Saturday 23 March 2024

From On Board Reef Prince in the Kimberley

Followers of this blog will know I have travelled with several of the best-known small ship operators in the Kimberley and even worked as an expedition guide for part of the 2022 season.

Long time industry colleague, Andrew Castles of Expedition Cruise Specialists, had been encouraging me to travel with one of his favourite but lesser-known Kimberley operators, Kimberley Expeditions who run the 36-passenger, 38m catamaran, Reef Prince. So, with a fortuitous gap in my schedule, I agreed.

Reef Prince began life in 1995 on the Great Barrier Reef as a fast ferry and day boat and was bought by the entrepreneurial couple, Steve and Deb Garner, who are based at Mataranka Station in the Northern Territory. After a major refit, the couple have run the vessel in the Kimberley since 2017.

We boarded the vessel in Broome, as one does, for the first voyage of the season. Having never travelled as early as March, I was eager to see the fabled Twin Falls and Kings Cascades in full flow after a particularly abundant wet season.

Perhaps it is this so-called 'Cost Of Living Crisis' or other reasons I am yet to fully investigate, the 2024 season has been off to a slow start for everyone, so we are sailing at about half capacity. The famous Seaplane Adventures in Talbot Bay, for example, have delayed their opening by five weeks, so it was more than a little surreal to be in that famous location absolutely alone on our second day.

Twin 140hp outboards power the tender Regent (Paul Hogger)

Reef Prince runs four aluminium-hulled tenders of the same design favoured by many of the local operators. Metal hulls, I am told, are more durable in this harsh environment where sharp rocks and other less predictable hazards abound. Each are powered by lusty 140hp Suzuki outboards except for the flagship sightseeing vessel, Regent, which runs twin 140s and can motor at more than 40 knots when urged. Their surplus of power is welcome when tackling the wild torrents of Talbot Bay's notorious Horizontal Falls.

On board, the main deck has the combined dining room and lounge and is also where Paul Hogger, our ebullient expedition leader, gives his briefings and talks. French chef, Gigi, also demonstrates his expert culinary skills here and as the journey progresses, we come to understand why he's held in such high regard.

Our French chef, Gigi, excels himself with dinner under the stars. (RE)

The rear deck is the marina where tenders are loaded from a platform at water level and the bow has a delightful airy space with comfy couches for watching the ancient panorama roll past.

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

For more reports from my Kimberley voyage aboard Reef Prince, follow 'From On Board'

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