ARNHEM LAND ROCK ART & THE REMOTE NORTH
A journey overview
- Tiwi Islands
- Victoria Settlement
- Mt Borradaile
- Gulgari Rip
- Groote Eylandt
- Cape York
- Lizard Island
13 Days Expedition Voyage
- 27 Sep 2022 Less than 5 suites remain
Discover rarely visited parts of Australia on an expedition cruise to Arnhem Land, the Top End and far north Queensland. We will encounter rich Indigenous culture, explore lush tropical islands, and stand at the continent’s northern tip. The MS Caledonian Sky, with a maximum of just 98 guests, is your passport to a special adventure.
Join Christine Anu
Join Christine Anu onboard, one of Australia’s most enduring and recognisable voices, with 17 ARIA nominations including the award-winning My Island Home. Christine is a proud Torres Strait Islander and uses her public profile to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Join Lieutenant General (Retired) Ken Gillespie AC, DSC, CSM
Ken Gillespie’s distinguished career saw him become an integral part of Australia’s military strategy. Retiring as Chief of the Australian Army, his military knowledge proves invaluable during our visits to key military sites. A familiar face to our Captain’s Choice journeys, Ken joins us once again to impart his insights to our guests.
Australia is proudly home to the oldest living culture on Earth. Our journey immerses us in this unique world through the timelessness of stunning rock art, stories of the Dreaming, and meetings with welcoming Indigenous communities.
Image: James Fisher & Tourism Australia, Shanna McNaught & Tourism NT
We will view some of the world’s oldest art, including the unrivalled, rarely seen galleries of Mt Borradaile in Arnhem Land. Flying on small planes from a remote airstrip into Mt Borradaile, we will gaze on images of animals, some of which are now extinct, and of the Rainbow Serpent, creation stories, stencilled hands and more.
Soar over the tiwis
Turquoise waters, white sand beaches and red dusty plains. Our helicopter flight over the Tiwi Islands affords us a bird’s-eye view of this dazzling part of Australia. We will soar over forests, rivers and mangroves, and keep watch for crocodiles.
Stand on 'The Tip'
Standing on the rocky tip of Cape York, we are the northernmost people on the Australian continent. Our view over intensely blue waters is to offshore islands and the beauty of the Torres Strait.
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland
Ruggedly beautiful Lizard Island, situated on the Great Barrier Reef’s most northerly extent, is rich in animal and bird life thanks to its extensive woodlands and grasslands. These contrast with white beaches, sparkling blue waters and rich fringing reefs.
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland
YOUR SMALL SHIP - MS CALEDONIAN SKY
Aboard the intimate MS Caledonian Sky we’ll cruise with a maximum of 98 guests. Suites are spacious and elegant, with expansive ocean views. The ship has a Promenade Deck from which to watch the world pass by, and when the weather allows, an al fresco dining area.
Tour Manager - Jo Taylor
Tour Doctor - Dr Mike Beckoff
Arrive Darwin, Embark MS Caledonian Sky
As Your Tour Manager, Jo Taylor Welcomes You On This Journey
Your Accompanying Tour Doctor For This Journey Is Dr Mike Beckoff
This afternoon, we embark the MS Caledonian Sky in Darwin. Meet your fellow guests and Tour Hosts this evening over cocktails and a Welcome Dinner.
Bathurst Island, Tiwi Islands
After making the short passage across Beagle Gulf, we arrive on Bathurst Island. Dividing into two smaller groups, we alternate between the day’s activities. Spend time among the local Nguiu community and gain an appreciation for their traditional crafts, which include weaving and painting. The Patakijiyali Museum then offers further glimpses into Tiwi Dreamtime stories, while totem dances and a smoking ceremony bring us further understanding of the Indigenous people of this land. As our next group acquaints themselves with the traditions of the Nguiu people, the remainder of our party embarks a helicopter to soar over the white sandy beaches and pristine waters of the Tiwi Islands.
Victoria Settlement, Mt Borradaile
Arranged into smaller groups once more, we alternate between today’s two main activities. Our first group take Zodiacs to the shore, then climb aboard small aircraft at a remote airstrip bound for Mt Borradaile. Heading out from Davidson’s Arnhem Land Safari Lodge, a short walk then brings us to the area’s best-known site, the Rainbow Serpent, an incredible example of Indigenous rock art. While here, our guide points out some of the area’s hearty bush tucker.
Our second group ventures even further north, to the very tip of the Northern Territory at Port Essington. At Victoria Settlement, on the Cobourg Peninsula, we see the remnants of one of the territory’s first non-Indigenous outposts. The settlement was located in what is now known as Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, a remote region boasting white sandy beaches and fiery red cliffs. Here we have the chance to fish for the iconic barramundi, with our catch then expertly cooked for our dinner.
Victoria Settlement, Mt Borradaile
Today, our two groups swap places, joining the experience they missed out on yesterday. Embark your small aircraft for Mt Borradaile and see ancient Indigenous rock art or cruise to the untouched beaches along the coast of the Cobourg Peninsula, arriving in Victoria Settlement and Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.
Hole in the Wall
Relax on board and anticipate the adventures to come, while we continue cruising east. Join our Expedition Team and board Zodiacs to navigate the Gulgari Rip. Otherwise known as The Hole in the Wall, the rip is a straight and narrow passage of water which lies between Guluwuru and Raragala Islands. As we cruise along, we’re offered spectacular views of rock walls and native vegetation either side of the rip.
Arriving on the Gove Peninsula, we are welcomed to Nhulunbuy with a smoking ceremony and a traditional dance performance by the indigenous Rirratjingu people. Here, we are also given the opportunity to learn the skills of traditional weaving and damper making.
Our ship brings us to nearby Groote Eylandt today. We explore the island, which is rarely visited and difficult to access, and is home to the Anindilyakwa people. Here we find some of the most striking examples of Indigenous rock art in the world, while pristine waterfalls and unspoiled bush also prove bountiful in this remote part of Australia.
Day at Sea
Relax during a day at sea today as we cross the Gulf of Carpentaria on our way to Thursday Island. Learn more about the adventures to come during an onboard lecture. You may also like to enjoy a drink in the Panorama Lounge or head out to the Sun Deck for exceptional coastal views as we approach Queensland’s shores.
Thursday Island, Horn Island, Tip of Cape York
Cruising north, we arrive at Thursday Island, part of the Torres Strait group of islands. By Zodiac, we then make the short journey to neighbouring Horn Island. In this idyllic setting, we hear the stories of the 880 Torres Strait Islanders who volunteered for service during World War II. Defenders against the looming threat of a Japanese invasion, soldiers of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion fought gallantly, despite not even being recognised by the Commonwealth census of the day. Former vice chief of the Australian Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, will provide an overview of Thursday and Horn island’s significance during the conflict.
We will also visit Torres Strait Heritage Museum before our travels bring us to the northernmost tip of the Australian mainland, Cape York. Standing at the edge of the continent, and with a glass of bubbly in hand, we gaze out to the Torres Strait once more, as the sun sets on another fascinating day of exploration.
Our vessel rounds the tip of Cape York, charting a course southward. Cruising the waters of the Coral Sea, we follow the eastern coast of Queensland, our destination Stanley Island. On this remote outpost, we find some of the most evocative representations of rock art that can be seen – the venerated ‘ship rock shelter’ is a prime example of this.
Reaching Lizard Island today, we venture on foot to Cook’s Look, from where Captain James Cook surveyed the area and planned a safe passage through the network of nearby reefs. The island’s highest vantage point provides us with incomparable views of the reefs and surrounding islands. Follow in Cook’s footsteps or perhaps choose to head out on one of the many other walks across the island, which range from easy to difficult. We can choose to snorkel over the fringing reef during a relaxing afternoon.
Though it may have proven temporary, Cooktown can legitimately claim to being the site of the first non-Indigenous settlement in Australia. After Cook’s Endeavour ran aground here, the navigator and his crew spent seven weeks on the unspoilt patch of land that today bears his name. Choose from two available experiences today. Journey to Grassy Hill to see the monument dedicated to Cook’s landing. Absorb panoramic views while a local guide tells of Cook’s expedition, including the first recorded sighting of a kangaroo by a European, the honour going to Cook’s botanist, Joseph Banks. Alternatively, visit the James Cook Museum. Several remarkable exhibits can be seen here, including an anchor and cannon from the Endeavour.
On our arrival in Cairns, we disembark our ship for the final time. We farewell our Tour Host team and fellow guests as our rare voyage along the remote northern coasts of Australia and its islands comes to an end.