It’s difficult to imagine a better way to see the Kimberley than from the decks of True North. Australia’s remote and spectacular wilderness area in the far north of Western Australia is one of the world’s iconic natural attractions and True North is one of the world’s premier boutique adventure cruise ships.
True North’s Kimberley Barra Bonanza departs late August, 2018 - you’re not likely to encounter another experience anywhere on the water that will deliver more excitement and exhilaration.
From the moment you board True North, you become the centre of attention as the staff ensures you make the most of your tropical expedition. The southward Barra Bonanza voyage begins with a light-plane flight from Broome to the Mitchell Plateau, followed by a scenic heli-transfer to True North waiting at anchor in the spectacular Hunter River.
Once aboard, it’s simply a matter of settling into your cabin and enjoying welcome aboard refreshments before heading off in search of the mighty barramundi and equally revered mangrove jack on the first afternoon.
The Barra Bonanza is packaged to offer guests the ultimate Kimberley adventure, not only experiencing the natural majesty of this world-renowned wilderness area, but also matching wits and muscles with one of Australia’s iconic sports fish.
ALL SHAPES AND SIZES
Apart from the large, leaping barramundi that symbolise sports fishing in the north, guests also have the opportunity to fish for a range of tropical denizens, including marauding Spanish mackerel, lure-destroying giant trevally, quarrelsome queen fish and tasty threadfin salmon. The many rivers and creeks of the Kimberley are also home to the famous mangrove jack, which are known for their ability to put up a fight.
But there is so much more to the True North Kimberley experience. The crew know the northern waterways intimately and will navigate their five-star cruiser into some of the most jawdroppingly beautiful spots on the planet during the seven-night cruise.
I am fortunate to have explored the Kimberley with True North and came away struggling to find words for the beauty and majesty of the region.
For instance, how do you describe the thunder of billions of litres of tidal water cascading off Montgomery Reef like rivers of soap suds? Not to mention the ‘wildlife soup’ that comprises everything from darting green turtles to prowling reef sharks, all intent on taking advantage of the reef’s protein-rich environment.
Then there’s the fractured, tortured grandeur of the red ore monolith of Raft Point, overlooking Doubtful Bay. And how does a computer keyboard begin to conjure a picture of a sunset so red and otherwordly that viewers are moved to awed silence.
A blazing bonfire on a pristine beach only adds to the sense of occasion as guests embed themselves in raw nature, bare feet in the sand and waves gently lapping while they sip fine wine and enjoy freshly caught seafood. This is the essence of the True North Kimberley experience.
Every day aboard True North, guests are confronted by unrelenting nature and life. It’s everywhere and in every shape and colour.
KING OF THE KIMBERLEY
Every now and then attention is drawn by a cry or pointed finger to the unchallenged King of the Kimberley, the saltwater crocodile, also known as the estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodile – or Crocodylus porosus to its friends. The world’s largest living reptile, it has most certainly come back from the brink after decades of commercial harvesting, to judge from the numbers that now lazily sun themselves on mudbanks or cruise the shadowy mangroves. On water and land they move as if they own the place … of course, that’s because they do.
During their stay aboard True North, guests will enjoy exquisite dining, all prepared to perfection and enhanced with a selection of fine Australian and imported wines.
True North was designed specifically to pamper its guests and provide a safe, air-conditioned haven in between the many daily adventures offered at each destination. Guests congregate for meals in the lower-deck dining room and evening drinks are taken in the ship’s lounge, with an alfresco bar at the stern. Typically, around 20 crew members are on hand to cater to no more than 36 passengers on any given cruise.
Multi-award-winning True North Adventure Cruises is pretty much an institution when it comes to the Kimberley. While there are other operators in the region, the company has received an impressive array of tourism awards for its many themed cruises.
Of course, when your main theatre of operations happens to be the spectacular and vast Kimberley, you already have a head-start on the opposition.
SHOWER OF POWER
Another incredible natural feature of the Kimberley is the majestic Prince Regent River, home to one of the truly iconic True North experiences. Here, guests will take the ultimate freshwater shower as True North’s bow is manoeuvred deftly under the powerful falls at King Cascades.
There will also be an opportunity to take a breathtaking helicopter flight for a very special picnic next to a crystal-clear billabong, while those with an interest in indigenous rock art can take advantage of a dedicated rock art flight.
Further south, the Roe River presents yet another opportunity to catch a barra or explore a river that boasts one of the highest crocodile counts in the Kimberley. The mouth of the Roe is also a hotspot for threadfin salmon.
In the afternoon, True North sails into Prince Frederick Harbour and the mouth of the Hunter River for sunset drinks.
Then it’s on to St George Basin and Rothsay Water, where True North’s tenders will set off in search of more Kimberley visual attractions and fishing action.
There might also be time to visit the ruins of an ill-fated early Kimberley settlement and the graves of the unfortunates who died trying to make this most inhospitable area home.
Those with a taste for molluscs will enjoy a hunt for the giant black-lipped oyster. In fact, due to their size they are normally not that hard to find. Guests will be able to savour their unique taste direct from the rocks, highlighted by freshly squeezed lemons – seafood doesn’t get any more au naturel.
The Rothsay Water, with its vast array of creeks and estuaries, will provide another exceptional opportunity for angling enthusiasts, with large mulloway joining the list of target species.
Then it’s on to the Barlee Impediment, a huge mud bank surrounded by a thick web of mangroves. The mangroves always prove to be a bird-watcher’s delight and are another favourite barra hangout.
Raft Point is an icon of the Kimberley and is where guests can join a short hike to an art gallery with a difference, where they will be able to view well-preserved Wandjina paintings beneath a rock overhang, with a spectacular view out over the surrounding waters.
Still off Raft Point, expedition boats will head off in search of Kimberley mud crab later in the day. Mud-crabbing is definitely a favoured activity onboard True North, although guests are advised to keep their distance as crew members restrain the muscular – and tasty – giants.
Then it’s off to the aforementioned Montgomery Reef, a unique ecosystem comprising 140 square miles of coral that rises seemingly magically out of the ocean on the daily turn of tides. Turtles, dugong, manta rays and every imaginable sea creature abound, while the helicopter is ready and waiting to provide a breathtaking aerial perspective.
The adventure continues with the opportunity to ride the tide through the spectacular Charnley Gorge, where the saltwater meets the fresh. This is an incredible experience, in which guests occasionally get a chance to sight-cast to ravenous barra as they wait for the tide to spill into their billabong.
And speaking of tides, the Horizontal Falls awaits, with guests able to experience the awesome power of the region’s huge tidal range in an exhilarating expedition boat ride. There is also the opportunity to climb aboard the helicopter for a view of the falls that few experience. And, of course, the fishing action continues, with the local creek system offering plenty of opportunities to wet a line.
Secure Bay and Leadline Creek offer final opportunities to land a barra, while on the run down to Broome, the waters around Cockatoo and Irvine Islands conclude the bluewater pelagic action.
Back in civilisation, guests will complete their Barra Bonanza with an early morning coach transfer to Broome airport.
For more information, cruise to: truenorth.com.au.