Thursday 30 June 2016

Discover the Galápagos with Aurora Expeditions


Described as “nature's greatest experiment” by Sir David Attenborough, the Galápagos Islands offer a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. To celebrate the launch of their brand new Galápagos Odyssey, adventure cruising specialists Aurora Expeditions share their favourite things to do and see in one of the world's wildest archipelagos.

Take a geology lesson – hike up Española Island's four-million-year-old volcano, hop on 100-year-old cactus-dotted lava fields on Bartolomé Island or take the 600-metre walkway up to the hills for a stunning view of the sea-cooled hot lava formation Pinnacle Rock.

Grab your snorkel – jump into the warm, crystal clear waters and let marine creatures guide you through the islands' spectacular underwater world. Sea lions playfully nibble at your fins, sea turtles peacefully swim alongside you, and if you don't fancy a dip, there's always our glass-bottom boat!

Pick up the post – visit Floreana Island's first Post Office: a wooden barrel left by English whalers in the late 1700s in which men heading out to sea would deposit their letters for sailors returning home to collect and deliver. The system still works on the same premise today; see if you can find a letter to hand deliver!

Meet an icon – the world's oldest yet endangered animal, the Galápagos giant tortoise is a conservation icon. Learn all about the local giant tortoise breeding programs and pay tribute to late 'Lonesome George', the last of the Pinta Island giant tortoises, and icon of the conservationist movement.

Sunbake on green sand – Experience a new kind of beach on the green-sand beaches of Punta Pitt (San Cristobal) and Cormorant Point (Floreana). They get the green tint from the olivine crystals found in the sand, and offer splendid photograph opportunities.

In the footsteps of Darwin – join Aurora Expeditions' team of naturalists and learn all about the unique history of the Galápagos Islands through lectures, talks and shore excursions that will shed light on Darwin's theories and observations that redefined the modern-day understanding of how today's species came to be.

Serious bird watching – did you know that San Cristobal Island is the only place on Earth where you can see three species of boobies – the red-footed, blue-footed and the Nazca booby – nest and cohabit together? Swallow-tailed gulled, flamingo, finch, pintail duck, flycatchers, Galápagos hawk, frigatebirds, stilts, egrets and more also await avid twitchers. Don't forget your binoculars!

Newly added to Aurora Expeditions' Ecuador program, the Galápagos Odyssey offers a rare chance to discover the best of the Galápagos Islands on a small ship. Sailing aboard 38-passenger Isabela II, travellers will be joined by a team of naturalists and wildlife specialists and explore the archipelago over nine days, jam-packed with Zodiac and shore excursions, incredible wildlife encounters, interpretive talks and lectures and complimentary kayaking and snorkelling.

Starting from US$6,635 per person, the Galápagos Odyssey departs Baltra in the Galápagos on 3 October 2016 and includes 8-night accommodation with meals, return flights from Quito, Ecuador, airport transfer (Galápagos only), all shore excursions and land tours, onboard lectures and kayaking and snorkelling activities and equipment.

For more information call Aurora Expeditions on 1300 061 490, or visit

Wednesday 22 June 2016

A Write to Life: meet Ian and Fiona McIntosh aboard SeaDream in the Mediterranean

IF you've ever dreamed of aspiring to what seems the dream life of a travel writer, a sailing aboard the luxury mega motor-cruiser SeaDream I in the Mediterranean this October will have one of Australia's most prolific travel writers aboard – and he'll be more than happy to chat with you about how you may realise your dream.

Ian McIntosh has been writing travel for Australia's major newspapers and magazines for 45 years from what started as a working holiday travelling from Venice to Bergen, and found him being appointed Travel Editor of his newspaper in Adelaide on his return home.

He'll be sailing aboard SeaDream I from Rome's port of Civitavecchia to Cannes on the French Riviera this October 22, a full week on this world's highest-rated boutique passenger vessel that will visit Sorrento, Capri, have an overnight and a full day in Bonifacio on Corsica, and also have a day each in Calvi and St Tropez.

And while Ian will happily share tips on how to possibly achieve your travel-writing dream, you'll no doubt be interested in chatting with his wife too – she's Fiona McIntosh, one of Australia's most successful authors with some 30 novels to her credit, and more in the pipeline.

Price of this sailing that will give you the opportunity to meet and get writing tips from both Ian and Fiona McIntosh in personal get-togethers, begins from US$4926pp twin-share.  And this includes premium drinks from the open bars, wines at lunch and dinner, power and sail water-sports where locally permitted, a 30 international course golf simulator, onboard gratuities, and Government charges and taxes.

For full details see travel agents, or go to


PHOTO : AUSTRALIAN author Fiona McIntosh and travelwriter husband Ian – get their writing tips aboard SeaDream I in the Mediterranean this October.


Tuesday 21 June 2016

PONANT new Latin America & Caribbean 2016 2017 Collection


PONANT presents its Latin America and Caribbean destinations for the October 2017-April 2018 season.


The mysterious Nazca lines, visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites and meetinglocals while fully respecting their customs, in the company of experts who are passionate about what they do: seven exceptional cruises from PONANT provide the ideal opportunity to discover the culture and treasures of Latin America, aboard elegant yachts offering an outstanding level of refinement and comfort. To give passengers more choice in line with their desires and expectations, some excursions are included in the itinerary, while others are offered "à la carte". Passengers can also prolong their journey with a high-end pre and post cruise programme focused around visits to iconic sites such as Machu Picchu, Iguazú Falls and the Galapagos Islands.


Scheduled to coincide with the end of year festivities, two cruises aboard the sailing yacht Le Ponant offer a unique opportunity to discover an idyllic island every day on a majestic three -masted ship that has only 32 staterooms... Like being on a private yacht, relaxing while under sail, scuba diving in turquoise blue waters and New Year's Eve in the tropics are just some of the magical moments awaiting passengers.

Link to the downloadable Latin America & Caribbean e-brochure:



• Crossing the legendary Panama Canal that links the Atlantic to the Pacific is one of the highlights aboard Le Soléal leaving from Colon. In Salverry in Peru, temples of the moon and sun will reveal all their secrets.

'Panama and pre-Columbian Treasures' - Colon (Panama) - Callao (Peru) on Le Soléal
14 to 23 October 2017 - 10 days / 9 nights
From $4,170 per person, in Superior Stateroom, port and security taxes included

• On this Expedition cruise, the passengers will appreciate the magnificence of the Chilean fjords on Zodiac® outings, supervised by naturalist-guides . Untouched nature and a wide variety of wildlife are among the many marvels waiting to be discovered.

'Patagonia and Chilean Fjords' - Valparaiso (Chile) – Ushuaia (Argentina) on Le Soléal
1st to 14 November 2017 - 14 days / 13 nights
From $6,835 per person, includes return flight Ushuaia-Buenos Aires and transfer, and port and security taxes.


• In the heart of the Caribbean, Le Ponant will under sail calling into St Lucia, the Grenadines and other idyllic islands for magical moments of relaxation and cultural discoveries. Supervised by a qualified instructor, passengers can go scuba diving amidst tropical fish as they explore coral reefs in turquoise blue waters.

'Christmas in the Caribbean' - Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) - Fort-de-France (Martinique)
on Le Ponant
18 to 27 December 2017 - 10 days / 9 nights
From $5,290 per person, port and security taxes included
New Year in the Grenadines' - Fort-de-France (Martinique) - Fort-de-France (Martinique) on Le Ponant
27 December 2017 to 3 January 2018 - 9 days / 8 nights
From $4,880 per person, port and security taxes included


Details of all PONANT 2016 and 2017 voyages, including itineraries, pricing and shore excursion highlights are available through your travel agent or directly by contacting PONANT on Australia:1300 737 178 or + 61 2 8459 5000 / New Zealand: 0800 44 32 62, or emailing                                    

Further information available on the website:

Monday 20 June 2016

Special Guests join One Ocean Expeditions’ Arctic Cruise along Wild East Coast of Baffin Island


Award-winning wildlife filmmakers, Neil Nightingale and Karen Bass, will be special guests on One Ocean Expeditions’ (OOE) 12-night Baffin Island – Jewel of the High Arctic cruise, departing on 1 August 2016.

While Head of The BBC’s Natural History Unit Neil oversaw an immense number of successful TV series including Life, Planet Earth, Big Cat Live, Frozen Planet, Deadly 60 and Springwatch. He also directed the recent theatrical films, Walking With Dinosaurs and Wild Africa.
Karen is a television director and producer with a passion for travel and natural history who, during 30 years with the BBC’s Natural History Unit and National Geographic, has made wildlife films in almost every corner of the Earth.

Together they, and other on-board experts, will regale passengers with fascinating tales of their many interesting travel experiences, answer questions and educate with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history of Baffin Island and the Canadian Arctic.

“This voyage is a privileged opportunity to explore wild places that are so remote few people are ever fortunate to visit. It’s a fascinating area of the Arctic that is scenically spectacular and a major crossroads for wildlife,” says Neil Nightingale.

Other highlights of this trip on board the comfortable expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe, include visits to remote Inuit communities for a genuine insight into an ancient lifestyle, as well as a stop at an old Royal Canadian Mounted Pole outpost and the final resting place of some of the explorers who lost their lives on the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845 to 46.

Crossing the Arctic Circle by zodiac boat or on foot will also be a focal point of the voyage, while spotting wildlife will be a daily pastime, with snow geese, walrus and endangered bowhead whales, polar bears, ringed seals and narwhal all among those who make their home in the region.

Staggeringly beautiful scenery abounds along the route, with deep fjords that offer sheltered waters ideal for sea kayaking, soaring mountains to tempt the keenest of hikers and immense glacial systems that simply take the breath away.

Prices start from US $7995 per person, based on triple share and include travel on a special charter flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit, all meals on board the ship and excursions as outlined, plus a charter flight from Resolute to Edmonton at the end of the voyage.

(One Ocean Expeditions)

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Aqua Expeditions to launch third vessel on Amazon


In line with its aggressive growth strategy, Aqua Expeditions will start construction in December 2016 of a third vessel to sail on Peru's Amazon River, it was announced by Francesco Galli Zugaro, the company's Founder and CEO. The third all-suite vessel will be a joint cooperation between Noor Designs of Vietnam and Jordi Puig of Peru, and will mostly resemble the company's newest boat, the award-winning Aqua Mekong, with twenty 320-square-foot suites, a spa, a gym, a pool and a fleet of four customized tenders for intimate daily explorations.

Aria Amazon launched in 2011 (supplied)
Scheduled to launch in early December 2017, the third boat is an answer to a growing demand for luxury cruising experiences in the Peruvian Amazon. With this third boat, Aqua Expeditions will elevate yet again the level of accommodation and service and offer a wider selection of expeditions in the high-end category sailing in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve.

Since its inception in 2007, Aqua Expeditions has become known for its exclusive, luxury cruising experiences that allow special insider access to Amazonian communities, remote areas of the reserve, and world-class naturalist guides. The vessels are renowned for their expansive design suites and for world-class cuisine curated by some of the world’s top chefs. In Vietnam and Cambodia, guests visit local villages, temples and markets as well as various silk and silver craftsmen.

"We are excited to be expanding our product in the Peruvian Amazon and maintaining our position of market maker," said Galli Zugaro, "and are pleased that our product has become synonymous with luxury river cruising." The extraordinary demand demonstrated by our past guests and trade partners has only fueled our expansion and growth in the small ship expedition segment. We have some exciting new destinations we will be announcing this summer to complement our current destination offering.

The new vessel will be called Aqua Amazon and the existing Aqua Amazon will be re-named Aqualina and offered as a wholesale charter-only vessel. All three cruisers will continue to navigate into the reserve, offering varying options to discerning soft adventure seekers.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Founding director of North Star Cruises Australia, Craig Howson, awarded OAM



The founding director of North Star Cruises Australia, Mr Craig Howson, has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to tourism in Western Australia.

Craig Howson (L) and co-director Mark Stothard receiving another award. (FILE IMAGE)
The award was announced in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Mr Howson first offered adventure-cruises along Western Australia’s Kimberley coast in 1987 and, in 2017 North Star will celebrate 30 years of successful operations.

Responding to the award Mr Howson said “It is very humbling to receive this recognition. It makes me realise how fortunate I was to pioneer adventure-cruising in the Kimberley. To see what has evolved from those early days is also very rewarding and I am extremely grateful to those who joined me along the way.”

An adventure on North Star’s adventure-cruise ship, the TRUE NORTH, has become one of Australia’s most desirable holiday experiences and the offering is also developing an equally revered reputation in international markets.

Mr Howson explained that the focus at North Star had always been on giving guests greater opportunity to experience the destination.

“We are very different to a big ship holiday. Our itineraries are always activity-based and much more suited to travellers who are looking for a holiday that is also a rewarding experience.”

Mr Howson added that “Life at North Star had not always been plain sailing.”

“There have been some tough times. It certainly wasn’t easy getting everything up and away and just when we started to gather some momentum – the global financial crisis took the wind out of everyone’s sails. Fortunately we had already developed a loyal following and we never lost sight of making sure that a holiday on the TRUE NORTH was the best holiday that you could ever have!”

“Currently we are experiencing another strong sales period and everyone at North Star is looking forward to growing the company.”

Small Ship Expedition Cruising, an Adventure Like No Other


Small Ship Expedition Cruising,
an Adventure Like No Other

There is something so wonderful about getting on board, being able to unpack and then see something new every day. At Active Travel, we especially love small ship expedition cruising, because it offers an intimate way to sail the seas in style. Whether you’re already experienced or brand new to Ocean Cruise Experiences, there is always something new to explore. Our once-in-a-lifetime small ship cruises take you to some of the world’s most unique destinations, including Iceland, Antarctica, North America, the magnificent islands in the Asia Pacific and beyond. Small ship vessels offer the perfect way to explore these regions. They offer access to remote islands and bays that the big ships simply cannot get close to. In this way, Small Ship Expedition Cruising really is an eye-opening experience. To find the perfect cruise for you, contact Active Travel and speak with one of our specialist consultants today.

Saturday 11 June 2016

New Dive Wreck off Tivua Island [video]


Captain Cook Cruises Fiji has just launched a new dive wreck, ‘Raiyawa’, situated off the island of Tivua. Raiyawa is being used as a dive site for avid divers to explore as part of the companies popular Tivua Island Day cruise.

Raiyawa was built in 1982 in Fiji and was a government vessel deployed in placing and maintaining Navigational marks around Fiji and also used to carry passengers interisland.

In 2014 Raiyawa was decommissioned and Captain Cook Cruises Fiji took her from government shipping with the intention of sinking her as a wreck.

Extensive work was done on ‘Raiyawa’ to ensure she was safe for diving. Work included opening large swim throughs in her hull and superstructure, as well as removing any hazards to divers such as sharp edges and obstructions. She was extensively cleaned and prepared in line with the environmental guidelines.

According to Jackie Charlton, Managing Director of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji, ‘Raiyawa’ has been turned into a wreck divers dream. The experience of the dive is really exciting. As you descend down through the misty, rich waters, the ship comes into sight like a ghost ship and the yellow and blue hull bursts into sight and looks almost iridescent. It’s very much a dive of discovery as you swim around the superstructure looking at the propellers, peering into the wheelhouse, disturb resting grouper and marvel at the schools of Jacks and small reef fish sheltering all over the ship. “

“The heart pounds throughout the dive and it really is quite eerie down there. For lovers of dive, it is a dive wreck that must be experienced” Continues Mrs Charlton.

The wreck is situated just off Tivua Island, a tropical atoll surrounded by a white sandy beach and 500 acres of coral gardens in the northern part of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji. Passengers on Captain Cook Cruises Island Day cruise, which spends the day at Tivua, will have the option of diving at the ‘Raiyawa’ wreck.

The Tivua Island Day cruise departs Denarau Marina daily at 10am and returns at 5pm and includes return transfers from Denarau and Nadi hotels, three hours sailing on tall ship Ra Marama, morning and afternoon tea, four hours on Tivua Island, BBQ lunch, beer, wine and soft drink, guided snorkelling tour, volleyball, kayaks, medicine walk, kava ceremony, kids club and Fijian entertainment.

Raiyawa (2008) when in Fiji Gov. service

The Tivua Island Day Cruise is priced at FJ$209 per adult and FJ$138 per child. A special is available where one child aged 3-9 yrs is only FJ$27with every paying adult.

PADI diving at dive wreck ‘Raiyawa’ and Senikai Spa treatments are available to all passengers at an additional cost.

Captain Cook Cruises accommodated cruise ship, MV Reef Endeavour also stops at Tivua Island every Tuesday as part of their four and seven night cruises.

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji is also building a new jetty on Tivua Island which will facilitate faster and safer boarding and disembarkation for passengers and allow access to the island anytime of the day or night for functions and events.

For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises on T: +61 9126 8160 or from within Australia: 1300 To Fiji (86 3454), Email: or visit

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Coral Expeditions’ to refit flagship Coral Discoverer


Coral Expeditions' flagship Coral Discoverer will undergo a refurbishment this November before embarking on its inaugural South East Asia expeditions.

The ship, which will dry dock in Singapore, will receive a multi-million-dollar facelift, incorporating the addition of six Bridge Deck Balcony Staterooms, the first on any Coral Expeditions vessel.  The remaining 30 staterooms will receive full upgrades to bathroom fixtures, soft furnishings and artwork.  The intimate expedition character of the ship that guests have come to love, will be maintained.

Mark Fifield, Coral Expeditions Group General Manager said, 'Our inaugural Asia season will be the perfect opportunity to welcome guests to a new chapter for our company.  The Coral Discoverer was built to very high standards in Australia and this refit will ensure she remains the most comfortable small expedition ship afloat today.'

The 20sqm balcony rooms will feature double or twin beds, ensuite, a couch, writing desk, and ample wardrobe storage. The rooms will provide coveted indoor-outdoor living spaces with the private balcony opening out from French doors.  Most staterooms can be configured to either junior king or twin bedding and all feature compact private ensuite, outside view, iPod dock, ample storage and Australian toiletries. Bridge Deck Balcony rooms are priced from $12,395 per person for 10 nights Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore and $16,695 for 12 nights Singapore to Yangon or vice versa, inclusive of all meals on board and beer and house wines during lunch and dinner service, off-shore excursions, ground transport and use of on board facilities.

The refurbishment will also extend to common areas including the dining room, deck lounge and the sun deck, which will become the social hub of on-board community living. The sun deck will be converted into an undercover deck area complete with a circular bar, alfresco dining area, cabana chairs and an area for outdoor exercise equipment.

Coral Expeditions' Asia season features nine itineraries exploring unseen small towns and islands of South East Asia including Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand Vietnam and Indonesia normally not accessible to road or large cruise ships.

To download the comprehensive Asia brochure visit

Ortelius engine failure in Svalbard



Last weekend, the Artic expedition cruise ship Ortelius (formerly Marina Svetaeva IMO 8509181) experienced an engine failure in Hinlopenstretet, near Vaigattøyane, and had to be towed back to Longyearbyen, according to a newspaper in Norway.

Svalbardposten reports that the Oceanwide Expeditions ship was sailing south through Hinlopenstretet, with 39 crew members and 105 passengers aboard, when it sustained an engine failure.

Engineers from the Netherlands were helicoptered out to the Ortelius on Saturday night in order to work on the ship's engine, and reportedly were working on the engine while it was under tow to prepare the ship for the next trip scheduled this week.

According to the Maritime Executive, the ship was built in Poland in 1989 and originally named Marina Svetaeva and served as a special purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science.

Photo credit: Gatorsaver911 - (taken by passenger Allen Powell of the Marina Svetaeva in Antartica. CC BY-SA 3.0,, commons / wikimedia).

Gáldar, Gran Canaria and the Mystery of the Guanches


One of the great joys of expedition cruising is meeting new people who share your passion for exploration, discovery and enrichment. Often just sitting at a spare seat in the dining room can yield great rewards and such was the case when I met Tina at dinner aboard MS Expedition. Tina patiently let me reel off some of my own experiences before amazing me with her own. This is just one of them. I thank her for so eloquently sharing it with me here.

- Roderick Eime , editor, Adventure Cruise Guide and

Illustration of Guanches man by Juan Carlos Mora

By Tina Crossfield, May 2016

Most visitors to Gran Canaria are drawn to the sun-soaked beaches and lively coastal towns that are strung together by threads of black asphalt. From the surface, there appears little historical significance other than Christopher Columbus, who landed in Las Palmas in 1492 to repair his ship before heading across the Atlantic. Strolling along the Maspalomas Paseo (boardwalk), we are lulled into thinking that the Canaries have always been Spanish, having arrived in the archipelago in the 1400s. In our haste to photograph the next awesome wave, we might not even notice the small enclosure around a stone dwelling next to the great beach or the sketchy translation on a boring marker that describes the ancients. Indeed, most Canarians do not seem that interested in their own pre-history, which dates back to the 5th Century, but like all good mysteries, this one is thought-provoking.

The remains of their troglodytes, or groups of indigenous dwellings, are dotted around the coast of Gran Canaria, however, the most important archaeological site, called Cueva Pintada, is only a short drive to Gáldar from the Port of Agaete, on the north side of the island. The town of Gáldar is situated at the foot of the mountains, 2 km from the coast and 21 km from Las Palmas. Both ports connect Gran Canaria to the other islands, such as Tenerife and Fuerteventura, making it accessible to travellers on marine expeditions.

Cave murals of the Guanches

Who were the fair-skinned and tall-statured people called the Guanches? How did they come to be in the Canary Islands in 400 AD when Rome was being sacked by the Visigoths? Who dropped them off and for what reason? Were they exiled from Northern Africa? What connection, if any, do they have to the present-day cave dwellers who live in the ravines? The origins and practices of these people remain a mystery and were little studied by historians until the 1970s.

As the story goes, in 1873, a farmer was working in his fields when he stumbled into an opening in the ground leading to a small roof above a concealed chamber. Here he discovered the only known cave paintings created by the Guanches. The find was duly recorded, and some researchers visited the site, but it didn’t arouse much excitement at the time. It took another 100 years for it to open to the public and soon after, like the famous cave drawings in Lascaux, in southwestern France, all the foot-traffic and exposure began to affect the original colours. Today, this world-class museum, Cueva Pintada, is entirely covered, and the paintings are strictly protected by glass and from light.

Museo y Parque Arqueológico Cueva Pintada - Gáldar, Gran Canaria from Tomás Correa on Vimeo.

Current scholarship suggests the Guanches were of African-Berber descent, and possibly arrived on Phoenician trading ships. Other historians argue that the Guanches were Celts from Western Europe, who also roamed the Atlantic. They had sheep and goats, and a knowledge of subsistence agriculture, but were Neolithic (locked in the stone age). They were great potters, created stoneware, art objects and "stamped" their skin with designs, but never invented the wheel. They swam and ate fish but never built any boats. Totally isolated, they lived a peaceful existence, developed a hierarchical class structure and practiced spiritual rituals, including mummifying their dead. However, they left no written record aside from the cave paintings, and, as yet, some undecipherable markings. Clearly more research is needed!

By the 15th Century, the Guanches had built 30 villages and lived in other smaller communities making up about 20,000 inhabitants. After the conquest by the Castilians, only about 3,000 survived. Although they were fierce fighters, most had begun to have breakdowns within their own societies, while others were sold into slavery and deported. Despite 50 years of resistance, a few brave Guanches fled into the interior to try and retain their family groups, living in well-fortified caves, some of which can still be seen in ravines that were supported by fresh water. But most were finally beaten down by 1483.

If you can divert your attention away from the crowded beaches to roam among the ruins and hike in the barrancos (ravines), the presence of the Guanches will stick in your thoughts and haunt your conversations when you least expect it.


Tina Crossfield is a scholar with a wide degree of interests. From natural history to science and culture, she has written on diverse topics, and has acted as a book publisher for other authors whose manuscripts would likely never have seen the light. She is a true generalist who loves to travel the unusual and less trampled paths and share her experiences with others. She lives and works in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada. Find out more at Crossfield Publishing