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Cairns to Broome
The vast northern coastline of Australia is our home. For three decades we have revelled in the vivid reef systems and tropical islands of the Coral Sea, absorbed the culture and traditions of the Torres Strait, marvelled at the remote expanse of Cape York, and discovered the waterfalls and wildlife of the Kimberley. So, it is fitting that we take the brand-new Coral Geographer on an extended exploration of this unique region of Australia. Voyage northwards through the outer Great Barrier Reef passage to discover an underwater world of colourful coral gardens at Holmes Reef and Osprey Reef. Beachcomb on the picture postcard Restoration and Haggerstone Islands. 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 just in time for the majestic wet-season waterfalls. From here, sail wide and Northwest to the pristine marine sanctuaries of Ashmore Reef, and island-hop down the west coast, where we will encounter a multitude of rare bird species and marine life including turtles, rays, sharks, sea snakes, abundant fish species and perhaps the elusive dugong. Be amongst the very few to ever visit places such as Adele Island and Scott Reef. Your epic journey will conclude in the pearling outpost of Broome. Hosted by Group General Manager Mark Fifield, your voyage will be guided by some of our most beloved Expedition Team members, including Jamie Anderson and Ian Morris, whose connections and knowledge of North Australia run deep. Joining the expedition will be guest photographers Jürgen and Stella Freund, who will deliver specialist nature and landscape photography workshops and will prepare a commemorative expedition journal for all guests onboard. Join us to experience this memorable voyage with less than 100 guests, and welcome Coral Geographer proudly to her home shores.
Arrive this afternoon for the Welcome Gala and official Christening Ceremony, with time to settle into your staterooms before the event. This is a exclusive opportunity to be part of Coral Geographer’s history!
Depart Cairns at 10:00am and voyage into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. As we sail towards our first reef stop, hear a lecture on the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and its marine life. This afternoon goes ashore at isolated Sudbury Cay, the centrepiece in one of the most beautiful reef systems close to Cairns. Sudbury Cay is a tiny sand island surrounded by the Coral Sea and hear we will enjoy an afternoon snorkel or Glass bottom boat tour. Introductory scuba skills sessions can be conducted in the shallow water for beginner divers or enjoy beachcombing and bird watching as you relax on the idyllic sand cay. Later, enjoy champagne and canapes as the sun sinks below the horizon.
Begin your day at Holmes Reef, one of the Coral Sea’s outer reefs and one of the top 100 dive sites in the world. Split into two sections, East and West, the reef has large lagoons with safe anchorages. It is known for its wall and pinnacle dives, which feature amazing coral and marine life in clear water. Popular sites are The Cathedral, Golden Wall, and The Abyss, where coral walls give way to deep water where pelagic fish, sharks, turtles, and eagle rays gather. Pinnacles tower, some rising from 35 metres, providing shelter to swarms of reef fish that flutter around the beautiful soft corals covering the reef. Dive locations at Holmes Reef are suitable for beginner to advanced divers, and snorkelling is possible should weather permit. In the late afternoon, arrive at Bougainville Reef. This small outlying reef is known for its shipwrecks, the RN Atlas, which ran aground in 1945, and the MV Antonia Tarabocchia, wrecked here in 1961. Here we will view the shipwrecks and enjoy a sunset over the remote Coral Sea.
Another feature on the list of 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, it draws many beautiful and rare marine creatures to its plummeting walls. A truly wild and remote location, 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. With visibility from 30 to 60 metres, diving here is an extraordinary exploration into another world. There will be opportunity to discover underwater photography with our guest lecturers, as a vibrant and lively world unfolds before your camera lens. Diving here is recommended for more experienced divers.
The home of ‘millionnaire castaway’ David Glasheen, Restoration Island has a rich history. The traditional owners, the Kuuku Ya’u people, have used this island for many centuries, giving it the name Ma’alpiku. Captain Bligh and 17 of his men landed here after the infamous Bounty mutineers set them adrift in an open boat. Captain Bligh named the island after they found themselves ‘restored’ by a meal of oysters and fresh fruit gathered on the island. Here we will meet Mr Dave Glasheen, and with his permission, take a stroll along the beautiful white beaches of the island. Hear interpretation on the flora and fauna of the island and listen to stories of the history of this remote place.
Haggerstone Island is the location of a privately owned island resort, built by Roy and Anna Turner since they arrived at the island in 1985. This beautiful island is surrounded by a turquoise lagoon teeming with fish and fringed by magnificent coral gardens. The forested interior shelters a diverse population of bird species. During our visit, the resort is closed to visitors, and we will have the opportunity to meet the custodians of the island, explore the orchid garden, and experience the natural beauty that surrounds us on every side.
Ashmore Reef is in the northern Coral Sea, close to the islands of the Torres Strait. The reef is believed to be responsible for over 35 shipwrecks from 1817 to 1923, as its isolated location was rarely visited and therefore remained largely un-surveyed. In recent years, surveying work undertaken by the Royal Australian Navy has discovered 19th century shipwrecks in the waters surrounding this unusual reef. Here the diving and snorkelling reveals consistently excellent visibility. There is a marvellous variety of marine life to spot and several large bommies to explore – you may discover throngs of reef fish, a rich collection of invertebrates, and sea snakes. This reef is rarely visited and provides a true expedition bucket-list experience.
Visit the historic ruined homestead site of Somerset, where the first administrative centre for Cape York was set up in 1876. The first, and for a long time, the only European settlement on Cape York, it was intended as a refuge for passing ships and was associated with the Torres Strait Pearling industry. Here we will learn the history of the early settlers here, both their daring actions and the darker legacy they left with the Indigenous peoples of this region. Visit the Heritage Registered Somerset Grave Site. 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. Here we will enjoy sunset champagne before returning to Coral Geographer for a delicious evening meal.
The 560km wide Gulf of Carpentaria is a large shallow sea. 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 ocean waters of the Arafura Sea. As we cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, enjoy presentations on natural history by our guest lecturers or a photography workshop by our onboard photographers. You may spot birds or flying fish as you relax on the deck.
Located on ancestral lands belonging to the Rirratjiŋu/Gumatj clans, Yirrkala has been home to a Yolŋu community throughout recorded history. The Yirrkala mission was founded in 1935 by missionary Wilber Chaseling at the invitation of Mawalan Marika. Since that time, the art traditions of Yirrkala have emerged as a profound voice for Indigenous culture and art. We will the spectacular Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre which Yolŋu artists from around the region. Established in 1976 as an act of self-determination, the art centre has forged a vibrant path for Yolŋu contemporary art. The museum built in 1988 houses a collection of works detailing historical artefacts and important moments, including the Message Sticks from 1935 and the Yirrkala Church Panels from 1963. We may also have the privilege of listening to a performance on the yidaki, the didgeridoo, which originates from this region.
Enjoy a day at sea as we traverse the Wessel Islands and steam towards the Cobourg Peninsula.
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 on Australia’s northern coastline. They made several attempts in the area, at Port Essington, Melville Island, and Raffles Bay. These settlements were abandoned by 1849 due to scurvy, tropical diseases, and lack of supplies. We will explore the ruins of Fort Victoria and hear the stories of the failed settlement in this harsh landscape. 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. At Black Point, visit the lush billabong for birdwatching and the Black Point Culture Centre for more insights on the history of the region.
As we cross the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf towards the Kimberley, experience onboard photography workshops and cooking demonstrations, or look out for marine life and birds around the ship.
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).
Enjoy a day at sea as we cruise towards far-flung Ashmore Reef. Relax on deck, enjoy photo recaps of your cruise, and hear from our marine biologists of what discoveries await at the uninhabited Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
The uninhabited external territory of Ashmore and Cartier islands is made up of four low tropical islands in two separate reef systems. On the edge of the continental shelf, the islands are almost closer to Indonesia than to Australia and comprise several remarkable marine habitats, such as intertidal sand flats, seagrass meadows, and lagoons. Ashmore Reef is a remote destination with restricted access. This makes it an incredibly special stop on our voyage. The marine environment here is incredibly rich, with our snorkelling and diving expedition revealing vibrant populations of dugong, sea snakes, multiple species of turtles, along with complex coral reefs with extraordinary diversity. Cruising around the islands and through the lagoon aboard the zodiacs, it is possible to spot turtles, rays, colourful reef fish, and occasionally dugong enjoying the shallow, clear waters. The islands are brimming with large numbers of birds. We will visit after the rainy season, so the islands will be covered with greenery and the bird colonies will be breeding and nesting. Look for Common, Black, and Lesser Noddys, multiple species of Booby, Frigate-birds, and Terns, with the potential to spot White and Red-tailed Tropicbirds also. Our two days spent at Ashmore Reef will be an incredible privilege and opportunity to reset and be fully present in one of the most remote locations on this voyage. Surrounded by nature, you will learn from our expedition team all about this remarkable habitat. Watch the sun setting over the ocean tonight as we share stories of the natural wonders we have seen.
Steaming south, we encounter Scott Reef. 300kms off the coast of the Kimberley, Scott Reef is made up of 4 separate reef structures, with Sandy Islet being the only speck of dry land. This vast reef system has been treacherous to shipping in the past, and we will visit the wreck of the Yarra at low tide. This iron barque was driven onto the reef during a cyclone in 1884, with surprisingly no casualties. Scott Reef has sustained damage from extensive coral bleaching and cyclonic impacts, particularly in recent years, and we will learn about the challenges and concerns facing this reef system. Go on a snorkelling or diving expedition to the sheer outer walls of the reef – the dramatic formations will take your breath away. In these remote waters, you may also spot species of dolphins, whales, and sea birds, so be sure to keep your eyes open.
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 photography expeditions to capture the remarkably pristine and lively natural habitat. If the tides allow, enjoy beachcombing and walking.
The Lacepede Islands are our final stop and provide another 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. Like Adele Island, 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 change 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 7:30am for an 8:00am disembarkation. Enjoy a day exploring Broome, including the famous Cable Beach, before our evening Farewell Dinner. This breathtaking natural phenomenon is the perfect goodbye to a remarkable journey and the first voyage of Coral Geographer.
This itinerary is an indication of the destinations we visit and activities on offer. Throughout the 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
• EVENT: Before departure, enjoy a Welcome Gala and join Coral Geographer’s christening ceremony • Step ashore on the seldom explored Restoration Island and explore beautiful Haggerstone Island • Birdwatch at some of Australia’s most vibrant Important Bird Areas, and spot numerous species of seabirds during their breeding season • Dive at Holmes and Osprey Reefs, listed as two of the 100 best dive sites in the world • Stand at the tip of Cape York to enjoy a sunset toast • Spend time with the Yolgnu community of Yirrkala as they share their vibrant art and ancient culture – • Subject to change due to community requirements • Experience the raw power of King George Falls • Discover the extraordinary Ashmore Reef, and snorkel, dive and birdwatch through the lagoon • Visit the pristine habitats of Adele Island and the Lacapede Islands to spot seabirds and marine life • Enjoy photography workshops along the way from guest lecturers Jürgen and Stella Freund