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5 Surprises Cruising Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast

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Tidal Variations

We drop anchor at Talbot Bay where tidal pressure builds up between narrow passes of cliffs, pushing and pulling the waters into dangerous whirlpools at low and high tide. Thrill seekers will want to whiz through the 62-foot-wide first pass as the sucking whirlpool cavorts into what appears to be a horizontal waterfall or technically termed “pinch rapids.” Compared to white water river rapids it might seem tame, but the Bay’s second pass at 38-feet-wide has been the death of half a dozen people and it is no longer permitted for commercial tourist vessels.

Another stop is Montgomery Reef with its magic trick of revealing itself only at low tides, rising out of the sea like a Broadway musical set. It is the largest inshore reef in Australia and covers more than 144 square miles. The reef is home to so many types of coral that identification is an on-going process. We see sea turtles and sea snakes. Timing is key as waters cascade off the reef and pull our vulnerable rubber zodiacs close to sharp coral beds.

Despite the Reef’s enormity, it was only discovered in 1821 during one of Captain Philip Parker King’s four trips to officially survey the Northwest coast for the British Navy. He was the first Australian to become an Admiral and his charts are still used today. The Orion thoughtfully stocks a copy of King’s seminal memoir.