Thursday, 20 April 2017

Island Escape cruises in Tahiti


Escape to Tahiti Like a Pop Star or President 

Tahiti Tourisme is offering Australian travellers the chance to relax like a rock star or take time out like a talk show host with a series of star-studded holiday packages now on sale.

Proving it's the world's pre-eminent island destination, some of the most famous people on the planet have chosen The Islands of Tahiti as their ultimate getaway in recent weeks.

Once owned by Marlon Brando, The Brando – an exclusive eco-resort on Tetiaroa – has been a playground for celebrities on "spring break", hosting a former president and talk show host on its idyllic shores.

A rock star and Oscar-winning actor have also taken advantage of the privacy of a luxury yacht to sail around the Society Islands, anchoring in the crystal clear lagoon of island paradise Huahine.

Meanwhile one of the music industry's most iconic couples took time out from their busy schedules to enjoy a babymoon at a Bora Bora resort.

Tahiti Tourisme Director Australia New Zealand Robert Thompson said the Islands of Tahiti had always been popular with celebrities as it offered the chance to truly get away.

"The Islands of Tahiti are world-renowned for their picture-perfect lagoons and palm-fringed beaches but what some visitors enjoy most is the destination's exclusivity and privacy," Mr Thompson said.

"Privacy is the ultimate luxury and it comes naturally in The Islands of Tahiti, which offer all visitors the freedom and space to truly relax in their own private haven."

Tahiti Tourisme is inviting holidaymakers to experience the Islands of Tahiti like a VIP with a range of great packages:

Indulge in a babymoon like a pop star with a seven-night package including five nights in an overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort,  return economy flights with Air Tahiti Nui from Australia and transfers throughout including inter-island flights, from $5799* per person twin share.

Sail around the Society Islands like a movie star onboard the 24-passenger luxury small ship Island Escape, which offers the ultimate comfort as guests explore coves and islands that are inaccessible to larger ships. Prices start from $7199* per person twin share including the seven-night cruise, two nights at Manava Suite Resort Tahiti, return economy flights with Air Tahiti Nui from Australia, transfers throughout and inter-island flights.

Escape like some of the most famous couples in the world with a five-night package including three nights in a luxurious private beachfront villa at the Brando on Tetiaroa, two nights at Intercontinental Tahiti Resort, return economy flights with Air Tahiti Nui from Australia and transfers throughout including inter-island flights, from $8799* per person twin share. The all-inclusive resort offers all meals, beverages, excursions and a spa treatment.

For more information or to book visit www.tahititravel.com.au

*Subject to availability, conditions apply.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Arctic cruise experiences off the beaten track in 2017

#expeditioncruising

Australian travellers will have more reasons than ever to go on a polar adventure this year with Polar Specialist Chimu Adventures expanding their travel options to include a variety of off the beaten track Arctic itineraries.

Whether it's crossing the magnificent scenery surrounding Greenland, spotting polar bears in the Arctic's 'capital of wildlife' Spitsbergen, or following the footsteps of the early Arctic explorers on a voyage across the iconic Northwest Passage, Chimu's Arctic experiences will appeal to discerning travellers who have their heart set on seeing and experiencing one of the most seldom visited destinations on earth.

Apart from taking in some of the planet's most inspiring sceneries, the journeys also offer wildlife excursions as well as cultural visits and on-board lectures about the Arctic's local history and culture.

Itineraries encompass a vast range of experiences in destinations including the North Pole, Greenland, Spitsbergen, the Canadian Arctic and the Russian Arctic.

Highlights include:

-         The 8-day Realm of the Polar Bear (on sale - now priced from AU$ 3,518), is the ultimate introduction to the Arctic taking in the Spitsbergen area in-depth that is commonly referred to as the Arctic's 'capital of wildlife'. On this best value trip, travellers have a high chance of seeing the elusive polar bear and other prominent wildlife species while cruising the region's scenic glaciers, fjords and ice fields.

-         On the 15-day Arctic Highlights (on sale - now priced from AU$ 5,660), travellers can tick off not just one but several bucket list items. Taking in the best of Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland, this trip provides guests with a great chance of seeing polar bears and the Northern Lights.

-         The 13-day Top of the World (early bird sale - now priced from AU$ 36,345) is the ultimate way to see the North Pole. Guests will cruise aboard a state-of-the-art icebreaker, crush through multiyear ice on the Arctic Ocean, take in the rarely visited Russian Arctic archipelago before being presented with the once in a lifetime opportunity of standing at the top of the world.

-        The 17-day Northwest Passage: Epic High Arctic (priced from AU$ 16,255) is an in-depth exploration of the High Arctic with the North West Passage and its history being a major focus of this voyage. Following the footsteps of Sir John Franklin, this cruise explores the stunning fjords and icebergs of the Canadian Arctic, and travellers will visit traditional Inuit communities and learn about the Arctic's history and culture.

 "We have seen huge organic growth in demand for our Antarctica cruises over the last 18 months with an increasing number of travellers returning from their trips hungry for their next polar adventure. With most of our Antarctica vessels already operating in the Arctic, it was the next logical step for us to expand into this new destination" said Chad Carey, co-founder of Chimu Adventures.

"Even the most seasoned traveller will be blown away by the inspiring features that make up the Arctic – its mind-blowingly distinctive wildlife, picturesque sceneries, fascinating history and culture. For us, we really want to provide our travellers with an immersive experience that goes beyond the 'ordinary' expedition cruise and our travel options perfectly reflect this mission."

For more information, visit: http://www.chimuadventures.com/destinations/arctic-cruises

*Prices are subject to change ; terms and conditions apply.

www.chimuadventures.com

World Expeditions Antarctic Voyages Sale




#expeditioncruising

Save on selected World Expeditions active' Antarctic Voyages

Get active and save up to US$3,100 on World Expeditions' Antarctic Sale.  Choose between a 30 day historic voyage following the routes of past explorers, a 12 day base camp expedition, with free camping, kayaking, mountaineering, hiking and snowshoeing – or something in between.

On the 30 day Ross Sea Explorer -  Footsteps of Scott & Shackleton, which departs Invercargill, New Zealand on 10 January 2018 and 08 February 2018, you'll save US$2,230 on a main deck twin room, now US$20,070 per person, reduced from US$22,300 or save US$2,400 on a superior room, now US$21,600 per person, reduced from US$24,000.  This expedition is the ultimate Antarctic voyage in one of the most remote regions in the world and is only accessible for two months each year when the ice thaws. Visit historic huts of the early explorers including Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen. Voyage through the breeding grounds of Adelie and Emperor penguins, and enjoy landings on the Sub-Antarctic Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands.



Save up to US$2,150 per person on the 11 day Antarctic Experience, which departs 6 December and costs from US$5,750 per person (down from US$7,200 per person). An ideal introduction to the Great White continent, see albatross and petrels as we cross the Drake Passage when the first huge icebergs come into view, along with a wide variety of wildlife including seals, whales and an abundance of penguin and other birdlife.

For the ultimate active experience in Antarctica, board the 12 day active Antarctic Basecamp Cruise, which includes camping, kayaking, mountaineering, hiking and snowshoeing.  Departing 4 November, you'll save between US$1,600 on a quad porthole room (reduced from US$7,950 to US$6,350 per person and US$2,350 (reduced from US$11,850 to US$9500 per person on a superior room.

Other trips on sale include the 15 November Weddell Sea - In search of Emperor Penguins (save up to $3,100) and the 29 November Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula (save up to $1,200).

Join World Expeditions' Antarctic experts at free information nights in Melbourne (4 May), Brisbane (10 May), Sydney (18 May) and Adelaide, (23 May) to hear about the suite of Antarctic expeditions.

Offer valid until cabins are sold out; however availability is limited.  Call 1300 720 000 or visit www.worldexpeditions.com for full terms and conditions.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Silversea Previews Major Redesign for Silver Explorer

#expeditioncruising .


Silversea's luxury expedition ship Silver Explorer will welcome guests to a stylishly elevated onboard experience starting with her May 20 voyage, sailing from Lisbon to Honfleur. A comprehensive stem-to-stern refurbishment is scheduled for the end of April and will take place during a nearly three-week dry dock in Las Palmas. Plans call for a complete renovation of Silver Explorer's interior decoration, creating a revitalized atmosphere throughout the ship. As part of its $170 million fleet-wide refurbishment program, the company is making a significant investment to ensure that guests enjoy a renewed sense of luxury and comfort when sailing aboard Silver Explorer. Highlights of the renovation include:

Refreshed Public Spaces: The ship's overall color scheme will shift to an elegant new palette of blue and beige tones, which guests will first notice in the remodeled reception area. The rich new look will be carried throughout the ship with the installation of attractive new carpets and wall treatments in the corridors, staircases and all public spaces.

In addition to new carpets and wall treatments, the Observation Lounge, Panorama Lounge, and Connoisseur's Corner will be updated with all-new furniture. The restaurant's buffet counters, ceiling and walls will get a makeover and the furniture will be refashioned with new upholstery. The theater's bar will be completely redesigned and its banquette seats refreshed with new upholstery. A new boutique will be built in the space previously occupied by the library, while the reference and entertainment materials from the library will be moved to the Observation Lounge. Also set for a spruce-up are the spa and fitness center, which will double in size by taking over the area occupied by the original boutique. Plus, the Outdoor Grill will be enhanced with a new awning.

Elevated New Décor for Suites: The ship's all-suite accommodations will be completely renovated with new carpets, wall treatments, curtains, and furniture, including mattresses, headboards, wardrobes, bedside tables, vanity desks, sofa beds, armchairs, flatscreen TVs and lighting fixtures. In all but the largest suites (i.e., Medallion Suites and higher), the bathrooms will be enhanced with new flooring, granite appointments and rainforest showers (replacing tub-and-shower combinations). Suites with verandas will be outfitted with new veranda furniture. And the eight Expedition Suites on Decks 3 and 4 will be converted into 16 Vista and View Suites, with most featuring a connecting door for the convenience of families and friends traveling together.

The remodeled Silver Explorer will accommodate 144 guests in all-inclusive luxury as she sails to the world's most remote destinations—from the Arctic, Antarctica and Africa to the Americas, French Polynesia, and the Russian Far East. Guests will enjoy sumptuous cuisine, the personalized service of a butler, and a generous selection of shipboard amenities included in the fare, such as complimentary beverages, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet, and at least one free hour of Wi-Fi per guest, per day.

In true Silversea Expeditions style, guests will be enriched by an onboard program of destination lectures, photo presentations and daily recaps. Exploratory Zodiac excursions and interactive walks ashore, led by experts in their field—marine biologists, ornithologists, geologists, botanists, historians, and anthropologists, are complimentary.

For more information contact your travel professional or Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or 1300 306 872 (Australia) or 0800 701 427 (New Zealand), or visit www.silversea.com



Myanmar with The Strand Cruise: a spectacular experience from ship to shore

While the exceptional on-board amenities may make it difficult to leave The Strand Cruise, the luxury line's latest shore excursions make exploring Myanmar's stunning scenery irresistible, and easily accessible to travellers along the Ayeyarwady River.




The Strand Cruise, sister ship of the world renowned Sarkies brothers hotel The Strand Yangon, offers a selection of three-and-four-night cruises along Myanmar's epic Ayeyarwady River between Bagan and Mandalay. The à la carte shore day trips, many of which are not readily available to many visitors, include ancient cities, monasteries, pagodas and temples and unforgettable and exclusive experiences, such as horse-and-cart rides and hot air ballooning.

The Strand Cruise's shore experiences allow travellers to discover the hidden authentic gems of Myanmar, experience the rich tapestry that makes up this colourful and stunning country, and immerse themselves in the rich culture of one of the hottest emerging destinations for Australian travellers. Each guide has no more than five passengers with them during the excursions, making each journey ashore personalised and unique to the needs and wants of guests.

Guests on board The Strand Cruise can choose from a menu of unique tailor-made, shore excursions designed to allow travellers to customise their cruise experience.  Highlights of the shore excursions include:

·         Mandalay's magnificent U Bein Bridge, a crossing that spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura which is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world

·         Former capital Mingun which lies at the foot of 'the unfinished pagoda', one of the largest ever constructed in Myanmar. Visit the pagoda via local Tuk Tuk transport and see the Mingun Bell – renowned as the largest un-cracked hanging bell in the world

·         Paya Hsinbyume, an impressive pagoda that rises in seven curved whitewashed terraces representing the seven mountain ranges around Mt Meru - the centre of the Buddhist universe

·         Embark upon a romantic horse-and-cart ride to ancient imperial capital Ava, which presided over successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Admire key landmarks of this ruined abandoned city, which has been ravaged by war and natural disasters. Visit the Yadana Shemee and Wingaba temples, as well as the Bopaya monastery

·         The architecturally significant ancient city of Bagan, beginning of the Bagan Heritage Trail and home to wonders including the exquisite Ananda temple, the gold-leaf bedecked Shwezigon Pagoda, and the five-terraced Shwe San Daw temple with its bejewelled umbrella and panoramic views from cylindrical stupa

·         A sunrise hot-air balloon ride floating above the 2000 glorious pagodas of Bagan (additional costs apply)

Formerly known as The Elephant River or Irrawaddy River, the Ayeyarwady River is Myanmar's lifeline, running from the snow-capped Himalayas through 1500 kilometres to the Andaman Sea. Its banks are home to hundreds, if not thousands of temples, stupas and nats, while its stories have inspired poets, authors, artists, photographers and modern day adventurers.

A luxury touring experience, The Strand Cruise is acclaimed for its flawless service, insightful guides, exceptional comfort and extensive on-board activity options, including a swimming pool, spa, series of fascinating lectures, regional cooking demonstrations and crew-hosted cocktail parties.

The Strand Cruise itineraries include three meals a day, soft drinks and local beer, house wine during meals, port charges, English-speaking guides, many on-board activities, shore excursions and satellite Wi-Fi in all cabins and public areas.

Throughout 2017 and 2018, The Strand Cruise will host a series of expert-led themed cruises designed to enrich guests' experience of Myanmar and its culture, including a photography cruise hosted by professional photographer Lucas Gurdjian in October and classical music-themed cruises in November 2017 and February 2018 featuring musicians from Orchestre de Paris.

New to The Strand Cruise in 2017 will be an 11-night voyage from Mandalay to Yangon, providing passengers with an immersive cultural experience and access to lesser known temples and villages along one of Myanmar's most majestic waterways.

Highlights will include a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, a 2,500-year-old gold-leaf and diamond encrusted pagoda and one of the country's most sacred and impressive Buddhist sites; the forts of Gwechaung, the bejewelled Shwe San Daw temple in Bagan; and the U-Bein Bridge, believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.

The Strand Cruise is a reinvention of the legendary style and unique personality of its sister hotel, The Strand Yangon, within a contemporary river cruise experience, with design touches that evoke the character of the Strand in its heyday as a meeting place for explorers and raconteurs, combined with latest creature comforts and technology. Passengers can complement their cruise with a stay at the recently refurbished The Strand Yangon:  www.hotelthestrand.com

Thursday, 13 April 2017

News from Wild Earth Travel

#expeditioncruising .



Discover French Polynesia's Enchanting Marquesas Islands

Explore aboard the ultimate cruise freighter Aranui 5



Embark on a voyage of discovery following the paths of Paul Gauguin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Brel. The Aranui 5 takes you to some of the most remote corners of the Pacific, the ship has been uniquely designed to provide both a vital cargo link for the remote villages while at the same time bringing travellers in comfort to experience these spectacular islands and their welcoming inhabitants.

Each day the Aranui 5 will visit a new and different port where there is the opportunity to explore ashore, travel inland to historic sites, go horseback riding and many other included adventures.

The Aranui 5 was launched in 2015, designed and custom built with passenger comfort in mind. As you cruise, the experienced Polynesian staff and crew will welcome you to these exotic, captivating islands they call home.

The ship provides a relaxed, friendly experience with space to meet new friends while relaxing on the deck or by the pool, as the islands seem to float by. If you are looking for privacy, retreat to your balcony in our suites and deluxe staterooms.

Watch the infinite colours of the sunset play in the sky and sea as another day draws to a close in the South Pacific. After a 3 course dinner, let the lively Aranui Band introduce you to Polynesian rhythms.

Request more information on the Aranui 5's Marquesas cruises here, or view the itinerary on our website.

Join the North Pole Summit 20 July -2 August 2017

You are invited to embark on an adventure of a lifetime with seven modern-day heroes. Travel with world-renowned adventurers, photographers, writers, scientists, researchers and educators who will be sharing their unique perspectives on everything from facing environmental challenges to following your dreams.

Crush through multi-year ice on the Arctic Ocean aboard 50 Years of Victory. Sightsee by helicopter on the lookout for walruses, seals, whales and polar bears. Stand at 90 ° N with a glass of champagne in hand - and everywhere you look is south.

As you travel you'll discover first-hand what inspired these modern-day heroes to pursue the passions that have shaped their contributions to society.

To register your interest for this summit, contact us today.

Brand new expedition ship to explore remote glacier

#expeditioncruising .



Remote glacier at the bottom of the world added to new cruise itinerary for brand new expedition ship - Ventus Australis

A spectacular but remote glacier at the southern-most tip of South America and guarded by the world’s largest flying bird has been added to a new ‘bottom of the world’ cruise itinerary for brand, new expedition ship, Ventus Australis, which commences service with Patagonian cruise line, Australis, next January.

The huge and rarely visited Condor Glacier in Agostini Sound will be a highlight of a new, four-night ‘Patagonian Explorer’ itinerary that the 210-passenger Ventus Australis will offer from Ushuaia in Argentina to Punta Arenas in Chile when the ship debuts on January 2, 2018. Passengers will be able to see the glacier up close on zodiacs and also watch out for the Andean condors which gave the glacier its name. The Andean Condor is the largest, flying bird in the world, weighing up to 15kg and with a maximum wingspan of 3.3m.

Ventus Australis will be the only ship in the world to visit the Condor Glacier regularly, with the exclusive, new, four-night sailing from Ushuaia available every eight days from January to March, 2018, and again from September, 2018, to April, 2019. The Patagonian Explorer itinerary through the mountain-lined fjords of Tierra del Fuego also includes fabled Cape Horn, where guests can walk ashore, weather permitting, Wulaia Bay, a Magellanic penguin colony at Magdalena Island and three other glaciers – Pia, Giribaldi and Aguila, where guests will be taken ashore by zodiacs for close-up views and walks.

Ventus Australis will be a twin sister to the line’s other vessel, the popular, 210-guest Stella Australis, with bother offering panoramic, floor to ceiling cabin windows, free open bar, complimentary, guided excursions, nature lectures and gourmet cuisine including local dishes and Chilean and Argentine wines.

* To mark the debut of Ventus Australis, Australis has indefinitely frozen fares for the next two summer seasons at the same level as those for the current 2016/17 summer season. Australis is also offering a 10 per cent discount to passengers who combine two four-night cruises to create an eight-night exploration of the spectacular mountain and glacier-lined fjords of Tierra del Fuego, the Magellan Strait and Beagle Channel. The route from Punta Arenas back to Ushuaia will vary slightly, taking in different glaciers, islands and bays, allowing those who do back-to-back cruises to enjoy an in-depth, eight-night expedition of the breathtaking fjords of Tierra del Fuego.

Fares for four-night sailings aboard Ventus Australis in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons are available from US$1440 person, twin-share. A combo eight-night cruise is available from US$2592 per person, twin-share, including a 10 per cent discount. Prices include guided excursions ashore and beverages through an open-bar.
Contact specialist South America travel agent, Robyn Smith at www.movidas.com.au


Windstar Cruises returns to Alaska




Award-winning boutique cruise line, Windstar Cruises has announced a return to Alaska sailings in its northern Spring/Summer 2018 ports of call also taking in British Columbia.

The news comes on the heels of Windstar's recent announcement of its return to Asia in 2017/18, with the 212-guest, all-suite Star Legend yacht sailing from Tokyo to Seward (Anchorage), Alaska over a 14-day trans-Pacific cruise, which also stops in Miyako, Hakodate, and Kushiro in Japan.

Windstar's Alaska beckons guests to slow down over leisurely journeys. With voyages starting at 11 days, there is ample time for scenic cruising in both Canada's and Alaska's famed inside passages – where guests can look for orcas, bears, and bald eagles from the comfort of their elegant ship.

Star Legend will sail Misty Fjords National Monument and Kenai Fjords National Park, experiences usually booked via a shore excursion because the 'big ships' do not go there.

Each Windstar Alaska itinerary includes sailing through Tracy Arm Fjord – so close that noise of the ice breaking and falling into the water during glacier calving will surprise. Enthusiastic park rangers, scientists, glaciologists, geologists, and other experts will be aboard each cruise to provide education, perspective, one-on-one discussions, and ample opportunities for individual discovery in America's 'last frontier'.

"We are so excited to be enhancing the Alaskan travel marketplace by introducing our brand of true small ship cruising to Alaska. Sailing closer to pristine deciduous shorelines, delving deeper into all-enveloping fjords, kayaking in icy straits right off the ship's Watersports Platform, and viewing an endless wilderness from sea level. We are bringing our guests right to the heart of what makes Alaska and the Great Pacific Northwest such an amazing destination and magical place to visit," said Windstar President, John Delaney.

"We are working hard now to arrange customised bucket list moments like the chance to hike atop the massive Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska's capitol of Juneau, zip-line over crystal-clear creeks in bear country, snap a classic whale tail picture on your mobile phone – during a romantic deck-side dinner, fly over majestic Glacier Bay in a private plane, uncover Sitka's rich Russian heritage, or check out Petroglyph Beach in Wrangell – a destination rarely visited by cruise ships. Windstar is thrilled to put its stamp on this classic cruise region and expects it will quickly become a Yacht Club Member favourite. We honestly can't wait!"

Highlights of Windstar's inaugural Alaska season with the 212-guest Star Legend yacht include:

Cruising Tracy Arm and Misty Fjords.
Optional up-close and personal kayaking and scenic cruising by Zodiac directly from the ship.
Full destination immersion with 7 to 8 Southeast Alaska and British Columbia ports each cruise.
Sailing right into Misty Fjords and Kenai Fjords, due to small size of ship.
Multiple glacier experiences on northbound/southbound sailings featuring Mendenhall Glacier, Tracy Arm, and Kenai Fjords.
Longer itineraries of 11 to 14 days allowing the yacht to move slower and get closer to shore exploring more off the usual charted course.
Naturalist/Expedition Leaders on all voyages who will customise the experience for guests along with speakers from Native American tribes.

Once in Alaska, the elegant Star Legend embarks on three new itineraries with eight sailing dates, departing May to August 2018, including a 14-day Seward (Anchorage) to Vancouver option; 12-day Vancouver round-trip itinerary, and 11 or 12 day Vancouver to Seward (Anchorage) voyages. Windstar also plans to offer pre and post cruise land excursions, allowing guests more time to explore Alaska's interior.

New Alaska Itineraries Sail Longer, Slower, Closer to Shore, and Deeper into Fjords

Wonders of Alaska & Canada – These 14-day voyages from Seward (Anchorage) to Vancouver are offered three times, allowing guests a full two weeks of jaw-dropping scenery and history. British Columbia's Prince Rupert, located on Kaien Island just north of the mouth of the Skeena River, is a highlight – a picturesque port rich in culture and heritage. Teeming with wildlife, guests can expect whale, eagle, salmon, and grizzly bear sightings, and also visit the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, with one of the densest remaining North American bear populations.

Alaskan Splendors – Multiple journeys between Vancouver and Seward (Anchorage) over 11 or 12 days offer a tour de force of top Alaskan destinations. From the wildlife and glaciers of the Inside Passage to the First Nations totems of Ketchikan; hiking in Haines or sampling its cultural offerings like the Alaska Indian Arts Center, where traditional craftsmen demonstrate their work; to the biggest zip-line in the United States in Icy Strait Point.

Islands & Inlets of the Inside Passage – Offering two 12-day sailings, this itinerary cruises roundtrip from Vancouver, passing under the famed Lions Gate Bridge twice, both en route to the rugged coastline and on the return. A hidden gem at the midway point of the Inside Passage sits Metlakatla, Alaska on verdant Annette Island. This locale is the only US settlement of the indigenous Tsimshian people, where guests can visit a traditional longhouse and experience the full regalia of Native American song and dance shows.

Windstar Alaska fares start from AUD7163 per person twin share based on Oceanview Suite Cat S for the 11-night Alaskan Splendors departing 31 May 2018.

Star Legend, one of the world's most luxurious small cruise ships, plays the casually elegant host to no more than 212 guests. The experience is like sailing on your own private yacht with nearly a 1:1 staff to guest ratio, boasting all-suite accommodations and beautifully appointed public spaces such as the elegant AmphorA and romantic Candles restaurants. The classy and comfortable Yacht Club lounge located on the top guest deck is sure to be the place for spotting whale spouts and wildlife on the shoreline, as cruisers relax with a Captain's Coffee and enjoy the 270-degree indoor/outdoor viewing opportunities.

Star Legend's 106 suites offer more room than many hotels, with stylish décor, walk-in closets, marble bathrooms, L'Occitane® toiletries, and a tranquil seating area — all with a view. Alaska-bound travellers may choose from 106 suites, including 36 Balcony Suites with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that bring fresh air and sweeping scenery indoors; or select one of 64 Ocean View Suites with large picture windows; or splurge on a decadent Owner's or Classic Suite located just below the yacht's Open Bridge, with a stunning view from the private veranda. Yacht guests will enjoy 'destination authenticity' like only Windstar can deliver with regionally themed cuisine, libations, entertainment, speakers and activities, as well as personalised small group shore excursions, and always gracious and attentive service.

Bookings to be directed to your Travel Agent or Windstar Australia on 1300 749 875 or reservations@windstar.com.au

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Aurora Expeditions Launch Antarctica 2018/2019 Early Bird Savings

#expeditioncruising .




Leading expedition cruising specialists Aurora Expeditions have launched their 2018/2019 Antarctic program with an exclusive Early Bird Offer, giving travellers the chance to save up to 15 per cent across all newly-released itineraries when booked before 30 June 2017. The first 40 passengers to book will also receive a $100 onboard credit to enjoy during their expedition.

The new Antarctic program continues to cater for adventure-seekers and nature lovers, offering a range of 11- to 18-day voyages across various destinations including the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula, the wildlife oasis of South Georgia, the wild Weddell Sea and the historic Falkland Islands.

The program features 11 small-group expeditions aboard the 54-passenger vessel Polar Pioneer, all departing between November 2018 and March 2019.

After the success of the inaugural Sub-Antarctic Safari, the expedition returns to explore the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Passengers will revel in close encounters with the region's incredible wildlife including some of the world's largest king penguin colony, elephant and fur seals as well as diverse birdlife. Also featuring complimentary photography workshops, the 15-day expedition is the ultimate sub-Antarctic exploration. The expedition departs 17 November 2018 and starts from US$11,100 per person.

For adventurers seeking the ultimate end-of-year celebrations, the 12-day Christmas in Antarctica is the chance to experience a white Christmas amongst spectacular landscapes and fascinating wildlife. Travellers also have the chance to ring in the New Year on the white continent surrounded by penguins with the 11-day New Year in Antarctica. Trips depart 18 December 2018 and 29 December 2018 respectively and start from US$9,100 per person.

Time-conscious travellers will make the most of their Antarctic adventure with the Fly & Sail Antarctic Explorer. Including a one-way flight directly into Antarctica, passengers enjoy more time exploring both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula and less time at sea. The 11-day itinerary departs 2 March 2018 and starts from US$9,700 per person.

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Now open for bookings, all of Aurora Expeditions' 2018/19 Antarctic voyages include accommodation aboard ice-strengthened 54-passenger Polar Pioneer including meals and daily cabin service, daily Zodiac excursions and shore landings, educative talks and lectures from expert naturalists, historians and geologists. Passengers will also have the choice to join optional ship-based adventure activities such as sea kayaking, polar snorkelling and diving, and mountaineering (surcharge apply), as well as polar photography. All passengers will also receive a complimentary 2-in-1 waterproof polar jacket to keep, as well as a professionally-produced printed photo book of their voyage after their trip.

Travellers looking at planning their Antarctic adventure can download their FREE 2018/19 Antarctica Expedition Guide at www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

EXCLUSIVE OFFER - Early Bird Offer & $100 Onboard credit*Save up to US$3,255 per person when booking on Aurora Expeditions' 2018/19 Antarctic voyages with their Early Bird Offers of up to 15% off. Plus, be one of the first 40 passengers to book and you'll receive a complimentary $100 onboard credit to use during your expedition. Conditions apply.

For more information on Aurora Expeditions' 2018/19 Antarctica cruises visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au, email info@auroraexpeditions.com.au or call 1300 061 490.


Featured brochure: G Adventures Marine

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Get this brochure and more now. Free. Click.

Antarctica & Arctic Expeditions | South America Expeditions & Cruises | River Cruises: Amazon, Ganges, Mekong, Burgundy Rivers | Sailing Adventures: Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Cuba, British Virgin Islands, Thailand, Maldives


[Watch] Expedition cruising in the Southern Ocean - You were warned

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True expedition cruising isn't for everyone. The seas are rough and it gets cold and wet. If you want a proper, enriching adventure, then leave your Versace at home and 'man up'. Take the Southern Ocean challenge with Heritage Expeditions. We told you so!





Monday, 10 April 2017

Alaska's Fab Five - and how to see them

#expeditioncruising .

Five Small Ship Cruises from AdventureSmith Explorations That Set Their Sights on Viewing Alaska’s Iconic Wildlife - Including the Fab Five


Cruising Alaskan waterways by small ship may be the best way to guarantee sightings of Alaska’s wildlife, including the “Fab Five.”

Almost effortless sightings are thanks to small ships that can maneuver skillfully and quietly into less-frequented waterways to access remote bays, coves and shorelines preferred by Alaska’s “Fab Five”, a group in which guests of AdventureSmith Explorations have affectionately included whales, brown bear, mountain goats, moose, and King salmon.




“Coastal Alaska is special. You just don’t see Alaska’s Fab Five in this concentration or magnitude elsewhere in the state. In my experience as a former guide, these are the animals that people come to Alaska to see,” explained Todd Smith, founder and president of this company that specializes in small ship cruises on yachts and expedition ships carrying as few as eight guests.

He underscored that wildlife viewing aboard a small ship allows better silent access and more predictability over big ship, land-based, river or air viewing. While itineraries may focus on one or more of the Fab Five, oftentimes all five can be spotted along the course of a voyage. Shallow natural harbors accessible only by small ship encourage guests to hop into zodiacs, kayaks or even atop paddle boards to gain prime viewing and intimate encounters.

“Think outside the boat!” is AdventureSmith’s motto which encourages guests to spend more time off-ship than on. Smith and his staff shared their favorite cruises best suited for Fab Five viewing:



Brown Bear - Alaska’s Coastal Grizzlies is an eight-day journey on the eight-guest converted research vessel Ursus. This cruise itinerary, the most remote the company offers in Alaska, forages for one of the world’s most formidable mammals, coastal grizzlies, in wilderness waterways (inaccessible to traditional cruise ships) of Katmai National Park. Guests absorb the drama of these creatures feeding on a summer’s bounty of spawning salmon. Ingesting more than 30 fish per day each, a male can weigh over 1,000 pounds and measure more than five feet standing. Gateways are Kodiak or Homer, with an included pre- and post-cruise hotel night, day boat tour of either Kodiak Island or Kachemak Bay and a scenic floatplane flight to and from the Ursus. The per person double rate is from $9,295.



King Salmon - Sikumi Custom Alaska Cruise is a seven–day adventure aboard the eight-guest Sikumi. Guests can safely compete with shore bears in their own feeding grounds by fishing for King salmon right off the vessel. Common sights are whales, bears (brown and black), seals, sea lions, Dall’s porpoises and bald eagles. Note: the largest known King salmon ever caught weighed 126 pounds. Sikumi’s captains, formerly commercial fishermen, bring a high level of experience in the art of salmon fishing. The chef will showcase guests’ catch (accompanied by fresh-caught halibut, crab and shrimp) at dinner. Variations on the route and itinerary are offered with trips departing from Juneau, Petersburg or Sitka. The per person rate is from $5,950.



Whales - Inside Passage Catalyst is a seven-day program on the 12-guest Pacific Catalyst II through Southeast Alaska, exploring fishing towns, wilderness solitude, bear habitat, Pack Creek Zoological Reserve and glacial fjords. Frederick Sound is among the migratory humpback whales’ prime summer feeding grounds. These endangered animals may weigh over 35 tons and measure up to 50 feet long. Hydrophones onboard allow guests to listen to their songs. There are sightings of Orca, porpoise, Stellar sea lion and numerous sea birds. Seymour Canal, a 23-mile-long inlet, is home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in the region and a large population of energetic Dall’s porpoise. In a temperate rain forest are probable sightings of black and brown bear and mountain goats. This trip was featured in National Geographic Magazine's Top 50 Tours of a Lifetime. The journey begins in Juneau and disembarks in Petersburg. The per person rate is from $4,250.



Moose - Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise is a six-day itinerary aboard the 12-guest Sea Wolf. The good news is that there has been a recent uptick in the moose population and May and June are preferred sighting months. A bull moose can weigh in at 1,600 pounds but can stealthily fade into the wilderness. Wildlife encounters occur daily. A variety of birds are migratory in May as bear emerge from hibernation, nosing to the intertidal zone. Snow in the mountains makes the beaches a highway for wildlife in search of food. “We rarely saw wolves and now it is rare not to see them, and many times with pups,” says Sea Wolf Caption Kimber Owen. Guests embark in Bartlett Cove and Geike Inlet and disembark in Juneau. The per person double rate is from $3,700.



Mountain Goat - Exploring Muir's Wilderness is an eight-day itinerary retracing some of the steps and sailings in Alaska’s Inside Passage taken between 1879 and 1890 by famed naturalist John Muir. Guests can choose the newly refurbished 84-guest Safari Endeavour or the 36-guest Safari Explorer. The glacially carved rock walls of Glacier Bay and the steep-walled fjords of Endicott Arm are home to mountain goat that follow the disappearing snowline that by mid-June brings the animals too high to be easily seen. Muir traveled to Alaska to prove his theory that Yosemite Valley was carved by glaciers, but he found so much more. On this trip in Alaska, guests view spectacular tidewater glaciers and watch whales and bear in their natural habitat. This trip begins and ends in Juneau. The per person double rate is from $4,695.

A full complement of AdventureSmith Explorations’ Alaska adventures can be seen online at http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/alaska. For information on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises worldwide, itineraries, availability and reservations, Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or visit http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/.
 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

New expedition cruises from Hapag-Lloyd

#expeditioncruising .

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  • Expedition highlights: travelling through the Northeast Passage
  • Selected international cruises on board BREMEN
  • New: camping in the Antarctic
With the announcement last year that expedition ship HANSEATIC is to remain in the fleet until September 2018, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has introduced a new catalogue for the 2018/2019 season which features two international cruises aboard HANSEATIC and also three on board BREMEN. The cruises on the BREMEN are intended to serve as a transition until the launch of the new international expedition ship ‘HANSEATIC inspiration’ in October 2019.

The five English-speaking cruises include expeditions to the popular destinations of Antarctica and the Arctic, with BREMEN sailing through the North East Passage in the summer of 2018.

Both small ships – the 5-star*, 175-passenger HANSEATIC and 4-star*, 155-passenger BREMEN – are extremely manoeuvrable, with the highest ice class for passenger ships; sailing spectacular routes, which larger ships just cannot access.

The Antarctic is home traditionally to the HANSEATIC and BREMEN expedition ships in the winter months – the best time to traverse the world's southernmost waters. Guests can enjoy an unforgettable experience here: in select spots, they have the opportunity to camp ashore for the night. The adventure begins with a Zodiac landing, before passengers pitch their tents and spend the night surrounded by a world of ice (weather permitting). A total of two ‘international cruises’ will be offered to the Antarctic on board BREMEN in early 2019.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Silversea Expeditions new 7-night Galápagos cruise itineraries

#expeditioncruising      



Luxury expedition cruise specialist, Silversea Expeditions, has recently launched the first of two new 7-night Galápagos itineraries. The 100-guest, all-suite Silver Galapagos will operate the alternate itineraries which are approved by the Galápagos National Park Service, both departing on Saturdays.

Departing from Baltra for the first time this week, the new North Central itinerary showcases the best of the Galápagos Islands en route to San Cristóbal. In addition to a newly added circumnavigation of Isla Daphne Grande (Daphne Major), the voyage explores Bahia Darwin and El Barranco in Genovesa; Galapaguera Cerro Colorado and Punta Pitt in San Cristóbal; Bahía Gardner (Gardner Bay) and Punta Suarez in Española; El Edén, Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre and Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz; as well as Bahía Sullivan, Seymour Norte, Rábida, and Plazas Sur. Highlights of the voyage include: climbing Prince Philip's Steps to see a thriving sea bird colony; hiking up the sides of an extinct volcano; and admiring the antics of Red-footed and Blue-footed Boobies.

The new Western itinerary from San Cristóbal to Baltra is enhanced by new points of interest such as Cerro Dragón and Playa Las Bachas in Santa Cruz and a circumnavigation of Roca León Dormido (Kicker Rock). The voyage will also visit Punta Vicente Roca, Caleta Tagus and Bahía Elizabeth in Isabela; Post Office Bay, Islote Campion and Punta Cormorant in Floreana; Los Gemelos, Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre and Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz; Bartolomé, Playa Espumilla, and Punta Espinoza. Highlights of the voyage include spotting pelicans and penguins along rocky shores, swimming with green sea turtles, sea lions and manta rays, and hiking through fragrant forests of palo santo "incense" trees.

"The Galápagos Islands are undoubtedly a bucket-list destination for nature-lovers, and our new itineraries showcase the impressive flora and fauna unique to the region," said Conrad Combrink, Silversea's Vice President of Expedition Planning & Strategic Development. "For the first time, Silver Galapagos will circumnavigate iconic Kicker Rock and Daphne Major, both spectacular settings for spotting an array of exotic birds. Another new destination, Las Bachas Beach, is one of the main nesting sites for sea turtles on Santa Cruz Island."

Silver Galapagos expedition cruises offer adventurous travellers a unique opportunity to discover a wild, pristine paradise that has long been regarded as a natural laboratory of evolution. During complimentary expeditions ashore guided by an experienced Expedition Team (certified by the Galápagos National Park Service), Silversea's guests can experience up-close encounters with an abundance of wildlife including sun-basking land iguanas, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, colourful marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins and Darwin's famous finches.

On Silver Galapagos, guests enjoy the hallmarks of the all-inclusive Silversea experience, including enrichment lectures by a highly qualified Expedition Team, fine dining options, complimentary wines and spirits in suite and throughout the ship, butler service in every suite, and much more.

For a complete list of Silver Galapagos itineraries, details, and fares, visit www.Silversea.com/ships/silver-galapagos.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

American Cruise Line names new ship

#expeditioncruising .

American Cruise Lines has announced the name of its latest vessel,
American Constitution, now under construction at
Chesapeake Shipbuilding of Salisbury, MD.
 The river cruise line said the name was inspired by the USS Constitution, the United States Navy’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat and named by President George Washington. The new ship will be delivered in 2018 and is the sister ship to the American Constellation, which begins sailing this May.
The American Constitution is a coastal vessel with full active wing stabilization. With the capacity for approximately 175 guests, the new ship will aim to cater to passengers looking for the experience of a modern, smaller ship. As with the other American Cruise Lines ships, American Constitution will have staterooms with private balconies, as well as a variety of lounges.
Other new features of the American Constellation and American Constitution include onboard Zodiacs and kayaks, which the river cruise line said will offer guests new ways to explore the destinations visited by the two vessels.
The two sister ships will offer cruises on the East Coast this year, expanding to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska in 2018. Details on the 2018 schedule will be announced soon, American Cruise Lines said.
American Cruise Lines is also planning to build a third new cruise ship, which will be the lead in a series of new riverboats destined for the American rivers. This new, modern riverboat will carry approximately 195 passengers. American Cruise Lines said it will be relaying the details and renderings of this new riverboat in the near future.
Reservations for the inaugural season of the American Constitution are open now.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Cruise aboard Ponant Le Soleal: Nature and nurture along the Orinoco River


#expeditioncruising

Even the most worldly among us will most likely admit they cannot pinpoint the Orinoco River, yet this substantial waterway shares many attributes of its larger neighbour, the Amazon.

Its huge 25,000 sq km delta in Venezuela drains water at the rate of 36,000 cubic metres per second, not far behind that of Africa's Congo. It gathers this water from the same catchment as the Amazon and is joined to it by the Rio Negro way upstream in Colombia. Naturally enough, the ecosystems and animal species it contains are pretty close to that of the Amazon with plenty of birds, some pink dolphins plus the usual fishes, reptiles and amphibians.


First spotted by Columbus in 1498, it was later explored by Walter Raleigh while searching for El Dorado and Alexander von Humboldt, among others who went on to describe the flora and fauna as well as its potential for exploitation.

As per usual, curious locals surrounded Le Soleal as she lay at anchor off La Tortuga, one hundred or more kilometres from the coast. Instead of little brightly painted barges with tiny outboard motors, these villagers paddled dugout canoes hewn from solid logs and bore a much closer resemblance to the original indigenous inhabitants who would have greeted the earliest explorers.

Armed customs officials drew nervous glances from passengers as they mingled in the lounge, but all soon settled when our uniformed visitors relaxed with fresh sandwiches and coffee.

After clearance, Le Soleal proceeded upstream and began Zodiac expeditions into the narrower streams that flowed from the main channel. A night exploration was a little disappointing, but a cayman was captured by hand by one of the naturalists, Christophe. Not by me unfortunately. Otherwise we had our daytime fill of macaws, hoatzin, raptors and sundry LBBs. I could feel my inner twitcher rejoice at my first sighting of a hummingbird in action and I offer the blurry photographic evidence as proof.


Our expedition team, led by Raphael, also learned that the residents in this region were particularly badly affected by the current, very serious economic difficulties in Venezuela. What rudimentary settlements there were had no power and had often not seen doctors, dentists or teachers for several years. Yes, years. So a small humanitarian mission was quickly organised and sent to the nearby village of Manoa, a hamlet of perhaps 400 individuals, half of whom were children.

Led by Captain Debien, the ship's doctor, nurse and passenger, Bill Spilker, a retired medico from Texas, surplus provisions, simple medicines, clothing, footwear and even our half-used bathroom amenities were gathered and bundled together for careful distribution to the hundred or more locals and children present at the schoolhouse. Ponant had earlier provided discretionary funds for such an occasion, and these were used to buy school materials and other items mainly for children.


"They were in fair shape considering," Bill told me later on the ship, "but at least we know the most common ailments now and what to bring next time."

This event was not attended by passengers so as not to overwhelm the unprepared villagers, who were already in awe of this massive vessel in their midst. However it was clear that, following this inaugural exchange and warm civic greeting, a more regular and pre-planned interaction is likely between Ponant and Manoa in the future. Small perhaps, but nevertheless a meaningful encounter that may slightly improve the lives of some of these hardy, but isolated people.

For further information about Ponant's vast range of expeditions and destinations, see www.ponant.com

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Cruise aboard Ponant Le Soleal: The Hell of Devil's Island



#expeditioncruising

Anyone of a certain age will recall the 1973 movie "Papillon" where characters played by Steve McQueen and a young Dustin Hoffman are transported by ship to a distant tropical island that was anything but paradise. And our visit to the so-called 'Devil's Islands', 15kms off the coast of French Guiana, confirmed that this hell-hole was every bit a reality.

Le Soleal anchored a short tender ride from the southernmost point of L'Ile Royale, the largest of the three islands that make up this group. Covering 21 hectares, two points rise to a maximum of almost 50 metres and contain the most prominent structures of this God-forsaken outpost.


There are more than 20 accessible sites on the island that include a hospital, convict cells, warders' mess (now a small hotel) and various ancillary buildings. Restoration of a few buildings has been completed, but other works appear to have stalled and there is discarded materials everywhere else.


Furry agouti (large jungle rodents about the size of a small dog) scamper about the lawns gnawing at the fallen coconuts, an activity they have become most proficient at. Deeper in the undergrowth, a population of capuchin monkeys squeak and scurry among the leaf litter and hang off vines. These cute, docile little primates will politely approach guests to enquire about treats like apples and nuts. One tiny monkey kept us amused for several minutes as he twitched and flinched at the strange taste of a kiwi fruit, although the foreign flavours did not deter him from devouring every morsel.


But it's the palpable misery of the claustrophobic cells that will remain in my memory. Floor space of just a few square metres, sometimes without a roof, is all prisoners were allowed in these squalid alcoves. Hidden in some of the most depressing cells, pathetic graffiti scratched into the plaster tells of their torment and yearning for home. Solitary confinement was a common punishment for harder convicts, sometimes lasting for years. In the 150 years this cursed penal colony operated, more than 70,000 murderers, political detainees, spies and lunatics arrived at these shores, with all but a handful ever returning to France. Most were assigned to the shark-infested waters a few cable lengths from shore when their term expired.


Returning to the lavish comforts of Le Soleal was quite a jolt, but quickly soothed by Sous-chef Laurent's tender pork loin followed by four flavours of ice-cream. Viva La France!

For further information about Ponant's vast range of expeditions and destinations, see www.ponant.com
 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Aranui 5 - the freighter to paradise

#expeditioncruising


Aranui 5, the passenger-cum-cargo ship which departs every three weeks from Papeete in Tahiti to visit the Tuamotu Archipelago, Bora Bora in the Society Islands, and the world's most remote archipelago, the Marquesas, has released details of its Polynesian cruise programme for 2018.

Dubbed 'the freighter to paradise' the ship is a lifeline to the inhabitants of these exotic locations, transporting everything from dried coconut meat and citrus fruit, to brake pads and bulldozers!

Each day of the voyage brings panoply of glorious sights from turquoise lagoons, rainbow coloured coral and tropical fish, to spectacular volcanic scenery, towering cliffs, magnificent waterfalls and traditional stone tiki statues.

Guests may choose to relax, meet the warm and welcoming locals, learn about ancient traditions and the artistic heritage of the Polynesian culture, or join a soft adventure excursion to explore the islands more deeply.

Many onshore excursions are included in the itinerary, allowing passengers to hop on to one of the whale boats and travel to high mountains, white, pink and black sand beaches, a working pearl farm or incredible archaeological sights.

Optional excursions are also available at an additional cost, and include popular 4WD off-road tours, helicopter flights, horse riding and a 10-mile hike.

Among the Aranui's departure dates are several that qualify for a 10% discount on 14-day cruises, including January 13th, March 29th and June 12th 2018.

Alternatively, there is also a special 10% senior discount for over 60s on the two-week 2nd October 2018 departure, or a 10% discount on any 14-day voyage for repeat bookers. Only one discount per booking may be used.

Prices for a 14-day package on this 2,200-mile round trip start from 4,089 euros per person, based on two sharing a standard double room.

This includes all taxes, meals and wine during meals on board, planned excursions, expert lecturers and guides, a primarily Polynesian crew, plus facilities such as a swimming pool, fitness room, spa, bars, restaurant, lounges, library, video and computer room.

For further information about cruises on board Aranui 5, visit www.aranui.com


Cruise aboard Ponant Le Soleal: Amazon birding

#expeditioncruising

On every expedition cruise you're bound to meet 'twitchers', those with an obsessive fascination for birds and a burning ambition to see as many of the world's 10,000-something species in a lifetime. You'll find them huddled away at the end of the day, swapping notes and filling out their 'life lists' of observed species. However, even the most dedicated among them, including our PhD biologists like Dr Christophe Thebaud, admit to barely scratching the surface. It's no surprise then that 'birders' flock together on any cruise venturing into such rich environments.

The Amazon is a no-brainer for birders because within this vast region, you can expect to find a full one third of all known bird species. Dr Chris tells us that in one little 50sqkm patch of southern Peru, you might be able to see as many 200-300 species in a day, and in the course of a week, see almost as many as the entire species count for all of Europe (700). Colombia has some 1900 species alone with many of those endemic to the country.

The same incredible biodiversity can be applied to fish, butterflies, other animals and plants of all types. Preserving what's left of the primary forests of Brazil and the rest of the Amazon Basin, is therefore of utmost urgency if we want to arrest the alarming rate of loss of species already being experienced.

Birders therefore are ardent conservationists and a dead giveaway. They are wedded to their pair of Swarovski binoculars and converse in terms of 'lesser speckled', 'white throated' and 'brown winged' objects. 

Spotting birds with your premium Austrian binos is one thing, photographing them at a distance of 100+m from a bobbing Zodiac with modest kit is quite another, so the examples I offer you here were produced with some dedication, patience and more than a little frustration.


Monday, 27 March 2017

Cruise aboard Ponant le Soleal: Amazon. Up a raging river

#expeditioncruising

The romantic visions of the Amazon with their near-naked indigenous tribes living a subsistence lifestyle beneath the jungle canopy, hunting monkeys and deer with poison-tipped blow darts is just that. Unless you are prepared to trek and live for weeks like some Bear Grylls, it's best to dispel this myth now.

Since leaving Belem a few days back, Captain Debien and his team have expertly navigated the 142m Le Soleal more than 500nM through the jungle-lined waterways as far inland as Santarem, stopping at least twice a day to launch our Zodiacs on excursions into the dense undergrowth lining this powerful river, the largest by volume on Earth.

Birders, in particular, are rejoicing in the diversity of species sighted on every outing. Waders, raptors and waterbirds of every sort are ticked off. We even sight the bizarre hoatzin, a bird so ancient it has more in common with dinosaurs than any of the rest of its feathered genera. Sublime pink dolphins and fearsome caiman pop up regularly to check on our progress while howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas and bats survey us from above.

This entire region is populated by people with ethnicities that include predominately Portuguese and indigenous indian, but there are plenty of French, Dutch and Spanish genes in this deep pool as well. The port towns of Santarem, Mojuizim and Guarja support thriving populations with their multitude of satellite stilt villages connected, not by road, but by busy little ferry 'buses' zig-zagging across the torrent to transport workers, students and entire families back and forth.



It's widely known that the Amazon basin, from here to Peru, Ecuador and beyond, has been brutally exploited for mankind's short term needs such as timber, minerals, soy beans and cattle ranching. While wholesale ravaging of Brazils' jungles has eased, it wasn't long ago that it was vanishing at the rate of a soccer field every eight seconds, leaving an area the size of Turkey (750,000 sq km) stripped of important biodiversity.

All the regions we visit are long since denuded of their primary rainforest and valuable timbers. While these vast tracts are now listed as 'protected', that protection only extends to those few hardy forest species that have regenerated after initial clearing. Imagine a Renoir or Monet painting in black and white.

While it is encouraging to see such luxuriant growth and a great many native plants and animals living untroubled in the new foliage, many critical species will never return, exiled to those declining areas of technicolor primary rainforest hidden deep in the bosom of Brazil's Amazon basin.

While this may sound a depressing tale, it nevertheless underlines the urgency for those with the inquisitive passion to see for themselves the state of our Earth, for better or worse, and gather those observations and memories for future generations.

Yes, I know I sound like a broken record, but if it weren't for adventure cruise and travel companies like Ponant prepared to invest and seek out these special locations, the enrichment contained in such exceptional ecosystems, environments and civilisations may well never be seen by the likes of you and me.

For further information about Ponant's vast range of expeditions and destinations, see www.ponant.com

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Cruise the Amalfi Coast with Peter Sommer Travels


#expeditioncruising

Australian travellers can explore Italy's spectacular Amalfi Coast by yacht this spring, with archaeological tour specialist Peter Sommer Travels offering two new sailings in September.

Escorted by archaeologist Dr Sophy Downes and art historian Francesca del Vecchio, the eight-day Cruising the Amalfi Coast tour offers a unique perspective on one of the world's most famous coastlines, with holidaymakers enjoying the comforts of a traditional Turkish gulet boat which has been stylishly refitted in Italy.

The tour visits some of the best known destinations in the area including the isle of Capri, the ruins of Pompeii and breathtaking Amalfi, as well as lesser known sites such as the ancient underwater city at Baia and the outstanding Roman frescoes of the Villa Oplontis.

Penguin-spotting in Antarctica


#expeditioncruising

Time to go penguin-spotting: Antarctica home to millions more penguins than thought

Antarctica is home to almost double as many penguins as previously thought, according to research data revealed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) last week, showing the population of Adélie penguins is nearly six million. This is 3.6 million more than previous estimates.

According to the AAD, the reason for the undercount was that previous population surveys had only taken into account breeding pairs but not non-breeding birds. This time, however, researchers counted both groups.

"Penguins are undoubtedly one of the most-loved species of wildlife in the world and a highlight of any Antarctica trip" said Chad Carey, co-founder of Australia's Antarctica specialist Chimu Adventures.

"At least one in three questions we get from clients booking a trip to Antarctica, involves penguins – where to see them, what species there are, how to interact with them, to name only a few. This shows us what a massive drawcard they are for Antarctica travel."

On top of Adélie penguins, there is a plethora of species to be found– from King Penguins to Macaroni Penguins, Rockhopper Penguins and Emperor Penguins, Antarctica has so much to offer for the wildlife lover.

Chimu Adventures has revealed a list of their top five hot spots for penguin-spotting in Antarctica and the Subantarctic:

1) South Georgia

This rugged and rarely visited Sub-Antarctic island lays about 800 miles east of the Falklands and is virtually unspoilt by man. Commonly referred to as the "Galapagos of the South", South Georgia is home to four breeding species of penguin and the largest colony of King Penguins (the second largest penguin) on the planet, as well as sheltering the Macaroni Penguin, a species that is not often seen on the Peninsula.

2) Ross Sea

Found off south western Antarctica, the Ross Sea is both the richest and most vulnerable ecosystem on Earth. Adélie is the most abundant species of penguin in the Ross Sea. Although smallest in size, the Adelie penguin is full of energy having been recorded swimming as far as 300km to forage for food for their chicks.

3) Macquarie Island

Located in the southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica, Macquarie Island has been designated a World Heritage Site and is described by the United Nations Environment Programme as "the most diverse and extensive of all Sub-Antarctic archipelagos". Macquarie Island is home to the largest colony of Royal Penguins.

4) Snow Hill Island

An almost completely snow-capped island located off the east coast off the Antarctic Peninsula, Snow Hill Island is home to an Emperor Penguin Rookery – the tallest penguin on earth. Visiting the rookery in what is one of the world's most remote areas, is a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.

5) Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands are a remote South Atlantic archipelago located east from South America's southern Patagonian coast. There are five penguin species breeding on the islands: King Penguins, Rockhopper penguins, Magellanic penguins, Gentoo penguins, and Macaroni penguins.

For more information on how to see Antarctica's penguins click here.

Friday, 24 March 2017

From aboard Ponant le Soleal: Belem, Arrival Amazonia


#expeditioncruising


If it weren't for the brown turbid waters and the little powered canoes, you'd think the city of Belem was a mini Miami or Surfers Paradise with all the slender high-rises piercing the low clouds.

This busy port was the site of the first European settlement in the Amazon dating way back to 1616 and is actually situated on the Guama River, one of the many arteries that comprise the massive Amazon Delta. Some 300 kilometres wide, this network dumps water into the Atlantic at the astonishing rate of one litre for every person on Earth every second – or so my guide Cicero tells me.

Cicero (fabulous name, I say) at 64, is a true man of the jungle and makes our visit to Belem a truly enriching experience. He spent 10 years living on a patch of primary forest way downstream and only came back to civilisation to put his kids through school.

"The government gave many people land when the highway was built about 40 years ago," he tells us, "but that's all you got. 'Here's your land' they said, pointing to the forest. 'bye bye'. So for many years, it was very hard work."

Our day starts with Cicero walking us through the local market on the riverside, a stone's throw from where Le Soleal is moored at the old rubber industry wharf, now long disused and slowly being converted to restaurants and shops.

All manner of peculiar fruit and vegetables unfamiliar to Western eyes are arrayed for our inspection. Names like cupuacu, bacuri, tapereba and acerola are piled in vivid stacks on the wobbly trestles. Like dense little apples, the acai fruit is the only one I recognise.

"This fruit has made the fortune of the river people," Cicero says, "and we export this all over the world for its miraculous medicinal properties. Once we had rubber, now it's acai!"

Cicero's eyes light up when I ask to try some of these colourful elixirs and I hand him a few rials (about $5) and ask him to buy some of the juices for us. The plastic cups are handed around and produce an amusing range of expressions as the unfamiliar liquids assails our taste buds. Our regenerating livers, revitalised synapses and vanishing kidney stones rejoice in unison.

Deeper inside the historic shed we meet Batu, a feisty woman of 70-something who presents us with a baffling range of jungle remedies and potions. A small photo gallery shows her many celebrity clientele.

"She's a shaman, you know," Cicero whispers with a glint in his eye.

I notice many intriguing little vials dangling in clusters from her stall when one catches my eye.

"What does this do?" I ask innocently.

"It makes you irresistible!" Cicero confirms, "and this, well you put it on your ..." His forefinger dabbing vigorously on his upturned thumb. Batu reinforces its unique property with a most unambiguous gesture. Okay.

The fish market reveals an even more astonishing variety of produce with several species looking like prototypes for the next Ridley Scott movie.

After lunch, we motor upriver a short distance with Cicero and visit a plot of secondary forest where we meet big furry spiders, industrious ants and a few remaining kapok trees, once the lords of this jungle. Our local hosts offer us a powerful spirit made from sugar cane and some mysterious leaves. I try a thimbleful and my tongue immediately electrifies. Imagine a sherbet bomb that transforms into a kaleidoscope of flavours, each detonating at predetermined intervals and lasting several minutes. I turn to ask Cicero what the heck I'd just sipped and he's laughing uproariously. My reaction is a pleasure he clearly enjoys.

On the return journey, past the many little stilt houses and moored ferries, we discuss the radical changes in the jungle he has witnessed over a lifetime and not all tell a cheery tale.

"Our president (Lula) introduced palm oil a few years ago," he says through a furrowed brow, "and now we have these [expletive] green deserts that have each destroyed hundreds of jobs for the people."

Today is one occasion that proves expedition cruising is much more than just sightseeing in exotic locations. It's a chance to meet and interact with local communities and their people and hear their stories. Listen and you soon start to understand their triumphs and challenges and how the ripples of change spread all around the world, affecting others at the farthest reaches of the planet. Something to ponder as you push your trolley down the supermarket aisle.

For further information about Ponant cruises: www.ponant.com