Pearler of a ride

A wa­ter­borne ad­ven­ture on Aus­tralia’s re­mote north­west tip is a real treat

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - MICHAEL BODEY

AS you head into Broome, you’d do well to turn right. The Dampier Penin­sula, home to Cape Leveque, James Price Point and One Arm Point, is a rarely dis­cov­ered gem of Western Aus­tralia’s Kim­ber­ley re­gion.

The area is dis­tin­guished by its empty, sub­lime beaches and the rich red road that de­fines the jour­ney north like a kind of trop­i­cal chan­nel. At the end of a 21/ hour drive along this mostly un­sealed road is the tip of the penin­sula, Cape Leveque and, around the cor­ner, Cygnet Bay, home to Aus­tralia’s old­est op­er­at­ing pearl farm.

The de­lights of the idyl­lic lo­ca­tion over­look­ing a sandy bay with sa­fari huts and some old divers’ cot­tages, both re­mote and rus­tic, and the tour of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, which cul­ti­vated the world’s largest fine-qual­ity round South Sea pearl, would suf­fice but there’s a bit to be done on the wa­ter.

The King Sound area to the east of the Dampier Penin­sula fea­tures the largest tidal move­ments in the south­ern hemi­sphere, a mass of wa­ter sweep­ing in from the Ti­mor Sea through a chain of is­lands into Derby and the out­lets for the May, Fitzroy and Meda rivers.

The Hor­i­zon­tal Wa­ter­fall, a rush of wa­ter where mas­sive tides at­tempt to squeeze through a nar­row chan­nel in the Buc­ca­neer Ar­chi­pel­ago, gets much of the at­ten­tion around here.

But Chris Brown, de­scen­dant of the pearl farm’s founder, Dean Mur­doch Brown, has in­tro­duced a far more ac­ces­si­ble and fun out­ing that cap­tures the majesty of the mas­sive tides with­out the very long boat or sea­plane trip.

The Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm is a long­stand­ing and proudly lo­cal pearl op­er­a­tion that is as­suredly ex­pand­ing be­yond its pearl man­u­fac­ture into tourism. Its grow­ing list of at­trac­tions in­cludes a Hor­i­zon­tal Wa­ter­falls Ad­ven­ture, a leisurely five-day, four-night cruise on a lux­u­ri­ous cata­ma­ran around the Thou­sand Is­lands of the ar­chi­pel­ago. The Gi­ant Tides Tour of­fers a quicker sor­tie. The big­gest trop­i­cal tides in the world have a trans­forma- tive ef­fect on beaches, man­groves and bays here. Ad­mit­tedly, at Derby it’s a lit­tle less no­tice­able un­less you’re silly enough to drive onto what ap­pear to be dry mud flats. The power and fe­roc­ity of th­ese tides is even more re­mark­able while out on the wa­ter. You are strapped into one of two rigid in­flat­able boats pow­ered by two 240hp en­gines ahead of what be­comes a scenic voy­age through Pearl Pas­sage that lurches into a soft roller-coaster ride.

The boat al­ter­na­tively ca­reens and floats through whirlpools, clash­ing tides and shift­ing wa­ters un­like any other tidal move­ment imag­in­able. Your cap­tain will be sym­pa­thetic to his au­di­ence’s needs though; he pushes it hard and fast against rush­ing wa­ters to im­press our wideeyed son but takes it down a notch when our young daugh­ter gets anx­ious.

At some points, the tidal flow can be so strong, even the two big out­board en­gines aren’t enough to get through. Yet this is noth­ing like the testos­terone-fu­elled inanity of jet­boat rides.

One of the more mem­o­rable mo­ments is just float­ing by the most un­likely of sites, a wa­ter­fall stretch­ing at least 100m along the raised Tal­lon Reef.

The sense of re­mote­ness — af­ter all, you’re in a dis­tant patch of wa­ter on the north­west tip of the coun­try — only adds to the ad­ven­ture.

Like much of any visit to this re­gion, the Gi­ant Tides Tour is an un­ex­pected de­light, de­liv­er­ing so many unique sights and ex­pe­ri­ences.

The Gi­ant Tides Tour at Cygnet Bay on WA’s Dampier Penin­sula

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