Magnificent Birds of the Kimberley

An extremely geographically diverse region, twice as large as Victoria, many bird-watching enthusiasts would regard the Kimberley as an absolute bird paradise. While there are over 500 species throughout Western Australia, Broome is home to 330 of them and is consequently regarded as the most important region in the country for shorebirds (home to nearly a quarter of the world’s total population). This destination is a must on a bucket-list for everyone who loves these magnificent creatures.

While some are unique to certain areas, many species can be found throughout the Kimberley. One of these is the spectacular Eastern Osprey, the ultimate predator along the Kimberley Coast skyline. When you visit we also suggest you keep an eye and an ear out for the Sacred Kingfisher with their distinctive calls. This region is also home to the Eastern Reef Egret and if you are lucky you may spot a dancing Brolga!

Ashmore Reef

Located on Australia’s North West Shelf, 610 kilometres north of Broome is Ashmore Reef. This incredible life-sustaining reef provides several marine habitats and species in and out of the ocean.

It is here you will find around 50,000 breeding pairs of various kinds of seabirds, including colonies of bridled terns, common noddies, brown, red-footed and masked boobies, eastern reef egrets, frigate birds, tropic birds, roseate, crested and lesser crested terns.

The Rowley Shoals

Another stunning destination to observe birds is The Rowley Shoals, about 260 km northwest of Broome. The Rowley Shoals is a group of three atoll-like coral reefs on the edge of one of the widest continental shelves in the world. It is home to many ocean bids as well as a nesting site for the red-tailed tropic bird, home to one of only two of Western Australia’s colonies, and the rare, newly discovered white-tailed tropic birds.

Other beautiful species found at Rowley Shoals include the wedge-tailed shearwater, brown booby, eastern reef-egret, white-breasted sea eagle, ruddy turnstone, large sand plover, crested and sooty terns and the white-throated needletail.

Browse Island

Browse Island also is a spectacular destination to observe breeding seabirds and migratory shorebirds including the brown booby, frigate bird and eastern reef egret.

As the Kimberley is so extensive, it’s important to keep in mind that many species migrate or are nomadic and move with the seasons, so if you are really keen on spotting a particular species you may need to do a lot more in-depth research.

If you have extra time and are feathered friend keen then we recommend you take a look at the Broome Bird Observatory in Roebuck Bay, a super passionate organisation dedicated to educating visitors about the birds that live and visit the area. They also provide tours, accommodation and camping/tent facilities.

Click here to find out more about our life-changing journey in 2020 with Ponant and National Geographic.

The Kimberley – Your Guide on What to Expect, When and Why

With its grand yet unforgiving landscape, The Kimberley is often referred to as Australia’s last great wilderness frontier, boasting some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet and certainly one of the most unspoiled destinations in the world.  

Formed billions of years ago, the 2,000km Kimberley coastline is famous for its awe-inspiring rugged beauty and stunning diversity. The abundance of wildlife and waterfalls, indigenous rock art, gorges, volcanic remnants, mangroves, rainforests and islands, and can often only be accessed by smaller ships and zodiacs.

The region’s remoteness and tropical climate can make exploring this part of the world difficult. Cruising, especially small expedition ships, will allow you to discover this vast and expansive coastline with ease, taking you to destinations that aren’t accessible by land.

With so much diversity we often get asked when is the best time to cruise The Kimberley and what will you see during the different seasons?  Generally, the optimal time is from April through to September. Although you can travel from October through to March, it is extremely hot and humid with substantial rainfall and thunderstorms, often flooding and closing main roads – so perhaps not such an appealing time for most!

Remember, that Mother Nature still determines everything, so please take this as a guide not as gospel!

Waterfalls – April to May

This coast is known for its iconic waterfalls,  including Mitchell, King George and Horizontal Falls and early in the dry season these falls are at full force. The falls are fed by the regions wet season so the earlier in the season you go the more vibrant and spectacular the falls are going to be. The region will also be very green during this time due to the rain. The weather during this period can still be a little grey with quite high humidity and there can be the occasional rainy day, so it is still a little bit of a gamble, particularly in April. However, seeing the falls at their fullest will surely make up for the changing weather.    

Peak Season – June to July

This is definitely the most popular time of year to visit The Kimberley. Primarily because it is cooler, the weather is dry, the skies are blue and generally speaking the temperatures are comfortable. The falls will still be flowing although they will most likely not be at their fullest.

The roads are pretty much in good condition by now and the waterfall swimming pools are full and clean. Remember that the nights in certain areas like the Bungle Bungles can be cool.

Whales – August to September

By August most waterfalls have dried up to a trickle, and most rockpools, although starting to get low, are still clear and great for swimming. This late in the season it is unlikely that Mitchell Falls and King George Falls will still be flowing.  

However, this is the season for wildlife encounters. Being a world-class whale watching region, The Kimberley is home to the world’s largest population of Humpback whales. Up to 30,000 Humpback whales swim from the Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm waters of The Kimberley to breed and give birth.

In addition to Humpback, Southern Right and Blue whales make their way along the coast, sometimes coming close to shore with their calves. The best time to observe these gentle giants tail-slapping and breaching is around noon, when the sun is directly overhead, although it can happen at any time!

An expedition cruise during these months brings you up close a personal with these majestic mammals, watch on as they often put on playful displays around the ship.

But wait – there’s more…

This spectacularly vast region is also one of the last remaining healthy refuges for many threatened and endangered marine species, including six of the seven species of marine turtles, dugong, and countless varieties of sharks, dolphins and fish.

The coastal areas of The Kimberley also offer sanctuary for many species of native mammals and marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, some that no longer exist in other parts of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds, rare plants, freshwater crocodiles and fish, including catfish and barramundi.

Cruise Express offers luxury expedition cruises to this region with Ponant. These do sell out quickly so enquire today to secure the sailing date and cabin you want. For details on our 2020 options see here.

 

 

Ultimate Antarctica

Why We Love Expedition Cruising in Antarctica

 

Antarctic cruiseIt wasn’t that long ago that Antarctica was accessible only to explorers, researchers and scientists. Fortunately this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its rich wildlife is now accessible to almost everyone.

There are a number of ways to reach this inhospitable and remote destination depending on your needs. The options vary to suit either intrepid explorers, luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly, or even just fly over for a day.

Despite all the options, our absolute favourite way to see Antarctica will always be on smaller expedition style ships. While we appreciate this may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, we’ve outlined below just a few reasons why it is so incredibly awesome. 

Absolute and intimate

antarctic cruiseWithout all the bells and whistles of big ship shows, discos, casinos and shopping, expedition cruising is all about the immersion and education.

Expedition ships, taking between 50 and 200 passengers, offer a more personal style of service. They are able to travel through smaller waterways, and the Zodiacs (rigid inflatable boats) take small groups of passengers right onto the shores. Tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time so with fewer passengers onboard an expedition ship everyone will ultimately have more visits and more time on shore. Immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on smaller expedition ships, allows you to get up close and personal with a parade of wildlife, including seals, penguins, pods of whales, and so much more.

Depending on the size of a larger cruise ship, they may not be able to send passengers ashore at all, or you may only have a few hours on your allocated day to ensure everyone onboard ‘gets a go’.

The luxurious PONANT line of ships including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts for each destination. They are available to you throughout your journey and can include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.

Why expedition cruising?

antarctic cruiseMany expedition cruise ships suit travellers who are there to immerse themselves in education and the experience, preferring to do whatever it takes to really get out amongst it all. This can be challenging but at the end of the day you are able to come back to luxury and comfort.

While expedition ships upfront seem more expensive, the benefit is that almost everything is included. There are no hidden surprise charges such as shore excursions and activities, with drinks (excluding top shelf) and gratuities usually also included (check with your Travel Specialist).

Research, research

antarctic cruise

Whichever way you decide to visit Antarctica, it is important to do your research, particularly when choosing the right time to visit. The tourist season lasts only about five months – typically from November to March.

During each of these months, something unique happens ranging from pack ice starting to break up, mating, breeding and hatching seasons for penguins and other birds, to when it’s the best time to spot whales.

antarctic cruiseOften mistaken for Emperor Penguins, the slightly smaller but almost identical King Penguin colonies can be found in vast numbers in South Georgia and Crozet Islands, as well as the Falkland Islands and have even been spotted in Patagonia. 

It is very rare to see Emperor Penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.  If it was your main goal to see Emperor Penguins, we recommend a voyage to Commonwealth Bay, known as ‘Deep Antarctica’.  It is a lot further south and a whole different kettle of fish to the Antarctic Peninsula.

For lovers of nature and all things wildlife including penguins, please click here to look at our Ponant L’Austral 2020 journey.

 

Going one step further

For the super-fit and ultra-adventurous, some cruises also offer kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides or camping… just ask your Travel Specialist at Cruise Express and they’ll find a perfect trip to suit you.

————-

For more information on booking the trip that dreams are made of, contact us at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537,

 

Agency Manager & Expedition Cruising Specialist, Joanna Schuetz

Cruise Express Agency Manager, Joanna Schuetz has over 15 years experience in expedition cruising. Having travelled across all continents on many forms of cruise ships, Jo has a particular passion for and specialises in polar expeditions having been to the Arctic and Antarctica on numerous occasions.

Email Jo today on jo@cruiseexpress.com.au.

 

Australia’s Last Great Wilderness

Why The Kimberley?

With its grand yet unforgiving landscape, The Kimberley is often referred to as Australia’s last great wilderness frontiers, boasting some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet.

Whether you travel by land, sea or air, there is no doubt every visitor will be impressed with the abundance of wild coastlines and seas, gorges, volcanic remnants, mangroves, rainforests and islands, deserts and sandstone hills.

With an area encompassing over 427,000 km2, The Kimberley is three times the size of England!

The Beauty of Exploring by Ship

Formed billions of years ago, the 2,000km Kimberley coastline is famous for its awe-inspiring rugged beauty, and stunning diversity. As you relax in luxury onboard Ponant’s Le Lapérouse you will discover first-hand, the abundance of wilderness, secluded beaches, spectacular waterfalls and indigenous rock art and history.

Onboard you will also enjoy Ponant’s renowned gastronomy, complimentary beverages and shore adventures including the Ord River, El Questro, or why not try a Bungle Bungle scenic flight.

Kimberley

 Flora & Fauna

Annually, over 35,000 humpback whales visit The Kimberley coastline, where they give birth to and nurture their calves before heading back to the summer feeding grounds in Antarctica.

The region is one of the last remaining healthy refuges for many threatened and endangered marine species, including six of the seven species of marine turtles, dugong, and countless varieties of sharks, dolphins and fish.

The coastal areas of The Kimberley also offers sanctuary for many species of native mammals and marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, some that no longer exist in other parts of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds, rare plants, freshwater crocodiles and fish including catfish and barramundi.

Unfortunately, The Kimberley faces a number of serious environmental issues, including climate change, large wildfires, weeds, feral animals and cattle grazing degradation.

Melting Pot of Culture

For hundreds of years, the “Macassans”, people of the Indonesian Archipelago, interacted with Indigenous Australians. Although the British landed on The Kimberley shores in 1688, Portuguese, Dutch and the French also continued to visit throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

While cattle grazing on the grasslands was popular in the mid-19th century, the gold rush of 1886 brought many Europeans and Chinese to the area, particularly Halls Creek. Also around this time, pearl fishing became a major industry, with Japanese and Malay divers joining the multiculturalism that became typical of Broome.

Come Along!

With so much to immerse yourself in, a trip to the Kimberley by ship has to be one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime.

For more details on our Ponant Kimberley sailings for 2020 click here. Alternatively, call 1300 766 537 to speak with one of our Travel Specialists as we would be delighted to help.