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Cruising Western Australia’s South West Edge on a True North adventure

After a year being land-bound, Lisa Perkovic joins the Western Australians getting their sea legs back post lockdown on a TRUTH NORTH adventure.

Almost twelve months to the day since I was on board a cruise ship, I’m on deck, drinking a frozen margarita.

That fact shouldn’t be unusual because I love margaritas and for some reason, they taste better when you’re on a cruise ship, when you’ve got the wind in your hair and the sea all around you.

Twelve long months ago, I was drinking frozen margaritas while floating on the Arabian Sea. Aboard the Celebrity Constellation. I’d hopped from Singapore to Thailand, onto Sri Lanka and India, then over to Oman and Dubai without a care in the world. There’s no way any of us could have known how much the world would change; shockingly, suddenly, and on the coattails of my journey back to Australia. However, to be back aboard a ship, albeit a much smaller vessel, contained to Australian waters feels like the winds have finally started to change.

Aerial view of the Kimberley

The TRUE NORTH difference

TRUE NORTH wouldn’t call itself a cruise ship, in fact the crew actively avoid the phrase. After the year the cruising industry has had, I don’t blame them. This 50-metre yacht is instead called a luxury ‘adventure vessel’ and it’s our ride for nine nights along Western Australia’s South West Edge, all the way from Esperance in the south to Fremantle.

For a lot of Australians, this is the closest they’ll get to cruising anytime soon and we’re not complaining. Well, there is some complaining on day one, but it’s shared sadness as we swap stories about the Greek Island sailing trips we put on pause and the Roman holidays we cancelled. However, talk quickly turns to our TRUE NORTH adventure at hand: “Did you see the size of the fish boat one caught?” and “Are you going snorkelling tomorrow?”.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about because the TRUE NORTH crew take their commitment to small group adventuring seriously. With morning and afternoon activities included in your passage, each day we pull into a new port there are at least four different things to do. Do we want to snorkel with seals off Doubtful Island Bay? Would we like to go on a nature walk on the remote Woody Island? Who wants to catch abalone for dinner? With six tenders on board and just 36 guests, it’s almost like being on a private charter.

True North

Wine tasting by helicopter

Of course, there are sacrifices with small ship sailing, but I’m happy to give up the gym, pool, ice rink, theatre and all the other trappings of big boats because TRUE NORTH has its own chopper. It accompanies us on the roof helipad for the duration of our journey. Daily flights aren’t included in the initial fare, but they’re an add-on that’s popular with guests who want to see this part of the coast from a different perspective.

Most Western Australians venture south to the Margaret River region’s coastal towns annually. The region’s mix of pristine beaches, award-winning wineries and top-notch produce make it a go-to destination but for us, the helicopter changes the game. We go wine tasting by air, landing on the grass outside cellar doors like celebrities, we perch beside deserted lighthouses on windswept islands only accessible by sea or air. It’s liberty at a time when we’ve been land-bound for months. Suddenly our Australian backyard turns into a new kind of playground.

Helicopter tours in the Kimberley

But what about the pandemic?

We’re blessed in Western Australian to have been largely community transmission free. There are extra hand sanitiser stations, a pre-travel declaration form and a temperature check. We arrive at our charter flight wearing masks but they go into our bags as soon as we leave Esperance airport.

In some ways, it feels like we’re more in the moment for this precious chance to put aside the worries of the world. We soak up every minute of every adventure, leaping at every chance to fish or swim or kayak. We’re leaning in and lapping it up. That’s not hard when the TRUE NORTH crew seem just as excited as we are to be here. There’s nothing too small or difficult they won’t do to ensure we’re worry-free. Grateful to be back at sea and back to work, their energy is catching.

With nine nights of dolphin swims, orca sightings, freshly caught seafood cooked on the beach, fine wine and good food, throw in a frozen margarita and I’m the happiest sailor at sea.

Keen to cruise with TRUE NORTH?

TRUE NORTH spends March through to September cruising the Kimberley coast. As the name suggests, the two-week Kimberley Ultimate journey covers everything you need to see, there’s also the Kimberley Waterfalls and Kimberley Snapshot for shorter sailings.

See the Kimberley up close with True North

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