The popularity of expedition yachts is on the rise as travellers begin to venture further afield on their yachting vacations. Satisfying their appetite for adventure, yacht-goers are avoiding the hotspots of the Mediterranean and Caribbean in favour of the world’s more far-flung destinations.
With ice-strengthened hulls and long range cruising capabilities, expedition yachts can traverse to these rugged, harsh and isolated corners of the globe, treating those on board to spectacular scenery, wonderful wildlife and utter seclusion, as well as the high levels of luxury expected on a modern day superyacht.
Read on to discover six of the best destinations to visit by expedition yacht.
Antarctica is arguably the most challenging of all the world’s cruising grounds. But the icy splendour, other-worldly beauty and all-encompassing solitude of this frozen continent make braving its wild wilderness a truly fulfilling experience.
Against backdrops of towering white mountains, ice-clogged seas and never-ending stretches of icebergs, charterers can jump in a Zodiac tender or take to a kayak and come face-to-face with roaming colonies of penguins, enormous seals lolling on the shore and humpback whales leaping from the water.
On land, there are opportunities to hike or cross country ski across pristine landscapes, as well as to visit a research base. Meeting scientists may sound dull, especially when on an adventure vacation, but they can share fascinating insights into the land and the creatures that inhabit it.
The icy splendour, other-worldly beauty and utter solitude make braving this frozen continent a truly unforgettable experience
Luxury yacht charters to Antarctica are possible from late October to late March, which are the summer months of the southern hemisphere. Yet, there are different things to see during this five-month period, starting in the spring month of November, when penguins begin to court and mate.
The height of the austral summer – December and January – brings warmer temperatures and up to 20 hours of daylight. Plus, penguins feed their new-born chicks, which will begin to fledge in February and March, when whale-watching is at its best.
The 73m/138ft charter yacht CLOUDBREAK has voyaged to Antarctica on a worldwide expedition and the 71m/234ft charter yacht ‘Enigma XK’ has been here too. Plus, the 181m/595ft charter yacht REV plans to be based in the continent following her launch in 2020.
There’s an old saying that goes ‘when you’ve seen the world there’s always Greenland’. But those looking for an off-the-beaten-track adventure should not put off visiting the world’s largest island any longer.
Tucked away near the North Pole, Greenland has only 63 kilometres of paved roads, meaning the best way to explore is by boat. Travel by expedition yacht and discover magnificent icescapes, some of the best fjords on the planet, colourful Inuit communities and incredibly diverse wildlife.
Highlights include kayaking among turquoise-hued icebergs, dog-sledging across wintry landscapes, cruising through the dazzling ice fjords of Ilulissat, whale-watching in the Greenland Strait and bathing in the geothermal springs of Uunartoq.
Highlights include cruising through the dazzling ice fjords of Ilulissat, whale-watching in the Greenland Strait and bathing in the geothermal springs of Uunartoq
The alpine ranges south of the Arctic Circle in western Greenland, with peaks of up to 2,000 metres, are perfect for heli-skiing. Whereas, in the summer, the ‘Valley of the Flowers’ in the south east comes alive with blooms of purples, whites and yellows creating colourful hiking trails.
Charter vacations in Greenland are recommended during the summer months and, at this time of year, visitors can experience the natural phenomenon of the Midnight Sun. This makes it all the better to see the rich wildlife, which ranges from musk oxen, reindeers and polar bears to narwhals and walruses.
Think of Norway and images of deep blue inlets, steep mountains and thundering waterfalls are sure to come to mind. These are Norway’s Western Fjords and, thought by many to be the soul of the country, radiate a subliminal beauty impossible to find elsewhere in the world.
The region opens up a wealth of cruising opportunities but, although still an off-the-radar destination for expedition yachts, there are more remote and more rugged areas to explore in the north of the country.
Arctic Norway, as it’s referred, stretches from the Lofoten peninsula to North Cape – Europe’s northernmost point. Here, charterers can cruise past snow-topped mountains and majestic glaciers, hike to the highest peaks, heli-ski in the Lyngen Archipelago and spot sea eagles, puffins and kittiwakes.
The archipelago of Svalbard is the best spot in the world for viewing polar bears in their natural habitat
Then there are the Svalbard Islands, located in the Arctic Ocean halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Its untouched Arctic wilderness is at once both fragile and rugged and captivates all who venture here.
Plus, the archipelago remains the best spot in the world for viewing polar bears in their natural habitat. Nearly two thirds of the surface of Svalbard is protected but the small and colourful community of Longyearbyen has a surprisingly wide range of cultural activities on offer.
Alaska holds much intrigue among intrepid travellers. This is likely to be because, even though part of the United States, it feels like a world apart. Nowhere else in the country can come close to its awe-inspiring scale or match its medley of natural wonders.
Luxury yacht charters in the 49th state can certainly satiate their desire for discovery. As much of the 6,640-mile-long coastline is inaccessible by road, travelling by yacht is the best way to take in the cliff-rimmed fjords, crevasse-riddled glaciers and majestic snow-capped mountains.
Get close-up views of brown bears snatching leaping salmon out of thundering waterfalls or humpback whales frolicking in the clear, calm waters. Look out too for wolves, mooses and reindeers roaming in forests along the water’s edge and bald eagles and sandhill cranes soaring overhead.
Get close-up views of brown bears snatching leaping salmon out of thundering waterfalls
In the south east, the Inside Passage is a must-see. A network of waterways wind through glacier-cut fjords and lush temperate rain forests, providing ample animal sightings and the chance to recount Alaska’s colourful history in towns such as Sita, Skagway and Ketchikan.
Other places to visit include Prince William Sound, Kenai Fjords National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and to the remote reaches of the Aleutian Chain and Bering Sea. For the optimal combination of daylight, temperature and snow cover, visit in March and early April.
New Zealand is on everybody’s bucket list and what better way to discover its wonderfully diverse landscapes, heart-pumping thrills and fantastic cultural offerings than by a luxury expedition yacht.
The two main islands have very distinctive characters. The North Island is warmer, with more rolling hills, sweeping beaches and volcanic goings-on. Visit Rotorua for the best thermal bath or Tongariro National Park to see still-active craters in an otherworldly landscape.
From Auckland, head north to the Bay of Islands, known for its stunning natural beauty and rich Maori and European heritage. But don’t leave the city without sampling its vibrant food scene and visiting the Hauraki Gulf and Islands for wine-tasting, dolphin spotting and kayaking opportunities.
Cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, snow-capped mountains touch the clouds and waterfalls cascade downwards from peaks as high as 1,000 metres
The South Island, meanwhile, has the highest peaks, glacier-carved fjords and plunging waterfalls. At the tip of the South Island are the sheltered waterways of the Marlborough Sounds, one of New Zealand’s key yachting destinations famed for its picturesque scenery, Sauvignon Blanc and delicious seafood.
Another famous waterway is the Milford Sound where cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, snow-capped mountains touch the clouds and waterfalls cascade downwards from peaks as high as 1,000 metres. There is much to see and do on land too, from hiking and caving to bungee jumping and sky diving.
The best time of year to visit New Zealand is during its summer, which runs from November to March. Charter yachts open in the region include the 63m/208ft expedition yacht SURI, the 50m/164ft expedition yacht ‘Plan B’ and the 40m/130ft expedition yacht ‘The Beast’.
Expedition yachts are also very much at home in the South Pacific. With more than 7,500 daydreamy islands scattered between New Zealand and South America, long-range cruising capabilities come into their own in this wonderfully remote region of the world.
With gin-clear waters, palm-fringed beaches, dazzling displays of coral and smiling locals, the exotic sights and sensual charms of these outposts never fail to live up to expectations. But, as the islands are as diverse as the region is vast, the hard part is deciding where to go.
While Fiji is made up of 332 islands, only a third are inhabited and, even then, solitude is not hard to come by. Expect sun-kissed beaches, a rich underwater world and ludicrously lush interiors. Although, don’t write off the populous islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu as there is Fiji’s unique culture and cuisine to fall in love with.
As the South Pacific islands are as diverse as the region is vast, the hard part is deciding where to go
Graced with soaring, moss-green peaks and vivid turquoise lagoons, French Polynesia is the place to take it slow. Tahiti and Bora Bora are undoubtedly the most famous of the 118 island strong nation, but there are still a wealth of forgotten islands, surf spots and coral gardens to seek out.
Island-hop around the 15 heavenly droplets of land making up the Cook Islands and discover scenic lagoons, Polynesian traditions and underground cave pools. While, explore volcanic islands, croc-infested mangroves, emerald forests and WWII shipwrecks in the Solomon Islands, arguably the region’s wildest offering.
The best time to visit the South Pacific is between May and October. Pick from expedition yachts such as the 59m/194ft charter yacht SENSES, the 58m/193ft charter yacht SEAWOLF and the 45m/148ft charter yacht ‘Big Fish’.