Saturday, 30 April 2016

Comprehensive circumnavigation of Australia aboard Ponant

#expeditioncruising


Most comprehensive circumnavigation of Australia ever offered

Aboard the 5-star French mega yacht, L’Austral

* Save $5000 per couple – book by May 16, 2016

40 day expedition - 25 destinations including remote places such as the tip of Cape York - * Voyage includes complimentary drinks and zodiac excursions *

Two and a half centuries after French explorers extensively charted the mysterious ‘Terre Australe’ (southern land), the five-star French ‘mega yacht’, L’Austral, will embark on the most comprehensive circumnavigation of Australia ever offered.

The intimate 264-guest Ponant cruise ship will offer the line’s first round-Australia voyage on January 25, 2018, on the eve of Australia Day. The special 40-night expedition will visit 25 destinations, including small and remote places like the northern tip of Cape York inaccessible to the larger ships which normally circuit the continent. Bookings made through Cruise Express by May 16, 2016, will attract a saving of $2500 per person.

Rather than just visit capital cities and large ports, L’Austral’s in-depth voyage of the island continent will feature small towns such as Beauty Point in northern Tasmania – close to wineries and historic estates – and Grassy on King Island, famous for its premium dairy products. Also on the itinerary are Port Campbell just 10 km from the spectacular Twelve Apostles, Turquoise Bay near Ningaloo Reef and its beautiful marine life and also the tiny and isolated community of Thursday Island in Torres Strait.

The chic vessel will also call at pristine and remote locations where complimentary zodiac excursions will be offered ashore. These include the crescent of deserted beach at Wineglass Bay in Tasmania, Talbot Bay near the natural phenomenon of Horizontal Falls on the Kimberley coast and the Yirrkala indigenous community in Arnhem Land – home to renowned Aboriginal artists and the famous, indigenous rock band, Yothu Yindi. Passengers will also be taken ashore by zodiac to the northern-most tip of Australia at Cape York and onto the palm-fringed sands of Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling and swimming.

Other ports include Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln, Esperance, Broome, Wyndham, the Indonesian island of Selaru, Cooktown, Hamilton Island and Fraser Island, with optional tours offered from each destination.

A specialist expedition crew aboard L’Austral will offer lectures with information about upcoming ports during the cruise and also guide passengers during zodiac excursions. The luxury ship boasts two restaurants, three bars, a pool, theatre and library and is renowned for her gourmet cuisine, personalized service and intimate ambience.

Cabins on the landmark cruise are now available exclusively through Cruiseco agents such as Cruise Express. Including a full beverage package, gratuities and five zodiac excursions, fares on L’Austral’s 2018 circumnavigation are available from $26,500 per person, twin-share, if booked by May 16, 2016 – a saving of $2500 per person.

Call Cruise Express on 1300 764 509 or visit www.cruiseexpress.com.au 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Invitation: An introduction to Expedition Cruising with Wild Earth Travel

#expeditioncruising

An introduction to Expedition Cruising with Wild Earth Travel
- Thursday 5th May

Discover the world of Expedition and Small Ship Cruising during an evening with one of Australasia's most experienced Expedition Leaders. 

Aaron Russ will share his experiences leading small ship cruises to exotic locations and the travel opportunities that are available for you in destinations such as the Arctic, Alaska, South Pacific, Greek Islands and theGalapagos.

There will also be book on the day expedition cruise specials including: 
  • NW Passage - save up to $20 000 USD 
  • Save up to 50% - Galapagos 11 day 
  • Save up to 30% - South Pacific voyages 
  • Save up to $3800 - SE Asia small ship cruise
  • Save up to 30% - Antarctic Voyages 

         
More about Aaron Russ, GM of Wild Earth Travel 
Aaron Russ has led expeditions on over 100 small ship cruises to the world’s most interesting regions. With a degree in zoology, a passion for photography and a desire to showcase the world’s premier destinations, he is the perfect person to share his knowledge of small ship and expedition cruising with you. 

Date: Thursday 5 May
Time: Drinks and nibbles from 5.30 with presentation beginning at 6pm.
LocationKirribilli Club
11 Harbourview Crescent
Lavender Bay NSW 2060

Ensure that you don't miss out, RSVP today.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Four new ships for Hurtigruten

#expeditioncruising


Hurtigruten adds news ships to its fleet in record investment move to meet growing demand for adventure travel

Norwegian exploration travel company Hurtigruten has announced an order of up to four (Ed: two now, with an option for two more later) new explorer ships for 2018/19 sailings in a move to meet growing demand for adventure travel from holidaymakers across the globe.

The signing, which marks the largest investment Hurtigruten has made in its more than 120-years of exploring the Arctic and Antarctic waters, will open-up the polar waters and exciting new adventure opportunities.

Set to offer a host of activities for adventure seekers, from climbing and kayaking to rib-tours, whale and sea eagle safaris, the new vessels will embark on exploring some of the world's most exceptionally beautiful and unspoilt natural surroundings. Adventure tourism is one of the fastest growing global tourist trends valued at $263 billion*, and has witnessed an increase of 195% over just two years.


The order includes the construction of two new state-of-the-art vessels, which will be designed and customised specifically for adventure-rich expedition voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, as well as along the Norwegian coastline. Hurtigruten prioritises sustainability, and the new ships will be equipped with advanced environmentally-friendly technology to reduce emissions, underlining its vision of playing a lead role when it comes to green shipping.

Hurtigruten's new ships will also offer lectures on topics relevant to the destinations they sail to from experts in areas such as history, zoology, botany, and environmental science. In addition, experienced expedition teams will accompany passengers on educational excursions to isolated places only accessible by ships or zodiac boats.

Daniel Skjeldam, Hurtigruten's CEO says, "This is a milestone for us and an expression of our confidence in the growth of the global market for adventure tourism. We are to build the most formidable expedition ships the world has seen."

"People no longer want to spend their holiday time being passive spectators. The new adventure traveller is looking for authentic experiences, which is why sedentary, standardized travel packages are becoming less popular and active adventure travel is booming" Skjeldam adds. "Our experience is that explorers travelling with Hurtigruten crave adventurous activities and mindfulness in combination, therefore Hurtigruten offers active voyages. We offer real experiences in local environments, just steps away from the wildlife."

Magnus Zetterberg UK Managing Director of Hurtigruten explains further, "We offer our guests a truly unique experience on-board all of our ships. Every season we've seen an increase in demand from guests to travel with Hurtigruten for the unrivalled range of adventure activities we offer. It has been more than ten years since Hurtigruten last placed an order for the construction of a new ship so the prospect of being able to expand this with the arrival of new vessels is very exciting."

The agreement is testament to Norway's strong international position as a shipbuilding nation. It will also ensure Hurtigruten's position as world leading within adventure tourism in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Daniel Skjeldam adds, "We are proud to be a more than 120-year old pioneer company. Along parts of the Norwegian coast, Hurtigruten drew the charts - literally. We will bring this knowledge and know-how with us when we put the new ships into operation."

The 600-passenger vessels will be designed and developed by Rolls-Royce, with the assistance of renowned Norwegian ship designer Espen Øino, and built by Kleven, a longstanding partner.

From 2017, Hurtigruten will offer explorer travel to additional new destinations such as the Amazon Rainforest and Arctic Canada. And with the new explorer ships, guests will be able to land close to new completely new adventurous destinations.

*Statistic from the Adventure Tourism Development Index Report 2015

For more information contact your local Travel Agent, email Discover the World on hurtigruten@discovertheworld.com.au or call 1800 OCEANS (1800 623 267).

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Aboard MS Expedition: A sand blast on San Blas

#Expeditioncruising

From on board G Adventures MS Expedition in Panama
San Blas Islands, Panama
25 April 2016

G Adventures Zodiacs and local traffic mix in the waters off Carti Sugdub
Kuna lady displays her handmade embroidery, called 'mola'.

Kuna women in traditional costume.
I guess what makes the San Blas Islands so fascinating, is twofold. Firstly, their location in a quieter, yet very beautiful corner of the Caribbean and secondly, their curious autonomous status within the nation of Panama. The native Kuna people withdrew to these islands decades ago after pressure from landowners to either get with their program or ship out. The Kuna shipped out and stuck to their guns, declaring the San Blas Islands their own.

We came ashore on one of the lesser populated islands with a name like some Outer Rim planet: Carti Sugdub. We then relocated briefly to tiny Isla Perlo Chico for some frolicking in the water. Finally we ended up at not-much-larger Wylie Island for lunch of fried fish and chicken in a cute overwater restaurant/bar.

You'd be hard-placed to fit a soccer pitch on either of these last two 'islands' but each contain a bar, backpacker-style lodge, Kuna women's pop-up handicraft stalls and a tiny marina of sorts. Even though the area is apparently free of destructive storms, there must be some hazards, as two wrecks are nearby, one very recent, the other very old.

Away from the populated islands, the water is crystal clear, the white sand warm and the coconut trees sway ever so slightly in the gentle breeze. The visitors, I'm told come from all over, but mostly from Panama City for a genuine tropical island escape from the concrete and glass canyons of the burgeoning capital.

On Carti Sugdub, the scene is not so idyllic. The 1000 or so residents live cheek-by-jowl in cement and thatch shacks that extend right to the water's edge with no room for wheeled transport anywhere in the narrow alleys. Much of the available space is taken up by optimistic Kuna ladies displaying their very lovely embroidery, called 'mola'.

Again, the debris of modern consumerism in the form of discarded plastic bottles and non-biodegradable trash is everywhere. Communal latrines simply hang over the low concrete seawall where the bottom is lined with all manner of sunken stuff. A few lonely solar panels fill in for street lights and every second roof sports a bright red satellite dish.

Okay, this is not the shiny or contrived tourism offering, this is the real, everyday deal for these people and, for better or worse, this is what expedition cruising is all about. If you want air-conditioned shopping malls with 'Made in China' trinkets lining the shelves and burger restaurants, then get on one of the big ships with 2000 others and snuff out what's left of any genuine culture. You can't have it both ways.

While there were some frowns and sideways glances, G Adventures and their guests actively promote conservation and recycling efforts in many of the destinations they visit through their Planeterra Foundation. The San Blas Islands will have to go on next year's list for now.


All words and images (c) Roderick Eime


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Monday, 25 April 2016

Aboard MS Expedition: Maiden transit of the Panama Canal

#expeditioncruising

From on board G Adventures MS Expedition in Panama
Maiden transit of the Panama Canal.
24 April 2016

MS Expedition approaches Miraflores Locks
G Adventures expedition staff celebrate
The memorial plaque

Today I shared a first with G Adventures' flagship, MS Expedition. We both made our very first passage through the famous Panama Canal, that century-old engineering feat that joined – at great human cost – the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans by digging a whopping (80km) trench across the Panama isthmus.

Normally a vessel of this size would be required to travel at night when conditions were safer. The big Panamax ships (built to maximum canal dimensions) are the ones allowed to travel during daylight hours for maximum visibility, but G Adventures insisted on delivering maximum enrichment to guests and secured a daytime slot at some expense.

I will detail the entire, lengthy process in a later article, but to give you some idea, it was basically an all-day affair, entering the first (southern) lock at Miraflores after breakfast and exiting the northern end at Colon just before dinner. Watching the big ships squeeze in and out of the 100-year-old, 32m wide concrete compartments, each filled with more than 100 million litres of water, is quite a spectacle. And to think this whole shebang was designed in the late 19th century, well before any decent computing devices were available, is quite amazing.

There was quite the celebration aboard ship as the MS Expedition entered the first lock around 9am. This whole process was viewed via webcam at www.pancanal.com.

Cruise ships make up barely seven per cent of all canal traffic, but the Norwegian Pearl enjoys the distinction of paying the highest toll: US$490,000. This is calculated on the base rate of $5.10 per nett ton, but numerous add-ons, like pre-booking fee quickly add to the overall cost. The minimum costs for any vessel (eg private yachts) is currently US$800 and the lowest cost ever paid was 36c by Mr Richard Haliburton who swan the canal over the space of a week in 1928.

The fastest vessel through the canal was the USS Pegasus (a hydrofoil) that completed the transit in 2hr41mins in 1979. In its lifetime, more than one million vessels have transited the canal. Already expansion works are well progressed to allow even larger ships (from max width of 32m to 49m) which will, if claims prove true, effectively double the capacity of the canal.

Further reading: Cruising the World's Great Canals
https://issuu.com/rodeime/docs/ftb46_cruiseregionfocus_rod

All words and images (c) Roderick Eime www.travography.com

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Aboard MS Expedition: Panama City exploration

Contrasting skylines of Panama City
Street in the old quarter
Panama Hats. About US$25 will get one.
From on board G Adventures MS Expedition in Panama
Panama City shore excursion
23 April 2016

From its inauguration in 1519 by Spanish conquistador, Pedro Arias Dávila,
Panama City has been a waypoint for treasure seekers and gold diggers. In
fact, so infuriated were the English that they sent the rampaging
privateer, Henry Morgan, to sack the fledgling city in 1671. Morgan took
gold, silver and hostages before leaving the place in flames.

The city was relocated and rebuilt, but succumbed to several subsequent
fires leaving the old city, now UNESCO listed, with a mixture of
architectural styles from Spanish, French and Caribbean influences. Then
again in 1989, US forces invaded in order to capture the rogue president,
General Manuel Noriega, again leaving portions of the old neighbourhoods in
ruins.

Now with the revelation of the so-called Panama Papers, this renegade city
seems none to keen to shed its reputation for creative banking and currency
conjuring. Since 2000, the government have made all manner of enticements to
foreign investors and the new skyline has grown like bamboo shoots in the
steamy heat. Made up mainly of residential condominiums, there is also a
fair share of corporate and hotel developments including a new luxury Trump
tower. Some of the original real estate pricing was a little optimistic,
with many of the strata properties falling by as much as half of their
initial asking price. A decent condo, I'm told, can be acquired for as
little as US$250,000 these days.

Prior to our transit through the canal, we had time to wander the streets,
taking in sights, sounds and smells of the old town where many buildings are
under restoration, adding a curious blend of sad cosmopolitan decay and
trendy colonial rejuvenation.

As one might expect, tourist traders were out in force selling all manner of
trinkets, but the prize was certainly the genuine Montecristi, that
distinctive handwoven hat so typified by historic figures like Teddy
Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. This is despite origins of the hat actually
deriving from Ecuador. An 'Ecuador Hat' is apparently too much of a mouthful
and a marketing impediment.


Words and Images (c) Roderick Eime


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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Aboard MS Expedition: Survivor and the Panamanian pirate islands

From on board G Adventures MS Expedition in Panama
Mogo Mogo and Chapera Islands, Archipiélago de Las Perlas (Pearl Islands)
Friday 22 April 2016

Well, it's easy enough to deduce the origin of the name since a mighty 32
carat number was produced from the molluscs who still inhabit these shallow
waters south of Panama.

But the islands are full of stories of intrigue and skulduggery even to this
day. Pirates of the like of the 17th Century English privateer, Henry
Morgan, operated in these waters during the English/Spanish conflict of the
time and would have almost certainly have used the Pearl Islands as a
hideout in between looting galleons and trashing Panama City.

Our activities were far more sedate. Zodiacs took guests ashore at both the
uninhabited Mogo Mogo and adjacent Chapera for swimming and lazing about.
The latter has been in the media in recent times for a number of reasons.
Many believe it was a drug staging point for the infamous Noriega prior to
his arrest by US authorities and soon after the island was purchased
outright by another drug baron, the Colombian Nelson Oriega. The figure of
1.5 million dollars was mentioned. He then built a sprawling beach house on
a point overlooking the two islands but had the entire package confiscated
after he annoyed someone in the Panamanian government. Oriega spent seven
years in prison on a hastily concocted money laundering charge and is
currently suing for the island's return.

Many will remember the island as the setting for one of the early 'Survivor'
TV Series and the producers of the evergreen reality TV show are currently
in the process of building a new set for a return installment. Our Zodiacs
stumbled on the crew at work and gained some unwelcome stares from the set
builders and their burly, shirtless security thugs. Secrecy would seem an
impossible task as the waters just offshore make a popular route for
yachties. That and the nearby populated island of Isla Contadora with its
many elite mansions would make the activity hard to conceal. So, you heard
it here first, Survivor returns to Panama! Location: 8.60, -79.03

Images:

* ex-pat expedition guide, Brandon, relives an episode of Survivor at Mogo
Mogo
* The former drug lord's mansion on Chapera, now occupied by the Panamanian
Coast Guard
* Dirty looks from Survivor TV series security as their new secret location
is sprung




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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Aboard MS Expedition: Native welcome to Panama

#expeditioncruising

Village of Mogue, Rio Mogue
Thursday 21 April 2016

The stifling heat and humidity persisted, but our excitement remained
undiminished as we set out for the Darien Jungle Reserve to meet the Embera
people who live in the village of Mogue along the river of the same name.

We arrived in a small fleet of locally made 'dugouts', rough but rugged
wooden runabouts driven by small outboard motors, after navigating the
winding river a couple of kilometres inland. Dazzling little kingfishers
flitted among the leaves while herons and ibis patrolled the banks in search
of the little crabs that fearfully scampered in and out of their holes in
the mud.

The village sustains a population of about 500 residents spread out in
spartan but sturdy stilted huts made from quality local hardwood so prized
by the loggers.

Even though I was in another country in another hemisphere on the other side
of the world, I couldn't help making comparisons with the lands and people
of Melanesia who likewise live in isolation, trying to preserve their
ancient culture and homelands from the [insert your own adjective]
influences of Westernised culture.

This proud and attractive ethnic group live a largely subsistence lifestyle
amid the dense jungle and mangrove swamps on the south-western coast of
Panama. Here they grow the most succulent pineapples and watermelons in the
rich soil and, thanks to a large degree from responsible tourism, maintain
some elements of their traditional culture through handicrafts, song and
dance.

The influences of modern 'civilisation' could not be ignored. Some curious
residents filmed us with camera phones and all about the village were
plastic soft drink bottles and scraps of crisp and sweet packets. One of our
guides despaired at the issues of trash disposal, while another enlightened
us as to how he and some of the villagers were repurposing compactable
plastics into house bricks and pavers.

The debate continues: how to preserve and integrate tourism into a delicate,
isolated culture while maintaining that culture's dignity and integrity. In
my opinion, while it is being conducted by sensitive and considerate
operators working with properly trained professional guides, it works as
well as can reasonably be hoped. The alternative is for these politically
vulnerable people to fall prey to the darker side of capitalism.

Images:

* Local dugouts navigate the Rio Mogue
* G Adventures guests treated to performances in the village square
* Young Embera women perform traditional dance
* Portrait




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Friday, 22 April 2016

Aboard MS Expedition: Steaming wet Colombia

It quickly became known as the 'death march'. A little melodramatic perhaps,
but after four hours hiking in scattered groups in what appeared to be in
circles with a local guide who quickly vanished from view every time we set
off, it was one of those events you had to laugh about.

Bahia Solano on the Pacific Coast of Colombia is a remote fishing and
subsistence agricultural village deep in the primary rainforest. The local
people are predominantly of African descent, made up from slaves who escaped
their Spanish masters hundreds of years ago and vanished into the jungle as
best they good. By all accounts, a successful ploy.

Groups from MS Expedition set off in different directions in the 97%
humidity. Some for a waterfall, others for a 'botanical garden', while our
objective was the remote village of Huina that, as it turned out, raised
cattle in large clearings in the 'primary' jungle. The trail was narrow
through dense jungle, muddy with frequent stream crossings, swelled by
recent rains. Those rains thankfully did not recur during our walk, but
there would have been those, myself included, who would have welcomed a
cooling shower even though I looked like I'd been standing in one already.

After a series of comical 'hide and seek' episodes amid the undergrowth, we
eventually emerged at a tiny beach resort which provided a trickle of WiFi
and very welcome cold Colombian lager.

Images:

* Group assembles at the beach head
* Local woodcutter with 'wild acacia' planks
* Jungle trail near Bahia Solano




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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Two passengers dead after Amazon cruise boat fire

#expeditioncruising


International Expeditions has confirmed that the vessel La Estrella Amazonica has been cleared to resume operations following an April 10 fire that affected a single cabin and led to the fatalities of the two guests in that cabin.

La Estrella Amazonica (PR Web)
The two victims, a couple from the US, were overcome by smoke in their cabin apparently from a faulty power board supplied by the boat caught fire at around 2am.

The Hammer family. Daughters are demanding answers (supplied)
The children of the victims have been critical of the cruise line's safety procedures, emergency response and apparent unseemly haste at which the vessel was cleared for resumption of service as well as information about their parents' death.



Aboard MS Expedition: Isla dela Plata - Tiny island with a silver lining.

From on board G Adventures MS Expedition in Ecuador
Tuesday 19 April 2016

Expedition cruising is all about making discoveries and this little landmass
a few kilometres off the coast of Ecuador is one such example.

Ecologists and naturalists delight in the study of seabirds in an
environment not unlike the Galapagos Islands, several hundreds of kilometres
farther to the west. The magnificent frigate birds and delightful
blue-footed boobies nest here in abundance and are visited by many more
migratory species including the majestic waved albatross and tiny Tennessee
warbler.

Part of the coastal Machalilla National Park that embraces the town of
Puerto Lopez, Isla de la Plata and its fragile population enjoys the same
protection. Visitors can enjoy any number of guided hikes around the island
to see the nesting sites or snorkel in the waters where, if you're lucky,
the giant oceanic manta rays sometimes pass by.

The human history is just as fascinating and it is this that gives rise the
island's name, which in English translates to 'Island of Silver'. One
character connected to the islands is Sir Frances Drake. The knighted pirate
(or privateer, if you prefer) is said to have hidden great quantities of
looted treasure from the Spanish galleons as they made their way back to the
royal court of Spain from Peru. While small trinkets have been discovered,
the 'mother lode' of treasure, if it exists, is yet to be unearthed.

Images:

* Map showing location of Isla de la Plata
* Hikers climb to nesting sites along 'Fragatas' trail.
* Male frigate bird displays distinctive pouch

The writer is travelling as a guest of G Adventures [www.gadventures.com]




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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Aboard MS Expedition: Earthshaking Welcome to Ecuador

Guide showing hiking options on Isla dela Plata
Frigatebirds fill the air above the island
Male Frigatebird displays

From on board G Adventures MS Expedition in Ecuador
Sunday 17 April, Monday 18 April 2016


"First the whole building shook, then I could hear the masonry and glass
falling," my excited roommate Geoff told me as I unpacked my bags in the
Hilton Colon, near the airport at Guayaquil.

My plane was already on approach to land when we were diverted at the last
minute to Quito. It was certainly a dramatic welcome to Ecuador!

The Hilton fared much better than some buildings and I soon learned that
hundreds of people were dead in the South American country after the biggest
quake in decades, a 7.8. But by the time I arrived, the debris inside the
hotel was swept up and the disco was back in full swing.

The following morning we set off as per schedule on our coach to meet G
Adventures MS Expedition at the port town of Salinas. Ecuador seems to take
this in its stride.

After some deft wrangling with authorities, caught up in the state of
emergency, we were able to gain permission to land at our first stop, Isla
de la Plata, a protected island just off the coast of Ecuador with an
ecology very similar to Galapagos with tottering Blue-Footed Boobies ambling
about the pathways and Frigatebirds gracing the skies over head.

With 97 per cent humidity and heat to match, groups set out to hike the
rough trails to see the nesting birds and endemic flora species.

Heading north, we crossed the equator about 9pm en route to Colombia and
Panama.




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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Historian Louie Kamookak Follows in the Footsteps of the Ill-Fated Franklin Expedition

#expeditioncruising



Inuit Ancestral Stories come to Life 

Louie Kamookak, an Inuit historian who played a significant role in the 2014 discovery of HMS Erebus, the long-lost vessel of British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, is to lead a ground search using oral traditions to find the remains of that ill-fated expedition of 1845.

Missing: Sir John Franklin
In collaboration with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), polar cruise specialist, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE), is honouring Mr Kamookak's enormous and continuing contribution to Canadian history by sponsoring the Humahuk Expedition in the summer of 2016, which will walk across the Arctic in the footsteps of his great grandmother's stories, in search of the remains of Sir John Franklin.

For more than three decades, Kamookak, from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, has been researching the Franklin expedition by spending time interviewing elders and collecting stories passed down through generations of Inuit about the location of the perilous and tragic expedition.  These compelling ancestral stories are now calling Kamookak back to the land to lead an expedition of his own.  The story is chilling yet inspiring as it reinforces the importance of Inuit oral traditions and their essential historic contribution for generations to come.

Louie Kamookak explains:  "For well over 30 years, I have been fascinated by the mystery of Sir John Franklin, and his fated expedition. This fascination, which has led to over a dozen expeditions in and around King William Island, was inspired by a story told to me by my late, great grandmother.  In her younger years, she shared with me that she had come upon artefacts and a grave, which she believed to be connected to the Franklin Expedition.  The drive to find these artefacts and grave, and connect my great grandmother's story with an answer to the great Canadian mystery, has since guided my work, and will serve as the inspiration for this expedition".

One Ocean Expeditions' Managing Director, Andrew Prossin, comments:  "OOEs' contribution to this historic land-based Humahuk Expedition this summer, in collaboration with the RCGS, is something we take great pride in.  It demonstrates our commitment to the Arctic and the preservation and sharing of Inuit culture".

He continues:  "OOE's support and involvement of cultural, environmental and scientific educational programmes is what we are all about.  The diversity of our programmes, our experience navigating the Arctic, combined with our staff knowledge and support of special initiatives, is what sets us apart".

One Ocean Expeditions' Canadian Arctic Expedition cruise season starts August 1st, 2016 with varied itineraries exploring Baffin Island, and the Northwest Passage.  Prices start at US$5195 per person.

For more information on One Ocean Expeditions' Arctic 2016/17 cruises please visit:

http://www.oneoceanexpeditions.com/arctic/dates_and_prices.php

For more information on the Humahuk Expeditions please visit:

http://www.rcgs.org/programs/expeditions/2016-humahuk-expedition-one-ocean.asp

Thursday, 14 April 2016

'Kimberley Quest' captain charged with dealing meth

#expeditioncruising

  • Police uncovered bagged-up ice and smoking utensils on board the vessel 
  • The joint owner of the Kimberley Quest II Jeff Ralston, 55, was arrested 
  • He was charged with possessing a prohibited drug with intent to sell
  • Ralston was due to captain a $20,000 two-week cruise to Kimberley coast

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3537309/Police-uncovered-bagged-ice-board-Kimberley-Quest-vessel.html

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

New Ponant fleet announcement [video]

#expeditioncruising

Ultra modern fleet consolidates PONANT position as world leader in luxury expedition cruising

artist rendering
PONANT, in announcing the construction of four new ships, has firmly consolidated its position as the benchmark for the new style of luxury expedition cruising on a global scale.

Scheduled for delivery 2018 / 2019, the four ‘Explorer Class’ luxury expedition ships are being built in Europe by VARD, Norwegian subsidiary of Italian company Fincantieri, the shipyard responsible for the construction of PONANT’s current fleet of four sister ships. One of the world’s largest shipbuilding groups, with over 200 years of shipbuilding history, Fincantieri has more than 7,000 vessels to its name.

While many cruise lines are building larger and larger ships, PONANT is containing the size of ships and numbers of guests to ensure optimum balance of ship size, luxury facilities, service levels and guest comfort.

The fleet is designed for a specific type of traveller in mind. With just 92 oceanview Staterooms and Suites, all with private balconies, and a maximum of 180 guests cared for by 110 crew, created to appeal to inquisitive travellers eager to explore some of the extraordinary, lesser visited parts of the globe, in luxury.

Each of the four new ‘Explorer Class’ sister-ships will be 127m in length, 18m breadth, have a draught of 4.4m, efficient stabilisers, and feature two low emission near silent and vibration free electric-powered engines. These are smaller, updated versions of PONANT’s current world class segment-defining luxury expedition fleet.



Designed to be built with emphasis on environmental friendliness, safety, quality and passenger comfort, the new ice-rated ships will be equally at home navigating waters in the most challenging and vulnerable environments around the globe, be they polar conditions or tropical waters.

The first ship will be deployed directly to Australia, which is testament to the importance and growth from the Australian Pacific region. The ship will then remain in the Australasian and SE Asian region.

These compact ships lack for nothing in terms of comfort, equipment and facilities - a check-list of inclusions as if you were to specify features for your personal luxury expedition yacht. Across 7 decks you will find a spa, gym, observation lounge, choice of casual or more formal dining, main lounge and terrace deck, as well as interior and exterior bars, with an infinity glass-ended swimming pool adding a luxurious touch. Scuba facilities and a unique underwater observation lounge offer a choice of wet or dry options to explore the underwater world.

Zodiacs are the perfect vessel for intimate exploration or safe transfers and landings ashore, and so the rear marina deck has been specially designed to be raised or lowered to assist guest access to the ship’s 12 Zodiacs, with provision for boarding two craft at a time. Attention to detail.

In typical PONANT trademark style, the stylish interiors are thoughtfully penned by French architect and interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel, who also designed the current fleet’s interiors.

Restaurant dining offers flexible seating with choice of tables for two, four or six, memorable cuisine as defined by Ducasse Consulting, and a definitive selection of fine wines; while an Open Bar policy and 24 hour room service reflects the inclusions guests can expect.

Prestigious French partner products abound onboard, a reflection of sailing under the French flag. All in all a very civilised way to travel, imbued with PONANT’s trademark dash of panache.

PONANT Australia: 1300 737 178 or + 612 8459 5000 for additional information. Further information regarding PONANT’s current fleet and destinations is available on the website: www.ponant.com


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Aboard Stella Australis: A journey to the farthest south

#expeditioncruising

Cape Horn, at the very bottom of South America, celebrates its infamy as the southernmost point in the world before Antarctica. Sailors have feared these waters for centuries, known for their treacherous wind, waves and storms that can appear at a moments notice.

Passengers land on the precipitous Cape Horn (R Eime)
Date: 6 April 2016
Vessel: MV Stella Australis
Location: 55 deg 58'S, 67 deg 17'W – Isla Hornos (Cape Horn), Chile

Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, it was the only way to traverse the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans where, according to nautical legend, the devil himself drags massive chains, grinding the huge shackles while hauling them through the deadly seas.

Today the MV Stella Australis returns to this point on its last voyage of the season in an attempt to land guests at the loneliest lighthouse, still manned by a sole Chilean naval officer, Jose Alcalde de Mar and his wife, Natalia.

The attractive young couple, on their second 12-month assignment, set up home at this impossibly isolated station just last December, but this is likely to be their last posting.

Jose and Natalia: "No more lighthouses!"
“No more lighthouses!” Natalia tells me emphatically as we chat. Jose, meanwhile, cheerfully signs certificates for the passengers.

The tiny island that houses the lighthouse resembles the humps of a partly submerged dromedary camel, with the lighthouse on one and the famous Albatross Memorial on the other, the vertical sculpture only recently replaced and reinforced after having been blown down by 200kmh gusts in a recent storm. Embellished only by low tundra grasses and gnarly scrub, the location is otherwise devoid of vegetation. There are no trees at these low latitudes.

On the island, we spend our time marching headlong through sleeting drizzle, interspersed with flurries of fresh snowflakes, along the boardwalk installed by the cruise company. Events at either end, are celebrated with 'selfies' and snaps to remember the achievement.

Passengers brave wind and sleet to hike on Cape Horn (R Eime)
The Chilean-flagged and privately owned Australis Cruises company have the exclusive right to operate expedition-style programs in the national parks that make up this remote region of Patagonia. Ferrying passengers in the reliable Zodiac rigid inflatable (RIB) tenders as used on most every ship in the world's expedition fleet, visitors enjoy shore excursions that include short hikes to the glaciers and in the forests and trails on the many islands that make up this part of the world.

Another signature excursion is ashore at Wulaia Bay, once the home of many indigenous Yamana people and first described by Charles Darwin and Captain Fitzroy in 1830. The Yamana are long gone, victims to the many social and biological hazards introduced by the Europeans. A small pod of resident dolphins escort us as we make our way to shore where a short but strenuous hike through the Magellanic forest of lengas, coigues, canelos and ferns is rewarded with panoramic views across Wulaia and neighbouring Nassau Bay.

View of Wulaia Bay, once home to the Yamana people (R Eime)
In between stops, Stella Australis leisurely winds its way through the many, mostly sheltered, passages and channels between the uninhabited islands, delighting us with vistas of pristine forest framed by snow-capped mountains in the distance. First navigated by Magellan in 1520, it was the East India Company who later secured exclusive rights to the passage which bore the Portuguese navigator's name.

Ushuaia in Argentina, dubbed the southernmost city in the world with 60,000 inhabitants, is the turnaround point and my embarkation port for the 3-night return voyage. The alpine-like town at the foot of the Andes is relatively quiet in early April. The last of the fleet of Antarctic cruise ships left the previous week, leaving the streets all but devoid of usual throngs of designer wear expeditioners shopping for souvenirs and awaiting their departures.

I use my time to explore the maritime museum housed in the former jail, now part of the Argentine naval base. Yes, Ushuaia was for much of its early existence a tough penal colony with conditions resembling the famous prisons in Australia like Port Arthur. After 50 years of operation, the 'presidio' was only closed as recently as 1947. Inside are displays devoted to early Antarctic explorers, pioneers, prison life and the enigmatic indigenous Yamana people, now long gone.

Yamana family, about 100 years ago.
With today's fleet of modern and hardy expedition vessels, explorers can look forward to an infinitely more comfortable experience than the many intrepid souls who endured such conditions in the fragile wooden and steam sailing ships of yore.

Facts:

Australis operates 3-, 4- and 7-night programs between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia from September until April annually. See www.australis.com for details. Bookings can be made by through South American specialist agency, Movidas [www.movidas.com.au]

South America Experts
South America Experts



Monday, 4 April 2016

Mississippi cruise aboard brand new Louisiane



Cruise to the Rhythms of the Deep South

Cruiseco, the leading provider of worldwide cruising options, is delighted to offer travellers a once-in-a-lifetime voyage aboard Louisiane, the first premium, boutique riverboat to explore America's heartland - Rhythms of the Deep South.  Operated by French America Line and exclusively chartered by Cruiseco, Rhythms of the Deep South will depart from New Orleans on 26 October 2016, and embark on a 14 night voyage through the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Red Rivers to Nashville.

Amber Wilson, General Manager, Sales & Marketing at Cruiseco said:

"Louisiane is set to offer America's first boutique luxury riverboat experience, evoking all the charm, passion and mystique of Louisiana.  This unique all-inclusive itinerary delves into the French colonial roots of America's heartland and Deep South, offering guests the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of southern hospitality and an exciting mix of jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll and country and western music scenes."



Louisiane offers the luxurious splendour of a traditional riverboat with the luxury of a modern day décor and facilities.  With a maximum capacity of just 150 passengers, Louisiane offers some of the largest staterooms and suites of any riverboat, measuring up to 350 square feet and featuring verandas and French balconies.  Aboard the Louisiane, guests will also enjoy classic French food from Parisian trained chef, author and restaurateur, Regina Charboneau.

Highlights of this voyage include exploring: the famous Cathedral of St Louis in New Orleans; the stunning mansions at the Oak Alley Plantation; as well as an exclusive after-hours private tour of Graceland in Memphis, the home of 'The King', Elvis Presley.  Musical performances are also part of this spectacular itinerary with visits to the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly country music stage concert which was founded in 1925, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

For all new bookings on the Rhythms of the Deep South aboard Louisiane, prices start from AU$9,320 per person, based on a twin share.  Prices include: comprehensive premium shore excursions led by expert guides offering personal listening devices; daily breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner; alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including artisanal coffees, imported teas, soft drinks, house brand spirits and beers and house select red & white wines; complimentary WiFi (where available); 24-hour room service; gratuities to dining room, bar, cabin and expedition staff; and port fees.

To find out more about Cruiseco or these voyages, visit www.cruising.com.au or call (02) 9492 8520.  

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Venture to the End of the World and beyond with Silversea

#expeditioncruising



From snow-capped mountains to peaceful fjords, calving glaciers and sculpted icebergs, guests can experience a remarkable medley of landscapes along the Antarctic Peninsula, aboard Silver Explorer, as she embarks on an 18-day journey.

Departing Valparaiso on 14 November 2016, Silver Explorer commences her expedition through Chile first porting at Puerto Chacabuco, before cruising through the English Narrows and past Pio XI Glacier and the Chilean Fjords, all while Silversea's expert Expedition Team tell of the history of early Spanish explorers.

From Punta Arenas, capital of Chile's southernmost region, Silver Explorer then cruises through the Drake Passage where guests may catch a glimpse of the multitude of seabirds and whales inhabiting the area.  Over the next five days, guests will sail along the Antarctic Peninsula with ample time to encounter the region's native wildlife including elephant seals and Gentoo penguins, and explore the vast white wilderness via Zodiac.  Travelling through the Drake Passage once more, this voyage concludes in Ushuaia, Argentina with guests disembarking on 02 December 2016.

Prices are per person, starting from AU$30,350 based on double occupancy in a View Suite.  Guests that book and pay in full before 30 April 2016, will receive a 10% saving (AU$27,315) as part of Silversea's Early Booking Bonus.

Silversea Expeditions' fares include: all shore and Zodiac excursions hosted by an expedition leader; all-suite accommodation with butler service; gourmet meals with menus inspired by Relais & Châteaux; complimentary wines, Champagne and spirits served throughout the ship; an outstanding expedition team of expert guides and lecturers; complimentary WiFi and all gratuities.

This voyage is subject to availability.  Terms and conditions apply.  For more information, contact your travel professional or Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or 1300 306 872 or visit www.silversea.com.


Friday, 1 April 2016

New books from New Holland this April for your adventure library

#expeditioncruising

The Voyages of Captain Cook

By Jason K. Foster

Captain James Cook (1728–1779) was one of the most influential explorers in history. Cook sailed thousands of nautical miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe, discovering new lands and mapping vast areas of the Pacific Ocean. His achievements not only included the discoveries of countless islands, exotic peoples and previously unknown flora and fauna, but they also led to the settlement of Australia in 1788 and ultimately, changed the world. The Voyages of Captain Cook is the story of his thrilling and perilous voyages around the world.

RRP: $19.99 | Hardback | April 2016




Ultimate Wildlife Destinations

By Samantha Wilson

In a world where bucket list activities and once-in-a-lifetime experiences are more possible than ever before, it is the wilds of the natural kingdom and its majestic and often eccentric inhabitants that fuel the wanderlust. From tracking jaguars in Brazil and hiking in Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains to cruising the Azores to spot blue whales, the opportunities for exploration and adventure are endless. Containing 100 carefully chosen destinations, Ultimate Wildlife Destinations will take readers on a journey across oceans and polar ice caps, rainforests and mountain peaks in search of the most astounding creatures on the planet.

RRP: $29.99 | Paperback | April 2016