May 18, 2014 - National Geographic Orion
Early in the morning on another glorious day in the Kimberley, we anchored off Naturalist Island near the mouth of the Hunter River.
The bay was calm as we made our way around Naturalist Island on the morning Zodiac tour. We stopped briefly to take photos at the base of Indian Head and the Nine Pins standing sentinel over the river mouth. As the Hunter River came into view we could see its banks lined with sheer rock faces and an abundance of mangroves.
After a brief history lesson we slowly made our way up the river in search of some of its resident crocodiles. Some of us were lucky enough to spot crocodiles basking on the mud banks and slipping into the water, or Brahminy kites showing off their beautiful chestnut-colored wings against the dramatic backdrop.
We rode up the Hunter River and then turned into Porosus Creek, named by Phillip Parker King in 1820. Porosus is the specific epithet of the estuarine crocodile and its use in naming this creek reflects the large number of crocodiles seen here while King was searching for fresh water.
The cruise up Porosus Creek gave us a chance to venture into the spectacular mangrove ecosystem. At times the expedition team turned off their Zodiac engines and we drifted quietly through the mangroves, listening to the songs of a plethora of unseen birds.
Our naturalists talked in depth about how mangroves reproduce, breathe through pneumatophores and the different methods they utilize to cope with excess salt. The ride back to the ship was pleasantly delayed by a stop at the refreshment boat, where very welcome ice creams were served by the ever-smiling Sam.
A number of us took the option to gain a unique aerial perspective of the landscape. The Zodiacs transferred us to the beach on Naturalist Island where we would board helicopters. After a safety briefing we all squeezed in. What a thrilling feeling it was as the rotors spun and we lifted off the ground giving us a bird’s eye view of the National Geographic Orion.
The fact that the helicopters did not have doors was slightly disconcerting until we realized that we had an unobstructed view of the panorama unfolding beneath us. We flew over the vast Kimberley Plateau to the Mitchell Falls and on approach we circled around the falls giving us spectacular views from all angles. After a precision landing in a small circle of white stones, we ducked our heads and set foot onto the Plateau. We hiked to a lookout, swam in the river and soaked in the natural beauty of this massive water formed canyon.
All too soon our time on the plateau had come to an end; we once again boarded our helicopters for the 20-minute return journey to the coast. On our return flight we saw big saltwater crocodiles in the water and many different species of mangroves. Before we knew it we were back at the landing site and our Zodiac was ready waiting to take us back to the cool air-conditioned ship and a scrumptious lunch.
How would we ever explain to our friends what a magical day this had been?
Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.