By going on the new Donnelly River Cruise, you’ll be one of the few people to experience the serenity and relatively untouched flora and fauna of the Donnelly River’s lower reaches.
When heading “down South” for a holiday, relaxation is generally the aim of the game. Fortunately, from the moment you step on board his boat #Gigetta it becomes obvious that relaxation is exactly what Peter Casonato, owner and operator of the new Donnelly River Cruises, has in store for you.
All cruises encompass the lower 12km section of the Donnelly River, from the boat landing, located half way between Pemberton and Manjimup, to the river mouth. This area is only accessible by boat, so with very few visitors journeying down the river, the landscape is still fairly pristine.
The most popular Morning Cruise begins with a courtesy pick-up from the Karri Valley Resort, followed by a 6km air-conditioned bus trip into the D’Entrecasteaux National Park where the boat is moored. The first thing guests will notice as they step onto #Gigetta is that the kettle is already on, and it’s not long before all tour-goers are offered a hot cup of tea and coffee. The journey commences through dense jarrah bushland where the river is a mere 15m wide, giving guests a chance to get an intimate feel for their surroundings.
The #Gigetta can accommodate up to 31 people in comfortable seating and was designed specifically to minimise the impact on the environment. It has viewing windows on all sides, which open vertically, and there are also viewing windows installed on the roof giving unhindered views of the overhanging tree canopy and magnificent limestone cliffs. The boat is fitted-out with year-round cruising in mind and contains a compact galley with inbuilt heating for the cold days and a fridge to store icy-cold drinks when the weather heats up.
As the boat meanders down the river, visitors are given a running commentary on the history of the area, from the formation of the cliffs many thousands of years ago, to the more recent developments of the Donnelly River Holiday Home Settlement. The settlement was created using no vehicular transport and can be seen nestled into the hills and cliffs of the lower valley.
When the #Gigetta arrives at the river’s mouth, guests are given an opportunity to stretch their legs on the beautiful white coastal sands of the Donnelly Beach. The beach is about 2km long and is flanked by rocky outcrops at both ends, which again restrict all vehicle access. Guests can stroll and dip their toes in the Southern Ocean in almost total isolation, possibly only interrupted by some in-the-know beach fishermen. After half an hour on the beach, guests re-board the boat and are served refreshments as they cruise back up the river.
The journey back takes on a different theme. Peter focuses his commentary on the fauna and flora found in the area, and the fragile eco-systems in which they survive. Guests learn about the impact introduced species have had on environment, and the projects CALM have in place to preserve and manage the national park. The entire journey takes about four hours including a bus ride back to the Karri Valley Resort.
Donnelly River Cruises operates year round and has a variety of tours available. The Morning Cruise is the mainstay of the business and runs daily, departing at 9am sharp. The Wine Cruise, which departs at 2pm, is an afternoon cruise with a fun, laid-back feel. Guests will receive the same informative commentary with the inclusion of a courtesy wine tasting, supplied by a different local winery each week. The Evening Cruise heads to the Donnelly Beach at sunset and cruises back up the river under lights. A light dinner is included in this tour.
The Morning Cruise costs $55, $45 and $35 for adults, seniors and children respectively and The Wine Cruise costs $65 for adults, $55 for seniors and $35 for children. Bookings and inquiries should be directed to 0427 771018 or (08) 9777 1018. Alternatively, visit the website at donnellyrivercruises.com.au.