Australia’s remote Kimberley region is a world of timeless landscapes, extraordinary environments and a harsh beauty like nowhere else on our planet. What better way to explore this beautiful patch of the planet than with family and friends on a 5 star Ponant ‘Australia’s Iconic Kimberley’ cruise from Darwin to Broome. Luxury travel designer Sally Bird and husband Will Bird explain why it was an experience they will never forget.
Kimberley calling family & friends
Q: Darwin to Broome on a Ponant ‘Australia’s Iconic Kimberley’ experience sounds like a great way to discover some unspoilt land on and off the coast of Australia. Firstly, what made you choose this one and, now that you’re back, what has really stayed with you?
Sally: When someone says to me ‘how was it’, I say incredible! As a family we had previously done the East Kimberley region by land along the Gibb River Rd and were keen to see it by sea as most of it is inaccessible any other way. It’s so completely untouched and beautiful and more Aussies need to see it.
Will: It is such a unique and beautiful environment, relatively untouched still by man and as it has been for thousands of years. It’s a must-see.
Q: Sally, you’ve obviously cruised with Ponant before and in your role as a luxury travel designer at Executive Edge Travel have booked plenty of clients on Ponant. What makes this particular brand so special?
Sally: Ponant are world leaders in the 5 star expedition ships. They have a very new fleet and they are continually improving their product. For me, in my age bracket, it has strong appeal perhaps that’s because they are new ships. I feel they don’t have the same air as some of the other 5 star ships. They breathe a slightly younger vibe to me but with the exceptional service.
Will: I agree. For expeditions, Ponant are continually improving their product. To experience 5 star service in the middle of some of the most remote corners of the earth is a truly amazing experience.
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Multi-generation family dream
Q: For some people the idea of taking kids away on a cruise may sound like hard work. Does Ponant facilitate a pretty stress-free kind of experience? More to the point, would you recommend this to friends to do the same?
Sally: On an expedition cruise, to the contrary. It was very stress free for me.
Will: It is a relatively new arrangement for Ponant and we’d be interested to get their feedback on how it worked with a record 18 kids (not all ours!). Our kids absolutely love the freedom and immersion with all the learning that naturalists and special presenters teach on a cruise such as this. Some itineraries perhaps lend themselves to kids more than others with plenty of off shore excursions and such things as snorkleing to wear them out during the day. These Ponant ships don’t have massive pools or water slides so you need to be aware it is more about the adventures and various destinations along the way.
Sally: That’s right. I was always told that kids need to be fed, watered and entertained. It’s certainly not a ‘fun park’, it’s totally about the experiences and adventures on the zodiacs, the freedom and the learning with the team of young naturalists. In 10 days not once did I hear “Mum, I’m bored” or “Mum, I’m hungry!” I would certainly recommend friends to do the same.
Family connections, magic moments
Q: And just on that, this was a classic multi-generational holiday experience with ages ranging from 8 to 78. I imagine there were some pretty special connections and moments throughout the journey?
Sally: I was fortunate to have my 78-year-old dad and 77-year-old mum, my husband, my 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter all travelling together. Firstly, my dad is trying to do things he’s never done before and he’s actually terrified of boats and water. In particular, I remember an amazing day on the Hunter River searching for crocodiles through the mangroves. I remember looking across to see my kids’ eyes wide open searching and also my dad’s eyes wide open and searching, forgetting his fears for that moment! it was unforgettable and how amazing it was to do that all together.
Will: Even just being together on a zodiac experiencing the wildlife in a remote Kimberley River is worth the ticket price alone. You are, by the very nature of cruising, able to have special moments as a whole family or with individual travel companions throughout the day, be it at meal times, during nightly entertainment on the ship, or participating in the many carefully opt-in crafted activities.
Ancient landscape and rock art wonders
Q: This new trip includes an opportunity to discover billions of years-old landscape and ancient rock art and also listen to some Dreamtime stories by Aboriginals. How would you describe these aspects of the trip?
Will: Some of the geological phenomenon and oldest rocks in the world are located in the Kimberley region. From the tidal movement to tectonics, for half the age of the earth has created one of the most striking coastlines on earth. Each of the Bungle Bungles to Horizontal Falls and Montgomery Reef are unique. The northern Kimberley still to this day, I believe, has no pot European mammal extinctions and we can thank the Aboriginals for looking after this place much the same way for thirty-odd thousand years before settlement. To see the Gwion Gwion and Wandjina rock art often described as the oldest art that man has produced that has so far been uncovered is a rare privilege to experience.
Q: Tell me a little about the zodiac outings through the mangroves, seeing such things as crocodiles and other wildlife. I imagine the children would have loved that?
Sally: We saw crocodiles, dugongs, turtles, sting rays, sharks, birds and an incredible close encounter on a zodiac with some Humpback whales, so it wasn’t only the kids who loved it. We all loved it but yes, it was like a safari on water. The experience amongst the naturalists on board Ponant was incredible and we certainly benefited from the diversity of their fields. To see the children just absorbing all that information and actually being in it was wonderful.
Painting the perfect picture
Q: how was King George River and the majestic falls, what was notable?
Sally: What was notable was how it looked totally different going into the river, as it did coming out. The colour changes in the rock as the light changes is fascinating. It’s been a dry wet season so the falls were not flowing but that allowed us to get right in up and under which was incredible and gives you some indication of just HOW majestic and different it would be totally under water. We made the walk to the top of King George Falls and WOW what an incredible view.
Q: What was the complimentary excursion you took and what made it so special/memorable?
Will: Bungle Bungle flights with Ord river, Lake argyle, Durack family station and many other points of interest on a circuit between Kununurra and Wyndam to take in. Just the vastness and space with little human influence for miles and miles grabbed my attention. A Paid helicopter flight to Mitchell Falls is a must if you go all the way there don’t miss out on this beauty.
Family connections the highlight
Q: What was your highlight (each of you)?
Will: Probably seeing our kids interact with other family and new acquaintances and the joys of grandparents and kids all getting a real buzz out of the whole experience.
Sally: Yes, for sure, I agree. And another special highlight was being in the zodiac with all the kids about 20 meters from a couple of huge Humpback whales. Amazing.
Q: Why do you think cruising is experiencing such a boom time?
Sally: It’s just such a great way to see and do things. You pack/unpack only once, you can wake up in a new destination every day and you are fed and watered all day and you can do it with varied aged groups and everyone can get something out of it. with all the decisions there are in the world with places to go and see and do, when you cruise all the decisions are made for you.
TAKE ME THERE…
To book your next Ponant cruise contact Sally Bird directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Executive Edge Travel (03) 9519 7777 or visit www.executiveedge.com.au
Images supplied by Ponant (c) and Will & Sally Bird.