The land that time forgot

The land that time forgot

by Robert La Bua
Metropolis Magazine

The Land Down Under has long been a favorite destination for Japanese travelers looking for cuddly koalas and fun in the sun, but there is a lot more to Australia than furry creatures in trees and on beaches. The land and the people native to it offer remarkable sights unlike anything else in the world—especially in its most isolated areas.

The Kimberley, a region of the state of Western Australia most easily accessed from Darwin, is one of the world’s most pristine natural areas. There are amazing phenomena to be seen, like sheer red-orange cliffs dropping precipitously into the sky-blue sea. Another attraction is Montgomery Reef off of Raft Point, submerged at high tide but emerging at low tide when the immense volume of water running off it creates cascading waterfalls in the middle of the sea.

A cruise is an indulgent way to enjoy this primitive area, where no tourism infrastructure exists. Orion Expedition journeys are not cruises in the expected sense; they are devoid of shuffleboard courts and conga lines. MV Orion is a small ship offering the opportunity to explore small coves and inlets unreachable by the behemoths carrying several thousand passengers. These expeditions are extremely popular—not surprising given the level of attention paid to the passengers. Onboard cuisine is excellent, presentations about places visited are entertaining, and the excitement of a semi-private cruise is itself a special experience. Orions are not lazy cruises by any means. Every day brings another exciting shore excursion led by expert naturalists, and it’s oh so nice to return to the comforts of the ship afterward.

Visiting uninhabited islands hundreds of kilometers from the nearest Lawson, climbing pathless cliffs to reach cool caves sheltered from the midday heat, and rediscovering the evocative art within them brings abundant pleasure to those who get this far. If it all seems too demanding, the flutes of champagne are never far away. Impressive Aboriginal art sites with fascinating cave paintings are found in Vansittart Bay, Bigge Island and Raft Point.

While the philistines among us may dismiss rock painting as simplistic, full appreciation of the medium comes to those who go to the art, rather than have the art come to them in some artificial urban environment.

The turnaround point for Orion’s Kimberley expedition is Broome, one of Western Australia’s tourism gems. And if it is a gem, it must be a pearl, for it was that industry that put Broome on the map, attracting a sizable community of Asian pearl divers in the nineteenth century.

Today, those pioneers are buried in the town’s Japanese and Chinese cemeteries, but the pearling industry is still big business in this part of the country.
Broome offers several unusual experiences not to be missed. The famous camel sunset rides may sound a bit kitsch to the jaded, but the animals, sky, and Cable Beach itself are very beautiful—and picture perfect. Early risers may prefer the morning rides, though it’s not unheard of for visitors enchanted by the 3m-tall ships of the desert to ride both morning and evening to see the beach in different lights.

Looking for something a bit more adventurous than natural beauty and serene interaction with flora and fauna? How about a ride in a spaceship? Well, not quite, but it sure looks and feels like one.

What’s a modern-day hovercraft, you ask? Well, nothing like the mechanical monsters that plied the English Channel in the pre-Chunnel era. No, instead think of the family car of The Jetsons—only George is driving close to the surface, not high in the sky. It’s exhilarating, and a little bit surreal, to skim low over the water toward the beach, then continue right up onto the sand.

As in several other parts of the world with abundant natural beauty, The Kimberley is now under attack from all sides: global warming and the changes it thrusts upon the local ecosystem; vandalism and theft of works of art; and, perhaps most unsettling of all, the imminent threat of devastation through mining operations. See it while you can.

Travel Tips
You don’t need to fly all the way to Sydney to get to The Kimberley, which is most easily accessed from Darwin; Brisbane, Cairns, Denpasar, and Singapore all have nonstop flights to the city on Australia’s Top End. Orion Expeditions is a recommended cruise line (, with great services for up to 100 guests. Accommodation ranges from well-appointed staterooms to Owner’s Suites, which offer unusual options such as a full bathtub with picture window in one to a separate living room in another. Balcony Suites have floor-to-ceiling glass doors. And forget any images of cruise buffets; with Australia’s abundance of seafood and exotic ingredients, meals on Orion let you dine fine with divine wine but without pretense or formality. Red Sun Camels ( offers the best option for morning or sunset rides on Cable Beach; rides can be arranged aboard Orion before arrival in Broome, just as they can be for the Spirit Of Broome hovercraft flights ( Their twelve-seaters are the only hovercraft operating in the Southern Hemisphere.

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