Monday, 11 December 2017

PONANT 2019 Sub Antarctic islands


A photographer's wish-list of bird and marine wildlife

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand & Australia with PONANT

A voyage to the Sub Antarctic Islands provides the perfect opportunity for bird watchers, wildlife photographers and nature lovers to observe in close-up the extraordinary density and variety of bird and marine life found on and around this scattering of remote islands lying to the south of New Zealand and Australia.

Strict restrictions on annual visitor numbers to the Sub Antarctic Islands apply, resulting in a mere trickle of tourists - a small fraction compared to the numbers of visitors to the Galapagos and even less than the numbers who scale Mt Everest each year. Protected by their remoteness these islands of impeccable natural beauty are breeding grounds for vast colonies of penguins and giant petrels, and home to pods of orcas, fur seals and sea lions.

"There are few places I have ever encountered in my 20 years of remote area travels that impress as much as the Subs" says Expedition Leader Mick Fogg, veteran of over 300 expeditions (including over 20 just to the Sub Antarctic islands). "Isolation is the main attraction here, a protected realm where wildlife abounds. Whether it be the welcoming committee of thousands of penguins when we alight from our Zodiacs onto a black volcanic sand beach, or a swelling disturbance in the water that marks the emergence of an orca, savour the moment, for we will be right in the thick of things."

Last year, Nathalie Michel and Margot Sib, the photographic team onboard, captured a series of exceptional wildlife images which are currently available to view at  

"These photographs brilliantly capture examples of what we encountered last time and will surely whet the appetite of anyone interested in joining us onboard Le Laperouse for her inaugural Sub Antarctic voyage in February 2019."

"To be launched in mid 2018, this purpose-built small luxury expedition ship with just 92 suites and staterooms all with balconies, will provide an exceptional 'base camp' for daily activities as we explore these remarkable islands in the company of the rest of our specialist Expedition Team," continued Mick. "This is an extraordinary voyage where every fiord and island we visit is UNESCO World Heritage classified. No wonder the 2018 expedition sold out some time ago, so I recommend quick action to secure space on this February 2019 Le Laperouse voyage."

Sub Antarctic expedition overview:
16 nights Sub Antarctic Islands voyage departs Dunedin 23 February 2019 bound for the famous Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds and then on to The Snares and Auckland Islands and Australia's own Macquarie Island. This expedition includes Campbell, Antipodes and Bounty Islands en-route returning to Dunedin.

Macquarie and New Zealand Sub Antarctic Islands expedition

Comprehensive voyage details are available at:

23 February 2019 to 11 March 2019 - Dunedin - Dunedin  

LE LAPEROUSE, 17 days / 16 nights. 25% Ponant Bonus.

From A$13,300pp* in Deluxe Stateroom with balcony

*Ponant Bonus fare in AUD per person, based on a double occupancy, including port taxes, yield managed, correct at time of writing – 16/11/17. Refer to for T&Cs.

Fare includes accommodation onboard as booked, all meals onboard, selected wines, beers and spirits, Open Bar, 24 hour room service, Zodiac exploration and shore excursions, boot hire, lectures and presentations.

Please note: This is a limited offer.


To receive a copy of the PONANT Expedition brochure with complete details of this and 64 other expedition voyages, or for more information, please contact your travel agent or PONANT directly in Australia: 1300 737 178 or 612 8459 5000 / or in New Zealand: 0800 44 32 62

Or email to request your copy of Luxury Expeditions.

Further information available on the website:

Cruise the Mekong River with World Expeditions – and take the kids for free!


Take the kids for free on the family trip of a lifetime along the mighty Mekong River, from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the Cambodian town of Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, next July or October school holidays.

World Expeditions is offering a second cabin for two kids aged under 18 at no extra cost, when you book one cabin for two paying adults, at $3,290 per person. Price includes 7 nights aboard a luxury river cruiser and all meals.

The Mekong Explorer River Cruise Family Deal is valid on departures on 7 July, 4 August, 6 October and 20 October 2018 trips only and is strictly limited to availability.

More information at or call 1300 720 000.


First glimpse: National Geographic Quest in Panama

#expeditioncruising .

From aboard National Geographic Quest in Panama

(c) Lindblad Expeditions
First Impressions

It's always with some excitement that I get to sail aboard a brand new ship and especially when that ship is the first new build in Lindblad's history and the only purpose-built expedition ship designed and built from scratch in the USA thus far. I say 'thus far', because Quest will be joined by a sister vessel, Venture, in June 2018. The pair will replace the stalwart and much-loved vessels, Sea Bird and Sea Lion operating Alaska, Sea of Cortez and Latin America itineraries.

My first impression is that of a ship built expressly to purpose. Lindblad's 50 years of expedition cruising has certainly provided plenty of insight into what's needed in an expedition ship. NG Quest is unpretentious and sturdy, even utilitarian in design and appearance. Forget gleaming, mirrored salons, chandeliers and abstract canvas art. Instead we have a relaxing and versatile lounge designed for the dual purpose of lectures and AV screenings as well as refreshments, bar and library. Walls throughout are decorated with giant National Geographic images of stunning wildlife and vistas.

The 50 twin cabins are easily spacious enough for two and come in five categories across three decks, one of which includes private balconies. There are no TVs or minibars, but every category has a writing desk and ample storage. Help yourself beverages, tea, coffee and snacks are always available in the lounge.

Dining is in the single-sitting, bistro-style area at the stern (just below the sundeck) and serves both buffet and plated menus depending on the occasion. Food is healthy, fresh and nutritious served in modest portions. Lots of fruits and vegetables, baked and grilled lean meats with plenty of colour in the salad bar. Sorry, but I haven't found the all-you-can-eat pizza bar and hamburger stand yet – and I hope I don't.

Versatile lounge and bar (RE)

Great effort has gone into making this ship comfortable and practical for expedition itineraries. The transom or 'fantale' is located at the stern just above the water line and makes for hassle-free access to the Zodiacs, something many ships in today's global fleet still have trouble with.

Also aboard are double and single kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and snorkelling kit for all. At time of writing there is no provision for scuba diving, but I will keep asking. For healthy types there is a small gym and LEXspa treatment salon. A small 'Global Gallery' boutique/gift shop also stocks quality clothing and souvenirs.

NG Quest at anchor in Gatun Lake, Panama (RE)

Lindblad-National Geographic have always taken seriously the concept of 'low impact' travel. It pleases me to see every opportunity to minimise waste has been taken. Obvious things many cruise lines only pay lip service to like refillable bathroom gels and tough stainless water bottles filled (and refilled) from double-filtered taps and very minimal use of plastics. Hand-wash and sanitisation stations are in all public spaces.

It's an exciting time generally for expedition and adventure cruising around the world and it's great to see a pioneering brand like Lindblad preparing for the onslaught by strengthening their core values and not succumbing to flashy distractions.

For more information about travel on any of Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic vessels, see

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Wild Earth Travel in new partnership with Zegrahms

#expeditioncruising .

For nearly 30 years Zegrahm Expeditions have been discovering the world, they live this passion by taking inquisitive explorers to the farthest corners of the globe - on adventures by land and sea that are outside the realm of traditional travel.

Sample itinerary

Wild Earth Travel - the small ship cruising specialists.
View 2018 Small Ship brochure today! 


Monday, 4 December 2017

IAATO launches 'One Stop' app for Antarctic field staff and visitors

The launch of the new IAATO Polar Guide: Antarctica app makes it quick and easy for Antarctic staff and visitors to access essential information while in the field.                   

To mark Antarctica Day (1 Dec), the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has launched a free iOS and Android app for staff guiding visitors in Antarctica that makes it quick and easy for users on-the-go in the field to access essential information, without the need for a phone signal.

IAATO, a member organisation formed in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic, developed the new Polar Guide: Antarctica app to include existing operational procedures and guidelines for wildlife watching, visiting specific sites, being a responsible Antarctic visitor, preventing the introduction of alien species and more. The app is also intended to be a useful resource for anyone visiting or keen to learn more about Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty and the work being done to preserve the continent's extraordinary landscape and wildlife.

"The new IAATO Polar Guide: Antarctica app is the perfect support tool for IAATO staff in the field." said Lisa Kelley, IAATO Head of Operations. "Users can quickly refer to essential information in order to meet all IAATO and Antarctic Treaty System requirements for safe and ethical operations on and around the white continent.

"Given the importance of the Antarctic Treaty System for IAATO's mission of environmentally responsible travel and as a shining example of peaceful international collaboration, it seemed fitting to launch the app on Antarctica Day, which celebrates the signing of the Antarctic Treaty 58 years ago. "

IAATO members work together to develop, adopt and implement operational standards that mitigate potential environmental impacts.

The app will allow users to stay up to speed with the latest IAATO vessel and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) information for effective yacht and ship operations; and enable them to support Antarctic science and conservation while enhancing their experience in Antarctica by checking out selected citizen science projects.

Lisa added: "Antarctic travel, like other sectors, has changed and grown considerably over the last two decades. Our members are continuously researching new technology to strengthen our policy of safe and responsible travel while always abiding by Antarctic Treaty requirements.

"By using the IAATO Polar Guide: Antarctica App, you can feel confident that you are doing your utmost to protect Antarctica's great wilderness; a cause IAATO members have dedicated themselves to since the organisation's inception."

IAATO Polar Guide:  Antarctica can be downloaded now for iOS and Android.
Issued by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Cuba Small Ship Cruising: Into the ancient Valley of Tobacco


With Intrepid Travel and Peregrine Adventures in Cuba aboard MV Callisto

Benito Camejo Nodarse is a local legend in Cuba's western Pinar del Rio province, the UNESCO World Heritage region renowned as the supposed birthplace of modern tobacco cultivation.

"Date un toque," says Benito in typically charismatic style as he pours us both a shot of local rum, "kill the rat!" - which I take to mean 'hair of the dog' or similar.

I take mine neat like Benito and the clear liquid is surprisingly smooth and soothing, while others prefer a shot of the farm's other product, coffee. Mix the two and you have a 'carajillo' (goddam!)

Tucked away among similar, privately-owned farms of less than 25 acres each, Benito's family have been here in the Vinales Valley for five generations producing the valuable crop first cultivated right here by the Spanish in the 16th century. Modern tobacco is derived from the wild 'cohibo' weed used by the long gone Arawak indian 'belique' (shamans) during ceremonies. 

From that rough leafy plant sprung a most valuable primary product that has become a major contributor to the Cuban economy alongside coffee and sugar.

A few moments earlier, Benito's foreman, Ismael, had shown us the art of hand rolling the cigar into its familiar, leafy tube. Leaves from the mature plant are selected at different times and for different purposes and 'cured' in a thatched barn identical to those used by the early Spaniards. Leaves are hung on horizontal wooden poles for weeks to dry and 'cure'.

For instance, the top leaves are called 'volado' (hot) are harvested first and used as a binder for the cigar's contents. Next, a week or so later, the 'ligero' (light) leaves are plucked and used as the wrapper. Finally, the lower leaves or 'seco' (dry) ones are gathered and used for the filler. These will dictate the final flavour and aroma of the cigar.

Typically 90 percent of Benito's crop is selected for agreed government production under controlled conditions while any remainder is left for him to sell as he wishes. This is typically as 'cleanskin' cigars which come without any certified branding but smoke as well any Cohiba or Monte Cristo for a fraction of the price. Yes, I bought a clutch of 10 for not much more than a buck each.

From the Vinales Valley we continue southwest to meet MV Callisto, waiting for us at the farthest western point of the island, in the Guanahacabibes National Park. is travelling as a guest of Peregrine Adventures and Variety Cruises on the 'Cuba Panorama Cruising' itinerary aboard MV Callisto. See

  • Benito welcomes me to his farm as I enjoy one of his products. (RE) 
  • Foreman, Ismael, rolls a cigar in the age-old fashion (RE) 
  • New shoots appear, while in the background is Benito's traditional thatched tobacco 'barn'. (RE) 
  • The karsk outcrops typify the UNESCO-listed landscape and are surrounded by scores of tiny private tobacco farms. (RE)

Cuba Small Ship Cruising: Snapshots of Cuba

#expeditioncruising .

Cuba is one big story and myriad vignettes at the same time. Founded in Spanish colonial 16th century and fought over, argued about, raided, plundered and isolated on and off for the next 500 years, Cuba contains a distinct set of time capsules from every era of its tumultuous evolution.

Here are just a few 'freeze frame' captures from my last week on and around the island while sailing aboard Variety Cruises' MV Callisto with Peregrine Adventures.

Presidio Modelo (RE)

Isla Juventud: (Island of Youth) Just one of the five cavernous, abandoned jail blocks of the Presidio Modelo that once held both Fidel and Raul Castro following their arrest in 1953. The massive 'panopticon' prison is a carbon-copy of the Joliet Prison in Illinois. Construction began in the late 1920s and abandoned in 1959 following the Castro brothers' revolution. Most of the prisoners were political prisoners and quick to embrace the new regime. The island itself sees very few tourists and enjoys a relaxed lifestyle.

Late 1940s Ford Mercury

Pre-1960 US Cars: This magnificent Mercury convertible was parked on the cobbled, UNESCO World Heritage streets of Trinidad de Cuba in the country's south-east. For many years after the embargo, these vehicles were all Cubans had and their preservation was as much by necessity as nostalgia. Of course, most do not look as well kept as this example. The vast majority are pressed into service as ad hoc private taxis and seemed to be held together by magic as they rattle, belch and bounce along Cuba's pot-holed highways.

Cuban relief wood sculptor, Lazaro Niebla

Local artist, Lazaro Niebla: Most of the available Cuban souvenirs are a bland homogeneity of state-produced trinkets that seem to populate every street stall. Relief wood sculptor, Lazaro Niebla (43), is based in Trinidad de Cuba and a refreshing example of home-grown Cuban talent. His sculptures take about two weeks to complete and are carved from salvaged antique cedar windows and shutters. Each work represents an otherwise unremarkable elder of Cuba who he sees as the living heritage of the nation. Niebla has exhibited internationally and his works range in price from $2000-$15,000.

Cigar smoking woman in traditional colonial attire (RE)

Old Town, Havana: An unmistakable image of Havana are the ebullient women dressed in bright colonial attire who are delighted to pose for tips. Some solo, some in small groups, some with props like umbrellas, flowers or cigars, these ladies and their male equivalents have become one of the enduring tourism trademarks of the 500-year-old capital and blend harmoniously with the restored buildings around the city's central square. travelled as a guest of Peregrine Adventures and Variety Cruises on the 'Cuba Panorama Cruising' itinerary aboard MV Callisto. See

From today, we transfer to MSC Opera for a new Caribbean adventure.