• Solène Abauzit Rodrigues

The Pearl of the Kimberley

Sacred territory for some, adventure bound for others, we have experienced during a week the grandiose Kimberley region on board of the Kimberley Pearl Charters. It was a unique experience that we recommend everyone to live once upon a lifetime. For those who don’t know, the Kimberley is Western Australia’s sparsely settled northern region.

We have to admit, up until this point we thought of cruises as something old people do and too expensive. Preferring instead to spend our money in countries where a beer is still only a dollar and a hostel bed less than $10. Although the average age is still on the higher end, the cruise itself is made for the younger generation. From the moment we got on the boat our days were packed full with adventure and by the time 8.30pm came around each night we ourselves felt like the old ones as we troddled of to bed knackered from a day of exploring.

Let me explain a little bit about the Kimberley Pearl. They are in their 3rd year running charters in the region. The boat itself pays homage to the history of the area in that it’s an old pearling boat. It’s been transformed beautifully and now offers 6 well-designed rooms, a decent living room with an opened kitchen, two covered lower & upper decks and an uncovered one at the top. What sets it apart from the others is it’s a small family run operation. Unlike the $30k/week giant boats complete with helipad and endless staff. The Kimberley Pearl feel more like you’re on your own boat, it feels like home.

There are only 4 staff who truly love what they do and they make you love it too. The boat was driven by Sam, a young skipper, passionate by his job, full of knowledges and fun to hang out with. Sam was assisted by 3 other crew members. Clyde, the deckhand that tells all sorts of interesting & crazy stories, but mainly he was the fishing guru happy to give you his tips and but also there to laugh when you don’t catch anything. Georgie, was our all-rounder, anything you need or wonder, she will get it for you. And then, there was Lenny, a young chef who wouldn’t be out of place creating dishes in any of WA’s best restaurants. He was on board to satisfy our breakfasts, morning teas, lunches, aperitifs & dinners. However they are all more than just the crew, they are all your mates for the trip, eating with you, fishing with you and just hanging out.

Having such a small number of passengers and crew also makes it easy for them to adapt the trip and itinerary to suit the customers. They plan a list of activities and they daily reported to us. Activities are various; hiking to remote and hidden waterfalls, harvesting oysters, fishing, bushwalking, swimming in thermal pools, crabbing, or just riding tinnies (tenders) in the most beautiful places on earth. When we would come back after the days adventure Lenny would have oysters matched with chardonnay to enjoy whilst watching the famous Kimberley sunset. This is paradise!!!! Can we stay longer please?

But this is not it. Because, remember, they take you to explore The Kimberley. The grandiose Kimberley, I don’t think there is another place like that in Earth (give me a couple of years to confirm this statement). The Kimberley is a region known for its incredible tidal range. They have the second biggest tide in the world. The difference between high & low tides could go up to 11 metres! It really is hard to comprehend until you see it. We parked the boat one night in an landscape of water and red cliffs, the morning after, there is a mangrove surrounded us! It is a very strange feeling! Beautiful islands and rock formations that you sit up watching at night have completely disappeared by morning, leaving you wondering if Sammy got a bit cheeky at night and moved the boat. The ocean rises and falls at 2.5cm per minute during the tidal change which can create massive whirlpools, which you could sit and watch for hours.

And then, there’s the huge salt water crocodiles, the salties as they say! Just here on a sand band of the mangrove, taking a sunny bath! They are massive, 3 or 4 meters and can grow up to 6 meters for the biggest. It is an odd sensation to see a prehistoric dinosaur swimming directly at your little boat whilst your fishing. They are curious animals. But if you don’t go swimming, they will not do anything to you. Swimming! Ahh, I love swimming but when you have seen a couple of sharks and crocodiles in the water, your sudden envy of swimming is gone! Lucky, the guys at the Kimberley Pearl knows perfectly the region and they know where to find the fresh waterfalls, fresh waterholes to stay safe & enjoy a swim! We pretty much swam every day. We would go for a ride in the tenders (3 or 4 people per tinny), sometimes it seemed like we were getting lost in the mangrove and maybe a few times we did, but in the end we always arrived somewhere, jumped out of the tinny, walked for a couple of hundred meters and a beautiful fresh waterhole was waiting for us. We also experienced some hot spring waters, how nice!

One of the highlights in the Kimberley is the Horizontal Falls, a natural water movement caused by the massive tide moving into or out of an inland sea through only a 10m wide channel. As the tide moves so much and so quickly the inlet can’t fill up fast enough leaving a up to 8m difference in the water level between the 2. Which in turn creates a water fall or horizontal falls! On only the second day the team at the Kimberley Pearl took us to these falls and OMG, this needs to be experienced once upon a lifetime, or twice! We were lucky as the other passengers went for a ride in the helicopter (this is optional), and we had some time to kill. We killed that time by barrelling up and down the falls in the tinny at high tide. Already stunned, we got back there a couple of hours later while the tide was going out. It was incredible, so powerful, the water is going out so fast and it is making its way through two narrow cliffs creating waves & whirlpools.

We did not recognise the site we were on a couple of hours ago! It is quite a touristic attraction that you can book from the tours in Broome, if you like being in a fast boat with another 50 people, seat belt on, listening to a microphone for a $1000 for approximately 10 minutes. We were two on a little boat with an experienced skipper, looping around and playing with the water movements 4 or 5 times as we were having so much fun! At this stage, we felt even more privileged than we were already! This is when you really appreciate being on a small boat with a small crew.

Eventually, we went back to the mother ship for an aperitif including “freshly caught by us oysters” and a nice pairing chardonnay while watching another of the beautiful Kimberley sunset followed by a gorgeous full moon rise. That is what I call a good day! We finally went back to our comfy room for a shower and a sleep well deserved!

Then, we woke up, between 6.30 & 7am to start the day with a full breakfast, made again by our Chef Lenny. Fishing was the activity of the day. Now myself and Brett are not the keenest fishermen/women around. We normally run out of patience and crack a beer if we don’t have a bite within 10 minutes. But somehow having Georgie changing hooks, baiting and parking in the most incredible places made fishing quite enjoyable. We were as unsuccessful as we normally are in that we didn’t catch anything but for the first time we actually loved it. We wanted to go again and again. The high tide came in and the bites stopped so headed back to the boat. Someone spotted something splashing in the distance. We thought we’d send out the drone to investigate. The next 30 minutes would be enough reward to cover the cost of the drone and instead of writing it I’ll let the video tell the story. We were breathless!!

And another one for those who can't resist baby animals...

During the week, we pestered our friendly crew to take us fishing more and ended up fishing 4 more times, each time in a different landscape & site, therefore you find different fish, (according to the other passengers). We caught several sharks, a tiny little cod and a barramundi but too small to be taken (53cm instead of the legal 55cm, damn!). We were very glad to not be by ourselves on the boat as we would have starved and lucky the other passengers caught lots of barramundi, mangrove jack, trevally and salmon which had been marvellously cooked and served by our Chef.

On the last day of fishing we finally caught edible fish and came back stocked and ready to eat it, but good old Lenny had prepared us a delicious 3 course menu on the upper deck under the stars.

Since he’s gone to so much effort we thought we’d share our Jeroboam rose from Victory Point, one of the best winery in Margaret River. I think we all had an amazing evening, drinking good wine, eating fine food with good company on the deck under the stars in the middle of the Kimberley region.

Obviously, the night went on...

The headaches we woke with were quickly forgotten when the team told us we were going to natural wonder of Montgomery reef. Again, it’s the tide that make it absolutely incredible. At high tide, the reef is 5 meters below the sea level and completely invisible. At low tide, it rises 5 meters above the sea causing hundreds of little waterfalls to instantly appear as the water cascades off the reef.

The incredible Montgomery Reef

With lots of wildlife lives here, I enjoyed a relaxed ride on the tinny whilst looking at so many colourful turtles, waterbirds and few sea snakes. When doing some reading about the reef before the trip we found a hilarious story about some divers who dropped their anchor and went diving. When they came back up their boat was sitting on the reef two meters above them and they had to wait until high tide to leave.

Historically, the reef was a precious fishing spot for very tall Aboriginal people, it is still such a preserved and stunning nature creation even for little people. On our way back, still at low tide, we saw a long, thin sand bank appearing right in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We thought, (or the crew thought), what a great place to play a cricket game? Let’s do it! Here we were, on a sand band, only surrounded by water, playing as kids and finally getting a swim in the ocean as the water was so cleared & shallow! This scenery was totally unreal! Once again, we all felt very privileged as we could see the few touristic tinny's taking as many people as they could and timing their excursion!

It didn’t take long before our cricket pitch disappeared under the tide as we hopped back into the tinny's and headed back to the mothership for the final night. The last night was a bit surreal, the feeling of knowing it’s about to end but not wanting to. It was a perfect week and we had a strange suspicion that our trip may have peaked before it’s even begun.

Right up until the end, the Kimberley Pearl kept up their seamless organisation when we got picked up on Sealegs, a special little tender. While approaching the coast the wheels extend down and we drove up the beach. From the mother ship to our Land Cruiser, we kept on cruising!

For those who are interested on getting more info about this cruise or others they do, here is Kimberley Pearl Charters website

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