Even if you think you’ve seen it all, a visit to Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island to see the endangered sea lions is a definite must do. It rates up there with other global wildlife travel experiences, alongside the whales of Antarctica, the gorillas of Uganda and the orang-utans of Borneo.
Seal Bay is home to the third largest population of sea lions in the world and as their numbers decline the researchers and guides at Seal Bay play an important part in monitoring the colony of around 800 individuals. In the 19th century sea lions were over-hunted for their leather and oil. These days entanglement in marine debris and fishing gear pose the main threat to sea lions but sharks, boats and overfishing also play a big role.
At Seal Bay an intimate eco experience lets you onto the beach to get up close to these cute creatures without visibly disturbing them (the sea lions have been habituated to humans here over the past 25 years ). Sea lions are quite incredible swimmers. For three days, the mothers leave their pups alone on the beach to travel over 50 kilometres off shore to access food. They will dive up to depths of 50 to 100 metres between 900 and 1200 times (yes that’s correct!). When they return, completely exhausted they will simply sleep for three days before doing it all again.
When I visited in early March 2018, there were more than 50 sea lions all around us – a combination of mothers and pups, and males. They were in various states of activity; some sunning themselves, some heading in or out of the water and young pups calling out to their absent mothers. To see and hear them so active in the wild is something very special.
Located on the southern side of Kangaroo Island, Seal Bay was completely unaffected by the 2019/2020 bushfires on Kangaroo Island. Seal Bay is best experienced early in the morning when you’ll have the beach to yourself before the tourist buses arrive.
Talk to Alquemie about including a private Seal Bay experience in your Australian itinerary.
The Great Barrier Reef is arguably the most impressive of the world’s seven natural wonders and certainly Australia’s most famous tourist attraction. Stretching along Australia’s eastern coastline and made up of over 3,000 individual reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef offers visitors a wealth of experiences in its tropical waters.
An experience on the Great Barrier Reef is by far one of the most requested highlights of any Alquemie itinerary and we love to send our clients out to see this magical marine beauty. Stays at luxurious resorts like Lizard Island, qualia on Hamilton Island and newly re-opened InterContinental Hayman Island give guests an opportunity to truly appreciate life on the reef.
In 2018 Alquemie became a founding member of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, an organisation using the collaborative power of the masses to reduce human caused environmental impacts around the globe (such as single use plastics) as well as supporting scientific research on the Great Barrier Reef. Through our contacts, the team at Alquemie can create bespoke experiences for guests that are interested in the work that is being done on the reef.
The types of experiences might include:
Fast tracking reef regeneration with baby corals / reseeding & restoring coral
Witnessing annual coral spawning (timed with lunar cycles and water temperatures – usually around October or November full moons)
Tracking marine mammals
Diving with marine researchers
Spending time on research / scientific vessels
Note that any of the above would require a donation to Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef in addition to the costs of the experience.
If a behind-the-scenes Great Barrier Reef conservation experience appeals then please contact Alquemie to discuss what opportunities are available.
Just over two hours north of Broome along a deep red, dusty road is a special place that will take your breath away. Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, famed for producing some of the world’s most beautiful pearls for generations, is now one of the must-do experiences in the Kimberley.
Arriving by road at Cygnet Bay you’re reminded that it is indeed a working pearl farm. Old buoys and boats decorate the driveway and it feels very authentic, because it is. Visitors come for the pearls, for a beautiful location to stay and for the ‘sea safaris’, two extraordinary experiences on the water.
We visited in early April as one of the first guests of the season. Tourists do not usually journey this far north until a few weeks later when the wet season is truely over. At this time of year, some roads might still be impassable due to flooding and the extreme heat can make it unpleasant. On the plus side if you dare to risk it, it’ll be likely that you’ll have many places to yourself.
The pearl farm stretches across a vast area of the Dampier Peninsular encompassing the stunning Cygnet Bay, many uninhabited islands and red earth that is bordered on either side by indigenous communities. Despite being the only non-indigenous place in the area, there is a strong relationship that bonds the Brown family, owners of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and the local aboriginals from the area.
The first thing that struck us as we pulled up was the bright blue water behind reception. There really is nothing like the colours of this region and the sea was calling us but no visit to Cygnet Bay would be complete without first learning about pearl farming. To know that time, effort and good luck all come into play to create such beautiful pieces of jewellery make them all the more special. We watched as a pinctada oyster was opened to reveal a pearl – the only gem to be created by an animal.
What makes this area unique (and so good for farming pearls) are the giant tides. Depending on the moon, the time of year and other natural phenomenon, the tides can vary as much as 12 metres between low and high. On the day of our visit the stars were aligned and we got to see the full force of these tides on a sea safari.
The excitement started on land as we boarded an amphibious vessel to drive across the beach and into the water. We cruised to see a floating pearl shell cleaning station in action before our giant tide adventure really blew our minds. Witnessing the power of the tides was just incredible. We saw whirlpools the size of houses and our boat used its full horsepower to move against the rush of water.
We were also lucky enough to witness another incredible phenomenon due to the tides – ‘Waterfall Reef’ – which appears to rise out of the water as the tides drop.
We also visited ‘Shell Island’, only available at low tide but the perfect place to arrange something special. It’s a little sandy mound surrounded by the clearest blue water you can imagine and makes for a unique wedding venue, a pop up bar or a romantic picnic.
After our day on the water we were dropped off at the Master Pearler’s Retreat – our accommodation for the night – and with glass of champagne in hand as the sun set, we waved goodbye and watched the amphibious vessel drive back into the ocean. That night we dined on a chef prepared meal sampling the pearl meat found in the very same shells that produce the gems. It was the perfect way to finish what was an educational, thrilling and peaceful day all rolled into one.
I recently discovered an experience that I didn’t know was even possible in Australia – seeing killer whales in a newly discovered marine hotspot.
In the south of Western Australia (about a 5.5 hour drive south east from Perth) lies a peaceful little coastal town called Bremer Bay. It’s from here that you can take an ocean expedition to encounter killer whales and a myriad of other marine and bird life that congregate here.
It’s about a one and a half hour cruise to reach the ocean hot spot – the deep sea Bremer Canyon. Here during the months of January to April, cold, nutrient-rich waters flow from the Antarctic and attract killer whales, dolphins, sperm whales, giant squid and much more.
The expedition was on a vessel purpose-built for the wild Southern Ocean with Australian Wildlife Journeys member Naturaliste Charters. On the trip I spent time with ‘Search for the ocean’s super predator‘ documentary maker David Riggs – the man who ‘discovered’ the region and who is doing all in his power to keep the area protected from oil and gas mining. His knowledge of the marine life and passion for the region is second to none. Also on board was a marine biologist plus a bird expert / photographer. We learnt all about the behaviours of orcas and the interspecies interactions between this apex predator and other marine life.
When we arrived at the ‘hot spot’ the anticipation on the boat as we looked for signs of the creatures was almost palpable. Everyone was on the look out for birds, surface oil slicks and spouts of water. But these are wild creatures and they hadn’t received the memo that we’d be there at 11am. In my heart I feared we wouldn’t see them but I had nothing to worry about – sure enough the experienced team found us what we came to see.
Whilst it was almost the end of the season, all up we saw two pods of killer whales (including a baby orca), about 100 pilot whales, dolphins, seals and the spouts of two blue whales. It was amazing to see these incredible creatures in the wild. Just days before I went out, guests were lucky enough to even see a pod of killer whales hunt down a blue whale!
It’s a full day experience at sea from about 7.45am to 4pm with lunch and snacks served on board. Think of it as a mini-Antarctica expedition without the ice and cold. The cruise runs January to April.
After my day out at sea I was headed to Albany, a two hour drive away. As I pulled out of the car park two kangaroos jumped across the road. Whoever thought you’d see killer whales and kangaroos in one day?
Imagine the tranquility of a place so remote that you can only get there by foot, boat or light aircraft. In Tasmania’s Southwest, Port Davey is such a place. This remote wilderness area is a Marine Nature Reserve and forms part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It’s three times the size of Sydney Harbour and one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet, with wild rivers, quartzite peaks and extensive waterways.
The best way to explore this area is by purpose built boat. With no roads in or out, the journey starts with a spectacular flight from Hobart across the densely forested Southwest National Park to Melaleuca, a remote locality consisting only of a couple of buildings.
Upon landing you will be taken by tender through the mirrored waters of the inlet to your ‘boutique floating hotel’ the Odalisque, the base from which you will explore the untouched South West.
The itinerary will be tailored to your interests and daily shore excursions will see you totally immersed in the wilderness. It’s all about “getting your feet wet”. During your unforgettable time, you’ll explore narrow winding waterways lined with Huon pine by jet boat, hike to mountain-top vantage points where it feels like you can see over the edge of the world, picnic on remote beaches and soak up the serene views from the deck as you cruise past sea caves, rock arches, blowholes and rocky islets. You could be one of the very few to witness the islands of Maatsuyker, cruise the Davey River gorge, wander the buttongrass moorlands or beachcomb the white sand of seemingly endless beaches.
Tasmanian owner Pieter van der Woude’s custom-built twenty-metre expedition cruise vessel is designed for the comfort and safety of guests. Cruising with a maximum of 10 guests overnight, the Odalisque has three private cabins, a comfortable entertaining and dining area and three spacious outside decks for sightseeing, photography or sunset barbecues. The galley consists of a contemporary spacious kitchen with an island bench, sofa seating and large open windows to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery or watch the chef cook up a storm. The open plan saloon area allows panoramic views, has plenty of lounging capacity and a large dining area for a leisurely dining experience. A true boutique floating hotel, it’s perfect if you’re eager for adventure but not so keen on roughing it.
What’s so special about this region?
The Port Davey Marine Reserve was created to protect an extraordinary underwater world. In Bathurst Harbour a very unusual marine environment has been created by a deep layer of dark red-brown, tannin-rich freshwater, which overlies tidal saltwater. The tannins restrict sunlight penetration to the top few metres, limiting the growth of marine plants. In their place live colourful and delicate marine invertebrates, including sea pens. In the clearer marine waters of Port Davey – away from the influence of the freshwater tannins – a more typical Tasmanian underwater world exists. Diverse kelp forests and abundant fish thrive beneath the surging Southern Ocean waves. This Marine Reserve forms part of the Southwest National Park, and is surrounded by the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area encompasses a greater breadth of values than any World Heritage property on Earth. Of 1052 sites in the world which are recognised as World Heritage areas, Tasmania is one of only 35 sites that satisfy both cultural and natural heritage values. But even more impressively, the area satisfies seven of the ten criteria, including unique human culture and history, wilderness, plants and wildlife, and geology. Only one other site in the world (located in China) equals this number and none exceed it. There’s a lot to explore; Tasmania’s World Heritage Area comprises 1.38 million hectares, or about 20 per cent of the entire State.
Talk to Alquemie to incorporate this remote part of Australia into an itinerary.
Kimberley Coastal Camp in the far north of Australia is one of our favourite places in the Kimberley region. With no ensuites, only cold showers, and sandy floors it may be seen as an odd choice but these details are minor compared to the incredible experience you will have. This unique destination is so remote that there is no road access, and with a maximum of just 16 guests, you will truly feel like you are one of the luckiest people on earth.
The small lodge is nestled unobtrusively on the pristine shores of the Admiralty Gulf, opposite the Mitchell Plateau and famous Mitchell Falls in one of the most beautiful and remote parts of the Kimberley. The camp has been built in a rustic style with timber beams and corrugated roofing with an eclectic combination of books, fishing tackle and beachcomber treasures for decoration. There are no pre-set itineraries here. You set the pace and can be as active or laid back as you like.
The area is a fisherman’s paradise and if you can catch it, they can cook it! Guided bush walks take you to Aboriginal rock art galleries that include the unique Bradshaw paintings and the younger but equally beautiful Wandjina art. Other activities during your stay will include boat trips to fish, visits to remote islands and beaches or even a helicopter flight over the Mitchell Falls.
This is one of the least explored and most spectacular coastlines in Australia – the craggy cliffs coming down to the water’s edge, with sandstone and shell covered beaches make this area nearly inaccessible. All the ingredients for a perfect wilderness holiday are here – a pristine environment, deserted beaches, wildlife and birds, marine adventure, delicious fresh food, a cooling pool and magnificent scenery.
The ‘Shed’ is the open sided living area with high raked ceilings and is the place to socialise or chill out with a good book. An open plan kitchen and ‘help yourself to the fridge’ attitude ensures a relaxed, friendly camp atmosphere. The nucleus of the lodge with its high raked ceilings is open to the gentle sea breezes and features rustic handmade furniture from recycled timbers, designer soft furnishings, a unique outback bar, and is the setting for wonderful gourmet meals Kimberley Coastal Camp has become famous for.
Accommodation is provided in hand built spacious guest gazebos scattered amongst native grasses and red sandstone. Just sixteen guests can be accommodated in the comfortable but simple wooden chaletsEach gazebo takes full advantage of the tranquil views over the Admiralty Gulf and is elegantly furnished with 5 star king size or twin single beds fitted with luxurious Sheridan linen, screened walls, handmade timber furniture, reading lamps and a ceiling fan. Crushed coral and sand make up the floor with small bedside mats and there is a bedside lamp, mirror, bedside table and a fan. The shared bathroom facilities that open to the sky are utterly in tune with this wild and remote environment and are not in any way an imposition.
Incredible Indigenous rock art
The ultimate in experiential travel, Kimberley Coastal Camp is ideally located at the centre of one of the world’s finest repositories of indigenous rock art. With many rock art panels and caves within close walking distance, guests are invited to experience intimate encounters with this ancient culture via fully guided bush walks or scenic boat rides. The rare Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) is dated no less than 17 500 years old (some suggest older) and is currently testing the world’s best scientific minds. The more recent Wandjina rock art with radiating headdresses and mouthless faces decorate thousands of caves throughout this country known to traditional owners as Yalrundair.
Superb fishing conditions entice the most avid anglers and adventurers. The Admiralty Gulf is considered one of Australia’s greatest fishing destinations. Guests can choose to take their catch ashore on an island fringed by Boab trees where our guide will prepare it ‘bush style’ on the open coals.
Even by Kimberley standards, Kimberley Coastal Camp is isolated. With access limited to helicopter and float plane, and numbers kept to a minimum, fishing here is for the privileged few.
Fish these abundant waters for Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Fingermark, Mulloway (Northern Black Jew Fish), Threadfin Salmon, Giant Trevally, Spanish Mackerel, Tuna, Queen Fish, Coral Trout, Blue Bone and numerous other tropical species. In one day it is possible to catch everything from Barramundi to Blue Bone to Blue Fin Tuna.
Huge tidal rivers together with mangrove lined creeks, estuaries, flats, offshore reefs and islands as well as blue water, ensure an exciting variety of fishing options. Kimberley Coastal Camp is one of very few fishing destinations in Australia able to offer such diverse options to the keen angler.
Wild dingoes, sea eagles, olive pythons, endangered quolls, and many other native animals share this country known to traditional owners as ‘Yalrundair‘, a rich expanse of land made up of towering escarpments and sandstone rock formations. This is true wilderness, unspoiled by the introduction of feral animals, roads and pollution.
Guided walks cater to those wishing to venture on a short stroll or a challenging all day hike. Explore by boat scenic river systems and abundant bird life. Or relax on the daybed and admire wild dingoes, sea eagles and Brahminy kites as they descend at sunset to enjoy their share of the day’s catch.
Kimberley Coastal Camp has been catering to the discerning traveller since 1994 with personalised itineraries, a staff to guest ratio of no less than 1 staff member per 3 guests, and gourmet food utilising fresh local produce and native Australian bush tuckers. This is hosted accommodation at its best.
Amanda here – reporting to you about a fabulous new find in the world of luxury expedition yachts! Her name is Anda and she is a true expedition vessel with luxury accommodation, all the toys and many comforts. Anda is not your typical white-boat, she is a luxury expedition yacht available for private charters into Australia’s wild & beautiful waters. Anda is for exploring, discovering and adventuring.
Currently berthed in Fremantle the Master, Hostess and Chef were happy to show me around the beautifully finished boat. Anda’s owner is a passionate yachtsman and has no fewer than 12 boats in his personal fleet, however only Anda and a 50 ft game fishing launch, The Fortescue, are available for charter.
Some facts about Anda:
Length: 42 mtr | 138 ft
Built: 1965 in Norway, originally as an ice-breaker. Rebuilt from 2010 to 2012
Cruising Speed: 10 knots
Cruise Range:7500 nm
Stabilisers: 2 x quantum stabilisers for smooth sailing in seas over 4 mtr
Guest Suites: 5 including the spacious master suite, 3 x queen suites and 1 x twin suite all with private en suite bathroom
Dining: indoor & outdoor for 10 people
Relaxation: sundeck with outdoor spa, large saloon area
Transport & fun: 2 x semi-inflatable high speed 7 mtr jet tenders, 2 x Seadoo jetskis
Crew: 10 highly experience crew including 2 executive chefs
Price point? Well to give you an idea, Anda is currently from AU$30,000 per day or $150,000 AUD per week plus GST. APA is included (advance provisioning allowance).
Where to? Pretty much wherever you want! Australia has nearly 60,000km of coastline but my recommendations would be the Kimberley Coast, Rowley Shoals, the Cape York Peninsula and the Great Barrier Reef.
So yes I am excited … Anda really offers stylish luxury, a sense of freedom and extraordinary Australian adventures!!