Kimberley Expedition with the Spice Islands

Experience the rich natural wonders of northwestern Australia as you snorkel in Rowley Shoals and witness one of the world's largest migrations of humpback whales, then cruise to the Spice Islands, known for its famous Komodo dragons.

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 Indian Head, also known as Fraser Island. Credit: Bob Fowler  Naturalists Island  Snorkeling off Alor Island. Credit: Nick Rains  Scuba diving in Kimberley  Talbot Bay  Explore Kimberley in a Zodiac. Credit: Darrin Bennett  Travelers discover a crocodile sunning itself on a rock. Credit: Darrin Bennett  Brown Boobie in flight. Credit: Nick Rains  Humpback whale breaching   Kimberley crocodile. Credit: Darrin Bennett  A Komodo dragon spotted on Komodo Island  Mitchell Falls. Credit: Bob Fowler  King George Falls  Boab tree in Kimberley. Credit: Tourism Western Australia  Two women in Pamalang Village in Indonesia. Credit: Nick Rains  Tour group exploring Raft Point. Credit: Nick Rains  Aboriginal art at Raft Point

This unique National Geographic Orion expedition combines the spectacular Kimberley region in northwestern Australia with the remote Spice Islands of the Indonesian archipelago. We sail from Broome to pristine Rowley Shoals for snorkeling and diving in one of Australia’s most highly regarded marine environs. Sailing on, the Kimberley has a rich diversity of wildlife and August is the prime time to see the world’s largest numbers of migrating humpback whales as they head north from the Antarctic to rest and calve. With a variety of experiences and forays up remote waterways, explore the best of the Kimberley including the famous King George Falls region. As we arrive here late in the dry season, we anticipate our Zodiacs will venture right to the base of the falls amidst towering red rock canyon walls. Our expedition team will take you back in time exploring for ancient art galleries of indigenous rock art. We will voyage on into the island groups once known as the Spice Islands, famous from the days of 16th-century trade that dominated the maritime world. With the dramatic prehistoric dragons and gorgeous pink sands of Komodo and the ancient culture of Sumba that pre-dates the prominent Hindu and Christian religions of the area, this is a brilliant combination of Kimberley and the Spice Islands.

August 8-10 — U.S., Broome, Western Australia, Embark

Depart the U.S., cross the International Date Line (lose a day) and arrive in Broome. Make your way to the National Geographic Orion and set sail. (D)

August 11 — Rowley Shoals
We explore three coral atolls with crystal clear waters off the Kimberley Coast. With abundant marine life and untouched coral, Rowley Shoals is one of the world’s most pristine marine environments. National Geographic Orion will give you access to snorkeling and diving from the sand cays that make up the shoals as well as sea kayaking, weather permitting. (B,L,D)

August 12 — At Sea
A day at sea is an opportunity to sit back, relax, chat with newfound friends, read or attend a lecture, or take advantage of Orion’s amenities: have a massage to unwind, a sauna for sore muscles, or enjoy a good book and a refreshment on deck. The day is yours to do as you wish. (B,L,D)

August 13 — Freshwater Cove
Wandjina tour guides join us here as we stretch our legs with a scenic walk to view Wandjinas and Gwion Gwion rock art in ancient caves. There is contemporary art here too, linking the arrival of white man to the country. We will also see distinctive Boab trees with carved Wandjina figures on them. Today is a fascinating walk back in time. (B,L,D)

August 14 — Camden Harbour & Sheep Island
After a failed attempt at settlement by Victorian sheep farmers in 1864, this area is rarely visited from the sea. Nature has gradually reclaimed the ghostly ruins, leaving fragments of a hard life from long ago. Colonial history buffs will enjoy the atmosphere here and we can also visit nearby Sheep Island with its graves of the ill-fated settlers. (B,L,D)

August 15 — Bigge Island
We land by Zodiacs on this rocky island jutting out of vividly colored aqua seas. Small monjon rock wallabies and the northern quoll thrive here free of predators found on the mainland. The island is famous as a site for some amazing rock art. Join the expedition team as they point out the Wandjina figures, distinctive for what appear to be halos around the head of each figure. Painted by the Wunambal people, you may also see images of sailing ships and figures smoking pipes, which have been interpreted as representing seafaring European visitors in the 19th century. (B,L,D)

August 16 — King George River & Falls
Today Zodiacs will take us up the King George River, revealing spectacular scenery and a wealth of bird species. The almost vertical sheer canyon walls have been eroded over millions of years and look like stacks of sandstone reminiscent of a child’s building blocks. The river drains the Gardner Plateau and the falls are the highest single-drop falls in the whole of the Kimberley. For guests looking for a bit more adventure, you will be able to take a steep walk to the top of the falls and have the opportunity to enjoy a refreshing swim. (B,L,D)

August 17 & 18 — Wyndham, At Sea
These are relaxed days, cruising south as National Geographic Orion makes an operational stop at Wyndham to clear customs in Australia before proceeding north to East Timor. Listen to informal talks from our staff, preparing us for the exciting days ahead. (B,L,D)

August 19 — Jaco Island, East Timor
This small uninhabited island is considered by the traditional Timorese to be Lulic, a sacred place. Today it is part of the Nino Konis Santana National Park and is home to some of Timor’s endemic bird species, such as the dusky cuckoo-dove and the fawn breasted whistler. On arrival we receive a colorful traditional welcome from people from the nearby mainland. With dazzling white-sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters, we will be able to swim, snorkel, and explore. (B,L,D)

August 20 — Dili
The capital of East Timor is now moving past its tragic history of conflict. Our visit will allow us to explore this evolving cosmopolitan seaside city with an optional full day tour exploring Alieu and Dare in the hills. At Dare is the memorial to Sparrow Force, the ill-fated band of Australian soldiers who fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese with the Timorese people. We visit the memorial to the Alieu massacre, where a large number of Timorese were killed by the Japanese troops during WWII. We also have an opportunity to visit the local craft market, where you can find the colorful local woven fabrics called tais. (B,L,D)

August 21 — Larantuka, Indonesia
In the 1600’s, Flores was an important Portuguese trade center, particularly for sandalwood coming from Portuguese Timor. As Dutch influence spread throughout the 17th century, Portuguese populations from other areas, such as Malacca and Makassar, moved to Larantuka. Today Larantuka is a neat little seaside township with spectacular views. Our visit will allow us to meet the local people and learn of their history and customs, as well as swim and snorkel off the white-sand beaches. (B,L,D)

August 22 — Komodo
At the world renowned Komodo National Park, we go in search of the world’s largest living lizard: the Komodo dragon. These prehistoric creatures can grow up to ten feet long and weigh 300 lbs. Learn about the conservation of these giants from park rangers, who join us on a hike to spot the lizards in their natural habitat. Just a short distance away is Pink Beach, named for the red coral fragments that lend their color to the sand. Swimming, snorkeling, sea kayaking, or just relaxing on the beach are all options today. (B,L,D)

August 23 — Badas, Sumbawa
We’ll experience the strong culture of the Pamulung villagers with an elaborate cultural display of a traditional wedding ceremony, a local boxing match, and some fascinating wild buffalo racing. (B,L,D)

August 24 — Bali, Indonesia, Disembark, U.S.
Arrive this morning to the island of Bali and transfer to the airport for your flight home, arriving the next day. (B)