Ponant – The Iconic Kimberley

Darwin to Broome
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley
  • Ponant Iconic Kimberley

About This Project


Highlight points

Ponant iconic Kimberley map

  • Experience a refined adventure on board L’Austral, 132 staterooms & suites, 95% with private balcony: French lifestyle, unique comfort & service, Open Bar, Sophisticated Cuisine & Fine Wines, and the facilities of a 5-star yacht including a pool
  • Join Ponant’s highly qualified local expedition team. 12 guides with combined 50 years Kimberley experience
  • Enjoy regular Zodiac® outings & shore visits to get close to Kimberley nature
  • Discover billions of years-old landscapes & ancient rock art
  • Listen to stories of the dreamtime from the oldest continuous culture on the planet
  • Explore pristine mangrove environments, home to the world’s largest living reptile
  • Witness unique tidal phenomena such as the Horizontal Falls
  • Encounter the world’s largest population of migrating humpback whales
  • Travel on the most environmentally sustainable vessel in the region, certified “Green ship”

Day 1

Darwin (Australia)

Embarkation from 4 to 5 pm

Day 2

Koolama Bay and King George River Falls (Australia)

Koolama Bay was formerly known as Rulhieres Bay prior to 1942 when the state ship Koolama was beached at the location after being attacked by Japanese bombers from Kupang. The King George River flows into the Southern end of the bay.

Koolama bay has historic significance as a World War II site, indicating the impact of World War II in north-west Western Australia and the strategic significance of shipping and the north-west port of Wyndham. It is also the site of the first aerial attack by Japanese forces in the Kimberley area. The MV Koolama stranding site and survivor camp at Koolama Bay and Pangali Cove is significant to the Kwini people who helped the 180 passengers and crew reach safety.

You will be transferred ashore to Pangali cove where youi can take a short walk through mangroves and across a shallow creek to the site of the Koolama survivors’ camp. If wind, tides and time permit you might also undertake a short zodiac tour into tranquil coves.

Day 3

Koolama Bay and King George River Falls (Australia)

The journey up the King George River is nothing short of breathtaking. The 80m high sides of the gorge display varying degrees of weathering of the ancient Warton sandstone. The colours and textures of the gorge change with the light as you travel further up the river. The reds, pinks and oranges within the sandstones, together with the weathering and erosion patterns give a continual changing wallpaper of passing scenery that is simply stunning. The journey culminates at the King George twin falls, the highest single-drop falls in the whole of the Kimberley (80m or 260ft). Fed by wet season run-off the level of water cascading over the falls varies from year to year. For many, the trip up the King George River is the highlight of their Kimberley coast experience.

You will have the choice of undertaking a tender or zodiac tour to the foot of the twin falls. Tours vary in length so you may choose how long you wish to spend in the gorge. Accompanied by your expert expedition team learn all about the stunning geological formations and wildlife that resides within the gorge. For guests looking for a bit more adventure and with a very high level of fitness, take a hike to the top of the falls and have the opportunity to enjoy the views and a swim. This is a very steep, difficult hike with lots of loose uneven ground and large boulders to scramble over.

Day 4

Vansittart Bay (Australia)

Captain Phillip Parker King named Vansittart Bay after the longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart and Jar Island after Malay earthenware jar fragments he found on the beach in 1819. Jar Island contains ancient rock art galleries depicting the Gwion Gwion style unique to the Kimberley region. Mainly neglected by, or unknown to, the early European researchers of Aboriginal culture in the Kimberley in favour of the dominant and more dramatic Wandjina art, Gwion Gwion art has in recent years gained world prominence. It was originally named “Bradshaw” style after the exploring pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw who first recorded these enigmatic human figures near the Roe River in 1891.

Amongst the many different stylistic variations, the most recognised are the classic Tasselled and Sash Bradshaw figures. These extremely ornamented naturalistic human figures characteristically seem to float with bent knees & pointed toes across the hard grained sandstone rock faces of innumerable galleries. Often a dark mulberry hue, they are stained indelibly into the rock surface forming a negative-like image devoid of pigment, indicating great age. They bear strong similarities to the early dynamic figures in Arnhem Land which are dated at around 20,000 years before present (BP). Little dating has been done on the Gwion Gwion art so far, however samples taken from a fossilised wasp nest adjacent to a tasselled figure dated by Bert Roberts in 1996 estimate them to be older than 17,000 years.

It is generally thought that this art may extend back to over 30,000 years BP and represent the first wave of seagoing colonisers of the Australian continent. As it is, these are the oldest detailed depiction of human figures in the world and their detailed array of ornaments, weapons and accruements provides a fascinating insight into a rich early culture whose legacy has extended to the current Aboriginal culture across Australia.

You will be transferred ashore and undertake a short relatively easy walk to a number of overhangs and caves that display the various styles of Gwion Gwion rock art. Some of the cave entrances are narrow and require good flexibility and full movement of joints.

Day 5

Hunter River & Mitchell Falls (Australia)

Arguably one of the most scenic parts of the Kimberley coast, Prince Frederick Harbour and the Hunter River are lined with ancient rainforest pockets, pristine mangroves and mosaic sandstone cliffs. The Kimberley coast contains more than a quarter of the world’s mangrove species, and some of the largest stands of mangroves in Australia. They are considered to be some of the most pristine mangrove forests in the world, forming closed forests in discontinuous chains along thousands of kilometres. The mangrove forests of Prince Frederick Harbour contain up to 18 different mangrove species, supporting a rich and diverse fauna.

The sandstone escarpment at the river mouth, known as “kampamantiya” to the traditional custodians rises over 200 metres high before giving way to extensive mud banks and mangrove forests lining the Hunter River and its tributaries. Guarding the entrance to the river is “Wunumpurramarra”, also known as Naturalists Island.

Please note that Mitchell Falls and the Mitchell River system are only accessible via the optional helicopter tour. The included portion of today’s expedition focuses on the Hunter River system and its mangroves, geology, crocodiles and bird life. You will undertake zodiac tours of the mangrove environments in the lower reaches of the Hunter River and Porosus creek. The Expedition Team will share their knowledge as you explore the area keeping a constant lookout for wildlife. Stunning geology can be found near the opening of the Hunter River and the mangroves of Porosus Creek are home to saltwater crocodiles.

Day 6

Freshwater Cove (Australia)

Wijingarra Bard Bard (Freshwater Cove): the home of the Northern Quoll and the Black Headed Python, lies in the heartland of Worrorra country.

It is a special place to the Worrorra people and provides a unique opportunity for visitors to hear the stories of the Lalai (creation) and gain an understanding of how country and culture intertwine in this beautiful landscape.

Worrorra are saltwater people, whose country stretches from Cone Bay on the Northern end of King Sound along the West Kimberley Coast to the lower reaches of the Prince Regent River. They are a proud people that have returned to their country after being displaced during the Second World War. Along with the Ngarinyin and Wunambal tribes, they are part of the shared Wandjina culture and belief system. The Wandjina is their supreme spiritual being who created the landscape during Lalai (creation time). Wallungunder, the Boss Wandjina, came from the Milky Way to create the earth and the people.

Wijingarra Bard Bard is home to a number of significant rock art galleries including cyclone cave where guests will be captivated by the rock art and the fascinating story of the Eye of the Sea.
“For us to share our past, present and future with you makes us proud, our old people are happy to know that we are on our country and keeping the culture alive. It is important for us to walk into the future and provide a sustainable future for our younger people that embraces our heritage and culture and keeps it alive.” – Donny Woolagoodja 2010

You will be transferred ashore by the ship’s zodiacs for a wet landing onto a sandy beach. Take part in a traditional ochre “Welcome to Country”: where you will be introduced to the area and learn the cultural history of Wijingarra Bard Bard. You will then be guided on a bush walk to various significant sites in the area, including cyclone cave. On returning to the beach, enjoy some refreshments and meet with the artists and peruse their paintings. These are available for purchase from the artists. Before being farewelled with a traditional smoking ceremony on the beach.

Day 7

Montgomery Reef (Australia)

The tidal movements in the Kimberley are nothing short of massive, in fact the Kimberley has the third largest tidal range of anywhere on the planet. Montgomery Reef is a spectacular example of the impact of these tides as the entire reef appears to rise from the ocean on a falling tide. As the tide drops a raging torrent of water cascades off the top of the reef. The phenomenon is due to the tide dropping faster than the waters trapped on top of the reef can escape. At just under 400km2 in size it is Australia’s largest inshore reef, containing large areas of shallow lagoon, seagrass beds and corals.

Lying to the east, are the High Cliffy Islands. High Cliffy was once home to the Yawijibaya people, who lived there for almost 7,000 years and were reputed to be a physically superior tribe of Aboriginal people up to 7 feet tall. The islanders travelled the tides and currents on traditional rafts, but soon after a Pathé film crew filmed the islanders in 1929, the entire tribe of 300 people disappeared without trace and without explanation.

Montgomery Island was named by Phillip Parker King in recognition of Andrew Montgomery, the surgeon on his 1821 voyage along the Kimberley coast.

You will undertake a zodiac expedition to the exposed reef system with its cascading mini-waterfalls to witness the amazing tide induced phenomena first hand. Landing on the reef is prohibited. The actual scale of the phenomena is strictly governed by the tides on the day.

Day 8

Talbot Bay & Horizontal Falls (Australia)

Adjoining the Buccaneer Archipelago to the north and Dugong Bay to the south, Talbot Bay is defined by stunning geological features including the “Horizontal Waterfalls” and the dramatic, vertiginous cliffs of Cyclone Creek. Described by Sir David Attenborough as “One of the greatest wonders of the natural world” it is an iconic location and one of the premier tourist attractions of the West Kimberley.

The Horizontal Waterfalls are a pair of stunning breaks in the McLarty Range approximately 300m apart. The McLarty range itself is approximately 1.8 billion years old, comprised of sandstone, quartzite, siltstone, shale and dolomite with abundant stromatolites. The first and more seaward of the gaps is approximately 25m wide, whilst the second gap is approximately 15m wide. With massive tidal differences of up to 10.8m on a spring tide in Talbot Bay, the Horizontal Waterfalls (technically termed “pinch rapids”) are a natural phenomenon created as seawater builds up faster on one side of the gaps than the other, creating a waterfall up to 4m high on a King tide. With each change of tide the direction of the fall reverses, creating vast tidal whirlpools on the outgoing side.

You will undertake a zodiac expedition to view the horizontal falls and the surrounding geological features of Talbot bay and cyclone creek. The zodiac expedition does not pass through the horizontal falls during strong flow. You may undertake an optional “fast boat” ride through the falls to experience the thrill of this exhilarating ride.

Day 9

Buccaneer archipelago (Australia)

Day 10

The Lacepede Island (Australia)

The first European to sight the Islands was the Frenchman Nicolas Baudin in 1801. He named them in honour of French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède, who described several Australian fish species and wrote the first treatise on cetaceans. The Lacepede Islands are a group of four islands lying 120km (75miles) to the northwest of Broome and separated from the mainland by the Lacepede Channel. East, West, Middle and Sandy Islands are all small, low spits of coarse sand and coral rubble, lying on top of a platform reef and total 180.2ha. The islands are an A Class Nature Reserve administered by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

The Islands are Western Australia’s most important breeding habitat for Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), and have been named by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because they support over 1% of the world populations of Brown Boobies and Roseate Terns. The breeding colony of Brown Boobies, of up to 18,000 breeding pairs, is possibly the largest in the world. Up to 20,000 Roseate Terns have also been recorded there. Other birds breeding on the islands include Masked Boobies, Australian Pelicans, Lesser Frigatebirds, Eastern Reef Egrets, Silver Gulls, Crested, Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns, Common Noddies, and Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers. Visiting waders include Grey-tailed Tattlers, Ruddy Turnstones, Great Knots and Greater Sand Plovers. Black rats were eradicated in 1986 leading to the recolonization of the island by small terns.

You will have the opportunity to undertake a zodiac expedition in and around the islands to view the prolific birdlife. There is also the chance to spot some of the large turtle population that resides in the lagoon contained within the Islands. There will be no landings as they are limited to 6 people at any one time (including guides). Less disturbance of the nesting birds can be achieved by remaining in the zodiacs and not landing.

Day 11

Broome (Australia)

Disembarkation and coach transfer to a hotel where you will be able to enjoy the public areas until your coach transfer to the airport.

This itinerary is provided for information only. The times and the order of the ports of call depend on the tides (which are not precisely known at the time of going to press) and will be adapted once the tide tables have been officially released by the appropriate authorities. The ports of call and activities will be established each day by the Captain and the Expedition Leader according to the tides, the weather and the sea conditions.

Ponant Dates and Rates

Ponant – Rates per person 2020
Room Type Price 2020
Deluxe $13,090
Prestige 4 $12,590
Prestige 5 $13,210
Prestige 6 $13,860
Deluxe Suite 3 $19,320
Deluxe Suite 4 $19,320
Deluxe Suite 5 $19,320
Deluxe Suite 6 $19,320
Prestige Suite 5 $26,210
Prestige Suite 6 $27,510
Privilege Suite 5 $28,870
Privilege Suite 6 $28,870
Grand Deluxe Suite 5 $31,740
Grand Deluxe Suite 6 $31,740
Owner Suite $39,050
Ponant – Rates per person 2021
Room Type Price 2021
Deluxe Stateroom $10,430
Prestige Deck 4 $11,650
Prestige Deck 5 $12,220
Prestige Deck 6 $12,820
Deluxe Suite $17,510
Prestige Deck 5 Suite $21,170
Prestige Deck 6 Suite $22,210
Privilege Suite $22,870
Grand Deluxe Suite $23,540
Owner Suite $32,050

Prices are indicators based on early booking bonus savings. Savings levels decrease incrementally in line with inventory diminishing- Book Early.

* Multi Room Booking Bonus Savings – Call for details
** Charter Savings Rates Available for 2021 – Call for details


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