Tuesday 26 March 2024

From On Board Reef Prince: Atlantis Rises

Montgomery Reef (c) Paul Hogger

As the enormous tide falls, the structure appears to rise like the lost Atlantis. Water cascades down channels formed in the coral substrate over millennia creating a sight not repeated anywhere else on the planet.

Turtles, sharks, rays and predatory fish congregate in the gutters while wading birds gorge themselves on the sealife momentarily left stranded by the receding ocean.

Montgomery Reef is truly one of the wonders of any Kimberley cruise and regardless of who you choose to cruise with, this amazing disappearing reef will be a feature of that itinerary.

Our expedition leader aboard Reef Prince, Paul Hogger, has chosen a dawn exploration of the reef due to the rare coincidence of a full moon to complement the rising sun, creating a superb pastel hue on the facing escarpment.

Montgomery Reef was named by that hero of Australia's Northwest, Philip Parker King, in honour of his ship's surgeon, Dr Andrew Montgomery, who was speared in the shoulder during an interaction with the Worora people. Despite his grave wounds, Montgomery survived.


"Montgomery Reef is the largest inshore reef in the southern hemisphere," Paul tells us, "Sixty kilometres by forty kilometres with a total area of 550 square kilometres. That's at low tide. But at high tide, it's just 40 square kilometres."

This phenomenon occurs because way back when sea levels were much lower, the reef was actually a flat top mesa. When sea levels rose, the level perfectly aligned with the top of the mesa.

By the way, an enigmatic tribe of about 300 individuals once lived on the small islands within the reef complex itself. Known as the Yawijibaya, they were genetically distinct from mainland Aboriginals and adults of the tribe were known to be more than seven feet tall. Contact was first established in the 1920s, but within the decade they had vanished leaving behind their implements and dwellings. A mystery that persists to this day.

Ruby Falls (RE)

The balance of the morning was spent exploring the idyllic Ruby Falls, a favourite freshwater swimming hole and photo opportunity accessed via a spirited tender ride along Red Cone Creek.

I'm aboard the 36-passenger Reef Prince, the sole vessel of Kimberley Expeditions, for their 12-day Broome to Darwin itinerary.

For more details on cruising in the Kimberley, contact Kimberley Expeditions

Main Pic: Paul Hogger / Kimberley Expeditions

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