A voyage from Cairns to Darwin on board Coral Discoverer unveils a myriad of environmental and cultural experiences.

Story and photos Mark Muller 

Animated conversation lifted by an occasional ripple of laughter flows across the top deck of the Coral Discoverer while the sun settles into the Arafura Sea. Guests and crew mingle freely, and there is a relaxed happiness evident as the day’s adventures are discussed and dissected.

The morning was spent following animal tracks in the dunes of Raragala Island, before a visit to the Gawa community of Elcho Island saw people wading onto a rocky beach to be warmly greeted and shown around one of the most remote little communities in Australia. The Coral Discoverer is half way through a 12-day expedition from Cairns to Darwin. Any reserve there may have been when this cohort of strangers first boarded has well and truly morphed into the buoyant sense of companionship that shared experiences can bring. 

Looking over the gathering, Captain Nathan Clark smiles. “You can see how people are gelling – it’s always good watching relationships build,” he says. By now the group has explored reefs and islands along the eastern coast of Cape York, visited its tip, wandered the streets of Thursday Island, steamed across the Gulf of Carpentaria and been immersed in the wonder of the art centre at Yirrkala. It’s been a busy few days, a good few days.

This story excerpt is from Issue #126

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2019