Adventure Cruise Guide
Popular Adventure Cruising Destinations
This iconic wilderness at the end of the Earth is the epitome of the adventure destination. Sailing “off the map” to areas only discovered within the last hundred years, makes Antarctica the must-do itinerary for all serious expedition cruisers.
Expeditions to Antarctica take several forms. The simplest are short itineraries of perhaps a week to ten days to the Antarctic Peninsula from Ushuaia at the very bottom of South America. More ambitious journeys will be by icebreaker, way below the Antarctic Circle to places like McMurdo Sound and Commonwealth Bay. These voyages generally leave from either Tasmania or New Zealand but entail more time at sea in potentially rough conditions.
A perfect complement to your southerly expedition, a trip to the Arctic can be as simple as a cruise to Iceland or Greenland or as heroic as a nuclear icebreaker to the North Pole itself.
The current alarm among environmentalists about retreating glaciers and thinning ice pack has created some urgency to visit this region as they attempt to see the great Polar Bear in its diminishing natural environment. Glaciers too are calving at unprecedented rates.
Apart from the North Pole, the great historic North-West Passage across the top of Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans is a true odyssey only a few will ever experience.
The Galapagos Islands
Charles Darwin’s evolutionary playground is a great drawcard for those with a penchant for warmer climes. A short flight from Ecuador, most visitors will spend about a week cruising among the many islands in this unique archipelago.
Following in the footsteps of David Attenborough, visitors will discover the crazy wildlife that makes this place so special. The sinister marine iguanas, the fierce land iguanas, the delightful giant tortoises and the many strange birds and plants make this place a naturalist’s wonder.
Like so many delicate eco-systems, man’s influence is being felt here too.
Western Australia’s Kimberley
The awe-inspiring, rugged and remote regions of the Kimberley are the perfect choice for expedition cruising in our region. Incredible rock formations, abundant birdlife, rich Aboriginal culture and weird natural phenomenon like the horizontal waterfalls attract thousands of visitors every year. Most cruise companies book out a year ahead, such is the popularity of this region.
Recent oil and gas exploration in the region have tour and cruise operators very nervous and it is hoped their lobbying will prevent unmanaged development and limit impact of infrastructure.
Papua New Guinea
Often the subject of adverse publicity, the sublime islands of the Bismarck and Solomon Seas exhibit none of the rough lawlessness found in some pockets on the mainland. Expedition cruise companies are falling all over themselves to create itineraries in this region and the PNG Tourism authorities are extremely supportive of these initiatives.
New Ireland, New Britain, the legendary Trobriands and the mighty Sepik River are the key destinations on most itineraries. The wild frontiers of PNG, so close by, perfectly fit the description of “transformational and experiential” travel. Consider itineraries that cross into neighbouring Melanesia to extend and enhance your experience.
Covering thousands of square kilometres, the many islands and nations of the South Pacific have attracted inquisitive cruisers for centuries. French, English and even Spanish pathfinders toured throughout Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Noumea and the Solomon Islands leaving a rich treasure trove of history and culture. More recent historical events have left war relics and wrecks throughout the north west of the region making it a mecca for scuba divers seeking sunken warships and aircraft.
Small ship experiences in the region are some of the most enriching on the planet. Away from the tourist traps there are amazing natural and cultural experiences available, especially in emerging destinations in the eastern reaches of PNG, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Here villages have limited contact with westerners and volcanoes still spew smoke, ash and lava into the air.
Consider the supremely relaxing Gordon River cruises that explore the incredible and remote UNESCO World Heritage areas of Western Tasmania. Currently no overnight products are available, yet day trips leave regularly from Strahan travelling through Macquarie Harbour, visiting intriguing Sarah Island and one of the last Huon Pine stands. You might even see one of the incredibly rare Yellow Bellied Parrots.
This huge river can accommodate cruise ships many hundreds of miles upstream. See the disappearing Amazon Basin jungles, visit remote indian tribes and mourn the vanishing landscapes.
Over 1800 bird, 250 mammal and 1500 fish species make the vast 6.2 million square kilometre basin a biodiversity smorgasbord for naturalists and birdwatchers. A range of remote river lodges in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil are a perfect add-on to any cruising itinerary.
Russian Far East
Several companies are experimenting with itineraries in the area immediately north of Japan through to the Bering Strait in Siberia. Characterised by isolated ecosystems and volcanic activity on the western perimeter of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, these voyages will always be exclusive.
Characterised by bleak and featureless landscapes, these images can be deceptive. Rich marine biodiversity exists all along the coastline and up into the arctic. A profusion of migratory birds brings birdwatchers from all over the world and sightings of whales, orcas, narwhals, walrus and the magnificent polar bear and features of this destination. Visits to any of the native villages will enthral travellers to the Chukchi province as you meet the hardy, resilient folks who still hunt and fish in the frigid waters.
The relatively brief vacation window in Alaska brings cruisers by the thousands as the megaliners ply the fabled inside passage between Anchorage and Vancouver. But most of these visitors, awed by the scenery as it drifts past, will never experience the up-close beauty of an extended shore excursion or a small ship exploration.
Kayaking, salmon fishing, bear viewing and bird watching are just some of the must-do activities offered in the wilderness regions of Alaska and are specialist options offered to adventure cruisers. The entire inside passage is dotted with little villages and towns like Petersburg, Wrangel, Ketchikan and Sitka which offer a mind-boggling range of activities, sight-seeing and experiences.
Like so many arctic destinations, global warming is having an impact and the mighty glaciers of Prince William Sound and elsewhere are receding fast, creating an unforgettable, if saddening, spectacle.
Great Barrier Reef
Another threatened eco system, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef has attracted millions of visitors over the years and continues to do so. Many operators offer introductory Scuba dives and you’ll be quickly hooked on this sublime activity. A vast range of vessels operate tours and itineraries ranging from a few hours to over a week. Extended journeys to the tip of Cape York perhaps best exemplify the true adventure possibilities as visits to remote islands are possible.
Be quick, the reef will never be as good as it is now.
The brilliant scenery and harbours all around New Zealand are attracting adventure cruise companies with ambitious itineraries, including semi-circumnavigations, Milford and Doubtful Sound and Bay of Islands products. Big ships are travelling there in increasing numbers, revelling in the dramatic landscapes, but their rapid passages overlook the fascinating detail of the region that will only ever be revealed in an enriching shore excursion.
Predictions are that this destination will continue to grow once the word is out.