For years tourists have been enjoying the unique inland wilderness of The Kimberley region in Australia's northwest. Although less frequented, just off the Kimberley coastline lies the Buccaneer Archipelago, made up of approximately 1000 rocky islands with small bays and secluded white sandy beaches. The islands are diverse, ranging from rocky and rugged to vegetated by rainforest and fringed by mangroves.
The best way to explore this area is by boat. A great starting point is the port town of Derby, 220 kilometres northeast of Broome. The Derby Wharf, built in 1894, is a popular place to cast a fishing line and watch the sunsets. The wharf also provides a great vantage point for the incoming tides, with the high tides sometimes reaching up to 12 metres.
Unreel Adventures leave from Derby for expeditions along the Kimberley coast. Their cruises can be customised to suit your interests fishing, beachcombing, bird watching, photography or bushwalking.
The five-day Horizontal Waterfalls and Buccaneer Archipelago Explorer trips allow ample time to explore deserted islands and swim in turquoise water. The warm water is home to dolphins, sharks, whales, turtles and many species of fish, while birdlife and saltwater crocodiles are ever present.
As well as wildlife spotting, highlights include the bizarre rock patterns caused by erosion at Strickland Bay, the pure white silica beach at Hidden Island, the Koolan Island iron ore mine, Aboriginal rock art, Crocodile Creek waterfall, a working pearl farm, fishing in the coral reef and collecting huge blacklip oysters. Culinary delights on the boat often include the day's catch.
The 16.5 metre King Tide has a large deck and cabin area with plenty of space to relax. It sleeps up to 14 in private quarters or passengers can sleep under the stars. King Tide has the luxury essentials of air-conditioning, hot showers, refrigerators and freezers, a barbecue, CD and DVD player with surround sound and a fully shaded viewing deck.
Most of the long distance travel between islands is done at night to maximise your time at these beautiful destinations.
Snorkelling, fishing and crabbing gear are included, as are all meals and snacks. Alcohol and soft drinks can be pre-ordered and will be ready upon arrival. Gourmet catering can be arranged at an extra charge.
The highlight of the trip is the remarkable Horizontal Falls at Talbot Bay. The phenomenon of a horizontal reversible waterfall is caused by the huge tide flow between the narrow cliff passage. The tide builds up in front of the gap faster than it can flow through, causing a four to six-metre height difference in the water level on either side of the gap. Subsequently, a waterfall occurs between the bays.
The Buccaneer Archipelago Adventure offers a spin in a jet boat, allowing the full force of this water to be felt. Not for the fainthearted, the jet boat ride passes through the gap as the water rushes past at approximately a million litres a second.
While David Attenborough has described the falls as "one of the greatest natural wonders of the world", the extreme water conditions with tides and whirlpools have cost many sailors and pearling divers their lives. Graves can be found on numerous islands.
Another way to admire the turquoise water rushing between the rugged red cliffs is by air, which Unreel Adventures also accommodates. End your trip on their seaplane for a spectacular scenic flight over the falls before flying back to Derby.
Recommended items to take include light tropical style clothing, a hat with a wide brim, a pair of walking shoes that you don't mind getting wet, sunscreen, torch, camera and insect repellent. Luggage must be packed in a small soft bag. While fishing equipment is provided, you may also take your own.
The Kimberley wet season runs from November to March. This is also the time for cyclones. Safaris do venture out then as there are many headlands, bays and rivers for shelter should the weather get rough.