Discover the amazing potential of a luxury explorer yacht charter



Imagine witnessing a whale breaching across the bow? Or, heli-skiing down your own private mountainside? Perhaps you are keen to get involved with environmental research and marine conservation? Explorer yachts allow you to enjoy a whole range of fascinating experiences, opening up the possibilities for once-in-a-lifetime adventures where the world really is your oyster. 

In recent years, the charter scene has witnessed an increase in demand for go-anywhere explorer yachts, with naval architects pushing the envelope with a raft of innovative concepts in response to discerning yacht travellers seeking ever-more thrilling adventures. 

Thomas O'Nial, Commercial Director at yacht charter firm Boatsters Black, confirms he's seen a marked increase in requests for explorer yachts in both the sales and charter sectors over the last few years, with the pandemic acting to accelerate this demand: "Clients are tired of the usual yacht charter circuit, and are expressing a desire to explore new territories and discover new things."

Damen's SeaXplorer Design Manager Enrique Tintore agrees, adding "SeaXplorer clients come from all manner of backgrounds and nationalities, but all share a passion for pushing the envelope and a love for fun and adventure. From tropical diving to heliskiing, they want the highest level of capability for fun."

What makes an explorer yacht?

Expedition yachts not only boast impressive cruising ranges and autonomy, but also come equipped with the latest toys, gadgets and state-of-the-art technology, offering a synergy of impeccably-styled interiors and luxury amenities – proving you can have your cake and eat it too.

Charter yacht Cloudbreak

However, there are some important distinctions between a superyacht and a true explorer yacht; 


First and foremost, while aesthetically rugged and robust, an explorer yacht must be seaworthy. This means safe enough to withstand the roughest sea conditions, and do so comfortably for its passengers onboard. 

International Polar Code

A number of yachts also comply with IMO’s Polar Code, with hulls built to ice-class, such as Damen's SeaXplorer yacht LA DATCHA (pictured), designed to venture to extreme polar regions.

Although not mandatory, it certainly opens up greater opportunities for extreme exploration.

MY La Datcha

All our clients share a passion for pushing the envelope and a love for fun and adventure

Long distance cruising

Explorer yachts should also have the fuel tank capacity and efficiency to cruise for longer distances, offering unlimited potential to access remote areas of the globe.

MY La Datcha
MY Legend

And they don’t need to be behemoths either, British shipbuilder Arksen’s flagship explorer model is a fairly diminutive 26m (85ft) with an impressive 7,000 nm oceangoing range.

Likewise, Italian shipyard Cantiere Delle Marche's latest explorer yachts, AURELIA and RJ are both under 500GT, yet still bear all the hallmarks of a true explorer: robust, seaworthy and designed for world cruising, with both offering a 5,500 nm range without compromising on comfort and luxury, illustrating just how diverse the growing market for explorer vessels can be.


Another important attribute of a true explorer yacht is autonomy, basically the ability to remain at sea for long periods while remaining totally self-sufficient.

To achieve this, as well as ample fuel capacity, the yacht needs sufficient storage space to carry adequate food supplies and other necessities to maintain crew and guests, including specialists such as local guides, helicopter pilots and ski instructors.

MY Ragnar

The vessel should also be able to generate fresh water and manage waste effectively. This last point is often something that gets overlooked, however is one of the most fundamentally important aspects of an expedition yacht charter, not only because the vessel will undoubtedly be exploring remote locations without convenient refuse services, but also because effective waste management is a crucial environmental issue for ocean going yachts given their autonomy at sea and global range.

What are the benefits?

With a clearer understanding of what makes an explorer yacht, the next question you might ask is: why should you charter one?

Below are some pretty compelling reasons why explorer yachts are a cut above the rest;

Freedom to explore

The best thing about an expedition yacht is the freedom to explore the world’s oceans, from the poles to the tropics, with the capacity and range to remain at sea for longer periods of time between stops.

Wayang of Raja Ampat
 photo 49

Clients are tired of the usual yacht charter circuit, and are expressing a desire to explore new territories and discover new things


Space is another great feature common on ocean going yachts. From storage to outdoor living, everything about an explorer yacht is supersized, designed for your ultimate comfort and safety whilst at sea. 

Tintore explains the major reason for such large volume on explorer yachts like SeaXplorer La Datcha "is so that we can combine the capability you need to explore the world with the luxury space you want when you are there. Our SeaXplorers offers the best of both without compromise."

Top down shot of charter expedition yacht MY Ragnar

Having plenty of onboard space also means there’s more room for toys for use on land and at sea. O'Nial confirms one of the major bonuses in having plenty of space is that "there's much more room for jumbo toys, such as landing craft, especially for remote destinations without any convenient harbours or pontoons, as well as all-terrain vehicles, seaplanes and helicopters."

Toys on an explorer yacht charter onboard MY Ragnar
MY BoldMY Planet Nine

Some of the larger explorer yachts also come equipped with their own mini medical hospitals complete with trained staff, as well as research laboratories, ski lockers, hyperbaric dive chambers and much more. 

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

Explorer yachts by their very nature offer the kind of unique experiences that many standard yachts cannot, such as the opportunity to partake in scientific research, explore remote destinations and offer greater opportunities for adrenaline-fuelled adventures as part of the whole package; such as 4x4 off-road touring, heli-skiing and submarine exploration à la Jules Verne. 

Tintore underpins this point: “Explorer yachting offers the opportunity to experience the world with genuine adventure and rare experiences that are truly priceless."

Heli-skiing on an explorer yacht charter onboard MY La Datcha
Submarine exploration on a yacht rental onboard MY La Datcha
Guests enjoying a 4x4 vehicle on an expedition yacht vacation onboard MY Ragnar

there's much more room for jumbo toys

Superyacht luxury

And there’s no need to compromise on luxury as most explorer yachts nowadays also offer an array of luxurious extras, such as wellness facilities, swimming pools, entertainment systems and movie theatres. 

Guests enjoying the beach club onboard charter explorer yacht VICTORIOUS
Movie theatre onboard charter expedition yacht Victorious
Ice bar on charter explorer yacht MY La Datcha
Whisky and cigar club lounge on charter explorer yacht Victorious
Gym onboard rental explorer yacht Cloudbreak
Jacuzzi at sunset onboard charter expedition yacht Ragnar

With unlimited cruising potential coupled with superyacht standard luxury, it's clear to see why explorer yachts have become so popular. 

For inspiration, we have compiled some of the coolest destinations on the planet that you can visit on an expedition yacht charter;

Cocos Island and the Galapagos

Best for: wildlife, diving and learning about marine conservation

Cocos Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, situated 300 nm (approximately 18 hours cruise) off the coast of Costa Rica. This vast rock is covered in lush jungle and myriad waterfalls but remains uninhabited, save for its permanent ranger station. 

Lush Cocos Island in Costa Rica

The main reason people are drawn to this remote outpost is for the spectacular diving opportunities it presents, where schools of hammerheads, manta rays, whale sharks and other pelagics converge against a backdrop of submerged volcanic islands, home to vast coral reefs rich in marine flora and fauna.

 photo 19
 photo 20A pair of turtles swimming over a coral reef in the Cocos Islands

Schools of hammerheads, manta rays, whale sharks and other pelagics converge against a backdrop of submerged volcanic islands

Further west you’ll find the Galapagos, a remote volcanic archipelago rich in biodiversity, and famous for inspiring Charles Darwin’s theories of Natural Selection. It’s now a protected marine park, home to some of the most diverse plant and animal species on the planet, both above and below the water, as well as myriad tranquil island sanctuaries and tantalizing stretches of pristine beaches. 

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos

Both Cocos Island and the Galapagos offer some of the best scuba diving in the world thanks to the spectacular megafauna that flock here in large numbers, and ideal for those wishing to experience a truly magical underwater adventure.

Whale shark in the Galapagos
Manta rays glide in the Galapagos

If you’re keen for land-based exploration, the Galapagos is also home to numerous islands and islets, each with their own unique characteristics and indiginous wildlife, such as the Galapagos giant tortoise, the comical blue-footed booby and the fascinating marine iguanas that dive into the sea to feed on the vegetation found in abundance around the shores. 

home to some of the most diverse plant and animal species on the planet, both above and below the water

 photo 25
Marine iguanas on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos
Charles Darwin Research Centre, Galapagos

The main island of Santa Cruz is the beating heart of the archipelago, and home to the Charles Darwin Research Centre, which provides a great opportunity to learn all about the fantastic conservation efforts and scientific research being carried out throughout the archipelago.

South Georgia

Best for: breathtaking scenery, glaciers, wildlife and rich history

If you’re lucky enough to be chartering a Polar Code compliant expedition yacht and have always yearned to visit Antarctica, then South Georgia could be the perfect destination for you. Part of the Antarctic, South Georgia is a small landmass – only 176km (110 miles) long – that juts out towards South America, and although an extremely remote destination, the concentration of wildlife is off the scale.

Turquoise glaciers, rocky mountains and clam waters on South Georgia Island

the concentration of wildlife is off the scale

A woman takes a picture of a gentoo penguin in Antarctica
Wreck of two boats lie in ice and snow in Antarctica

Visitors to this remote wilderness will get the chance to spot king penguins, humpback whales and huge elephant seals in a cacophonous symphony like nowhere else on earth. In the sky, vast numbers of free-wheeling seabirds add to the orchestra of noise. 

A roaring male Elephant Seal infront of a Glacier, South GeorgiaA pair of wandering albatross fly over grassy plains in South Georgia Island
3 king penguins on shingle on South Georgia Island

The site is also steeped in human history, where visitors will get the chance to follow in the footsteps of Cook and Shackleton’s great adventures. This tundra region is also home to majestic glacial peaks, fjords and waterfalls, which can be experienced by foot, cross-country skiing or by helicopter. South Georgia is also home to a variety of shipwrecks as well as mesmerising underwater kelp forests.

People hiking across the tundra plains in Antarctica
A group of yacht charter guests kayaking in Antarctica

a cacophonous symphony like nowhere else on earth

Be prepared to plan your trip several months in advance as permits may be required. The best place to meet the yacht is in the Falklands, after which you should factor in a travel time of around 2-3 days before you arrive at your destination.

Great Barrier Reef

Best for: coral reefs, scuba diving, white sandy beaches, marine preservation

As one of the most spectacular living structures on earth, this global icon almost needs no introduction. Covering an area of approximately 344,400 km² the Great Barrier Reef makes up around 10% of the world’s coral reef ecosystems and provides a habitat for a vast array of marine life.

View over the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Comprising some 3,000 reefs and 900 breathtaking palm-fringed islands and coral cays, as well as mangroves and vast oceanic drop offs, this World Heritage marine park is the perfect destination for a truly unforgettable yacht charter.

 photo 33
Beautiful underwater world with corals and tropical fish, Great Barrier Reef in Australia

makes up around 10% of the world’s coral reef ecosystems

As well as world-class diving, the Great Barrier Reef also presents an opportunity to get involved in marine preservation projects and research, which you can speak to your yacht charter broker about before your trip.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

Best for: wreck diving, experiencing indiginous cultures, tropical jungles, hiking and tranquil islands

If you head north from the Great Barrier Reef across the Coral Sea, you’ll find the tiny but vibrant island of Papua New Guinea, with the bountiful Solomon Islands, a double chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls, located further east.

Aerial view over the Solomon Islands

These remarkable islands offer some of the best diving on the planet with one of the highest diversity of corals in the world, where sea temperature and currents are set to Goldilocks level year round, although the optimum time to visit is during the slightly cooler months of June through August.

Witu Islands, Papua New Guinea, October 2nd 2019 - Film crew making scuba video with locals on coral reef
 photo 38A group diving a wreck in the Solomon islands

sea temperature and currents are set to Goldilocks level year round

The islands also offer a number of land-based expeditions too, such as hiking through lush rainforests and waterfalls, or across pristine bone-white sand beaches with crystal waters, with plenty of scope to experience the local culture, which operates on ‘island time’ where the pace of life is much slower.

Tall trees at Kukundu,Solomon islands
Tenaru waterfall, Guadalcanal Island, Solomon Islands  R

The locals are welcoming and friendly and happy to accept donations and gifts to allow you to build relationships with the Chiefs and their community in return for access and insight into their local customs, food and festivities.

Tribal culture in the Solomon Islands photo 52
A smiling traveller sits with some local children in the Solomon Islands

The locals are welcoming and friendly

The islands do not require any permits, making these southwestern Pacific Ocean archipelagos the perfect destination for a one-of-a-kind expedition family charter, where snorkelling and diving opportunities abound. 

Svalbard archipelago

Best for: majestic glaciers, ice-caves, northern lights, polar bears, scenic wilderness

Considered the true Arctic North, this Norwegian achipelago is characterised by stunning snow-capped peaks, narrow fjords, vast glaciers and extraordinary wildlife. 

The beautiful scenic Svalbard in the Arctic North

astonishing marine life is so abundant here

 photo 54
Guests tender to an iceberg on charter yacht Enigma SK

During summer, this region experiences the "midnight sun" – a phenomenon that occurs between the months of April and August where the sun never sets. Throughout this period, visitors will get to experience the spectacular native wildlife in all its glory; from polar bears to arctic foxes, walruses to Svalbard reindeer – all making hay while the sun shines. 

Picture-perfect scene in Svalbard
Svalbard reindeer on a grassy plain
Svalbard on a polar day with arctic flowers in the sunset summer

Winter produces a 4-month long dark season from October through till February where the mesmerising northern lights that dance and shimmer in neon hues against a blanket of stars can be witnessed even during the day.

Northern lights in Svalbard

On the yacht, you can navigate narrow fjords where you'll hear the deafening roar of calving glacial ice, cruise past blue-tinged icebergs and witness the vast array of seabird colonies, or simply enjoy the astonishing marine life so abundant here; from breaching humpback whales to playful dolphins that leap through the yacht's wake, there is no end to the spectacular sights to behold in this remarkable archipelago.

The mesmerising northern lights dance and shimmer in neon hues against a blanket of stars

A family of polar bears relaxing on the ice in SvalbardA pair of blue whales come up for air in Svalbard
A blue-tinged iceberg in Svalbard, Arctic North

The breathtaking scenery is worth the trip alone, but there is also plenty to experience in Svalbard, whether you're into guided hikes, exploring magical ice caves, whale watching or zooming along glaciers in a snow mobile or even pulled by your own pack of huskies, you'll be spoiled for choice. 

Charter guests enjoy dog sledding in Svalbard

There are flights from Oslo to the capital Longyearbyen, where you can experience the culture on Spitsbergen – the only inhabited island in the archipelago, which offers a range of lively bars, boutique hotels and fine dining.

Need more information?

Please note that every destination will have unique environmental factors that may need advance or additional planning. Therefore, if you are interested in travelling to any of the destinations mentioned in this article we strongly advise reaching out to your preferred yacht charter broker, who will be able to guide and help you plan your dream yacht vacation.

Charter yacht Cloudbreak

For more inspiration, please read our yacht charter destination guides, which offer lots of helpful tips and advice covering a wide range of destinations, as well as a sample of expert hand-picked itineraries.

You can also view the entire fleet of expedition yachts available for charter.

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