrove forests home to numerous bird species and the iconic saltwater crocodile. The expert Expedition Team will share their knowledge with you as you explore this pristine mangrove environment by Zodiac keeping a constant lookout for wildlife. You will also have the opportunity to reach the Mitchell Falls by helicopter from Naturalist Island beach.
The Bonaparte Archipelago, is a stunningly rugged maze of islands stretching almost 150km along Western Australia’s remote Kimberley coast. Its colour and scale conspire to take ones’ breath away. Its distant location has meant it has remained an unspoilt and remarkably pristine location to explore and experience. Phillip Parker King named “Swift’s bay” after Jonathon Swift (1667-1745) the author of Gulliver’s travels. The ‘T’ shaped bay is composed of heavily fractured sandstone providing an abundance of rock shelters. On the walls of these shelters are examples of both Wandjina and Gwion Gwion style rock art. Join your expedition team ashore for a guided walk to a number of rock art galleries depicting these unique rock art styles.
Vansittart Bay in Jar Island contains ancient rock art galleries depicting the Gwion Gwion style unique to the Kimberley region. Mainly neglected by, or unknown to, the early European researchers of Aboriginal culture in the Kimberley in favour of the dominant and more dramatic Wandjina art, Gwion Gwion art has in recent years gained world prominence. It is generally thought that this art may extend back to over 30,000 years before our time and represents the first wave of seagoing colonisers of the Australian continent. As it is, these are the oldest detailed depiction of human figures in the world. Join your Expedition Team ashore for a short walk, past some fascinating rock formations, to the site of the Gwion Gwion art galleries.
The journey up the King George River is nothing short of breathtaking. The 80-metre-high sides of the gorge display varying degrees of weathering of the ancient Warton sandstone. The colours and textures of the gorge change with the light as you travel further up the river creating a continual changing scenery that is simply stunning. The journey culminates at the King George twin falls; the highest single-drop falls in the whole of the Kimberley (80m). Fed by wet season run-off the level of water cascading over the falls varies from year to year. Your Expedition Team will escort you in either the Zodiacs or ships tenders to the foot of the twin falls, and explain all about the stunning geological formations of the canyon.
Wyndham is the northernmost town in Western Australia and in many ways is the gateway to the Kimberley. It is surrounded by some of the most spectacular landforms, rivers and wetlands in the Kimberley. Including the spectacular Ord river, the manmade Argyle dam, and Purnululu national park, home to the Bungle Bungle ranges. Today, you will have the opportunity to undertake the remarkable Ord river wildlife cruise, a scenic flight over the east Kimberley including the Bungle Bungle ranges or a day exploring El Questro station including Emma Gorge and Zebedee springs. In addition, a shuttle bus will operate around the small township of Wyndham.
Enjoy a leisurely day at sea to take advantage of the luxurious onboard services or enjoy a cool drink by the pool. Enjoy time to reflect on your experiences or share photographs with fellow guests. Your expedition team will be offering an enrichment programme focusing on Australia, it’s history and flora and fauna. Perhaps take the opportunity to be out on deck sunbathing or sampling culinary specialties prepared by our Chef and Galley Team.
The Indonesian officials will perform the necessary clearance formalities. Your stopover at Pulau Meatimiarang is for technical clearance purposes only. There is no opportunity for guests to go ashore.
The Tiwi people are culturally and linguistically distinct from those of Arnhem Land on the mainland just across the water. Most residents speak Tiwi as their first language and English as a second language. The creation of Indigenous art is an important part of Tiwi Island culture and its economy. For 25 years Munupi Arts has been a vital meeting place for the Tiwi people of the Pirlangimpi community for employment, cultural pride and well-being. The Munupi Arts and Crafts Association gives local artists an opportunity to proudly celebrate Tiwi culture through both traditional and contemporary mediums. You will be welcomed ashore in Pirlangimpi and have the opportunity to visit the Munupi Art centre and experience life in this small remote Aboriginal community.
Darwin is located in Australia’s Northern Territory which is also known as the “Top End”. It is the capital city and the most populated town of the Northern Territory. Darwin is a beautiful tropical city, a melting pot of people and cultures, over 50 different cultures live and work side by side that prides itself in its unique and friendly laid-back lifestyle. Come discover the town’s still recent history through its emblematic buildings such as the new Parliament House opened in 1994, a magnificent example of tropical architecture or Admiralty House declared heritage place, a tropical-style home elevated on stilts that has survived two cyclones and numerous air raids.