Day 1: Darwin, Northern Territory – Embark.
Darwin is Australia’s closest city to the equator and the gateway to the Top End. Following bombing during World War II, Darwin was more a frontier town of crocodile and buffalo shooters and pioneer cattlemen. After the city was wiped out by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 it was rebuilt as Australia’s cosmopolitan northernmost tropical capital. Beyond the city lies Litchfield National Park (about 2 hours drive) and to the south-east the teeming wetlands of Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu. Much architecture remains from the city’s early periods, with museums, markets and an incredible diversity of restaurants to keep visitors entertained.
The harbour foreshore area is a great place to discover the city’s maritime links. Take a relaxing cruise on an old pearl lugger, a thrilling flight in a seaplane or a gentle hovercraft trip. Spend a day out fishing for barramundi, jewfish, golden snapper and threadfin salmon, or go for the adventure of scuba diving around shipwrecks. At sunset, savour a taste of Asia’s night markets at Mindil Beach, where you can browse the food stalls for a picnic dinner on the beach. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 2: At sea.
Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: King George River and Falls – Scenic Zodiac Cruising.
Today Orion will drop anchor in Koolama Bay. Originally known as King George Bay, the area was renamed after the merchant ship Koolama was bombed near here by Japanese aircraft during World War II. The 12km journey up the King George River reveals some of the world's most spectacular scenery and a wealth of bird species. The almost vertical sheer canyon walls have been eroded over millions of years and look like stacks of sandstone reminiscent of a child's building blocks. The King George River drains the Gardner Plateau and the falls are the highest single-drop falls in the whole of the Kimberley (100m or 330ft). Whether you experience the mighty thundering of the falls early in the season, or have the chance to get up close and personal later in the year, you'll be in awe of the sight. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Vansittart Bay – Wet landing.
Vansittart Bay is our destination, located at the southern end of Vansittart Bay. The island was so named by the explorer Phillip Parker King for the shards of pottery he found there, most likely left behind by Macassan traders. Other remnants of visits by the Macassans are tamarind trees which are not native to the Kimberley. After landing ashore, our destination will be an outdoor art gallery of Gwion Gwion (otherwise known as Bradshaw) Aboriginal art. Named after Joseph Bradshaw, the first European person to record them in 1891, the rock images are hard to date. It is believed they were created at least 17,000 yrs ago with some theories indicating they could be even older, potentially up to over 50,000 years ago when humans first explored this continent.
If this is the case, the images are possibly the oldest known to man. Of the two primary art forms found along the Kimberley coastline – the Gwion Gwion and Wandjina - the latter is more contemporary than the older Gwion Gwion. The Gwion Gwion is known for its symmetrical, mystical and graceful forms, depicting highly decorated figures adorned with tassels, delicate jewellery and elaborate headdresses. The Wandjina are instantly recognisable for the distinctive haloes around their heads. Inclusions You will be transferred by ship’s Zodiacs to experience a guided walk to view Gwion Gwion Aboriginal art. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Bigge Island – Wet landing.
Bigge Island is a rugged and barren moonscape. Small Monjon rock wallabies and the Northern Quoll thrive here free of feral predators found on the mainland. The island is famous as a site for some amazing rock art, including "first-contact" art spread over many sites. Join the expedition team as they point out the Wandjina art that is in evidence. The Wandjina figures are distinctive for what appear to be haloes around the head of each figure. Painted by the Wunambal people, you may also see images of sailing ships and figures smoking pipes which have been interpreted as representing seafaring European visitors in the 19th century. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Hunter River (for Mitchell Falls) – Wet landing.
Arguably one of the most scenic parts of the Kimberley coast, Prince Frederick Harbour and the Hunter River are lined with green rainforest, mangroves and soaring red cliffs. Cliffs at the river mouth are some 200 metres high and to the north Mt. Anderson rises to an impressive 480 metres. Today Orion will drop anchor close to Naturalist Island, the proper name of which is “Wunumpurramarra”, on the northern side of the harbour. For those taking the flightseeing excursion, Orion’s Zodiacs will land you on the main beach, some 300 metres long. An enormous number of shells can be found on the beach, many of which are home to hermit crabs who have taken possession of marine snail shells.
This region has many crocodiles and you may be lucky enough to see them! For those wishing to explore some of the Kimberley’s vast interior, today presents a wonderful opportunity. The distance from Naturalist’s Island to the famous Mitchell Falls & Plateau is about 50km and you’ll fly over some spectacular terrain. From the air you’ll notice the natural bush landscape is littered with an unexpected feature – the palm! Livistona eastonii predominate and grow in the open eucalypt forest. Inclusions Should conditions permit Zodiac sightseeing excursions along the coastline may be offered today. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Montgomery Reef/Raft Point – Wet landing.
Arriving at high tide, you'll see very little of Montgomery Reef. However as the tide drops rapidly away a raging torrent of water, cascading off the top of this 400ha reef, erupts as miles of surrounding reef appears to slowly rise out of the ocean. A Zodiac will maneuver you into a channel in the reef as water cascades down on either side. It's the perfect spot to watch cormorants, egrets and sandpipers forage for sea life trapped on the surface of the reef. Below the waterline opportunistic sea turtles, reef sharks and many larger fish also take advantage of this feast. After landing ashore by Zodiac at Raft Point, your expedition leader will guide you on a climb up to a saddle of rock that forms nothing short of a spectacular outdoor Aboriginal art gallery. The art is an account of the mythical Wandjina clan on the 'Great Fish Chase'. There are images of the Wandjina spirits with their distinctive haloes and dugong, crocodiles, fish and snakes. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Talbot Bay/Horizontal Waterfalls – Scenic Zodiac Cruising.
The Horizontal Waterfalls in the Buccaneer Archipelago are a product of the huge tides in the region, and the effect is created by the rapid tidal fall on the ocean-side of gaps in the cliffs. When conditions are right it is possible for a "waterfall" up to 3 metres high to form as the waters trapped on the landward side cascade out through the narrow gap to the ocean side. A flotilla of Orion's Zodiacs will take you for an exhilarating trip to witness the phenomenon of the falls. For a totally different perspective, see the falls from the air aboard our exclusively chartered seaplane. You'll gain a completely different appreciation of the massive tidal movement and the prehistoric geology that created it. Later in the day join expedition team members on a Zodiac excursion to Cyclone Bay where the tortured geological folds of what was once seabed will be explained. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Cape Leveque & The Lacepedes – Wet landing.
Cape Leveque is situated 220kms north of Broome on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula. A remote oasis in the white sands, red earth and thick bush, unless travelling onboard Orion, Cape Leveque can only be accessed by self-drive 4WD (some four hours - and only in the dry season) or by air. During your visit to Cape Leveque you will enjoy beautiful swimming in rock pools with clear water and abundant tropical fish. You may choose to experience a guided beach walk with a member of the Lombadina community, go fishing, or just sit back and relax.
The Lacepedes Islands offer a plethora of wildlife. They are home to the world’s largest colony of Brown Boobies. With no natural predators these birds are able to breed and thrive on these beautiful uninhabited islands. Their closest neighbours are the green sea turtles who also choose this pristine environment to mate and hatch their eggs. You may have heard of the Lacepedes Islands in relation to the incident where an American involved in the mining of Guano raised the American Flag in an attempt to claim the islands for American possession in the late 1800s. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Bestern Australia – Disembark.
The charismatic town of Broome has a colourful history and a unique, cosmopolitan feel, which stems from its early pearling days when over 400 luggers plied the coast. The town is full of contrasts: stroll along kilometres of pristine white sand and swim in the clear water of Cable Beach or skim across tidal flats aboard a hovercraft to Gantheaume Point, home of the 130 million year old Dinosaur Footprints. Visit the Paspaley Pearls Boutique to sip champagne at an exclusive private viewing or take a walk along the white beaches and impossibly blue ocean. Spend some time uncovering the town's history at the Broome Historical Society Museum or reflect on the dangers of the early days of diving at the Japanese Shinto Cemetery, final resting-place for over 900 pearl divers. The fishing is great in Broome so board a fishing boat or simply try your hand at landing a big one from the deep water jetty. And if you enjoy bushwalking, the Minyirr Park has a number of self-guided trails. Ship: Safari Explorer. Meals: (D).
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