September 24, 2018

Cruising the Kimberley Coast with Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT)

Michael Osborne retraces the 'never to be forgotten' time he explored the Kimberley Coast.

I am often asked what I consider one of the highlights of my 40-plus year as a publisher and travel writer/photographer. The one trip that always comes straight to mind is the Kimberley Coast.

It is an adventure I did in 2009, filming for our Foxtel show - Travel TV. So when the invitation from Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) arrived to cover the same trip, I answered in a heart-beat.

CFT are Australian based family run tour operators. They offer faith based experiences and the chance to have fun with like-minded people.  They quote: 'Whatever holiday you choose you know that when you travel with other Christians you will find opportunities to really connect, form friendships and enjoy true fellowship'

The specially designed tour package had us arriving in Darwin to be met by the team and we enjoyed an excellent smorgasbord group dinner that night.

The first thing I noted was most of them already knew each other, having travelled together before. This was obviously going to be a good tour!

Darwin: My partner Pam and I explored Darwin before the cruise and it is amazing what there is to see.

Probably the most informative is The Bombing of Darwin Experience at Stokes Hill Wharf. Learn what happened when the Japanese bombed Australia

For shopping and restaurants The Mall is the place to wander. If it's markets, go to Mindil Markets, a legend for locals and tourists.

Sailing Away: At the wharf the Coral Expeditions ship, Coral Explorer I was waiting. Our group of 42 is excited as we board and are shown to our comfortable cabins.

Once clear of the harbor, we set our course to the South-West and make for the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. Sailing south, our first destination is Tranquil Bay and then King George River. Passengers are quickly on deck with cameras and binoculars front and centre for the first close-up of this ancient coast.

After lunch we boarded the Explorer, the wonderful tender which allows passengers to walk straight on board and then, like a giant forklift, is lowered into the ocean and sails away. A rapid trip along the river had us at the magnificent King George Falls, a towering 80m high, the highest in WA.

Next stop Vansittart Bay where we go ashore to look at a WWII reminder, a USAF DC3 that ran out of fuel and crash-landed. All on board were eventually rescued.

After lunch, it's Jar Island to view Bradshaw and Giyorn Giyorn artwork that was at least 20,000 years old.

Day 4 we sail to Swift Bay for the optional Helicopter ride to Mitchell Falls, a highlight of a fantastic trip.

After lunch it was the magic Hathaway's Hideaway where the wind and erosion have created a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie. The size of the shell middens indicated how popular this had been for thousands of years.

Day 5 and Prince Frederick Harbour. We navigated the mangroves and enjoy wildlife and the rock formations. Amazing!

Day 6 and we are at Prince Regent River and Careening Bay.

It gets better and better…. King Cascade, a spectacular freshwater display tumbling down from the escarpment. Many go ashore to climb the path to the top and swim in the crystal water. The rest sit back and enjoy as a croc swims past.

Careening Bay was where King beached the cutter HMS Mermaid in 1820 for urgent repairs and his crew left graffiti carved into a Boab tree.

Day 7. Raft Point and Steep Island.

After breakfast we meet the traditional owners, the Worrorra, to view the famous Wondjina Art site at Raft Point. At night we enjoy the famous Coral Expeditions Beach BBQ, as we watch the sunset.

Day 8.Red Cone Creek and Montgomery Reef.

Scooting along in the Explorer, Red Cone Creek takes us to Ruby Falls, where the agile scale the rocks and enjoy a refreshing swim in the pools above the falls.

Montgomery Reef is regarded as one of the natural wonders of the world. As the tide drops the reef appears to rise from the ocean. The zodiacs take us into these rushing cascades.

Day 9. The Horizontal Falls in Talbot Bay and Iron Island

The huge tide rushes through a small opening, creating a small waterfall for the zodiacs to enjoy.

Day 10 and a private visit to Beagle Bay and the Centenary celebrations of their Sacred Heart Church.

Day 11. And this wondrous trip is nearly over as we arrive in Broome.

After a tour of Broome and a wonderful farewell dinner, we are transferred to the airport next morning.

All up, I am so glad that I had the chance to return. Well done to all concerned.

The crew could not be faulted, ever attentive and not afraid to go that little extra.

The passengers, CFT have created a holiday opportunity for all travellers, the interaction between all was lovely to be a part of.

My partner Pam and I were guests of Christian Fellowship Tours and HeliSpirit.

To contact Christian Fellowship Tours, who run amazing group tours around the world:    and 1300 635 358 in Australia.

To see a wide and varying range of tours and services, when in the Kimberley: /

For expedition cruising: /

Words: Michael Osborne

Images: Pam Latham and Michael Osborne

Feature supplied by:


1.      Coral Explorer 1

2.      Group photo time

3.      C-53 (DC3) remains

4.      Hathaway's Hideaway

5.      King Cascade

6.      Manfred, our brilliant Purser. Beach BBQ

7.      Explorer and a dry landing

8.      Montgomery Reef

Palace maintenance a king size job


David Ellis

THEY'VE something of a headache over in Buckingham Palace – what to do with more than 10,000 paintings, portraits, tapestries, porcelain pieces and all manner of furnishings while the whole eastern wing of the home to Britain's royals undergoes an AU$645.5m refurbishment that's going to take ten years to complete.

And as well as finding secure storage for these thousands of items that have been given over the years by everyone from fellow monarchists and national governments, to artists, cultural and ethnic bodies, sporting organisations and groups like Scouts and Guides, they have to relocate over a hundred staff within the palace itself, as well as rehouse the Duke of York, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who all live in the eastern wing.

But it's the priceless nature of those 10,000 works of art and the like that have been given over centuries, that's a major concern. And while some of the most valuable will be put into appropriate secure storage when work starts next April, it's hoped others can possibly be displayed at other royal buildings open to the public, or made available on loan to appropriately secure museums and galleries.

The refurbishment of the palace will include the replacement of some 160km of electrical cabling, 6,500 electrical power sockets and 5,000 light fittings installed back in the 1950s, plus 30km of heating pipes and 16km of hot and cold water-pipes.

And while it was built over three centuries ago in 1703, the palace pretty much has all today's mod cons for its amazing 775 rooms, that include some 133 staff bedrooms and 78 staff and public washrooms.

It also has its own medical centre with an emergency operating theatre for the royal family and their 1,200 employees, a post office with its own postcode, a staff cinema and restaurant complex, and 16 hectares of landscaped gardens that include 350 species of wildflowers, a lake, tennis court, helicopter landing pad, and swimming pool.

And to keep the handyman busy, 40,000 light bulbs that need systematic replacement, and 760 windows to be regularly washed.


[] BUCKINGHAM Palace with its 760 windows to be regularly washed, and behind them 40,000 light bulbs systematically replaced . (Image: Visit London)

[] JUST some of the Palace's thousands of priceless works of art. (Image: Visit London)

September 19, 2018

Casablanca is not the capital of Morocco

Morocco with Back-Roads Touring

Hands up those who think that Casablanca is the capital of Morocco?
Then you should join up for a Back-Roads Touring adventure!
Michael Osborne begins his Moroccan odyssey in Rabat, Morocco's capital. Rabat is on the Bou Regreg River and adjoins the Atlantic Ocean. It's known for architecture that salutes its Islamic and French-colonial heritage.
Our tour took us to the majestic Hassan Tower. . The city's iconic 12th-century minaret, which towers above the ruins of a mosque. Unmissable, it's been the symbol of Rabat for eight centuries. It remained unfinished after the death of its founder in 1199, but its solitary splendour overlooking the river amid a wasteland of broken columns is eerily poignant.
Facing the tower is the sumptuous marble Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, grandfather of the current King, who died in 1961 (free entry). Unusually, non-Muslims are permitted to visit its hallowed interior, patrolled by royal guards and draped in heraldic banners.
We were lucky enough to be there to witness the changing of the guards. The superb horses and the brilliantly attired guards create a visual spectacle that really had the cameras clicking away
Next was the oldest part of Rabat - Kasbah des Oudaias. Ancient narrow stone stairs between brightly painted white and blue walls of the houses. Hassan took us on a wonderful walk through the maze of alleys, along stone paving that has been worn down by many hundreds of years of pedestrian traffic.
This special journey of discovery continued as we boarded our coach and headed east towards Fes, as the locals know it, not Fez as often seen.
Fes El-Bali is the oldest walled part of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You enter through the archways of the stunning Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate) and you'll get a sense of what lies ahead in the 19th-century medina.
The medina is one of the world's largest urban car-free zones. Here, mules, donkeys and pedestrians flow steadily through the streets. 'Balak - 'Balak' it's the cry of the porters who transport, on trolleys, all the goods to the hundreds of shops. Balak is a warning to cling to the wall as the porters make their way past.
Fez is also famous for its leather products and most of it comes from the leather bazaar (souq). The souq is home to three ancient leather tanneries, the largest and oldest being the Chouara Tannery, which is almost a thousand years old.
Fez's tanneries are composed of numerous stone vessels filled with a vast range of dyes and various liquids spread out like a tray of watercolours. This process is all achieved manually, and the process has barely changed since medieval times, which makes the tanneries absolutely fascinating to visit. Well, besides the odours!
The hides are first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water and salt. The hides are then soaked for two to three days after which tanners scrap away excess hair fibres and fat in order to prepare the hides for dyeing. They are then soaked in another set of vats containing a mixture of water and pigeon droppings. This contains ammonia that acts as a softening agent which allows the hides to become malleable so they can absorb the dye.
Our accommodation for the next three nights was in a Riad, which is like a small palace, with a central courtyard and fountains. The rooms are all en-suite and our meals were served in the courtyard, which had rewarding views over the valley and across to the Medina.
Historic City of Meknes
Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became a capital under Sultan Moulay Isma├»l (1672–1727), the founder of the Alawite dynasty. The sultan turned it into a impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb are still evident today.
Bab al-Mansour is the main gate between Meknes' Medina and Imperial City districts. It's an immense and highly photogenic structure that many experts proclaim as one of North Africa's finest examples of surviving gateways. Finished in 1732, it was built by Sultan Moulay Ismail (though completed after his reign). The intricate architectural detail on the gateway includes lavish use of tiling and carving work. Today, the gate isn't actually open, instead you enter and exit through a neighbouring, much smaller side gate. This allows you to fully admire the gate's artistry unheeded by traffic.
The ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis are the main tourist attraction for Meknes. This is Morocco's most famous Roman remnant and for good reason. Sitting atop a hill, with the countryside rolling out below, the surviving columns and temple fragments of Volubilis are an impressive and powerfully atmospheric site.
The city's heyday was AD 24-285 when it served as capital for the Roman province, and most of the ruins date from this period of prosperity.
Why not have a look at all the other award winning adventures:
Michael Osborne was a guest of BackRoads Touring.
Words and images: Michael Osborne
Feature supplied by.
1.      Hassan Tower
2.      Our guide, Hassan, relating the history
3.      Changing of the guard
4.      Mausoleum of King Mohammed V
5.      Fes El-Bali
6.      The Tannery
7.      Peter relaxing by the pool in our Riad
8.      Volubilis 

September 10, 2018

The trouble with Spain: Too many Spaniards


David Ellis

LIKE something straight out of your favourite TV comedy show, two holidaymakers from England have come home from Spain to complain to their travel agent about fellow-holidaymakers they had to put up with on their vacation.

And they demanded – unsuccessfully as it turns out – a full refund of the cost of their trip, because according to them "there were too many Spaniards in Spain."

"They were all around the place," the ladies said, before going on to ask of their agent in a written complaint "why can't the Spanish go and holiday somewhere else?"

An octogenarian pensioner and her 61-year-old friend, the two went to the popular getaway of Benidorm on the Mediterranean coast in Spain's east, and which has been a favourite of international holidaymakers since 1925, and also happens to be easily accessed by travellers from Spain's inland.

According to the English ladies, their hotel was "teeming with rude Spaniards" and worse still "all the hotel's entertainment was aimed at a Spanish audience."

"The audience really got on our nerves," they said, "we became so upset that one of us ended up in tears."

We wonder where their agent may be game enough to send them next year?


[] SPAIN's Benidorm beach is a magnet for sun worshippers, but according to a complaint by two English holidaymakers their Benidorm vacation there was spoiled by their hotel "teeming with Spaniards, and with all the entertainment aimed at Spanish audiences who really got on our nerves."

September 02, 2018

Expedition Cruising in The Kimberley with Christian Fellowship Tours

Michael Osborne takes a helicopter ride into the unspoiled wilderness of the Kimberley Coast.

Recently I had the chance to sail on a Coral Expeditions ship as a guest of Christian Fellowship Tours, sailing from Darwin to Broome along one of the most wondrous coastlines in the world.

It was a cruise I enjoyed eleven years ago and one that I have been waiting since then to go experience once again.

The Kimberley is a huge and rugged region that has been inhabited by indigenous people for many thousands of years. The area is tropical and that defines the landscape which is astonishingly beautiful and virtually inaccessible by road.

It covers an expanse of more than 420,000 square kilometres (around three times the size of England) with only about 33,000 people. The only way to get a true impression is from the air, as there aren't many roads in this remote place.

One of the many highlights of my original visit was the chance to fly in an open-door chopper as we filmed Mitchell Falls and the Kimberley Coast for a TV show.

Coral Expeditions offer an optional helicopter flight through the local charter company HeliSpirit, who, amongst other services, arrange very special scenic flights over the wilderness, including Mitchell Falls.

Having done this before, I was able to explain to some of the other 40 passengers that this can be the scenic flight of a lifetime. It is a unique chance to experience not only a helicopter ride (many had never flown in one before), but to photograph this very special part of Australia from the air and the ground.

Our ship, Coral Explorer I arrived at Winyalkin Bay on a beautiful clear morning and after breakfast, we heard the sound of the approaching helicopters, which landed on the beach as the excited passengers were transferred ashore via our tender.

Our pilot introduced himself and explained all the safety requirements and then made sure we were all securely strapped in. I checked my seatbelt at least three times because I was sitting next to the open space, the doors were taken off to allow for photography!

The sensation of lifting-off is a thrill I hope I never get tired of. Within seconds we had awe inspiring views across the bay and our ship was floating on some of the bluest sea you could imagine.

As we flew inland along the Mitchell River our pilot kept up a very informative travel guide through our headphones. We saw some very large saltwater crocodiles amongst this amazing scenery. He took turns circling, for each side, so we could all get photos of the highlights.

It only took around 20 minutes to get to the top of the escarpment and experience the astonishing views of the falls. After landing it was a guided walk around to the viewing areas and more photos. The ground was fairly rough, but members of the boat crew were there to assist if required.

Being a fairly hot day, many chose to go for a swim in the large pools; no salties up here.

The four-tiered Mitchell Falls is iconic and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Australia. It is also known as Punamii-unpuu to the local Wunambal people.

There were some attractions along the slightly different return route, including  Little Mertens Falls and Mertens Gorge, before we saw the coastline.

The country is so rugged, I wonder how did they ever cross this land on foot?

As we approach the coast we saw that the flagship of Coral Expeditions, Coral Discoverer has arrived in the bay, making for another great picture.

Some tips for when you go on this cruise:.

  • Make sure you have some reef or wet shoes to wear for the beach landings.
  • Have a spare battery and memory card for your camera. We took more than 5oo photos on the Mitchell Falls tour alone.
  • A sensible hat and sun protection.
  • A metal water bottle. There is beautiful desalinated water on the ship.
  • My partner Pam and I were guests of Christian Fellowship Tours and HeliSpirit.

To contact Christian Fellowship Tours, who run amazing group tours around the world:   and 1300 635 358 in Australia.

To see a wide and varying range of tours and services, when in the Kimberley:

For expedition cruising:

Words: Michael Osborne

Images: Pam Latham and Michael Osborne

Feature supplied by:


1.      Your chopper awaits
2.      Mitchell River and a croc coming ashore
3.      Mitchell River rapids
4.      The falls
5.      Worth the ride
6.      Little Mertens Falls
7.      Coral Discoverer and Coral Explorer I

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