A decadent new day cruise to the Kimberley’s Horizontal Falls

Kimberley Day Cruise
Kimberley Day Cruise

If the luxury of time is short during your Broome holiday, a new day cruise provides immersive access to the remote Kimberley coastline and pristine Horizontal Falls

Lush emerald and lime-hued vegetation, rust-red earth, cloudless skies, and champagne sands falling into the turquoise sea water soak my soul. This is Australia’s northwest coast, resembling an artist’s kaleidoscopic palette.

The colours mesmerise, taking over every human sense. Nature’s picturesque scenes excite and delight at every turn.

“Every day is a surprise,” says Harley Cuzens, skipper of the luxurious 84-foot cruise vessel Ohana. “It’s what makes our cruises different. We never know what nature is going to deliver. But we can guarantee it will be spectacular and special.”

He’s not wrong. Everyone onboard Kimberley Day Cruises’ Ohana is equally impressed with their one-day cruise to Horizontal Falls that Australian tourism multi-award-winner Dr Sally Shaw and Kimberley-based Harley spent several years curating.

“While many people don’t have the luxury of a week or more to cruise the Kimberley coastline, they can usually fit in a day,” says Harley.

If you’re staying in Broome, it’s a long day — 14 hours —but, it’s well worth the 5:00 am pick-up, two-hour air-conditioned all-terrain vehicle transfer, and ensuing sunrise up the Dampier Peninsula-Cape Leveque Road to Cygnet Bay, where Ohana is moored.

Our transfer to Ohana is via a tender boat with sea legs — wheels that drive it onto the beach for easy loading and unloading — ensuring your feet won’t get wet.

Designed for comfort and indulgence

On board Ohana, there are eight tables, each seating eight. It’s comfortable and relaxed as you get to know your new friends over a four-course breakfast. Nothing is rushed, from blueberry muffins, a granola and yoghurt pot to fresh tropical fruits and superbly cooked smoked bacon and egg on a toasted English muffin. Each course is served leisurely with juice, tea and coffee.

As we cruise between the 1,000 or so islands of the untamed Buccaneer Archipelago, the crew impart their knowledge and love of the diverse rocky islands, fringing coral reefs, seagrass beds, isolated pristine beaches, mangroves and abundant marine life. They stop at each table with an iPad showing us the day’s route and leave a beautifully bound hardcover book on the cruise and binoculars to be perused or used during the journey.

At 11:30am, the bar opens. Fancy a glass of champagne, wine, beer, or a tropical frozen fruit cocktail? Take your pick — it’s all included and the perfect way to relax while admiring the uniqueness of the Kimberley coastline, another Australian phenomenon that only a handful have been fortunate enough to admire until now. However, this new Kimberley Day Cruise — Horizontal Falls tour has allowed more people to experience this natural wonder of the world.

Wild wonderous nature

The region’s massive tidal variances (up to 12 metres) are the second largest in the world due to the width of the continental shelf here. The charcoal, ivory, and ochre-coloured tidal markings are evident on the passing islands’ craggy, jagged rocks.

In the 1950s, BHP established iron ore mines on two of the archipelago’s larger islands, Cockatoo and neighbouring Koolan. Today, only the Koolan Island mine continues. Owned and operated by Mount Gibson Iron, the mine seams are captivating, stretching almost the island’s length. For nearly 20 years until its closure in the early 2000s, Cockatoo Island also had a five-star resort. Its tagline was, ‘the least-known island paradise anywhere in the world.’

As we peacefully cruise along, mesmerised by the passing scenery, our seven-course degustation lunch begins with two mouth-watering tiger prawn remoulades on charcoal crackers, followed by freshly grilled seared scallops with mango and lime dressing. Each starter pairs perfectly with the glass of champagne in our hand.

As we cruise into Talbot Bay, a seaplane takes off, and several tender boats return to their large cruise liner. They’re all here to see Horizontal Falls, named the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world’ by Sir David Attenborough.

Excitement rises as we climb aboard Ohana’s two tenders moored against the back platform to begin our Horizontal Falls journey.

Although technically not a waterfall, the seawater at Horizontal Falls surges twice daily between two sets of rugged, narrow, brilliant tangerine-coloured sandstone gorges of the McLarty Range, creating torrid cascading waters and whirlpools. The first gorge is approximately 24 metres wide, and the second is only six metres wide.

We arrive just as the tide is turning. The waters are initially still, but whirlpools and currents develop within minutes, dragging against our boat. It’s a unique and awe-inspiring experience. The ocean levels here can rise to four metres. Our skipper then heads to Cyclone Bay for a closer examination of the surrounding cliffs, vegetation, and wildlife. We spot a rock wallaby on a ledge sheltering from the sun as he observes our every move.

Abundant epicurean delights

Back on board Ohana, our lunch continues throughout the afternoon with an impeccably presented and melt-in-the-mouth barbecued Geraldton crayfish tail and summer salad, grilled wild barramundi with native herbed butter, capers and fresh apple slaw, a medium rare eye fillet medallion with rosti potato and glazed carrot and, finally, a silky panna cotta pot topped with rosella coulis.

During our delicious meals, a sea snake surfaces beside the boat and a few whales heading south are spotted at 10 o’clock. Some dolphins join us during our journey back to Cygnet Bay — they all want a piece of the action or, possibly, our decadent lunch.

We arrive back at Cygnet Bay just before sunset. Our bus stops on the hilltop, allowing us to savour the enormous golden ball as it drops below the horizon. It’s an idyllic farewell to a bucket-list experience and a memorable day.

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