Exploring Talbot Bay and Australia’s Horizontal Falls
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
When dawn broke this morning, Silversea’s Silver Discoverer was already at anchor in Talbot Bay, Australia, ready for another day of exploration in The Kimberley, one of Western Australia’s most remote regions.
The Kimberley gets its name from a man named John Wodehouse, who was the First Earl of Kimberley and the Secretary of State for the Colonies in England between 1870 and 1874, and again from 1880 to 1882. I think we can all be thankful it wasn’t named “The Wodehouse”, which would obviously have to be pronounced as if Elmer Fudd were saying it.
Naming aside, I am finally beginning to acclimatize to the searing heat in this part of Australia. The average temperature outside – without much variation – is 36°C, with humidity approaching 60 percent. And that’s better than a few weeks ago, where the humidity was crawling up to 80 percent.
By night, the temperature hovers around 25°C, though it can feel cooler than that after the height of the midday heat. And it almost never rains here during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months; a full 90 percent of the rainfall in the Kimberley falls between November and April, during the Southern Summer.
Because this is Silversea, I haven’t been down to the Discoverer Lounge on Deck 5 for breakfast once. Instead, I place an order for breakfast the night before, filling out the card and attaching it outside my suite door before turning in. Then, like magic, my breakfast appears right at the time I requested it, complete with table cloth and place settings just as onboard any other Silversea ship.
Aboard Silver Discoverer, every suite has a Butler – just as every suite does throughout the rest of the fleet. It sounds very upper-class, but Silversea’s butlers are lifesavers, particularly on active, busy adventure cruises like this one.
My butler, Heri, even goes the extra mile for me. I was going to go fill my stainless-steel waterbottle up for the first time yesterday morning before embarking on our Zodiac tour, but it was already done for me; he’d filled it up the night before during the evening turndown service. Which impressed me to no end. I certainly didn’t expect it to be full this morning, but I picked it up off the counter and was pleasantly surprised to see it was filled yet again.
With a 7:30a.m. embarkation time for the Zodiacs, having breakfast in my suite allowed me to catch up on some much-needed rest. It’s all about little conveniences on Silversea.
Apparently, the scent of bacon sizzling on the grill was good enough to attract some other visitors: six sharks, which would spend the entire day slowly circling the stern of the ship. The Expedition Team tells us these particular sharks aren’t predatory. Falling in probably isn’t a good idea, but they’re not the kind of shark that made Steven Spielberg all that money.
Actually, everyone onboard was making references to JAWS this morning, but my personal favorite shark movie is 2004’s Open Water, which was far more terrifying – and based on a true story.
Our destination this morning: Talbot Bay’s Horizontal Falls, which we would visit as part of a larger 2.5-hour Zodiac expedition of the Talbot Bay coast.
The natural wonder that is the Horizontal Falls is made possible because of the largest tidal fluctuations outside of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. At this time of the year, the tides here will rise and fall by approximately 10 metres, and they do so with shocking rapidity.
This morning, we saw the Horizontal Falls when it was calm enough to get our Zodiac right into the swirling pools of water just after eight in the morning, and again around ten, when the tides were rushing in. The ominously-spinning whirlpools present early in the morning were gone, replaced with rapids that cascaded forcefully through the narrow opening. You could hear them before you could actually see them, and it’s a noise like no other. It’s part rapids, part rushing water, part jet engine spooling up.
This afternoon, we made a quick Zodiac excursion back to see the Horizontal Falls, this time when the water was rushing toward us as low tide approaches at just after six p.m. All the water that had spent the better part of the morning and afternoon flooding the basins beyond the horizontal falls now pulls backward, emptying back into the inlet where Silver Discoverer is anchored.
Our tides for the day, courtesy of the Silversea Expeditions Chronicles:
- 05:48 – 2.2 metres
- 11:48 – 9.6 metres
- 18:12 – 1.4 metres
- 00:12 – 9.3 metres
While Silversea includes an entire programme of shore landings and Zodiac trips in the cost of the cruise, the line also offers a handful of optional excursions that can be purchased at an additional cost. Today, one such feature was the option to take a jet boat through the falls and go where our own Zodiacs could not. At $80 per person, it was relatively inexpensive, and nearly half the ship signed up in advance. I opted to stick with the Zodiac tours Silversea offers and wasn’t disappointed.
There’s another optional tour coming up in the next few days: a helicopter tour to Mitchell Falls that runs for a cool $760 per person. The reason? The Kimberley is remote, and operators can charge what the market will bear.
If you don’t want to part with that kind of cash, fear not: Silversea’s itineraries in The Kimberley include an inclusive sightseeing flight over the Bungle Bungle mountains during the port stop in Wyndham.
To better acquaint you with what’s ahead – and to recap all that you’ve seen – all Silversea expeditions hold an evening briefing. Aboard the Silver Discoverer, nightly briefings are held around 5p.m. in the Explorer Lounge on Deck 4. Being Silversea, this is accompanied by canapés and free-flowing drinks of any sort; they’re all included in the cost of the expedition.
A few readers asked some questions in the past few days about Silver Discoverer, and I thought it would be worth sharing both the questions (paraphrased) and answers here:
Q: Are meals fixed-seating or open-seating?
Meals aboard every Silversea ship – even the Expedition ships like Silver Discoverer – are open-seating. Guests are welcome to head down to The Restaurant any time between open dining hours (these vary on a day-by-day basis). Note that onboard Silver Discoverer, there aren’t many tables for two. Most tables seat six or eight guests, and Silversea has engineered it that way to encourage guests to mingle with their fellow passengers.
Q: How big is the Spa?
That’s a great question. The Spa onboard the Silver Discoverer is a brand-new addition to the ship that was constructed during her drydock in Asia earlier this year. Located on Deck 7, it is styled after the Spa aboard the Silver Spirit. It features a small room where hair and nails are done, in addition to having a separate room for massages. Understandably, the menu isn’t as varied as those aboard Silversea’s larger vessels, but you can still get treatments ranging from the 75-minute Elemis Aroma Stone Therapy massage to classic Swedish massages that start at $152 for 50 minutes.
Q: What’s the onboard power situation? Are plugs North American or European?
North American. Keep in mind that Silver Discoverer was originally built in the 1980’s, so outlets aren’t as plentiful as they may be on newer vessels. My room, at last count, has a total of six outlets.
Q: How’s the internet?
On my voyage, very good. It’s faster than I would have expected, and Silver Discoverer boasts an entirely new Video-On-Demand system that includes movies, television shows, Expedition documentaries, and live TV. More impressively, this system isn’t just confined to your flat-panel television; you can access it form your laptop or iPad without having to connect to the internet.
As for internet access, keep in mind that Silver Discoverer’s itineraries take her to some of the most remote corners of the Pacific. As onboard any ship, it shouldn’t be counted upon to work. If you have pressing work, make sure you get it sent off before leaving, and just enjoy the adventure.
Q: Is there an open-Bridge policy?
I still can’t seem to find the answer to this. So far, no. Even the forward exterior decks that border the bridge are roped off and remain out-of-bounds for guests.
Q: Are there going to be any beach days?
On my itinerary, yes – but only once we get to Indonesia. Swimming in this part of Australia isn’t allowed at all due to the threat of saltwater crocodiles, box jellyfish, sharks, and who-knows-what-else. But, Silver Discoverer does have a swimming pool…
Finally, I want to close today’s report by having a look at where the rest of the Silversea fleet is. Silversea always prints the location of each of their ships in the Chronicles, and it’s a revealing look at just how many diverse destinations the line visits on any given day:
- Silver Cloud: Marseille, France
- Silver Wind: Olympia, Greece
- Silver Shadow: Homer, Alaska
- Silver Whisper: En-route to St. Malo, France
- Silver Spirit: Livorno, Italy
- Silver Explorer: Setubal, Portugal
- Silver Galapagos: San Cristobal, Ecuador
Of course, here onboard the Silver Discoverer, we still have another four days of idyllic cruising in The Kimberley, and another five days in Australia before we head across the Timor Sea for four days of adventure in Indonesia!
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|