Day 9 – Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5

Exploring The Kimberley’s Native History in Swift Bay

Silversea's Silver Discoverer at anchor on a pristine afternoon in Swift Bay, Australia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silversea’s Silver Discoverer at anchor on a pristine afternoon in Swift Bay, Australia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Another day of exploration awaited guests aboard Silverseas newest luxury expedition vessel, as Silver Discoverer dropped anchor in Swift Bay just after 07:00 this morning. To keep things fair, Zodiac groups were once again rotated to ensure that everyone had a crack at the early morning and late morning departure times.

Guests from onboard Silver Discoverer race ashore via Zodiac. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests from onboard Silver Discoverer race ashore via Zodiac. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Here’s a look at what’s happening today aboard Silver Discoverer:

  • 07:00 – Silver Discoverer anchors in Swift Bay
  • 08:00 – Disembarkation: Zodiac Group 3 (return by 10:00)
  • 08:30 – Disembarkation: Zodiac Group 4 (return by 10:30)
  • 10:00 – Disembarkation: Zodiac Group 1 (return by 12:00)
  • 10:30 – Disembarkation : Zodiac Group 2 (return by 12:30)
  • 14:00 – Silver Discoverer sails for King George River
  • 14:00 – “Captain Courageous” by Brad Siviour – a look at the S.S. Koolama Incident. Explorer Lounge, Deck 4.
  • 15:30 – Afternoon Tea is served. Discoverer Lounge, Deck 5
  • 18:00 -Join your Expedition Team for a Recap & Briefing. Explorer Lounge, Deck 4
  • 19:00 – Dinner is served. Bon appetit! The Restaurant, Deck 3.
  • 21:30 – Relax in The Lounge wity late-night music by Jorge. Explorer Lounge, Deck 4

This morning, I took full advantage of my late departure time of 10:30. I still rose at 6:00, as I have for most of this trip, but I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Discovery Lounge on Deck 5 before taking my laptop down to the Explorer Lounge on Deck 4 to enjoy a coffee and a Danish while I filed yesterday’s post.

At first glance, the landscape off Swift Bay doesn't look all that inviting. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
At first glance, the landscape off Swift Bay doesn’t look all that inviting. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silver Discoverer is a very warm, comfortable ship to spend time onboard. Some of her public spaces, like the Discoverer Lounge, do not photograph well, but remain far more inviting in person than images would suggest. This is also one of the few rooms that has changed very little, apart from the furniture, from the ship’s previous days as the Clipper Odyssey. I would have loved to have seen the kind of top-to-bottom refit that The Restaurant underwent, but for a casual dining venue, it’s perfectly fine as-is.

The landscape, however, becomes substantially more beautiful once you're upon the mangroves and amber cliff faces. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The landscape, however, becomes substantially more beautiful once you’re upon the mangroves and amber cliff faces. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

When 10:15 rolled around the Western Australian sun was out in all its glory. Temperatures soared above 36°C with humidity making it feel closer to 42°C. If you’re headed to The Kimberley aboard Silver Discoverer next year, bring light, breathable clothing. It won’t stop you from perspiring (that will be a given), but you will feel plenty comfortable. I have an ExOfficio shirt that is highly breathable and quick-drying, and I’ve been hot-but-comfortable the entire trip.

Silver Discoverer Expedition Team member Tim guides us ashore. Like many of the team aboard Silver Discoverer, I had previously sailed with Tim aboard Silver Explorer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer Expedition Team member Tim guides us ashore. Like many of the team aboard Silver Discoverer, I had previously sailed with Tim aboard Silver Explorer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I have to admit to being somewhat dubious about today’s outing. From the Silver Discoverer, Swift Bay doesn’t look like much, particularly when compared to the soaring landscapes we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, it appears as if someone has taken the surface of Mars, filled it three-quarters full of water, and left.

However, the closer our Zodiac got to land, the more beautiful the landscape became, to the point where I now think our outing in Swift Bay may perhaps be the most picturesque place we’ve been so far.

Swift Bay's mangroves provided some of the most beautiful scenery we've seen so far on our Silversea Expedition through Australia's Kimberley Coast. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Swift Bay’s mangroves provided some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen so far on our Silversea Expedition through Australia’s Kimberley Coast. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Amazingly, I'm not tweaking the blues or greens at all; this is how this scene looked and photographed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Amazingly, I’m not tweaking the blues or greens at all; this is how this scene looked and photographed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We were here to see the so-called Bradshaw Galleries that I mentioned a few days back. They were discovered by Joseph Bradshaw in 1891, who stumbled upon them entirely by accident. The existence of rock art in The Kimberley, however, had been noted as early as 1838, but Bradshaw was the first to showcase his findings to the Royal Geographical Society which, in a unique twist, Silversea partners with today.

What is truly fascinating about the Bradshaw Art – also known as Giwon Giwon – is that its origins and age are highly contentious subjects. One researcher suggested the origins of the art may have been a group of settlers from Indonesia who were then replaced by the present-day Aborigines. Other researchers counter that the Bradshaw art could only have been painted by Australia’s ancient Aborigines, as it shares no other stylistic features with other works of ancient art found throughout the world.

Silver Discoverer Expedition Team members are on-shore to greet guests as they step off the Zodiacs. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer Expedition Team members are on-shore to greet guests as they step off the Zodiacs. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests aboard Silver Discoverer were treated to this magnificent view yesterday morning. A Saturday to remember! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests aboard Silver Discoverer were treated to this magnificent view yesterday morning. A Saturday to remember! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Hiking up to view the Bradshaw Paintings at our first landing site. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Hiking up to view the Bradshaw Paintings at our first landing site. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Some suggest Shamanism is depicted in the paintings, while others point out that the figures seem to be utilising psychotropic eucalyptus leaves. There’s even debate over the fact that few paintings depict women, and further debate about why some have large breasts and others small breasts, with some scholar suggesting the small-breasted women are actually men with elaborate chest-band decorations. I’ll pause now for a moment so you can all drum up your best ‘size-doesn’t-matter’ joke.

Dating the paintings is also remarkably difficult. The ochre that was likely used to paint them has now effectively become ‘baked’ into the rock thanks to the Kimberley’s subtropical climate. Some estimates go back as far as 40,000 years.

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Expedition Lecturer Malcolm describes the paintings in detail to guests from onboard Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Expedition Lecturer Malcolm describes the paintings in detail to guests from onboard Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The so-called Bradshaw Paintings remain controversial to this day. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The so-called Bradshaw Paintings remain controversial to this day. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Evidently, ‘controversial’ is the word of the day.

There’s no denying the paintings have an ethereal beauty about them. But it’s also an unsettling beauty. More than one guest here onboard the Silver Discoverer has described them as almost alien-like, and I would have to agree. They’re unlike anything I have ever seen before, and it’s not difficult to see why their origins and meanings continue to cause a great deal of controversy to this day. The fact that they’re painted on the sides of remote caves in areas that could best be described as inaccessible only adds to the mystery.

Silver Discoverer Expedition Team Leader Juan Carlos Restrepo explores one of the nearby caves. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer Expedition Team Leader Juan Carlos Restrepo explores one of the nearby caves. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Many of these ancient cave drawings were painted in remote locations that were difficult to access. Here, one of the guests aboard Silver Discoverer looks down at the water below, and the path we hiked up on. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Many of these ancient cave drawings were painted in remote locations that were difficult to access. Here, one of the guests aboard Silver Discoverer looks down at the water below, and the path we hiked up on. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We were also warned to stay away from one particular tree on the way up to the artworks, as there were numerous green ants crawling all over it. Apparently, the little things pack quite a bite if they get at your skin. They’re indiscriminatory meat-eaters, preying on whatever they can find. One tree boasted a large leafy-ball that was actually a green ant nest, and one of our guests – a kindly Australian lady who could be someone’s grandmother – said to me, “Here, have a look,” and ripped part of the structure off with her bare hands.

Green ants swarm out of a damaged nest. Careful; they bite! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Green ants swarm out of a damaged nest. Careful; they bite! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Thousands of green ants poured out of the damaged nest like locusts, obliterating the tree branches and surrounding area as they attempted to repair the nest. It was an amazing sight to see – and even more revealing when you consider that, really, almost everything out here is designed to make this place inhospitable. Although these ants don’t sting, they have an incredibly painful bite accompanied by the spraying of formic acid on the victim. Or, so I am told. I kept well clear of them.

On our way back to the Silver Discoverer, more sharks were spotted at the stern of our ship. But I didn’t mind; safe in the Zodiac, Expedition Team member Tim was kind enough to take me to the front of the ship for some photo opportunities on this gorgeous day.

Silver Discoverer at her anchorage on May 17, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer at her anchorage on May 17, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Built in Japan in 1989, she underwent a major refurbishment this spring before entering service with Silversea. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Built in Japan in 1989, she underwent a major refurbishment this spring before entering service with Silversea. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

When I returned onboard to my suite, my butler Heri and Suite Attendant Maria had a little surprise waiting for me!

"Welcome Home!" Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
“Welcome Home!” Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I was hard at work in my suite preparing this post. But at 17:00, just before our briefing and recap, I had to pull myself away from the computer to head to the aft portion of Deck 5 for a sunset cocktail. Sunsets here have been gorgeous, and the open deck space on the aft portions of Decks 5, 6 and 7 are a hugely fantastic feature in this part of the world.

Guests take in the spectacular sunset off the coast of Western Australia aboard Silversea's Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests take in the spectacular sunset off the coast of Western Australia aboard Silversea’s Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

At our evening recap and briefing in the Explorer Lounge, guests were invited to select their preferred touring option for our day of exploration along the King George River tomorrow. There are essentially three choices on offer:

  • A 2-hour Zodiac tour of King George Falls, with AM and PM departures.
  • A 3.5-hour Zodiac tour of King George Falls with AM and PM departures.
  • And a massive 6-hour Zodiac tour and hike to the top of King George Falls.

Expedition Leader Mick Fogg warned guests that this was not an easy hike. It’s a nearly vertical ascent over boulders and loose earth that can take anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours depending on the slowest member of the group. He emphasized that it is only for those in peak physical condition, and that the chances of seriously hurting yourself are very real if you’re unprepared.

Guests aboard Silver Discoverer file into the Explorer Lounge on Deck 4 for our daily recap and briefing on our adventures for tomorrow. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests aboard Silver Discoverer file into the Explorer Lounge on Deck 4 for our daily recap and briefing on our adventures for tomorrow. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The reward, however, would be phenomenal: a view of the entire landscape from the top of King George Falls, some 80 metres (262 feet) above the surface of the river.

I’ve done hikes far more strenuous than this one back in March, when I was in Mexico’s Sea of Cortes. But temperatures here are frequently closing in on 40°C even in the early morning hours, and I’ve found even the short hikes to be real exercises in endurance. Given that, I’ve opted to do the 3.5-hour long Zodiac tour in the morning tomorrow. It’s great that Silversea provides guests with multiple options for important days like tomorrow; luxury is all about personal choice.

Tonight, I did something I’ve been meaning to do every night for the past five nights: have dinner under the stars at the Pool Grill featuring ‘hot rock’ dining.

Silversea's Pool Grill featuring 'hot rock' dining is situated all the way aft on Deck 5 aboard Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silversea’s Pool Grill featuring ‘hot rock’ dining is situated all the way aft on Deck 5 aboard Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This is one of my absolute favorite Silversea features. Since first experiencing it four years ago aboard Silver Spirit, I’ve made a point of enjoying the poolside ‘hot rock’ dining on every voyage I’ve taken with the line.

Here’s how this works: sitting out by the pool, under the stars, you pick your choice of one of three salads. I am a creature of habit, and I always go for the New York Salad with the blue cheese and bacon bits.

Silversea's Pool Grill featuring Hot Rock Dining was first introduced aboard their flagship luxury vessel, Silver Spirit, in 2009. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silversea’s Pool Grill featuring Hot Rock Dining was first introduced aboard their flagship luxury vessel, Silver Spirit, in 2009. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Next, you select your choice of main course. There’s filet mignon and a number of steak and seafood choices, as well as the Fish of the Day. I normally get the filet but I broke with tradition and ordered the Fish of the Day, which was Basa.

Your main course comes served atop a brick of hot volcanic rock, where it literally cooks in front of you. You can play Chef if you’d like, or ask one of your talented waiters to assist. Generally, though, everyone cooks their own meal, and seems to have a fantastic time doing so.

My Basa Fish grilling atop a volcanic 'hot rock', poolside. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
My Basa Fish grilling atop a volcanic ‘hot rock’, poolside. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Then, you pair your meal with your choice of red or white wine. I have to say how impressed I am that the wines served here onboard the Silver Discoverer are all from Australia. One of my big pet-peeves is going halfway around the world, only to be served Chardonnay from California. Kudos to the team onboard for sourcing a wide variety of local wines and beers.

For me, though, no hot rocks dinner is complete without Silversea’s amazing Apple Pie. I still have yet to taste anything better than this anywhere else in the world, and paired with a cup of Illy espresso, it’s heaven on a plate.

No hot rocks dining experience is complete without Silversea's delicious 'Apple Pie.' Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
No hot rocks dining experience is complete without Silversea’s delicious ‘Apple Pie.’ Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This dining under the stars is a phenomenal hit here aboard Silver Discoverer. With the warm weather, evenings onboard are fabulous, and the three hours I spent enjoying dinner in the company of some wonderful guests from Australia was a fabulous way to end the evening.

My Towel Animal and his message changed at night. Silversea's butlers and suite attendants are awesome! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
My Towel Animal and his message changed at night. Silversea’s butlers and suite attendants are awesome! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia

DAYPORT
May 9, 2014Day 1 - Arrival Down Under
May 10Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La
May 11Day 3 - Perth
May 12Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome
May 13Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1
May 14 Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2
May 15Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3
May 16Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4
May 17Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5
May 18Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6
May 19Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia
May 20Day 12 - At Sea
May 21Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia
May 22Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia
May 23Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia
May 24Benoa, Bali, Indonesia
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