Tuesday 2 July 2024

From On Board: Seabourn Pursuit Kimberley Inaugural. Kuri Bay Pearls

#expeditioncruising .

Location: Kuri Bay, East Kimberley WA

Vessel: Seabourn Pursuit 

Seabourn’s magnificent newbuild expedition cruise ship, Seabourn Pursuit, may have been on the water almost one year, but is only now sailing its inaugural season in Australia’s North West, home of the ruggedly beautiful Kimberley region.

Japanese pearlers in Kuri Bay c.1960

Home to numerous fascinating bays, coves and harbours, historic Kuri Bay is unique in the Kimberley thanks to almost 70 years of pearling history. The bay was named in honour of pearling pioneer, Tokuichi Kuribayashi who, in conjunction with Keith Dureau and Hiroshi Iwaki, established the Japanese-American-Australian company in 1956.

Here in this perfect location some of the world’s finest cultured South Sea Pearls have been produced for the famous Paspaley family company.

Located about 370 km (230 mi) north of Broome, Seabourn Pursuit anchored in the tranquil bay among the almost invisible submerged racks containing dozens of seeded pinctada maxima oysters all in the process of forming their magnificent pearls, a process that can take up to three years.

Across a glistening waterway, we’re ferried ashore by the dozen in 100hp Mk6 Zodiacs to stroll around the old buildings and learn the secret art of cultured pearls. Some of the particularly enthusiastic among us seem intent on bringing home a very special souvenir.

Paspaley's Mallard Flying Boat on approach to landing at Kuri Bay (RE)

The powerful turboprop engines of the Paspaley company’s vintage Grumman Mallard flying boats is the only sound to break the stillness of the warm air. These pair of graceful mid-century seaplanes fulfill the critical task of resupplying the pearl farm, rotating staff and today make short joy flights for Seabourn Pursuit’s eager guests.

In nearly 20 years of sailing in the Kimberley with a wide range of operators, this is my first experience of the upmarket Seabourn product as well as a visit to this special location.

Just across the bay is Camden Harbour, the site of a particularly tragic attempt at settlement in 1864 when a conman enticed several boatloads of Victorians to venture to this harsh land.

After an action-packed day of pearls and planes, we later enjoyed champagne and succulent pearl meat to the accompaniment of a magnificent Kimberley sunset and live piano music on the aft Patio followed by the nightly recap and briefing.

After a sumptuous dinner, we swooned to the operatic voices of Australian singers, Antoinette O’Halloran and James Egglestone under a star-splattered sky.

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ExpeditionCruising.com editor, Roderick Eime is travelling aboard Seabourn Pursuit for the inaugural Kimberley voyage.

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