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Cairns to Broome
Our newly released ‘Across the Top of Australia’ expedition is an 18-night voyage combining the very best of our classic Kimberley adventure with our popular Cape York and Arnhem Land voyages. Join us to understand why this is a region we have come to love over the past 30 years. Covering over 4,000km of remote coastline, Coral Geographer traverses’ the legendary great rivers, pristine outer reefs, and traditional communities seen by very few in their lifetime. Hosted by our renowned expedition team, experience the rich history, geology and indigenous cultures of the North on these two special departures in January 2022. Voyage northwards through the outer Great Barrier Reef passage to discover an underwater world of colourful coral gardens at Osprey Reef. Beachcomb on the uninhabited tropical islands of the Piper Group. Stand at the Tip of Australia on Cape York and make connections with the small indigenous communities of ancient Arnhem Land, before entering the Kimberley coast to see the majestic wet-season waterfalls. Island-hop from Adele Island to the Lacepedes, where we will encounter a multitude of rare bird species and marine life including turtles, rays, sharks, sea snakes, and abundant fish species. This voyage into northern Australia uncovers rarely-seen wonders that you will never forget.
Depart Cairns at 5:00 pm and voyage into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Enjoy a sunset over the Coral Sea as you relax and meet your fellow travellers and crew at the Captain’s Welcome Drinks.
We spend a whole day at Lizard Island where there is time to hike to the summit of Cook’s Look and enjoy the same view Lt. James Cook did when searching for safe passage through the maze of coral reefs. Snorkel over giant clam gardens from the beach at Watson’s Bay, relax on the white-sand beach beneath shady she-oak trees and learn about the tragic story surrounding Mary Watson. There may be an opportunity to visit Lizard Island Research Station, operated by the Australian Museum to facilitate coral reef research and education on the Great Barrier Reef.
One of the world’s best dive sites, Osprey Reef is a submerged atoll in the Coral Sea. The top of a mountain which rises from the seafloor, surrounded by a vast ocean, draws many beautiful and rare marine creatures to its plummeting walls. Osprey Reef is a highly prized tropical dive location amongst scuba divers, called an ‘oasis for living creatures of all kinds’ by Sir David Attenborough. The vibrant corals and crystal-clear waters make it an unforgettable place to discover. Here we will spend time in the water exploring the 30m deep lagoon and drift diving the walls, where you may see large pelagic fish, rays, and sharks drawn in from the surrounding deep blue to enjoy the richness of this ocean oasis. Osprey Reef is a true expedition-style destination and our visit is subject to appropriate weather conditions.
Today, visit Stanley Island in the Flinders Group National Park and part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The aboriginal name for this island is Yindayin. Here we will view the isolated Endaen Aboriginal rock art. Some of the most fascinating rock art in northern Australia, where some of the rock paintings depict the first sailing ships to visit Queensland shores. The rock art on Stanley, and neighbouring islands Flinders and Clack islands, is of international significance and is considered highly important; All sites are an irreplaceable record of Aboriginal cultures in this region. (Some sites are secret; such as Clack Island which allows no visitors).
Arrive at Baird Island this morning. We may be able to land ashore to see the seabird colonies on this remote island. Then travel across to nearby Farmer Island to explore the coastal landscape and swim from the sandy beach.
This morning enjoy an interpretive walk amongst the coastal rainforest of Australia’s most northerly beach, Frangipani Beach, with the opportunity to explore the shoreline by Xplorer. In the afternoon, go ashore at the very tip of Cape York. This rocky promontory, fringed by islands, has an unexpected beauty in the afternoon light. Standing atop the rocks at Pajinka, as it is known by the first people of the area, is a rite of passage for many Australians. Celebrate with a glass of sparkling wine at this iconic location as you watch the sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria.
This morning, arrive on the banks of the beautiful Jardine River, on the western side of the Cape York Peninsula, one of northern Australia’s most remote locations. This historic area has much Indigenous and exploration history. After breakfast, board the Xplorer to cruise into the mouth of the river. Zodiacs will provide a closer look at the estuary, with the opportunity to spot birds and wildlife.
The 560km wide Gulf of Carpentaria is a large shallow sea carved into the coastline of northern Australia. A large lake was located here during the last ice age, 18,000 years ago, but as sea levels rose the lake was subsumed into the Arafura Sea. As we cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, enjoy presentations on natural history by our guest lecturers and look for birds or flying fish as you relax on the deck.
We will clear into Darwin for Nothern Territory border requirements.
The Cobourg Peninsula is part of the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, which is known for its pristine wilderness, marine life, and complex cultural history. Today, it is virtually uninhabited, with 20-30 people living on scattered homesteads. However, in the 1830s the British government wished to establish a trading settlement in northern Australia. They made several attempts, at Port Essington, Melville Island, and Raffles Bay but these settlements were abandoned by 1849 due to scurvy, tropical diseases, and lack of supplies. Explore the ruins of Fort Victoria and hear the stories of the failed settlement in this harsh landscape, and take a walk with the local ranger to spot native bush tukka plants, butterflies, and insects. The wet season will have left flowers blooming, and on a beach walk, you may spot monitor lizards, crocodiles or sharks close to the water’s edge.
Relax on deck as we spend a day at sea, with onboard presentations from our Guest Lecturers, with workshops, cooking demos and photo recaps of the trip thus far. Those with a keen eye might spot sea snakes, Wilson Storm Petrels and Brown Boobies, or even flying fish!
The remote Berkeley River cuts through the eastern edge of the Kimberley, draining into Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. This immense river is home to many saltwater crocodiles, rock wallabies and other wildlife, and is known for its steep-sided gorge and many waterfalls. Today, enjoy a peaceful cruise through the river and gorge to spot wildlife, bathe under the waterfalls and take in the peace and grandeur of this isolated destination. Note we cannot go ashore here due to Indigenous private land ownership.
We arrive at Koolama Bay, where the impressive King George River is flooded by tidal waters. A cruise up the river gorge reveals steep-sided sandstone walls, eroded into honeycomb patterns, and inhabited by osprey and rock wallabies. King George Falls, swollen by seasonal rains, will present an awesome sight as it plunges 80 metres into the river below. Approach the thundering spray by zodiac and Xplorer and get close enough to gaze up the twin falls in wonder. The raw force of the raging wet season river is guaranteed to make you feel small. This remarkable river is of high cultural significance to the Balanggarra people, for who the falls are male and female rainbow serpents (Wunkurr). Note we cannot go ashore here due to Indigenous private land ownership.
This ‘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. Spend time observing these ancient rock art sites with expert interpretation by our Expedition Team.
Located 150km off Cape Leveque, Adele Island is an A-Class reserve and Important Bird Area due to the volume of birdlife that breeds and winters here. The species list is generously long, including Wilson’s Storm Petrels, White-winged Black Terns, Red-footed Boobies, Cormorants and Pelicans. The shallow turquoise waters surrounding the island are also home to a multitude of fish, sharks, turtles, and stingrays which flock to the pristine coral reef system surrounding the island. Here, enjoy tender cruises through tidal channels to view bird and marine life.
Today we arrive at Talbot Bay, located in an almost enclosed, mud dominated gulf with some of the worlds biggest tides, and host to some of the Kimberley’s most unusual natural features. Also home to the remarkable Turtle Reef, spot an abundance of turtles, dugongs, crocodiles and a large variety of finfish. Also explore Horizontal Waterfalls – whilst not a true waterfall in the strictest sense, it is one of the only ways to describe this impressive phenomenon. Twice daily millions of litres of seawater cascades, hurtles and tumbles from one back to another (and to another), through narrow gaps between two sets of sandstone massifs, coming to life along the iron-red faces of the McLarty Range. As the tide changes, water is forcibly pushed through the bottleneck, creating a rushing horizontal waterfall of swiftly flowing seawater. Experience a heart-pumping ride through the rapids aboard our Zodiacs.
The Lacepede Islands provide opportunity to discover the unique and vibrant habitats of these remote island groups. The low spits of coarse sand and coral rubble which make up the island do not support any trees, but the low scrubby vegetation provides sufficient cover for thousands of nesting birds. The Lacepedes are an Important Bird Area and Class A Reserve. Here, the breeding colony of Brown Boobies, up to 18,000 pairs, is possibly the largest in the world. They are also Western Australia’s most important breeding habitat for green sea turtles, which can be spotted popping up for air throughout the lagoon. Enjoy more photography expeditions, birdwatching, and the chance to observe wildlife in its most natural habitat. This evening reflect on your astounding journey through remote islands and atolls at the Captain’s Farewell Drinks. Watch a remarkable Western Australian sunset over the Indian Ocean as you conclude your cruise.
This morning arrive in Broome at 7:30 am for an 8:00 am disembarkation. Complimentary post-cruise transfers to the airport, CBD and Cable Beach Resorts are included.
This itinerary is an indication of the destinations we visit and activities on offer. Throughout your northern Australia expedition, we may make changes to the itinerary as necessary to maximise your expeditionary experience. Allowances may be made for seasonal variations, weather, tidal conditions and any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel. The itinerary includes the possibility of interaction with wild animals and this interaction is subject to the presence of this wildlife on the day.
Vessel Type: Expedition Passenger Capacity: 120 Built: 2020 Expedition capabilities > Two trademark Xplorer tenders seat all passengers and facilitate comfortable shore excursions > Six zodiacs for more intrepid exploration > Lecture lounge for daily expedition briefings and expert presentations > Small onboard library featuring books on destinations and wildlife > Shallow draft and advanced navigation and propulsion systems allowing access to locations closed to large cruise ships Marine immersion > Navigator lounge in the bridge > Over 1000 square metres of open deck space including a wrap-around promenade deck with panoramic views > Engine room tours and a high level of crew interaction with guests Food and wine features > Single seating dining with communal table serves buffet breakfast and lunch, and multi-course table d’hote dinners > Showcase galley with viewing window creating fresh small-batch cuisine featuring Australian and local produce > Multiple indoor and outdoor bars, including our Explorer bar on the sundeck for sunset drinks > Curated wine cellar featuring boutique wines and exceptional vintage Australian reds Guest comfort > All outside-facing guest cabins with en-suite bathrooms; the majority have a private balcony > Active stabilisers to dampen sea motion > Well-equipped gym > Passenger elevator > Wi-Fi available in all guest areas
• Birdwatching at some of Australia’s most vibrant Important Bird Areas such as the Lacepede Islands and Adele Island for sightings of rare seabirds • Experience the thrill of riding the tidal rapids through Horizontal Falls aboard a Zodiac and feel the power of majestic King George Falls in full flow in the wet season • Step ashore and stand at the tip of Australia on Cape York to enjoy a sunset or sunrise toast • Dive with sharks and diverse marine species at Osprey Reef – one of the best dive sites in the world • Meet traditional elders and share storytelling and sacred rock art sites at Stanley Island and Groote Eylandt