Why Kimberley, Australia, is the place to cruise in the coming year — and five incredible trips from luxury lines that are headed there.
Fancy encountering a salt-water crocodile, the world’s largest reptile? How about Zodiac-bouncing through rapidly rushing Horizontal Waterfalls – the only ones on the planet? Perhaps you'd like to try stepping into dinosaur footsteps and ogling sacred Aboriginal cave art thought to be among the world’s oldest? Welcome to the Kimberley coast, a wild and remote Western Australia region ready to explode into 2024’s hottest new expedition cruise destination.
Spread over Australia’s northwest corner, the Kimberley region is about the size of Germany, with a population of 40,000, half of whom are Aboriginal. Its remoteness makes it one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers, with more adventure-keen cruisers just now discovering it.
Until recently, Australian lines, like True North and Coral Expeditions, catered nearly exclusively to Aussie travelers. Now a growing number of expedition ships popular with Americans sail this riveting Kimberley route between Australia's Broome and Darwin, usually from May or June until September. Some lines, like Seabourn and Scenic, will debut new vessels to this route in 2024.
Maybe you’ve sailed the Poles, or perhaps you’re seeking a different unspoiled locale delivering rip-roaring adventure and endemic wildlife – that's not, well, freezing. Here, the Kimberley expedition cruises to book in the coming year.
Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
On 102-passenger National Geographic Orion, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers an atypical 16-day Kimberley sail by cruising between Broome and Bali, Indonesia, rather than just between Broome and Darwin, in May, June, and July 2024. Beyond tempting travelers with the Kimberley’s peerless sights, this itinerary includes snorkeling on paradisical Satonda Island, Indonesia; meeting local ikat weaving experts at Sumba Island, Indonesia; and hiking in Komodo National Park, where Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizards, roam. On this elegant, rather clubby-vibing ship purpose-built for the region, relish plenty of deck space for viewing birds and marine life. Naturalists helm all outings and the 14 Zodiacs; don’t miss a ride on a glass-bottom one. Expeditions from $16,577 per person can be booked at expeditions.com.
This posh French line commences its 2024 Kimberley season in April, on board 184-passenger Le Lapérouse and 184-passenger Le Jacques-Cartier. Ponant offers an 11-day sail between Broome and Darwin, with 13 voyages for English-speaking passengers. Among adventuresome outings offered, a panoramic flight over the Bungle Bungle Range, an undulating marvel of grey and ochre-striped sandstone domes created by more than 20 million years of erosion. Both vessels exude a chic French design (pack a silk scarf for dinner) and embrace sophisticated cuisine. Even if these voyages are for English-speaking passengers, they do showcase French fare – breakfast croissants are a marvel. The Blue Eye lounge, located below the water line for viewing marine life, is a must-see. Expeditions from $9,860 per person can be booked at us.ponant.com.
Scenic Eclipse II, an all-suite luxury vessel offering butler service and 10 dining experiences, begins its foray into the Kimberley with 11-day sails between Darwin and Broome from May through August 2024. Chill out with onboard pampering in-between adrenalin-driven excursions, like boarding the ship’s helicopters and hovering over the horizontal falls. Or, hike on Jar Island to the Gwion rock paintings to view what may be the Earth’s oldest art gallery. This rock art dates back to the last ice age and depicts exquisitely detailed mystical figures sporting elaborate headdresses. At the Lacepede Islands Nature Reserve, some 18,000 pairs of brown-footed boobies and other awesome wildlife, like thousands of migrating humpback whales, await. Expeditions from $12,108 per person can be booked at scenicusa.com.
The 264-passenger Seabourn Pursuit, which debuted this past summer, makes its Kimberley splash in June 2024 with six 10-day voyages between Darwin and Broome. This luxury expedition ship, twin to Seabourn Venture, employs 24 Zodiacs and a 24-person expedition team for deep Kimberley immersions. Gawk at the Aboriginal artwork of the Wandjina, thought to be more than 17,000 years old, in Vinsittart Bay. Zodiac to Montgomery Reef, Australia’s largest inland reef, formed nearly 2 billion years ago. Its cascading waterfalls, formed as the reef drains during low tide, ripple up from the ocean into hundreds of mini-waterfalls to surround you. Back on board, relive the day’s delights with unlimited complimentary Regiis Ova caviar. Expeditions from $10,999 per person can be booked at seabourn.com.
The 254-passenger (sailing this trip with only 200) Silver Cloud explores the region with 10-day sails between Broome and Darwin from June into early August. With 20 Zodiacs and 10 kayaks, all passengers can adventure at once. Luxe line Silversea — a pioneer in championing the Kimberley to an international audience since 2014 — has regional thrills down pat. Cruise the Ord River, eyeing fruit bats, short-eared rock wallabies and freshwater crocodiles. Zodiac-cruise to the 260-foot twin King George Falls, among Australia’s tallest. (Hands in boat, please; those saltwater crocs are aggressive carnivores.) On board the all-suite vessel, black-tie clad butlers attend to all passengers, happily delivering complimentary Ars Italica caviar and Champagne. Four primo restaurants deliver exquisite fine dining despite the frontier environment outside. Expeditions from $8,250 per person can be booked at silversea.com.
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