Some ultra-luxury cruise lines give you the chance to see the wilder world with special expedition voyages.
They’re a fantastic way to learn more about the natural world – with naturalists, geologists and other experts offering lectures on board and leading your expeditions ashore. These cruises tend to take place on smaller ships which can navigate narrow straits and shallow waters, taking you to the world’s more remote destinations.
While some mainstream cruise lines also offer expeditions, they can place more emphasis on experiences ashore than luxury suites and restaurants on board. But with expedition cruises from six-star lines like Seabourn and Silversea, you get both the wild adventures and the luxury stay combined in the same cruise.
Ships like this even include fleets of small Zodiac boats, which are used to land on beaches, riverbanks and ice floes without the need for a pier – so that you can travel right to the heart of the wilder parts of the world.
So, what kind of wildlife experiences are there to enjoy on a luxury expedition cruise?
The clear turquoise waters of Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are home to spinner and bottlenose dolphins, which are well known for being especially social creatures. These social skills are a useful survival mechanism to defend their pods, and particularly their young, against predators – but coupled with their intelligence and their love of play, it also makes them a fantastic attraction for keen divers heading out on expedition cruises in the Western Pacific.
If you opt for an adventure ashore in Papua New Guinea, you’ve got the chance to meet the locals and even receive a traditional welcoming ceremony – but the star attractions here for animal lovers are the islands’ striking birds of paradise. Take a guided forest trek and you might be lucky enough to see the males showing off their vivid colours to attract a mate – just make sure you bring a camera.
The volcanic Galapagos islands burst out of the sea as lava flows, cooling over time to form the stark landscapes we see today. The remarkable thing about the Galapagos is that the islands were never part of a larger landmass – so all the unique wildlife that you can see on an expedition cruise had to get here by air or sea. Looking beyond the famous giant tortoises, unique seabirds and lovable, once-endangered golden seals, you can also see some of the islands’ less graceful species on your expedition.
Admittedly, marine iguanas are no birds of paradise. Darwin described them as hideous, clumsy and disgusting – but they’re undeniably adept at survival. It’s thought that they began as ordinary land iguanas, until they drifted out to the islands on logs or debris millions of years ago. Since then they’ve adapted to dive into the sea and graze on algae and seaweed, evolving flat tails to swim, sharp claws to cling to rocks in the tide and even extra glands to deal with the excess salt in their bodies. Even their blotchy grey skin has a purpose – it’s more effective at absorbing the heat of the sunlight after feeding in the cold seas.
Luxury expedition cruises are also a fantastic way to explore the seventh continent, and this is truly alien territory to see up close. It’s not all snow fields and blinding snowstorms – tour the Antarctic coast in the bright sunlight and you could take a trip out on a Zodiac craft to see gigantic bodies of ice that glow green-blue against the sea water.
Antarctica is home to six of the world’s seventeen penguin species, including adélie, rockhopper, macaroni and the iconic emperor. The penguins often gather on coastal bodies of ice and pile off the edges into the sea, but you could also jump ashore to get closer to their colonies. You could take an icy plunge into the waves too, into waters inhabited by a variety of whale and seal species. Perhaps the best known species here are humpacks, orcas and leopard seals, but also some species you might not have heard of – like Gray’s beaked whale and the threatened southern right whale.
We have a fantastic choice of luxury expedition cruises to choose from, and cruise lines like Seabourn and Silversea offer these voyages all over the world. Speak to our dedicated Cruise Concierge team to find out more about our expedition sailings – or let them find your perfect luxury expedition cruise.
Images courtesy of Aviceda, Wikipedia; Jeff Kraus, Photopin/Flickr; Kath B, Photopin Flickr; Mark, Photopin/Flickr.