What Are Expedition ships – and why you’ll want to voyage in one!

Travel by expedition ship was long considered out of reach for most mere mortals. For decades, these beasts of the seas carried intrepid explorers, scientists and the financially-blessed to some of the most remote corners of the globe. Gargantuan and bad-ass, expedition ships are built to cope with anything Mother Nature throws their way, including behemoth glaciers, imposing fjords and wayward waves. Ship_MV_Ushuaia (12)Ideal for exploring the far reaches of Antarctica – where expedition cruising is seen as the only way to explore with minimal environmental impact – expedition ships are renowned for their commitment to nature, wildlife conservation and research. For decades, expedition cruising was always seen as the last frontier for discerning travellers – those with an adventurous glint in their eye and healthy bank account – yet nowadays, this incredibly rewarding and awe-inspiring style of travel is no longer prohibitively expensive.

Think you can’t afford an expedition cruise to incredible destinations like Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon…or through the breathtaking fjords of Chile?

If you love nothing more than a journey and complete immersion in some of the most remote, least developed and most outstandingly beautiful places on earth, the question is: how can you afford not to?

Why Expedition ships do it better!
Don’t let their imposing size fool you: expedition ships are all about gifting you an intimate experience. They may be big – and they certainly can displace thousands of tonnes of water – yet they carry much fewer passengers than commercial cruise liners, so you can get on and off in a jiffy. Complete with Zodiacs, kayaks and tenders to facilitate landing and exploring in out-of-reach places, expedition ships are staffed by a team of expert naturalist guides and experts. Not only will you be able to discover nooks of our planet normally out-of-reach for most travellers, but you’ll get to learn all about the wildlife and biology of your chosen destination. Expedition cruising is for those who simply want more: more adventure, more insight and a much more substantial experience. It’s this level of intensity which sets expedition cruising apart from all other types of travel.

Where in the world can you go?
Antarctica is the first obvious adventure cruising destination. The renowned birthplace of expedition cruising, the world’s ‘ultimate travel frontier’ is still as mysterious, magnetic and enticing as it’s ever been and where you’ll find a great deal of stunning expedition ships with varying degrees of luxury (and price!).
Antarctica_Landscape_Expedition_Ship_Crew_Shot_2010-IMG10010_Lg_RGB copyPatagonia is a very close second-place contender with spectacular fjords just a swim-stroke away from easy-to-reach hubs like Puerto Natales, Puerto Montt (for Chilean fjords) and El Calafate for Lake Argentino. With the added bonus of activities like fly-fishing, hiking, kayaking, thermal-spa soaking, wildlife spotting, whale-watching and cocktail-indulging (surely this counts?!), all set against a backdrop of vertiginous mountains, volcanoes and glaciers, Patagonia cruises like the 8-day expedition aboard the Stella Australis are simply unparalleled in South America.
expedition shipsRight at the other end of the Latin American continent – as far away from Emperor Penguins as one could get – is where you can explore a much more tropical yet equally dramatic destination: the Galapagos Islands. As fiercely protected and undeveloped as Antarctica, (albeit a tad warmer!), the Galapagos are a haven for wildlife enthusiasts looking to SCUBA dive, snorkel and hike among some of the most unique creatures on our planet. An expedition cruise to the Galapagos is, among all the other destination, a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
oceanspray-exterior-6Yet if you think that expedition cruising is only reserved for spectacular – yet remote – parts of the world, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover this simply isn’t so. Nowadays, you can (almost) explore anywhere aboard an expedition ship! You can cross the historic Panama Canal aboard a mighty exploratory vessel (after cruising the idyllic islands of the Caribbean!), dive deep in the Amazon Rainforest and sail all along the coast of Central America.

What you can expect on an Expedition Ship voyage
It’s no secret that we’re quite impartial to small ship and expedition ship cruising. As far as we’re concerned, the added personalised service and attention far outweighs all the bling and entertainment normally found on commercial cruise-liners. The way we see it, if we wanted to chillax in a fancy-schmancy resort, complete with pool, gym, cinema and shops, then that’s where we’d go. But we don’t. We love feeling like old-world adventurers out to discover new horizons, we cherish being in the company of like-minded travellers who share our passion for wilderness, wildlife and well-aged scotch whiskey (oops). When we only have a short time to travel, we don’t want to waste time embarking and disembarking every day and, more importantly, when we set our feet on a barren iceberg, base of an extinct volcano or uninhabited island, we don’t want to be in the company of 3,000 people.

Picky much? Yep. That’s us! And if you also want to experience a most unforgettable adventure on arguably the best continent on the planet, you should be too.

Chimu Adventures would like to help you with choosing your perfect cruise to Antarctica. For all cruises and information click here.

Author: Laura Pattara

“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”