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5 Surprises Cruising Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast

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Birds and Wildlife

The Kimberley’s sky is cloudless and mirrors the bewitching blue water unfit for swimming thanks to the plethora of unfriendly marine beasts. The frustration of not being able to jump into the cool depths is offset by the thrill of seeing saltwater crocodiles. Being inches away from a 9-foot prehistoric-looking beast induces heart palpitations no matter how many times you do it. When the zodiacs land on beaches, and we take walks, the crew reminds us to stay 10-feet away from the shore, adding the humorous addendum: make sure someone slower and smaller is always in front of you!

New species of marine life are not uncommon to find in the Kimberley. Orion marine biologists Harry Christensen and Brad Siviour point out a type of dolphin they have “discovered” that awaits a scientific name.

On the Orion, the ship’s Captain Jean-Pierre Ravanat alerts us to Humpback whales playing nearby. We race across the bow to keep up with his announcements and the pods.

Birds circle overhead trying to discern if we are friend or foe. Non-migratory White-Bellied Sea Eagles – the second largest bird of prey in Australia – , Goshawk, and Ospreys keep the photographers on the trip busy. Ospreys are the only bird to build serving platter-sized nests on the highest points of the cliffs so as to avoid predators. We see many nests.

Conditions are harsh in The Kimberley, but conducive to a surfeit of marine life. The rich sediment churned up by the tidal movements ensures than an ample food supply exists for everyone up the chain all the way to the unchallenged crocodiles, and brings migratory birds from as far as Russia.