Weeks 11 and 12
We are now back from our cruise aboard the Kimberley Xplorer and we had a great eight days cruising. It was quite different to what I was expecting. The distances between the sights was much greater then I was expecting and the tides did not make landing on or getting off the beach very easy. It was low tide early morning and late afternoon when we really needed it to be high tide early morning and late afternoon. It was also full moon, something none of us considered when we were booking the trip but at full moon the tides are the highest and lowest i.e. the high tide is 9 to 10 metres and drops to about 3 to 4 metres. That is a lot of water rushing around and made fishing a little difficult.
Our crew - Greg the Skipper, Jodie our cook and Scotty our deckie.
We set off leaving Derby port at about 9.30/10.00 a.m Wednesday morning.
Our first experience with the tides and the flow of the water was when we had to pass through Hells Gate. It was just amazing how the water swirled and formed whirlpools and hollows and it certainly moved the boat around a bit.
On the way to our first night's (and second) camp, which was on a beach in Cone Bay we passed the Cone Bay Barramundi Fish Farm.
Marooned on the beach – now which way do we go? After taking in the tents, swags etc and the first lot of passengers the tide had gone out too far to land on the beach in front of our camp so we had to be dropped off around the corner.
The final landing party.
Collecting oysters as we walked around the point to our camp on the beach. They were truly delicious. I don’t think I have ever had such large, tasty oysters and you could not get them any fresher.
Jodie setting up her beach kitchen as the sun set and the moon rose.
And the camp fire was lit as we watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
Next morning as we waited for the tide to come in far enough to get the dinghy on the beach we watched a crocodile casually cruising past our beach – convincing everyone not to go for an early morning dip. After boarding the big boat again we headed off for some fishing at Razor Rocks.
After a few fish were caught and we were not getting any more bites we wound in the fishing lines and set off across the waters to Banicoat Island for a swim.
The water was very clear but to be on the safe side we were advised to not to go any deeper than waist deep (at that depth you could see what was in the water – always on the lookout for sharks and crocodiles). A lovely spot.
We anchored on the eastern side for a swim but you could walk across the sand dunes to the western side in about five minutes.
We were surrounded by all these fish – whiting, mullet and bream which would swim very, very close if you stood still for a few moments.
After our swim we tried another spot closer to camp to fish but the tide was running too quickly so we were taken back to our camp on the beach before the tide went out too far.
We watched the full moon rise behind our camp –quite impressive rising up behind the rocks and boab tree and the sun set off the beach. The moon was extremely bright –lying in our tents at night it was like a very bright light shining. It made it a bit difficult to sleep as our tents were not more than mosquito nets.
Next morning we needed to roll up our swags and pack up camp and take everything back to the boat. We then cruised through Whirlpool Pass – a narrow ‘S’ shaped passage. The scenery was great and we also had a few more whirlpools to travel through.
We called into an isolated camp ‘Silver Gull’(in the eighties a couple of alternate lifestylers squatted on this piece of land which is owned by the water commission and built a camp which now consists of a makeshift house, helicopter landing pad, quite an impressive garden, and a couple of cement water tanks). Nearby is a hot spring which they have piped into one of these cement tanks where you can swim (more appropriately sit). They have also built a small gift shop where they sell T-shirts, stubby holders etc. The wife died last year and there is now another couple caretaking the property and it appears that the water commission may now evict them. Our boat filled up with fresh water there and quite a number of yachties and fishermen use these facilities if they are in need of assistance.
A loo with a view at Silver Gull
There are some amazing rock formations around this area.
Koolan Island (Mine)
Nearby are Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island both of which are (or were) mined for iron ore. Apparently the iron ore on these islands is of very high quality. I understand that presently both mines have closed. Koolan Island had mined down to ground level and then continued on mining deeper and recently the sea wall (separating the sea from the mine) collapsed and filled the mine with water around the same time as the price for iron ore fell. They have now stopped production and it is not known if they will start back up again.
The collapsed sea wall.
Greg then put his foot down and we sped up to the Horizontal Falls hoping that we would arrive in time to do the Horizontal Falls ride in the afternoon as the tide was low and the ride would be more exciting. We made it in time and had to wait about 20 to 30 minutes for the boat to come to pick us up for our ride. While waiting a Tawny Nosed shark came up to our boat and Scotty hand fed it some squid (the fishermen/women were not too impressed with him feeding their bait to a shark) from the back of our boat.
It was then off the big boat for our ride through the Horizontal Falls. What a great ride. It was a bit difficult to take photos as I was too busy hanging on. It was too dangerous to go through the second opening but we went up to it for a look. It was great fun – I would do it again for sure.
We then went to a nice safe anchorage for the night and again watched the moon rise.
Our first night on the boat. The swags consisted of two double swags and the rest were singles. We were lucky enough to get one of the double swags as it meant we got the luxury accommodation on the boat. The people with the single swags either slept on the floor downstairs or on steel bed frames up on the top where we were. We had the extra cushions.
The moon was still up at sun rise the next morning.
We rolled up our swags and set off for our next beach camp at Raft Point.
Because of the tides we dropped off Scotty (and one of the passengers who did not want to go for a walk) and the swags and tents to set up camp while the rest of us stayed aboard the boat and went around the corner for a walk to an aboriginal art site. It was not a long walk but it was pretty steep.
On the walk up to the aboriginal rock art we encountered a Racing goanna.
You will notice that some of the art work looks new (and bright). The local aboriginal people have now started to touch up and redo some of the art as it is fading and eroding and thus disappearing.
Of course we had to collect some fire wood on the way back to the boat.
It was then back on the Kimberley Xplorer for the short trip back to our camp for the night.
Raft Point Camp
Of course we again went collecting oysters – only this time they were nowhere as big as those collected at Cone Bay.
This amazing rock formation was just out from our camp on the beach and in the late afternoon sun it looked just like the ruins of an old castle.
Jodie in her outdoor kitchen again. She cooked up some great meals in pretty primitive conditions.
Again we watched the moon rise. Talk about a big bright Kimberley moon!
Next morning we had breakfast on the beach and while we were waiting for the tide to rise enough to get the dinghy ashore some of us went for a walk (climb) up the rocks where we spied an osprey’s nest. It is not nesting season but there were two ospreys there.
We spent the day cruising and fishing up to and at the Three Rivers – not really rivers just an inlet that splits three ways. We only caught a few fish again as the tide was running too fast.
the one that didn't get away.
Scotty cleaning the catch.
So it was back to the beach before the tide went out too far.
Hello …. What’s that I see on our beach?
Yes, it was a crocodile – actually there were two but the first dinghy landing scared the other one into the water. Definitely no swimming this afternoon or beach walks. They cruised around in front of the camp for a while but we were camped far enough back from the beach for them not to come near us, thankfully.
Next morning it was roll up the swags again and wait for the tide to come in far enough to land the dinghy and get everyone and everything back on board the Kimberley Xplorer. That was our last night camping on the beach. The next two nights were planned to stay on the boat.
All packed and ready just waiting for the tide.
After boarding the Kimberley Xplorer we went up to the Sale River – our most northerly point. It was quite amazing up the river. We cruised up as far as we could in the big boat and then got into the dinghies and went further up almost to where the water goes from salt to fresh. We then went for a short walk through some rainforest (the only rainforest we saw) to a little creek where there were some small water falls. We were able to have a cool off in the pools there. They were not much deeper than about knee deep. There were no crocodiles there but back down in the river there were. Some who did not want to do the walk did some fishing but didn’t catch anything. Part of the Sale River are like going through a gorge with high red cliffs on either side.
It was then back on the Kimberley Xplorer and off to another safe anchorage and another look at the sun setting.
Next morning was an early start as we wanted to be at the Montgomery Reef about an hour before low tide. What a sight!! Montgomery Reef covers an area of approximately 400 square miles most of which is covered at high tide and exposed at low tide.
There is a channel through the reef and we took the big boat up as far as we could before boarding the dinghies again and going up as far as was safe to do so. This time only three plus the driver went in each dinghy so that we could all get a good look at the reef. At first it just looks like rocks and mud but when you get closer it is all coral. There is not much colour in the parts that are constantly exposed to the sunlight but you could see deeper down some brilliantly coloured coral.
It was amazing to look at the reef towering above us in the dinghy and to realise that at high tide the whole reef is under water! As the tide goes out there are all these rivers as the water drains off the reef. These cause huge swirls and fierce currents that could easier tip a boat over.
Reluctantly we had to go back to the boat and let the next lot of passengers have a look. We also saw many turtles there (mainly green backs but there are also some leather backs as well). While waiting on the boat we also saw this Stokes Sea Snake.
Cruising through the more open waters we also saw humpback whales but none very close and they didn’t hang around the surface for long.
After the excitement of seeing Montgomery Reef the rest of the day was pretty quiet. We actually cruised most of the day back towards Derby. A south easterly wind had come up which made is a bit rough in the open waters.
We did call into a beautiful white silica sand beach for a quick swim before going to a safe anchorage at the Inland Sea – an area where you pass through a small passage which opens out to quite a large sheltered area. Unfortunately the wind came up again during the night and blew things about a bit including the dinghy against the boat so the crew were up securing it up out of the water.
Of course there was one last sunset from the boat
Next day we returned to Derby.
About to go through Hells Gate again.
We spent another day in Derby restocking the fridge and cupboards and washing. They had markets Thursday night which we went to for a look. It was mostly food stalls so we had dinner there. They weren’t bad markets for a small town.
Some wild flowers along the road.
Friday we set off for the next leg of our adventure. We spent Friday night in a free camp and Saturday we came onto Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park. Beautiful caravan park (in the middle of nowhere) and beautiful beach.
Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park - these are the unpowered sites and the newer section.
Lots of shells to collect and Phil tried fishing but could only manage to hook two sting rays.
At least he was happy he caught something. There were lots of people fishing but we didn’t see too many fish being caught. It is so nice here at Eighty Mile Beach I wish we could stay for a few weeks but we must keep going.