Wednesday 27 July 2022

From on board Ponant's Le Laperouse in the Kimberley: Talbot Bay Rock Stars

#expeditioncruising .

Home to the famed Horizontal Falls and described by legendary naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough as one of the world's great natural wonders, Talbot Bay contains much more than just a curious cascade.

Located on the sacred land and waters of the Dambimangari (Worrorra) people, the name Lalang-garram was chosen from the Worrorra language meaning “the saltwater as a spiritual place as well as a place of natural abundance”.

We’re here in this superb location aboard Ponant’s 184-passenger, Explorer-class vessel Le Laperouse as part of its 10-night Iconic Kimberley itinerary. Normally the highlight of any visit would be a high-speed blast through the raging torrent of Garaanngaddim, the famed Horizontal Falls, but an earlier mishap with another operator has suspended the thrill rides pending an official investigation.

Nevertheless, we’ve been able to see the natural phenomenon up close, albeit with a much gentler flow.  The falls are actually made up of two ‘gaps’ - a wide (20m) gap and a narrow (10m) gap - each about 300 metres apart across two natural basin reservoirs. As we approach in our Zodiacs, the torrent is just building and presents an opportunity to traverse both gaps in safety while still experiencing the wonder of the huge tidal action. At peak flow, a difference of up to ten metres occurs with a visual height of up to four metres as more than one million litres of water rushes through the gap every second!

"The Kimberley has, arguably, the second largest tidal change in the world, creating a truly unique phenomenon," expedition leader Mick Fogg tells us, "It’s amazing to think that there are only two ‘Horizontal Falls’ on the planet and both are in our own backyard!"

The world stood on its end 500 million years ago. (RE)

Those with a penchant for rocks are in awe at the seemingly impossible contortions of the ancient sandstone which, if you had been paying attention at Brett Kitchener’s lecture, you would know as King Leopold, Warton and Pentecost sandstone dating back almost two billion years. Yes, you read that correctly, 2000 million years! Immense pressure and temperatures have ‘folded’ the rocks into waves and tipped once vertical formations on their sides. It’s a powerful demonstration of nature’s fury.

After our exciting examinations of the falls, we embark on extended excursions up nearby Cyclone Creek where the vessels of Paspaley’s pearling fleet would once have sheltered during storms. Again, we see the creativity of nature at work in the wild undulations of the sedimentary rock, laid down before the first inklings of multicellular life on the planet. Contemplate that for a moment.

White-bellied Sea Eagle (Silvia Furtwaengler)

As icing on the cake, we bring Zodiacs close to the sheer cliffs in search of the elusive Rock Wallabies who love to hop about on the ledges and hide in the alcoves while eagles, osprey and kites wheel above. 

Ah yes, the magic of the Kimberley.

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For more information about the full catalogue of Ponant expeditions, see

Main photo: PONANT

Roderick Eime, editor,  

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