Brenda’s Cruise Diary: My Kimberley cruise on the Kimberley Pearl
We arrived at the Port of Wyndham after a mini coach transfer from Kununurra for the start of my Kimberley cruise. I must admit, prior to leaving Melbourne, I was a little nervous about the cruise. As the boat only takes a maximum of 12 people, what if I don’t like the other passengers, or worse what if they don’t like me! This and the fact that I get seasick!
The 12 excited passengers were divided between two out of three tenders that then transported us over to Kimberley Pearl and our luggage was stacked in the third. We were welcomed aboard with snacks and cold drinks whilst our skipper gave us all a safety briefing. I took up the offer of seasick tablets as did a couple of others as we headed out of Wyndham to wind our way south over the next twelve nights to Broome. It’s immediately apparent that this cruise will offer plenty of laughs as well as educating us on the vast Kimberley coastline.
Kimberley Pearl vessel
Kimberley Pearl was formerly a Pearl Lugger belonging to the famous Paspaley Pearls company originally built in 1979. Teams of divers would collect the Pinctada Maxima shells to cultivate South Sea Pearls. The vessel has now been transformed into a 12-passenger cruiser, operating cruises up and down the Kimberley Coast.
There are 6 well-appointed, air-conditioned cabins, all with ensuites, spread over 3 decks. There is also an additional shower and bathroom facilities on the main deck. Although smallish in size, the cabins have everything you need including a hairdryer! They are set up with a queen bed and a single bunk bed above which gave me addition storage room for bags, clothes etc. The one cabin up on the Wheelhouse Deck has the queen bed only with storage underneath.
My cabin was on the lower deck and offered portholes for natural light, however the only time I spent in the cabin was to sleep, shower and change clothes. Most time is spent up in the galley / dining area, up on the bough watching the scenery pass by or the back deck to board the tenders for off vessel excursions & fishing expeditions.
Kimberley Pearl excursions
Cruise itineraries are subject to change depending on tides and weather conditions but generally include all the key feature attractions that the Kimberley Coast has to offer. Tender excursions were offered every day, whether for fishing or to explore river systems, indigenous art, rock holes and beaches. There were so many unforgettable moments on my Kimberley Pearl cruise but for me, the most memorable were King George Falls, Montgomery Reef with the beach bonfire. Here is a rundown of these and my other favourite moments.
On day 2 we jumped into the tenders (bathers & wet landing shoes on) and headed to the ‘Bat Crack’ famous for its white ghost bats (many jokes were made about the name!). We jumped off and walked/climbed over rocks into the ‘crack’ for a swim. This hidden cave of water was freezing and extremely deep. Jumping in felt like being winded and although not a confident swimmer, I was glad I was brave enough to give it a go.
Another highlight was a BBQ lunch on a little beach at Swift Bay. One of the tenders was loaded up with tarps, tables & chairs, wok, drinks etc and we headed over to the beach. The skipper took the group for a walk up the rocks to look at some Wandjina art. Meanwhile, the remaining crew set up and built a fire. Chef cooked up some meat and made us all wraps. Another one of the crew oversaw cooking up some of the previously collected oysters. A few beers thrown in and this was lunch. On the beach, there were hundreds of little hermit crabs. A few ‘special’ ones were collected, and a racing circle built so we could race them. First one to the edge of the circle was the winner!
King George Falls
Waking to find ourselves moored at the entrance of the King George River and when the tide was high enough, cruising over the sandbar and heading up the river. The cliffs on either side of us were truly spectacular and it was a humbling feeling dropping anchor at the base of the Falls.
Walking shoes on and into the tenders to land for the quite strenuous uphill (more of a climb) to the top of the falls. We could only imagine how spectacular the Falls would be after the wet season with water thundering over them. Not for us though, travelling at the end of the dry season, there was no water at all coming over them. It did not detract from the enormity of the experience though. Simply spectacular! Walking to the top, although steep in places offered the most magnificent views over the King George River below and our home away from home; the ‘KP’, seemed so tiny below us. The climb down was a bit harder than going up – awfully hard on the knees!
Dinner that night was out on deck ‘under the stars’. We all dressed in our finest (best of what was brought along) and enjoyed dinner on the top deck that had been decorated with fairy lights. Considering the remoteness of our location, it was quite a formal evening with tablecloths, place mats and cloth serviettes! A great way to finish a magnificent day!
We reached the famous Montgomery Reef on day 11 of the cruise and at this stage we were so relaxed and in the swing of day to day cruising life. As we cruised across Doubtful Sound, the 3 tenders with the crew set off to collect firewood from the coastline. The rest of us on-board enjoyed lunch and watched a short documentary on the reef. The tenders returned laden with driftwood as we dropped anchor just outside the reef channel. A sandbar became visible as the tide subsided, so the crew headed over to set up for the evening bonfire.
We headed up the channel to see the reef on the reducing tide. Absolutely spectacular to see and hear. The spectacle of the massive reef emerging from the sea at low tide is amazing, with the water cascading from the reef top revealing beautiful corals & marine life. The turtles were a favourite and there were just so many of them. Photos just can’t do the area justice, simply spectacular!
Upon returning to the sandbar for evening drinks beside the bonfire was fabulous. Whilst we had been viewing the reef, more of the sandbar had become exposed. The fire needed a bit of encouragement to get going but once lit was a real thing of beauty – a credit to the builders! An enjoyable way to finish another fabulous day on the Kimberley Coast with drinks by the bonfire as the sun set. The bonus of building a bonfire on an outgoing tide is that once the tide comes back in, it washes over the entire sandbar including the fire!
Want to catch a fish! Fishing in The Kimberley
I can’t go on further about Kimberley Pearl without talking about the fishing! An absolute highlight of a Kimberley Pearl cruise are the fishing opportunities.
Prior to leaving Melbourne, I was well aware fishing is a huge part of the Kimberley cruise experience. But having never really fished before, I was more than happy to sit out the fishing and stay on board with a good book.
Boy, was I wrong! It is quite addictive and so much fun! I got the hang of casting quite quickly (with lures and bait) especially with the expert tuition from the crew. There was to be no sitting back on deck with a book for me, I did not want to miss out!
There were plenty of fish caught over my 12-night cruise including Finger mark, Mangrove Jack, Giant Trevally (GT), Queen Fish (Queenie), Mackerel, Tuna, Cod and of course the elusive Barramundi (Barra). I was crowned ‘Barra Queen’ of the cruise with a haul of 3 for the cruise — more than anyone else, even a couple of the guys who were proclaimed fishermen!
Anyone lucky enough to catch a ‘Barra’ was rewarded at the end of the cruise with a bone from the fish fin, filed down to make it smooth and threaded as a necklace. A very sentimental parting gift!
Time to say goodbye
To experience 12 nights aboard Kimberley Pearl was an absolute privilege. To see this extraordinary region with its beautiful rivers and reefs, stark bushland and hidden caves with unique Indigenous artwork was an experience of a lifetime. Add in the perfect weather and you couldn’t ask for more. I’ve made some lifelong friends through shared laughs and experiences all under the guidance of our sensational skipper and Kimberley Pearl crew.