Coral Expeditions has launched a surprising new cruise around the wild coast of Tasmania.

Story By Andrew Bain

Dolphins leap and dive, gliding into the ship’s bow wave. Albatrosses swing over the rolling swell and fur seals lay slumbering in the water, their flippers raised like fins to catch the cooling wind. The captain of Coral Expeditions I, Nathan Clark, eases down the engines and the ship drifts towards the narrow gap between Cape Pillar and Tasman Island.

It’s late summer and Nathan is skippering one of Coral Expeditions I’s final runs in its first season cruising along the southern coast of Tasmania. In this gap between island and cape, Australia’s highest sea cliffs rise more than 300 metres on one side and one of the country’s most remote and evocative lighthouses sits perched on the other. For Nathan, who has captained every one of Coral Expeditions I’s Tasmanian voyages, it’s been a summer of wild coast and wildlife.

“I don’t think we really appreciated how raw the Tasmanian coast was until we came down and actually cruised past it,” he says. “We had one trip and just within Fortescue Bay there were humpback whales, seals were hauling out, and there was a pod of dolphins, and that was all within an hour and a half.”
For a cruise ship, the possibility of squeezing through this 400m gap beneath Cape Pillar is a rare one, made possible only by the small size of Coral Expeditions I, a 35m catamaran. It brings an intimate quality to the journey, often sailing hard against the coast and nosing into places larger cruise ships can’t reach.

On the ship’s maiden Tasmanian voyage last November, that included visiting remote Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour in the state’s south-west corner. Nathan believes it was the first time a cruise ship had entered Bathurst Harbour.

“It was a great privilege to have that little claim to fame,” he says. “With the cruise industry being so big, the number of places that are brand new, in terms of itineraries, becomes smaller and smaller, so it’s a badge of honour, for sure.”

The week-long Tasmanian cruise begins and ends in Hobart.

This story excerpt is from Issue #106

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2016