Exploring the Kimberley for 25 years

As Australia’s pioneering cruise line, Coral Expeditions has been taking travellers into far-flung regions for 35 years and has been exploring the Kimberley every year since 1996.

No other tour company knows the Kimberley like Coral Expeditions. The adventure cruise company has developed a comprehensive knowledge of the diverse wildlife, native plants and remarkable geology of this rugged landscape and has built strong connections with traditional landowners.

king george falls

Coral Expedition’s in-depth insights of the Kimberley provides travellers with immersive experiences in a small ship environment, enabling friendships and creating memories to last a lifetime. Onboard Guest Lecturers and an Expedition Team interpret, inform and educate, helping you to gain a richer, more enlightening experience while learning about the Kimberley’s nature, history, geology, birds and wildlife.

wildlife at the kimberley

Spend a day with the world’s oldest living culture
While Europeans’ connection with the Kimberley can be counted in hundreds of years, Indigenous connections reach back tens of thousands of years. The Wunambal Gaambera people have roamed the wild, untamed Kimberley landscape for at least 40,000 years.

Imagine arriving at Ngula, (otherwise known as Jar Island) and venturing ashore. You see three men atop a weathered sandstone cliff – proud sentinels protecting the island from invaders. Their bodies adorned with paint and slashes of scarlet lap laps wrapped around their hips. On their heads, conical-shaped headpieces standing stark against the cornflower blue Kimberly sky.

three proud warriors stand atop a rock at ngula

It’s easy to see how time stands still in this rugged, remote landscape. Little has changed for centuries. Caves conceal rock art estimated to be 20,000 years old. Nearby on the tidal flats, ancient middens hold the remnants of meals cooked over fires where mud whelk (a type of sea snail) were harvested, and where Wunambal Gaambera clans set up seasonal camps to feast on the seafood bounty.

meeting the wunambal gaambera people at ngula

A traditional smoking ceremony welcomes guests ashore in a timeless ritual to ward off bad spirits and invite positive energy. Puffs of aromatic smoke rise from a clump of smouldering native plants as guests slowly circle the fire, allowing the swirling smoke to dispense with negative spirits to then be replaced with positive energy.

rock art at jar island

The real attraction here are the multitude of art sites and rock art galleries. Caves contain rock art panels depicting elongated human figures, their outstretched fingers reminiscent of elegant long-limbed ladies. Other images show bounding kangaroos and strutting emus. Viewing original artworks created by the world’s oldest living civilisation, meeting the ancestors of their creators and hearing their interpretations and stories, make a Kimberley expedition with Coral Expeditions a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Meet the direct descendant of the man who mapped the Kimberley
Ngula’s anglicised name of Jar Island came about after pre-1788 pot shards were found by British Naval officer Rear Admiral Philip Parker King, the man charged with surveying the areas left unchecked by Matthew Flinders.

Philip Parker King commanded HMC Mermaid on a series of voyages charting northern Australia’s coastline. On his voyages he produced marine charts of such quality and accuracy that they were still in use a century later.

In 1820, he left an indelible mark in the Kimberley while repairing his leaking vessel at what is now known as Careening Bay. With his crew stranded on this remote coastline for 17 days while effecting repairs, the ships carpenter carved the words HMC Mermaid 1820 into the bottle-shaped trunk of a boab tree near the beach. Almost 200 years later, the ‘Mermaid Tree’ has split into two trunks and sports a mammoth girth of 12m with the inscription now standing almost as tall as a person. Visiting this site is one of the highlights of our Kimberley voyages.

mermaid tree

Philip Parker King’s great great grandson, Jonathon King, is a historian, author 30 historical books and 20 documentaries and special guest lecturer on Coral Expedition’s Kimberley cruise celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Mermaid Tree.

Dr King shares with guests his family memorabilia passed down through the generations from his great ancestor, including a family album containing Rear Admiral King’s sketch book, calling cards, original family silhouettes as well as an original 19th century sketch of the location of the Mermaid Tree.

Dr King is a classic storyteller with a passion for history and the events that shaped Australia. His lively presentations onboard Coral Adventurer promise to bring a rare insight into his ancestor’s voyages through the Kimberley.

Dr King will be onboard Coral Adventurer departing Broome on 21 September 2020.

Capitalise on Coral Expeditions’ relationship to this region and its inhabitants, forged over 25 years of exploration by Australia’s pioneering small ship cruise line. And right now, you can save $500 on your Kimberley cruise!

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