Experiencing Australia's Kimberley
Visiting Australia is surely at the top of most traveler’s bucket list. But with so much to see and do, planning a trip “Down Under” can be daunting. Surprisingly, the remote Kimberley region is often overlooked, although it is known to many Australians as one of the most remote and mysterious regions of the country. International Expeditions’ Senior Art Director, Charlie Boyd recently had a chance to visit this region with IE’s sister-company Zegrahm Expeditions. We caught up with Charlie to get his impressions of his “Voyage to the Outback.”
G’day Charlie and welcome back! Tell us a little about your role at Zegrahm and International Expeditions and what led you to go on Zegrahm’s Australia's Kimberley: A Voyage to the Outback expedition.
Thank you. I’ve been with International Expeditions for 17 years as a Graphic Designer and more recently as Senior Art Director. During this time, I’ve had a hand in all manner of marketing materials from logos, websites, and emails to catalogs, maps, and photography. Over the years I’ve been on many of International Expeditions’ journeys, but visiting Australia has always been a dream of mine, so when the opportunity arose to experience my first Zegrahm expedition, it was an easy choice. I knew Australia for Sydney, the kangaroos, crocodiles and koala bears, but very little about the Kimberley region itself.
What were some of your favorite parts of the journey?
There are almost too many to list. Every day seemed to top the previous. The two helicopter rides were definitely highlights… Horizontal Falls… ancient rock art… the brown booby colony at the Lacepede Islands… sunset cocktails on a remote beach. An unexpected highlight for me was Montgomery Reef. It is hard to describe, but as the tide drops, it is almost like witnessing a waterfall in the middle of the ocean. The 150-square-mile reef is home to amazing array of marine life that is exposed at low tide. The fish that are trapped by the falling tide attract a plethora of birds. We were there at sunrise which was breathtaking. There was one experience that stood out from the rest though. While exploring the mangroves of the Hunter River, our Zodiac was “stalked” by a curious saltwater crocodile. Rich turned the engine off and we drifted — allowing for great views of the young croc that swam silently right up to the side of the boat. I think everyone’s heart was pounding from such a close encounter.
What surprised you the most about the Kimberley?
The landscapes! The colors and geology truly have to be seen to be believed. The deep red rocks and bright green spinafex grass against a backdrop of turquoise blue water and powdery white sand had my camera working overtime. The geology itself and rock formations really blew my mind. We joked that you expect to come home from a trip to Australia with thousands of photos, but are surprised when you realize that 75% of your photos are of rocks. This is some of the oldest exposed land on Earth, dating back 1.7 billion years. Through lectures and field interpretation, the outstanding expedition team did a wonderful job of “taking us through time,” and teaching us about the complex history of how this land came to be.
What else can you tell us about the educational experience?
We had the best expedition team — the crème de la crème! Each one added so much to their respective areas of expertise and worked seamlessly as a team to make the trip outstanding. I enjoyed birding with Mark Brazil and spent many of our excursions with him. In total, with the help of Mark’s sharp eyes, our group spotted a total of 104 species of birds! As an artist, with a strong background in art history, I was really excited to see Aboriginal rock art. Shirley Campbell did a fantastic job of explaining all the art we saw — the history, but also how it ties to modern culture. Merel Dalebout was a great hiking partner and answered endless questions from me about the plants we saw. Brad Climpson and Rich Pagen brought such enthusiasm, humor and a wealth of knowledge — their logistical planning and flexibility allowed us to experience so much, and it all came together perfectly. And of course, Lynne Greig, our Cruise Director was a great travel companion and kept everything running smoothly. I feel so fortunate to have experienced Australia with such a knowledgeable, professional team.
Any advice for someone who may be interested in traveling to the Kimberley?
Bring lots of memory cards for your camera! The beauty of this area is truly something to behold. A good pair of hiking shoes is also a must. We did a lot of walking, with several opportunities for more strenuous hiking. It was nice to be able to get out, stretch our legs and enjoy Australia up-close. Also, if you have a chance, extend your stay by joining an extension, another expedition, or for just a few days on your own. I spent an extra day in Sydney and really enjoyed seeing the city. We boarded the ferry at the Opera House and rode to Manly where we hiked and ate some great seafood. Australians are so friendly and there is so much to see and do (and it’s such a long trip to get there), soaking up as much as possible while you’re there is really worth it.