Often we can make the mistake of taking for granted the beauty that could lie closer to home, in favour of giving in to the wanderlust for far-flung destinations. So when Australians Keith and Jo set off on their first PONANT expedition cruise to Australia’s remote Kimberley region, they were excited to explore a new area of their homeland, but also had no idea what to expect from an expedition cruise.
Now, after their return, it’s safe to say they couldn’t have had a more eye-opening and inspirational experience. We caught up with Keith and Jo to find out more about the discovery of this unique and pristine destination they undertook onboard our explorer ship, Le Lapérouse.
You recently returned from an expedition with PONANT on the Kimberley coast. What was it that intrigued you about this part of the world?
Jo: We had heard about The Kimberley’s vastness, history that dates back millions of years and the pristine, remote uniqueness of the area. The variety of the landscape, the colour, the marine life, the mystery, the relationship of Indigenous communities with the land…
How would you describe the Kimberley coast?
Keith: It’s truly one of the world’s last and most pristine wilderness environments.
Jo: To which I would add, ancient, grand and having deep spiritual significance.
You sailed onboard Le Lapérouse, PONANT’s first EXPLORER. As new guests to the PONANT family, how did you find the onboard experience?
Keith: As the first cruise that we’d been on, we didn’t know what to expect. Whatever expectation we might have had though, was easily surpassed by the quality of service and warmth of all the staff on board. In my opinion, the ship itself was better than 5-star standard – the accommodation, the facilities, the food; I loved every minute of it.
Jo: I loved the experience of being on board Le Lapérouse. My expectations were consistently exceeded – the staff (including the captain), the food, the accommodation and the facilities. We were also pleasantly surprised with the excursions, and the knowledge and passion of the expedition team. Organisationally, the experience was smooth and professionally executed. Each excursion was an exciting and unique adventure, with various needs and levels of fitness catered for. The ship itself was sublimely comfortable without being too glitzy or feeling overly extravagant and the number of passengers felt manageable.
What was your most memorable moment?
Jo: A highlight for me was the hike up King George twin falls, the walks to Emma Gorge and Zebedee Springs, the trips in the Zodiacs© and the abundant sea life. However, I think the experience that was the most profound for me was witnessing a pod of about seven whales on a heat run, where a female was being pursued for over an hour by a group of males, necessitating her having to seek refuge under the ship. They were so close to the ship, so active, so frenzied, so gargantuan and simultaneously graceful and majestic… The naturalists were beside themselves with excitement and the woman next to me was weeping with the scale, the drama and the emotion of it all.
Keith: There we so many memorable moments that it’s very hard to pick one… but perhaps the experience that I would pick as most memorable was on one occasion when I was up early, riding the bike in the gym, and saw a whale breaching very close to the ship, directly in front of me.
Did you learn anything surprising or unusual from your expedition team about the region?
Jo: Yes – an enormous amount! I’m not sure that I can nominate one piece of information as more surprising than any other out of the countless facts the naturalists shared with us. I guess I felt very moved in learning how ancient this land is, how much we can learn from it and how very few other places on Earth can provide us with the sort of deep knowledge and history that the Kimberley can.
Keith: We learnt a huge amount of interesting information about the geology, the history, the rock art and customs of the Indigenous peoples. I previously had no understanding that the rock art had been dated back 60,000 years. This was mind-boggling!
What about any interesting wildlife sightings?
Keith: I loved my first ever sighting of dugongs swimming in front of the Zodiac©, abundant marine life, including sharks swimming alongside the ship, watching the 7 whales swim around and under the ship for over an hour and the immense amounts of bird life, particularly the Brown, Red-footed and Masked Boobies.
What is your long-lasting impression of the Kimberley coast?
Jo: Transformative, profoundly spiritual, breath-taking, inspirational, humbling and deeply generous in what it provides to those who make the journey to visit.
Keith: A sacred place for the local inhabitants. I feel changed by having had the opportunity to experience such a pristine wilderness from the comfort of such a beautiful ship. This is certainly a bucket list tick off.
Where to next?