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A new way to see an old favourite.

Get ready to be in awe as you cast your gaze over the mighty Cleft Island, an imposing 384-million-year-old granite monolith that rises up out of Bass Strait.

Feb 2, 2023

Words: Gippslandia

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With necks straining, you’re in awe as you cast your gaze over the mighty Cleft Island, an imposing 384-million-year-old granite monolith that rises up out of Bass Strait.

“It’s commonly known as ‘Skull Rock’, from the island resembling a dinosaur skull, depending on the angle you’re looking from…

“There’s a unique breed of skink lizard that’s only found on this island. Peregrines and black-faced cormorants nest on the island, as well as sooty oystercatchers and gulls,” explains Wilsons Promontory Cruises Skipper Dave Johnson.

Dave’s in charge of a unique vessel, as when Pennicott Wilderness Journeys launched this, their first Victorian eco-tourism adventure, the international award-winning tourist operator invested $3 million in developing the experience they offer – particularly in creating custom-built amphibious vessels.

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“Working in partnership with Kirby Marine, Naiad and SeaLegs, our amphibious boats are a world’s first in terms of size, design and manoeuvrability,” said Robert Pennicott, the managing director of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys.

“They are designed with minimum environmental impact in mind. Rather than build a jetty on Norman Beach, we drive straight from the sand into the water, following the same access point as public recreational vessels.”

“This is the first time that the renowned amphibious SeaLegs technology has been applied to boats of 10 tonnes (that can carry 30 passengers),” said Robert.

In 2021, Wilsons Promontory Cruises won the category of ‘Best New Tourism Business’ at the Victorian and Australian Tourism Awards. Given the venture was 10 years in the making, Robert was suitably rapt.

“We have built a quality business that enhances the visitor experience at Wilsons Promontory. The awards recognised that the business has so much potential to be a key destination driver for the Gippsland region. They’re also a celebration of the work of our amazing local team in the region. [They] have progressed through this challenging period to build a terrific business that showcases the spectacular Prom landscape and wildlife.”

You can learn how an 18th century cannonball landed on Cleft Island by booking a tour through Tours will run all year round at 11am, with additional cruises during November to April.

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Gippslandia is a community, non-profit publication. We curate an ever-optimistic take on regional, national and global issues, in a local context. Leaving you feeling like a Gippslandia local, no matter where you’re from. Read more

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