Rowley Shoals is made up of three pear-shaped atoll-like coral reefs lying south of the Timor Sea, off Australia's northwest coast. Their position is on the edge of one of the world's widest continental shelves and they belong to Western Australia.
Each atoll rises steeply from the ocean floor and they cover 80 to 90 square kilometres within the rim of the reef, including shallow lagoons which are inhabited by brilliant corals, over 600 species of magnificent fish and other marine life such as giant clams in abundance. Snorkelling is nothing short of fantastic.
Named after Captain Rowley who sighted the Imperieuse Reef in 1800, it is believed fishermen from Indonesia were visiting them from at least the mid-18th century. They were looking for sea cucumbers, turtle and trochus shell and shark fin.
Clerke and Imperieuse Reefs have large permanent sand cays, but Mermaid Reef has no permanent land, except at low tide when several cays are exposed. The ebb and flow of high tidal ranges have sculpted the reefs into dramatic formations.
Because of their isolation, untouched pristine environment and rich marine life, the reefs are protected.
Thanks to The Great Escape Charter Company everyone has the chance to see this extraordinary part of the world on small, intimate cruises.
MV Great Escape is a new 26-metre, custom-built, air-conditioned catamaran. It has seven cabins with queen bed and ensuite. There is a crew of five to take care of you. Two onboard desalinators ensure there is always plenty of water.
There is an eight-person spa on the bow, perfect for relaxing and enjoying a cold beverage while marvelling at a spectacular Kimberley sunset. If you just have to have communications, the catamaran has satellite phone and fax equipment. For more holiday-like activities, there is audio visual equipment, games and a library.
MV Kimberley Escape is a 24-metre mono-hulled craft designed to ensure excellent levels of comfort. It takes 14 passengers, is air-conditioned and has loads of deck space. It carries a crew of four.
There are six below-deck double cabins and one twin cabin. Three well-appointed toilets and showers on the main deck are easily accessible. Kimberley also has satellite phone and fax.
Both vessels have three, five-metre tenders so passengers can be even closer to the secrets of the Kimberley Coast, such as the red-tailed tropicbird, a most rare bird. They, and many other species of bird, nest in colonies across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and choose coral atolls with low shrubs for breeding.
Blue staghorn coral is where most fish like to gather. Coral trout, Chinese footballer cod and Maori wrasse, trevally, spangled emperor and polka dot cod are some of the species which gather there.
To keep the area as wonderfully thriving as it is, the area is a no-take zone. Catch and release. Gourmet meals are prepared on board, but none of the Rowley Shoals inhabitants are used!