The Kimberley for a Wonderful Holiday

September 2nd, 2013

OrionFrancis and I have just returned from a 2 week holiday in north west Oz.  10 days aboard the Orion, a luxury expedition ship carrying 100 passengers (with 75 crew!).  We added a couple of days in Broome and a day in Darwin to round it off.We have travelled on the Orion previously — to PNG — and loved it then.  And the superb service, restaurant quality food and comfort has not changed; many of the same staff were still there 5 years on. They run a number of Kimberley trips during the season, and my pick would be to go in June, when the inland falls are still in full rush, but little chance of rain to spoil the expeditions.  We chose mid August so the landscape was very dry (it’s the end of their Dry Season) and although we didn’t get them, apparently July/August can be windy.  Temperatures were in the mid 30s but nothing that would throw a Queenslander.  At sea we had cooling breezes and of course the ship was air conditioned.  Cabins are quite large on the Orion.

This is adventure tripping at the very soft end of the scale.  The expedition team includes naturalists, a geologist and in our case also some aboriginal art experts (from NSW and WA Art Galleries).  So we were well versed in what we were seeing, and it made things all the more interesting.  Every day there were a variety of expeditions to see aboriginal art centres, the Bungle Bungles, King George Falls, Montgomery Reef and Vansittart Bay.  Wild country with lots of history and extraordinary beauty.

Kimberley rock art The expeditions are often aboard the Orion’s fleet of Zodiacs (rubber duckies) which whisk you up rivers, through amazing canyons and onto pristine (though often crocodile infested) beaches.  Or aboard buses, planes and helicopters.  Great stuff and a photographer’s dream.  High recommended!

Of course there are other boats that ply these waters — from quite small ones taking a dozen passengers, up to the Orion with 100.  True North gets great wraps from friends and it takes 32 passengers.  None are cheap though and the most economical way to see the Kimberley is probably via bus or your own transport.

Our 2 days in Broome were also interesting.  A pretty town with distinctive corrugated architecture and a very interesting pearling history.  I have always wanted to stay at Lord Alistair McAlpine’s ex-home (an old pearler’s cottage he extended) and now a B&B with 8 rooms.  The accommodation is a bit eccentric  and not everyone’s cup of tea — many might prefer to stay in resort style at Cable Beach — but I loved it.  Do, however, make sure you get one of the larger rooms, preferably the McAlpine Suite.  McAlpine sank $500 million into Broome, buying up and restoring historic buildings (including the open air cinema) and the Cable Beach Resort.  He put Broome on the tourist map.  Quite a character, he now lives in Italy.

McAlpine House, Broome

McAlpine House, Broome

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