It’s one of the most popular expedition cruising regions with itineraries all but selling out up to a year in advance. Straddling the far northwest of Australia across Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the Kimberley is one of the world’s last true wilderness areas. It is full of dramatic gorges, tumbling waterfalls, red dirt tracks and pristine waterholes.
Small, luxurious expedition ships ply the waters between Broome and Darwin from March to September, carrying Zodiacs or helicopters for exploring further inland. And they’re popular. “We are nearly 90 per cent sold for the season with nine cruises already booked out or close to booked out,’’ Rob Tandy, general manager of APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures, said in February.
These are the top five companies sailing in the region.
The French cruise line will be launching its inaugural cruise in the region in July 2017. Its luxe 264-passenger L’Austral will be the youngest ship cruising the Kimberley. There’s a swimming pool and full spa on board, as well as an included open bar, for when passengers return from daily adventures on the fleet of 14 Zodiacs.
APT’s Kimberley Wilderness Adventures arm takes more guests to the Kimberley than any other operator. It now operates its own ship, MS Caledonian Sky carrying 114 guests on its all-inclusive expedition cruises between Darwin and Broome.
NORTH STAR CRUISES
Boutique North Star has been sailing in the Kimberley for more than 25 years. It operates just one ship, the 36-passenger True North, and sails 17 voyages each season. The ship is only 50 metres long, so features are limited, but it does carry a six-person helicopter.
The line operates two ships in the region, the 50-passenger Coral Expeditions I and the 72-passenger Coral Discoverer. Both carry Zodiacs and a larger excursion boat that can take all passengers on shore excursions at one time.
Silversea Expeditions will have six Kimberley voyages on Silver Discoverer this year. The ship carries 112 passengers in ocean-view suites and has a shallow draft, so it can get close to shore. It has a pool, fitness centre, salon and fleet of 12 Zodiacs. The all-inclusive, 10-day cruise includes all shore excursions and a helicopter ride.