Monday 1 April 2024

From On Board Reef Prince: Water, Water Everywhere

#expeditioncruising .

To the sound of a dozen jet engines on full throttle, I look up almost 100 metres vertically to see thousands of tonnes of water crashing down onto the rocks almost at my feet. The water hits the bottom with such force, it generates a wind tunnel of supercharged mist blasting out across the surface of the King George River, creating its own micro-climate within the ancient sandstone amphitheatre.

After nearly 20 years of visiting the remote Kimberley in Australia's North West, this is the first time I've ever been as early as March when the rivers are in peak flow after the annual wet season deluge. It's a natural phenomenon of immense proportions, yet witnessed by only a few score visitors every year.

Into the fury of Twin Falls  (RE)

“WE'RE VERY FORTUNATE TO SEE THE FALLS IN SUCH STAGGERING FURY,” yells Paul above the din. It's true. By the time many of the major international operators arrive in late May, most of the  Kimberley waterfalls will have shrunk to a comparative trickle. Others will have disappeared altogether.

On this 'Waterfall Day' near the highest point of Western Australia, Paul is able to show us ten properly functioning waterfalls, most I have never seen before with or without water.

The Kimberley Basin, with almost 50 named rivers, accounts for three quarters of the state's total discharge. The largest river in the region, the Fitzroy near Derby, will discharge 9000 gigalitres per year on average, but has been recorded pouring out a massive 30,000,000 litres per second when in peak flood. Average annual rainfall can be up to 1500mm, but conditions vary wildly and that amount and more was recorded in just a month at Kuri Bay as recently as 2022.


If you've been watching the news of late, you'll know that ridiculous amounts of water have been falling in the Kimberley and all across the Top End recently, often accompanied by strong tropical storms. Whole towns have been evacuated, but the silver lining (if you can say that) is that the waterfalls are in outrageous display.

The so-called Waterfall Season in the Kimberley typically takes place from March when the local vessels like Reef Prince reposition from Fremantle with specially devised itineraries to capitalise on on nature's annual spectacular. Depending on the prevailing conditions, the season may persist as late as May.

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.

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