Cruising the Kimberley: Boabs, brolgas & The Mermaid

As day six of our cruise aboard the Reef Prince dawns we watch another gorgeous sunrise over the bow at Careening Bay, then head inside for a hot breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs.

Soon afterwards we’re back in the tenders to explore Prince Regent Nature Reserve. Hammerhead sharks swim past the boat as we approach the shore.

In 1820, a little ship called The Mermaid was repaired on the shore over 12 days and the crew carved the ship’s name and the date into a boab tree that’s estimated to now be more than 1000 years old.

The Mermaid’s captain was Phillip Parker King, the first person to map the Kimberley coastline with any degree of accuracy during the early 1800s. The ship had been taking on water and needed urgent repairs, so at high tide it was careened on the beach and repaired using metal salvaged from a nearby shipwreck.

As we walk to the famed boab tree, we see large bird footprints in the sand and look up to find three elegant brolgas standing metres away from us on the grassy dune. They launch into the air and circle above us. The crew tell us it’s the first time they’ve ever seen brolgas in that area.

We also try the boab fruit, which is used to make cream of tartar for baking and contains 20 times more vitamin C than an orange. It’s not quite ripe enough and a little woody, but apparently the ripe fruits have a creamy, delicious taste.

Back on the boat, chef Jayden creates more delicious salads for our lunch, then we head to Dolphin Bay for a “Kimberley splash” (as it’s only safe to have a quick dip in the shallows) on the pristine beach after viewing a Wandjina art site, with paintings under a rock overhang that are around 6000 years old.

Then we settle onto the front deck for the cruise to Porossis Creek. We’ve given up trying to capture how beautiful the scenery is with our cameras, as they don’t do it justice. It’s better to simply drink it in with our eyes. We feel so lucky to see this untouched wilderness.

The Reef Prince drops anchor and the fishing fanatics head out with their rods. As the tenders are lowered, sharks circle them in the water, curious and eager for a feed.

When the heat of the day eases, all the passengers climb into the tenders and motor up the creek to have sunset drinks as the cliffs around us glow with the final shafts of sunlight. We sip our wine and beers as a cheese plate is passed between the three boats.

There is a warmth and friendship growing among the passengers. On our return to the Reef Prince we gather with the captain and crew at the bar to chat, laugh and recount stories from the day. The captain admits he can’t quite believe his job involves being surrounded by such amazing scenery every day.

Breakfast is being served at 6am sharp in the morning, followed by a 6.30am scenic boat trip, but everyone is reluctant to leave the convivial main room.

The Thirsty Travellers booked their adventure on the Reef Prince with Expedition Cruise Specialists.

TOMORROW: Exploring crystal beaches

YESTERDAY: Kings Cascades

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