Business With Purpose
True Luxury Is Experiencing Wilderness Frontiers
The remote Kimberley region of Western Australia is the size of California and twice the size of Victoria, with 13,000 kilometres of complex coastline but with less than 40,000 permanent residents. It’s one of the world’s last true, undisturbed wilderness areas, and one of the most ecologically diverse and pristine places on the planet.
The True North is a purpose-built small expedition ship, with a shallow draft (2.5 metres), and equipped with six expedition tenders and an on-board helicopter - and needing no shore-based infrastructure. The True North can access places bigger ships can’t - where few, if any, humans have ventured before.
“We see the very best of nature, culture and community during our adventures. We are constantly aware of the luxury and privilege that is afforded to guests and crew alike.” True North Founder and CEO, Craig Howson.
Exploring one of the remotest wilderness areas on the continent aboard True North's signature Kimberley Wilderness Adventures is the only way to reach many of its most inaccessible and spectacular sites. The True North carries a maximum of 36 pampered but adventurous guests – who have the benefit of knowing that their visit won’t leave any trace on the landscape.
It is this light footprint that makes an adventure cruise on board the True North one of the most environmentally sensitive ways of accessing wilderness. Guests leave with the knowledge that they have had very privileged access to a precious wilderness area.
A Magic Portal to Wilderness
While the True North is renowned for superior comfort and style, the focus of a True North adventure is not onboard life: the true luxury is in the wilderness experience.
“The True North is our adventure platform, our guests’ magic portal to the heart of wilderness. We venture way beyond the beaten track to where there are no tracks at all, and no other way to get there,” explains True North Founder and CEO, Craig Howson, who pioneered coastal adventures in the Kimberley over 30 years ago.
It’s in that experience of pure wilderness that guests begin to gain an understanding of the jaw-dropping majesty, the cultural significance and mind-boggling age of the landscape.
“Our experiences are designed to ignite our guests’ sense of wonder – and that in turn inspires an appreciation of the importance of preserving wilderness,” says Craig.
True North's flexible, activity-based itineraries offer guests a daily choice of experiences including wildlife and bird watching; hiking; fishing; sightseeing in the expedition vessels; picnics and sundowners on the beach; and exhilarating helicopter rides.
This approach defines all the True North itineraries, whether exploring the Kimberley, the off-shore islands or south coast of Western Australia; the beautiful but seldom-visited coast of remote South Australia; and even Sydney Harbour and the Hawksbury River in New South Wales.
Promise of Enlightenment
“We believe that information and education are critical if people are to share responsibility for conserving wilderness and culture. Our guests don’t necessarily want to be lectured to, but they do want to be enlightened,” explains Craig.
The True North’s complement generally includes a naturalist or guest lecturer who, in addition to the highly-trained crew, provides relaxed, informative and entertaining commentary and interpretation of the culture, landscape and history of the places visited.
The True North’s lounge features large presentation screens and there is an on-board library. The small group size and high crew to guest ratio ensure constant access to knowledgeable guides.
In addition to its extraordinary natural attractions, the Kimberley is renowned for its countless galleries of rock art. Featuring Wandjina and Gwion Gwion spirit figure paintings and drawings dating back 17,000 years, these rock galleries are recognised as possibly the world’s oldest art.
The True North’s guests have the unrivalled opportunity to fly by helicopter or hike with guides (some with specialist knowledge of Aboriginal culture) to galleries of perfectly-preserved paintings that may have seen few, if any, Non-Indigenous visitors.
“These activities are conducted on traditional lands. We show our respect for the Traditional Owners through direct liaison and participation in consultative management, and through incorporating Welcome To Country ceremonies into our itineraries,” says Craig.
“As with all the Indigenous-owned and regional areas on our adventures, we visit only when welcome and we leave only goodwill.”
Engaging with Local Communities
‘Leaving goodwill’ and supporting remote communities are fundamental tenets of the company ethos.
On the Southern Safari itinerary, this includes working with family-owned tour operators on Kangaroo Island and at Victor Harbour, as well as visiting local vineyards and restaurants in the Barossa Valley. On the Adventure South West itinerary, guests can visit Albany’s historic whaling station, while in Sydney there are interpretive experiences with Traditional Owners and tours of the Broken Bay pearling facility, as well as many other interactive experiences.
The True North’s cabins and common areas feature landscape paintings by Australian artists including Ingrid Windram, Jacinda Bayne and Andrew Tischler. True North has also developed a partnership with revered landscape painter, Larry Mitchell. As ‘artist in residence’, Mitchell has sailed aboard the TRUE NORTH to remote communities and chronicled traditional village life. He uses his work to highlight issues of rising sea levels and climate change at exhibitions around the world.
An Appreciation for Nature’s Bounty
Local suppliers also feature on the destination-inspired menu and the company actively champions locally-sourced, sustainable, organic and uniquely Australian producers.
Fresh bounty from the surrounding ocean ‘larder’ is a highlight, and True North guests have the unusual opportunity to be involved at every stage of the ‘ocean to plate’ journey. They might contribute to the evening’s meal by landing the catch of the day – perhaps a prized barramundi or King George Whiting – or by accompanying the ship’s chef to pry black-lipped oysters from the rocks, or to go mud-crabbing. They can then watch the preparation – and enjoy the results.
“Apart from being great fun, these experiences give guests a greater understanding of sustainable harvesting and man’s connection to the ocean,” says Craig.
A Humanitarian Take on Wellness
While ‘wellness’ is increasingly a focus of luxury travel experiences, True North takes a different approach.
“Wellness is also about connecting with humanity: sharing experiences with like-minded people, engaging with our enthusiastic Australian crew or people in remote and traditional communities. And wellness is never better attained than through redemption: acts of kindness that nourish the spirit and restore the soul,” says Craig.
“We, as well as our guests, want our experiences to be sustainable and preferably beneficial to others.”
True North maintains an active redemption program where the company, guests and crew are encouraged to become involved in a diverse range of philanthropic and environmental projects. In addition to providing impromptu assistance where it’s needed, the program delivers donations of clothing, school materials and sporting equipment to remote and underprivileged communities in areas included on the various itineraries.
“We see the very best of nature, culture and community on our adventures. We are constantly aware of the luxury and privilege that is afforded to guests and crew alike, and we aim to do all we can, through our redemption program, to give back to the land and people we visit.”
Other Sustainability Initiatives (Our Mandatories)
- The TRUE NORTH is compliant with requirements under the MARPOL Convention, an international agreement designed to minimise and eventually eliminate pollution of the sea by harmful substances.
- The company makes significant financial contributions to national park and marine reserve management via license and access fees and through providing monitoring and feedback. The company also collects access fees on behalf of Traditional Owners.
- When visiting wilderness areas, our crew are careful to ensure we leave no trace: that guests do not disturb the flora or fauna or sites of cultural significance, and that no one leaves behind more than their footprints.
- True North supports programs that target combatting plastic in the ocean. On board, waste is either processed via the on-board treatment plant, retained for recycling or retained for disposal in an approved waste management site on shore.
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