Our reservation staff are available Monday to Friday between 7.30am and 5.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.
This trip diary was compiled by Guest Lecturer: Joc Schmiechen and Goyma Gondarra
Jump To: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Postscript
For those up early the day started with a classic pre wet season build up sunrise painting the banks of clouds in changing hues of pink and red, the signal for a hot and humid tropical day. Members of the expedition team led by Expedition Leader Asha were away early doing the rounds of the various Darwin hotels to ensure all the prospective passengers undertook their required Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) pre-embarkation as part of the Covid Safesail protocol.
By 0830 the Fort Hill Wharf was a busy place as several buses delivered the guests, and luggage was loaded on board ready for a 0930 departure. Apart from the welcome sight of the Coral Adventurer, the guests were treated to the sight of a classic three masted, square rigged sail training ship from the Indonesian Navy berthed just after of the CA. An impressive sight adding a touch of old-world glamour to the scene.
All aboard and ship set off for the short crossing to the Tiwi Islands to our north. As we headed for our first shoreside destination the usual safety and muster drill briefing was held followed by an introduction to the crew and Expedition Team. Before we knew it lunch was served, and the assorted passengers began to make connections and contemplate the adventures ahead.
Our first shoreside destination was Nguiu the main settlement on Wurumaiyanga (Bathurst Island). This is the smaller of the two Tiwi Islands alongside Melville, just a short distance across Apsley Strait. This is the second largest offshore Australian island after Kangaroo Island on the southern end of the continent just off Adelaide. That is if you discount Tasmania which is one of our six states, of course.
The Adventurer anchored quite some distance from the southern entry of the narrow strait separating the two islands. The two Explorer tenders were soon on the way over relatively calm waters. The group split into two, the Golden Bandicoots in one and the Greater Bilbies in another. After a twenty-minute fast boat ride with a few jarring bumps over the odd wave we dropped our landing ramps and nosed into the barge landing and boat ramp. Much to everybodies delight it was a completely dry landing, often a welcome surprise.
On shore a bus was on hand for the less mobile and we received a warm welcome from the Tiwi Tours Guides who had come to meet us. In no time the group was walking from the landing site into the outskirts of the town to the renowned Tiwi Designs centre. This was one of the oldest and very successful community art centres established over thirty years ago. Numerous local artists were gathered there to show their artistic efforts and the group was treated to an array of classic Tiwi art using several mediums from canvas, bark, textile and carving. The distinctive highly geometric designs, unique to the Tiwi were on full show. Numerous carvings of birds and animals made from the extremely heavy ironwood painted in a suite of colours also attracted attention. Appreciation of the works, conversations with the artists and general good vibes led to some spirited buying as the group splashed the cash on their first taste of the art to follow.
A tour of the old Church now only used for odd occasions, such as weddings highlighted the Tiwi approach to the European introduced religion. The Tiwi had a deserved reputation as a fiercely independent people who set out to preserve their lifestyle against all costs. The first European exploratory landing in the 16th century was completely repelled by armed Tiwi warriors. The Dutch left and kept well clear on their future journeys. This event is still celebrated today with great gusto and the Dutch Government is a willing participant in this annual commemoration.
The English fared little better establishing an outpost on Melville Island named Fort Dundas. They lasted only four years trapped behind a wall of wooden palisades and cleared ground, continuously harassed by hostile Tiwi. Little trade from passing Macassan praus ensued nor could relations be established with the local Tiwi and much to the commander’s relief the order to abandon the post was delivered from England. In the ensuing years no further incursions eventuated and access was by invitation only. The Catholic Church was invited in in 1934 and had to operate on Tiwi terms. Tiwi culture and beliefs held sway side by side with the new religion. This is well demonstrated in the altar and knave section of the old church, heavily decorated with traditional Tiwi designs instead of the usual Catholic iconography.
The Tiwi Museum also featured strongly with many excellent interpretive displays highlighting the many aspects of Tiwi life, culture and recent history. The highlight of the afternoon in the dark shadow of ominous looking black thunder clouds in the north was billy tea and damper with Tiwi Guides and local Tiwis and children at the Tiwi Tours HQ. Various guides elaborated on the history and cultural customs of the islands as the audience enjoyed the tea and damper lashed with jam or the ever-present Vegemite. Leading guide Freddie then led a boisterous session of Tiwi dancing with the children joining in with gusto, much to the delight of the visitors. The session ended with Freddie getting all Tiwi Tours story time with Freddie the audience up participating in some basic traditional dance steps, loads of fun. A short walk through a mangrove creek back to the Explorers saw us safely back on our floating home anchored offshore. Many happy passengers came back on board with the treasures they had bought on that initial visit and interaction with the vibrant Aboriginal culture of the Top End.
That evening all enjoyed the usual Captain’s welcome drinks as the sunset on a calm sea and reflected on a great to start to our coming adventure. Dinner was delivered with precision to the usual high standard by the hard working and efficient hospitality team.
Another fine tropical day with not too much sweat and an early breakfast before more Tiwi adventures, this time on the big island, Melville. Overnight Captain Miles and crew with the trusty autopilot had safely navigated the Adventurer the long way round the western shore of Bathurst Island to anchor close to the small community of Pirlangimpi at the northern end of Apsley Strait. This was the site chosen for the first ill-fated attempt by the British to establish a presence on the northern tip of Melville Island in 1824. A poor selection indeed by Captain Bremer for many reasons as a small group of marines, volunteer settlers and convicts established a secure fortified presence, named Fort Dundas. As with the Dutch who the Tiwi had repelled over a century earlier, the Tiwi set out to make the new intruders unwelcome and their lives less than tolerable. The new settlement was virtually contained within their fortress redoubt and numerous members including the surgeon speared to death as well as suffering more attrition from scurvy and tropical ailments. A miserable time reflected by the various commanders all seeking relief from such a dreadful posting and leading to the withdrawal to the mainland for a second attempt to establish a presence at Fort Wellington in Raffles Bay.
The Tiwi community at Pirlangimpi also known as Garden Point was established in the 1940s on the site of what had been the original Fort Dundas gardens, hence the name. The dominant clan at Pirlangimpi is the Rioli family of sporting fame producing some of the finest Aboriginal footballers to play in the Australian Football League with famous Melbourne teams. AFL great Cyril Rioli also established a nine-hole golf course which in its heyday attracted numerous top players to experience playing in such a remote and exotic location.
The first shore group, Greater Bilby’s was soon on their way for a dry landing at the boat and barge ramp and made the short walk to the Munipi Art Centre. Here we were welcomed by numerous Tiwi artist and a great display of their wares. The classic Tiwi paintings on canvas predominated, along with many colourfully painted carvings out of the very heavy and dense ironwood. A few works were on the more traditional bark and there was a good assortment of textiles imbued with the colourful geometric Tiwi designs. Sadly, the pottery which had once been a feature of work from this art centre had fallen into disarray with the passing a several important senior potters and a major tree intrusion into the potting shed. All planned to be resurrected but for now only a few remnant vases remained on show.
The interaction between the Adventurer guests and the local Tiwi was engaging and business was brisk, keeping coordinator Guy Allain busy at the sales desk. All to soon the second group, the Golden Bandicoots arrived to take their picking s from the remaining art offerings. Once more brisk trading took place, and the Explorer tenders were kept busy ferrying satisfied visitors along with our two travelling Tiwi artists, Carol and Paulina Puruntatameri coming back to the ship as resident artists to Cairns.
The usual excellent lunch followed as the Adventurer departed for the long haul from the tip of Melville Island to the tip of the Gove Peninsula and the eastern extremity of Arnhem Land.
The afternoons activity was highlighted as Guest Lecturer Goyma Gondarra presented on the East Arnhem Land Yolgnu kinship system. Goyma a local Yolgnu connected to both Elcho Island and the Wessel Islands gave a very insightful and detailed presentation of a very complex and intricate system of relationships connecting people land and nature that was challenging for all. It would certainly lead to much further discussion, questions and illumination as our journey progressed.
By now everyone was settling into the normal Coral routine which was well known to most as many were returning guests. A change and freshen up from the day’s activities, donning of the ‘glad rags’ for the call to
the Bridge Deck Lounge for pre-dinner drinks, discussion of the day’s events and briefing by Expedition Leader Asha of the next day’s offerings. Dinner followed in style at 1900 and the kitchen producing their excellent high standard menu ably delivered by the busy hospitality team. Life at sea was settling into the groove.
We woke on another warm and sunny day only to find ourselves surrounded by the Arafura Sea heading straight for Nhulunbuy. We enjoyed a beautiful breakfast, and at 10 o’clock we started with a lecture by Goyma about the rich history of the Wessel Islands, along with Joc presenting ‘Mysterious Arnhem Land’. Then straight after the lecture session, we began with a mandatory snorkel and swimming safety brief with Asha, and it did not end there as we had our first round of engine room tours. Some guests had a closer look at first hand of how this big ship operates at sea as the engineers took the guests and showed them around the engine room.
At 3:30 we had our guest artists, Paulina Puruntatmeri and Carol Puruntatmeri on the Bridge Deck Lounge for their first art workshop, an introduction to the medium (ochre) used by the Tiwi artists and people. The guests had the chance to learn how the different ochres are used and how different ochres are used to mix with water that makes it a different colour.
After the art workshop session, we had the famous wine tasting but this time it was more informal. It was led by the Purser Sarah, so again the guests had a wonderful time tasting the wine and learning a little bit about the art of wine and wine tasting while sipping on some of the premium options that were offered onboard. At the end of the day we had predinner drinks with beautiful sunset and amazing cloud colours, as we listen to Asha briefing us about tomorrows activities and then enjoyed a beautiful dinner and straight after dinner the guests watched a documentary about the rise of the continent of Australia.
Another mild pre wet season tropical day as we made our landfall on the tip of the Gove Peninsula after a long five hundred mile plus sea voyage on a very languid and calm Arafura Sea. So far, the voyage has been in exceptionally calm conditions and relatively balmy weather not subject to the usual high humidity and temperatures that characterise the pre wet season build up. Today was to be a very busy day with our first call at the Buku Larrngay Mulka Art Centre at Yirrkala.
The Adventurer dropped anchor just off the main loading terminal for the bauxite ore being mined nearby. In the background the industrial skeleton of the now defunct aluminium smelter served as a gaunt contrast to the lush, vegetated shores and curving golden beaches of this very important Yolgnu landscape. Rio Tinto and Nabalco had been major developers of the mining and industrial complex including the nearby town of Nhulunbuy housing some four thousand Balanda (Europeans) in the heart of the cultural land of the 18 Yolgnu clans. Despite Arnhem Land being declared a special Commonwealth Protected area mining was allowed, against the heartfelt opposition of the Yolgnu people, whose life and interests were to be protected by Federal legislation. It saw the famous Bark Petition sent by the clans to Canberra, a Government enquiry and a major court case in which Justice Blackburn ruled that the Yolgnu case and claim for their ancestral lands had no validity in the Australian legal system which still ascribed to the outdated concept of ‘terra nullius’ that deemed the Australian continent at the time of British settlement to be waste and unoccupied. This was later rectified by the Mabo judgement which recognised the first nations of Australia as legitimated occupiers and connected to their land in our island continent.
Today the Yolgnu have adapted to living with the mine, the smelter is closed and being decommissioned and apart from restoration work the big mining companies have left. Ironically the remaining bauxite now being shipped out comes from the last operational lease owned by the local Gumatj clan. From our anchorage we took the trusty Explorer tenders into the inner harbour to the boat ramp at the Gove Boat Club. Two local coaches collected our group and took us for the twenty-minute ride to the nearby Yirrkala community.
Entering the double doors of the art centre was a revelation. The art centre was packed with a superb array of works. We were faced with great display of traditional finely executed works on bark, carvings and a room filled with the signature Arnhem Land pandanus fibre woven baskets. Jewellery from local seeds and shells and superb finely crafted lino cuts and prints and the most recent additions the intricate Yolgnu designs etched on disused metal road signs all added to an outstanding artistic endeavour. Long-term coordinator Will Stubbs and past Coordinator Andrew Blake both provided insightful commentary on the art and culture of East Arnhem Land and the Buku Larrngay Mulka complex. Will’s explanation of Yolgnu kinship and cosmology added another dimension to what Goyma had already presented in his onboard lecture. Andrew’ explanations of the development of the latest direction of producing works on metal, recycling old road signs also provided a fascinating insight to new art dirqctions. Added to all this the adjacent museum provided many examples of the rich art history that had made this art centre the pivotal place for Yolgnu artistic expression on the world stage. Pride of place were the unique church panels which on two large boards encapsulated the story of each of the sixteen clans divided between the two moieties Dhuwa and Yiiritja with eight clans in each. These were a statement by the leading clan elders at the time of the bauxite mine commencement to ensure their nations life history would be presented as a statement about a world that was being changed forever by this unwanted mining enterprise in their traditional land.
Our visit was all too short, and a steady line up ensued at the purchase counter acquiring new treasures to take home. On the return journey the bus deviated on a look and see route through various parts of this well laid out and neat mining town of Nhulunbuy. Green ovals, lush gardens with boats in nearly every driveway indicated a prosperous town with excellent facilities. A newly constructed state of the art old folks centre stood out. As we made our way back to the boat club landing the bright red bauxite sand on the road verges signified what the prosperity of this town depended on.
Back on board the usual excellent lunch was enjoyed as we made the short journey to nearby Bremer Island and the Banubanu Beach Resort. As the Explorers nosed their way into a curving golden beach with a series of tasteful tent cabins nestled in the flanks of the sand dunes it had every appearance of an idyllic tropical retreat. Owner and creator Helen was there to welcome us on the beach. Helen an Aranda woman from Alice Springs along with her husband Trevor had discovered this location over ten years ago and fallen in love with its charms. Obtaining the permission of the local community and the senior matriarch they had over the years established this tasteful seven-unit resort and the fine detail of the landscaping, infrastructure and facilities along with excellent staff service at the tasteful café was a credit to their vision, work and enterprise of their staff and helpers. Everyone felt more than comfortable and at home enjoying the ambience with swimming, snorkelling, walking the trail or just chilling in the café and plunge pool.
Our fun afternoon again was over all too soon and we made our short journey back to the Adventurer for the usual evening routine. Indeed, a day to remember on our exploratory northern journey learning of its amazing art, landscape and culture.
We woke on another warm and sunny day to find ourselves in the middle of what was once Lake Carpentaria, which is now known as Gulf of Carpentaria. The Gulf of Carpentaria is approximately 300,000 sq km. The eastern side of the gulf was first explored by the Dutch between 1605 and 1628, and the southern and western coasts were discovered by explorer Abel Tasman in 1644. The gulf was named for Pieter de Carpentier, Governor -General (1923-27) of the Dutch East Indies.
Our day on the ship in the middle of Gulf of Carpentaria started off with our guest artists Paulina and Carol Puruntatameri in the dining room teaching the guests about some of the painting techniques used by the Tiwi artists, and how they used Ochre to make beautiful artwork and how they paint their faces for special events. After the artwork session with our Tiwi artists, we had Joc, our Guest Lecturer on the Bridge Deck Lounge with his Presentation ‘A retrospective on Gove and East Arnhem Land’. He talked about the some of the places we have been through over the past few days and described his experience and understanding of the area.
Fortified with a hearty lunch, the guests had another opportunity to do the engine room tour. The Engineers showed the guests around the heart of the ship and how it operates. After the engine room tour, the guests had a fun game in the afternoon called Bingo, hosted by our Expedition Crew Nigel up on the Bridge Deck Lounge. The guests really liked it and enjoyed themselves especially with massive prizes for the winners, which was even more fun.
After all the fun stuff we did on board crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria sailing towards Cape York, we had wonderful predinner drinks, watching the sunset going down in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Asha briefed us on tomorrow’s activity and after that we enjoyed another amazing dinner. After dinner we watch a documentary, called Our Planet High Seas.
Another Coral Adventurer day and again the Cape Chronicles prediction of rain 50% never even looked like eventuating.
Joc presented the post breakfast, very early morning lecture, at 0930 on the peopling of the Australian continent over 60, 000 years ago, aptly named ‘Deep Time Dreaming’. This set out to present the latest archaeological evidence of the earliest known dates so far of occupation of the continent, and the possible migration paths and sea crossings from the Indonesian archipelago of the original first nations peoples. Of course, for the Indigenous people of Australia many claim they have always been here, and this has not yet been disproved. Highlights of the presentation were the antiquity of the first nations cultures, at least 60,000 to likely 100,000 years; the rapid dispersal and occupation of the whole continent within 10,000 years; the diversity of cultural groups, with over 250 distinct languages, 700 plus dialects; the continuity of cultural practice and beliefs with the one common factor of a complex relationship to land of each particular group, land was not a commodity to be acquired, conquered or fought over; the complex system of trade routes and ceremonial connections across the continent and the sophisticated application of a unique land management system that changed the face of Australia and provided a sustainable lifestyle for nearly all the pre-colonial first nations inhabitants. An amazing part of our evolving national heritage hopefully increasingly understood and recognised.
After lunch the Tiwi resident artists, Paulina and Carol conducted the third of their art workshops. This had the guests using acrylic paints to create their own landscape views. A few of the house staff and expedition team joined into what was a fun session under the gentle tuition of the Tiwi ladies. Some passable art works were produced, fun was had by all and there is talk of a Coral Art Award and exhibition possibly to come?
All were expectant of one of the trips highlights, a shore landing and walk to the very northern tip of the continent at Cape York. Asha had undertaken a lunchtime reconnaissance to look at the possible options for access for this venture. Tide, wind and terrain were all factors to be considered, as well as the physical capabilities of the passengers. A plan was made and after Captain Miles had anchored the Adventurer in a secure spot. in lee of the cape the first Explorer tender took the first shore party to a sandy beach spit in proximity to a short walk to the rocky outcrop that was the tip of the cape. Plenty of crew and house staff had volunteered to come and assist the guests to achieve the aim of getting to the tip. The Explorer was deftly maneuverer onto the sand spit and a line of towels laid out over the initial wet rocks leading to an undulating path that with a few ups and downs led to the sign signifying the tip of Australia. Across a narrow passage was one of several outlier islands, this one with the low white tower of the automated light warning all passing mariners of this hazard.
Champagne and soft drinks were served, photos taken, and a few intrepid souls climbed the nearby heights to the various cairned vantage points, some reacquainting themselves with past visits. For a few this was the main reason for taking this journey so it was gratifying we could achieve this objective. A group of people from the nearby campsite arrived, startled to find this remote location so well populated from a passing cruise ship. The regular south easterly sea breeze was blowing briskly on one flank of the cape and filling the white sails of a passing yacht rounding the cape as we enjoyed our late afternoon adventure all added to a grand scene. Explorer II with some of the less able to do the walk cruised by in the channel close to the tip as everyone sipped their toasting drink. As the sun sank low on the horizon the remnant group reboarded the trusty Explorer as the staff collected the logistic apparel from our sojourn and with a close cruise past the tip, we made our way back to the Adventurer for our evening meal.
A great way to end an adventurous day and all credit to Asha and the whole crew who ensured this aim was achieved. As we settled into the usual high standard restaurant meal, we shared our anchorage at the tip with two anchored yachts and it was going to be a smooth sleeping night in a great spot.
One of the many joys of cruising is waking to a new location each morning and appreciating its scenic grandeur. Today we were at Thursday Island, or colloquially known as TI, or in the Kawrareg dialect Waiben or Waibene. TI is one of the 274 Torres Strait Islands. The Aboriginal Kaurareg people belong to the Thursday Island Group and were forcibly removed to the village of Poid on Moa (Banks Island) in 1921 and 1922. We woke up to a beautiful morning with wonderful TI breeze, I had my usual healthy breakfast before heading for Thursday Island. We split into two groups with Group A leaving at 8:30 while Group B left at 8:45. As we landed at the jetty on Thursday Island, we were welcomed by two wonderful ladies with the waiting buses ready to take us around the Island community of Thursday. The bus tour took us right up to the old WW2 Green Hill Fort Museum, after that we had free time where guests had the opportunity to walk around Thursday Island township and look around for nice things like clothing, artwork, and most importantly the beautiful TI coffee.
We returned to the ship for Lunch, and straight after lunch the guests went into the same group they were in, with group B enjoying the Island Star cultural experience, including traditional TI dancers performing many different dances for the guests. It was amazing to see that the dancers were young TI kids performing for the guests, it was good to see they were having fun at the same time. After visiting TI and some of the beautiful areas and its people it was time to farewell Thursday Island and its people. Back on the ship again, and we pulled up the anchor heading straight to our next day destination Lockhart River and Restoration Island. Goyma gave his presentation on bush tucker and Aboriginal seasons. In this he described the cultural connections between the seasons, and the food availability in Northeast Arnhem Land. Then at 6pm we had predinner drinks and during that time Asha briefed the guests about tomorrow’s activities, after we enjoyed another beautiful dinner and to finished off our night with a short film from the Mulka Project called Bayini.
Today was full of expectation with a planned visit to the remote Lockhart River community to see their Art Centre and an afternoon call at nearby Restoration Island, home to a modern-day Robinson Crusoe, David Glasheen, ‘The Millionaire Castaway’. Lockhart River had been established in 1924 as an Anglican Mission coercing the many different local clans to a new settlement at Orchid Point. This misguided and common attempt at bringing Christianity to the Indigenous people removed them from their traditional sea country and tried to discourage their traditional language and cultural practices. Despite these destructive policies the community has managed to keep their unique culture alive and is flourishing in much more enlightened times.
As we enjoyed the usual extensive breakfast offerings the increasingly strong morning breeze did not offer a good portent for the coming Explorer sea journey for some miles to the beach and barge landing to meet our transport to the community located some distance inland. As the first group, Greater Bilbies hit the water in the trusty Explorer the surrounding white caps rolling by just confirmed what the reconnaissance vessel was radioing back about very lumpy conditions and a difficult landing at the exposed barge landing on shore. Expedition Leader Asha made the call to all on board that if they were not wishing to take on a likely very uncomfortable ride to shore and maybe worse coming back, they could be returned to the ship before we set off. Only a few tentative hands went up. This soon changed as we set out to make the short distance back to the Adventurer and shipped several walls of water over the bow, drenching all and sundry even with protective towels as an attempt to blunt the impact of the saltwater dousing. Asha had no hesitation to abort the morning mission and return to the comfort of the ship. There was no dissent with that call made both for safety and comfort and certainly not to defy the weather gods. Joc filled in the morning slot at 1030 with a comprehensive insight into the diverse and astounding rock art that proliferates right across northern Australia. A much easier armchair journey than our planned shore excursion cruelled by a stiff breeze and lumpy seas, never a good combination.
As we sat down to lunch Captain Miles with the ever-present Reef Pilot had already set course for Restoration Island and hopefully, he would find a good anchoring spot in the lee of the island to allow for a smooth beach landing. After the mornings failed attempt to make shore all were eager to stretch their legs on the small and inviting beach before us on Restoration Island. This remote islet only some forty kilometres from Lockhart River and in the Portland Roads was now the escape of a failed millionaire, David Glasheen. This excursion proved the days highlight as we edged into the narrow beach spit in front of a cluster of coconut palms and made an easy moist landing on the beach. The group quickly dispersed eager to stretch their sea legs and explore the surrounds. A short strip of beach provided a golden strip of sand, shells and coral debris with a backdrop of dry grass and vegetation fringe including numerous escaped frangipanis bare limbed but decorated with the conspicuous waxy white flower clusters. Amongst the array of beach detritus, the forlorn hull of a once classic ketch the Kokkinou out of Sydney was perched high and dry propped up by various supports and its timber slowly rotting away. The mizzen was now leaning away at an increasing angle and a hole had been cut into the starboard hull revealing a now rather disarrayed interior of what had once been a well-appointed sea going craft – someone’s dream perhaps?
A pointed rock outcrop rising some 150 metres flanked by splashes of tropical shrubbery provided the backdrop to several dwellings on the flat behind the beach. Recent cyclones had left their mark on what seemed to have been at one time a substantial house with all modern comforts. Most of the shipboard crowd had gathered on the spit end of the beach which was set up as a ramshackle BBQ outdoor entertainment area, shaded by sighing Casuarina trees and dotted with random mature coconut palms with clusters of what could be deadly projectiles, too be avoided. Champagne and orange juice was in good supply and the guests were enjoying the ambience of this modern ‘Robinson Crusoe’ hideaway. The incumbent castaway, David Glasheen was not in residence, having been called away to Cairns. A young couple were island sitting in his absence and the lady of the couple was doing a brisk trade selling David’s book ‘The Castaway Millionaire’. A good thing some brought cash with them as purchases were not expected on visiting desert islands. A fun time was had by all, and the disappointments of the mornings aborted excursion soon forgotten. A few of the hard working domestic and hospitality crew were enjoying the outing and a few of the ladies exhibited good AFL football skills, booting the yellow sherrin with aplomb. All too soon the trusty explorers were ferrying us back to the Adventurer and the happy company retired to clean up for the evenings activity.
As usual the six-o clock call to pre-dinner drinks in the Bridge Deck Lounge was an invite to imbibe the cocktail of the night – was it the Aperol Spritz or the Coffee Martini? Just prior to the 7pm dinner call Asha provided the usual next day’s briefing of adventures to come – Stanley Island, rock art and an afternoon snorkel on a remote sand cay. Well satisfied the ships company adjourned to the floating restaurant to once again be treated to a high-class dining experience from the hard working and creative galley team.
We awoke to find ourselves anchored off Stanley Island, the site of a remarkable history and heritage. The island has numerous rock art galleries that have been here for hundreds of years. This important cultural heritage now has a well-constructed board walk to enable visitors to view one of the main galleries. Stanley Island is an integral part of the geographical and mythological complex of the Flinders Group. The rock art covering the walls of the ship shelter shows ships from several nations and different periods, painted in red and white ochre on the red sandstone. Phillip Walker, one of the traditional owners of Stanley Island showed us the rock art and explained its importance to him and his people. It was long walk to the art site with an easy upward final climb up a well-made path and stairs to the gallery. Luckily it wasn’t that hot and trying, as the beautiful wind of Stanley Island blew to cool us down.
After Stanley Island we then proceeded to Davie Cay where the guests had an opportunity to snorkel on the reef and for those who didn’t to go for a beachcomb and a walk on the small sandy cay, surrounded by birdlife and turtles swimming around in the water, After enjoying our swim, beach walk and snorkelling it was all too soon time for us to head back to the ship. Frocking up after a refreshing shower, we were all set for dinner, as we all finished our pre-drinks on Bridge Deck Lounge, Asha as usual briefed us about tomorrow’s activity. Dinner was fantastic as always… what’s not to like about the cruising life? After Dinner we finished our night with a movie called ‘The Dressmaker’.
For some on board this day anchored off the Lizard Island Resort it was to be a very early start at 0630 as an intrepid group of 18 led by Asha and Nigel headed for shore to climb the highest peak Cooks Look. Definitely an early morning activity to avoid the heat of the day and make the steady climb to the vantage point Cook utilised on his voyage to sight a passage out of the reef barrier that very nearly had cost him his ship near the Endeavour River and present-day Cooktown. All but two made the summit to be rewarded with grand views of myriad reefs that stretched in all directions from this island. For the rest of the ships company, it was breakfast at 0730 then a series of shore transfers to indulge in a range of land and water activities. A shorter walk to Chinamans Ridge was on offer in the morning and afternoon interspersed with snorkelling, kayaking and just enjoying the beach and water.
Despite the ever-present brisk breeze all found the activities that most suited their aspirations. The Chinamans Ridge walk included an excellent short boardwalk over a tidal creek and adjacent mangrove swamp. Along the path was the stone ruin of the original dwelling built by the Watsons who engaged in gathering Trepang from the surrounding waters. Richard recited the sad tale of Mary Watson and her infant child who fled from an attack by local Aborigines and with her Chinese servant took to the sea in one of the large Trepang boiling vats. They made good their escape and managed to land on another deserted island only to perish some days later from lack of food and water.
Cook had recorded the absence of animals but numerous lizards hence the name for the island. There was certainly plenty of signs of monitor activity on the edge of the fringing dune and in late afternoon session Joc returning from his walk nearly collided with a fair-sized Goanna ambling along beachfront, ignoring most of the beach occupants and providing an excellent photo opportunity.
All returned safely to the Adventurer to freshen up for the alfresco BBQ on the upper Vista Deck. The hospitality crew had set the tables with a grand view of the Lizard Island shoreline and the Chefs were busy attending the BBQs with a wide array of interesting fare to tempt the taste buds. The incessant wind remained to make conversation and service difficult at times but despite this weather infliction there was a festive mood to the evening, and none were in any great hurry to adjourn to Amber’s games night.
As the evening ended the breeze eased, and the ship rode steady in the anchorage ready for a late-night start for our final destination Cooktown.
The day began with our ship anchored in Cooktown, a port and town in northern – eastern Queensland, it is situated at the mouth of the Endeavour River. After breakfast the golden Bandicoots departed for Cooktown, followed by Greater Bilbies and from there we all split into two groups, for those who didn’t want to walk up to Cook’s lookout, had a ride on the bus around the town and also up to Cook’s lookout, also guests visited the impressive Cooktown Museum and the Botanic Gardens. After visiting all the spots, we needed to, the guests had an hour of free time around Cooktown, after that it was time to head back to our ship for our last lunch meal on board.
After lunch we had a last Engine Room tour, so guests had chance to look at the engine room for the last time and how this big ship has operated during our 10 days at sea. In the afternoon it was our world-famous Coral Expeditions Quiz Game held in the Bridge Deck Lounge by Nigel. It was a test where we had been for the past 10 days. After the quiz game we had our last trip to Hope Island, were the guests had a beach comb spotting the birdlife and rays. For the final event we gathered in the Bridge Deck Lounge for presentations by Asha highlighting of the wonderful Coral Expeditions cruises available for next year. It was mouth-watering stuff and left us wondering how to make a choice.
After that the Expedition Team put together a slideshow to show the guests the wonderful pictures about our time on board at sea and on Land for 10 days. Then it was time for captain’s farewell drinks. It was wonderful to relive our adventures through the eye of the camera and the slide show brought back many happy memories for us all. The captain’s farewell drinks followed, and Captain Miles gave a specially prepared speech to round out the voyage. It appears we were the “best group ever”! All that remained of the day was our final dinner together, before retiring to pack, sleep and dream of Arnhem Land and Cape York.
Extreme thanks for this journey must go to Paul and his amazing catering team who provided exceptional top restaurant meals night after night. The highly efficient hospitality team led by purser Sarah. The Expedition Team ably led by the dynamic Asha and her stalwart support of Amber, Richard and Nigel who provided much of the day-to-day activities and off ship events. Our guest artists the wonderful Tiwi ladies Carol and Paulina Puruntatameri, Phillip Walker, TO for Stanley Island and its fabulous ship gallery rock art. Finally, Skipper Miles, first mate Dan and all the ship’s crew and reef pilot that navigated us safely to our various destinations. A job well done and lots of highlights to cherish until the next Coral Adventure.