Some of us enjoy taking the more usual type of vacation such as a tour, a road trip, a cruise or camping. There are a few that have practically done it all and look for adventure and expedition travel. Today, we’ll discuss those vacations that sometimes go the extra mile to see the far outback destinations.
Recently, I became acquainted with a German cruise line that pretty much goes where few others do, Hapag-Lloyd.
The line has been in business many years and is reputed to be one of the best in the business. They own and operate two, very fine luxury expedition cruise ships, the Hanseatic and Bremen. The Hanseatic is 8,378 gross tons, 403 feet long and carries 184 passengers. The Bremen is 6,752 gross tons, 365 feet long and accommodates only 164 passengers. The Hanseatic is rated 5 stars, the Bremen 4 stars. Both ships offer very large cabins, the finest facilities, gourmet dining, very fine service by an international crew and have international officers. The ships are German designed, built and owned and meet the highest standards for E4 hulls and bows that can navigate the Arctic and Antarctica.
Where do they cruise? Both Antarctica and Arctic are among the adventurous itineraries. Being of the highest ice class for passenger ships these vessels ply the icy waters in complete safety. These two destinations are considered by some to be among the last adventures of our time. You visit Antarctica in their summer, our winter. The Arctic is available during our summer. Both ships have offered these two destinations for over 15 years.
In the Arctic you may view polar bears with their cubs as well as other natural wildlife. The Antarctic offers penguins, seals, bird life and many other interesting forms of nature.
Both ships are equipped with Zodiacs to ferry passengers ashore in most of their destinations. This facilitates getting up close to experience those pleasures you have come so far to experience.
There will be expedition leaders on board who are members of the Royal Geographical Society and take charge of land experiences and who will, before you reach a particular destination, give lectures regarding history, nature and impart information regarding what to expect, what to wear, etc.
Because the ships have the highest ice class rating, the course will be through ice packs, and routes most other ships cannot traverse. You will witness up-close unusual kingdoms not found in other locations of the planet. You’ll feel the stillness of the air, no sounds, just the fact that you are in a place few other humans have visited before. How unique!
On board the ships will be all the luxury you would find in the best European clubs. I call this type of cruise a “coffee table” vacation. You will have books and/or literature on your coffee table for two years after your trip describing your adventure for others to pick up and read and who will ask questions about your unusual trip.
These ships not only cruise the icy destinations but also have unusual South Pacific itineraries that call in many islands you have never heard of. Sure, your ship would pull into Tahiti and its neighbor isles, but also such islands as Atiu, Neiafu, Wallis, Matautu Bay, Apia, Sava-i-lau, Lautoka, Futuna, Niuatoputapu and more. There will be enchanting lagoons to splash in, beaches few people walk on and little towns with people that rarely see others from lands far away.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises also include in 2011 a very complete Amazon River cruise that begins in Lima, Peru with a chartered flight to Iquitos where you board the ship and cruise the long distance down this river of all rivers. For two weeks you will stop, get in Zodiacs and zoom up tributaries to view all kinds of wildlife and water life. The jungles are thick and lush. The natives are most interesting with many unlike others you may have seen.
I did an Amazon cruise some 10 years ago and during one of my Zodiac expeditions away from the ship a native boat pulled up next to us with a boy holding a snake the size of an elephant’s trunk and pushed the snakes head at me.
I was so startled I could hardly speak for a few minutes.
You can also in 2011 explore Greenland, Iceland, the Canadian Arctic as well as the Middle East, Java and Borneo and other out-of-the-way destinations.
Your experienced travel agent will supply you with Hapag-Lloyd brochures and can assist you with information and booking. Phone the company at 1-800-782-3924 or www.eurolloyd.com.
Touring The Galapagos
The Galapagos are a desert island adventure where you can swim with penguins, hike past giant tortoises and photograph the unusual wildlife found in these remote islands in the Pacific.
You would first fly to Quito, Ecuador and then transit via Guayaquil to fly to the Baltra airport in the Galapagos. You would be transferred by taxi and boat over to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. There would be time for you to unwind in a Blue Parallel villa. You’ll enjoy a sumptuous dinner at the Galapagos Restaurant & Sushi Bar on Avenida Charles Darwin. Ask for some Galapagos fusion cuisine. Perhaps the Tortuga rolls with shrimp, eel, avocado and cucumber. I can taste it now!
Next morning, embark on a weeklong cruise through the islands with Abercrombie & Kent aboard the luxurious M/V Eclipse. With only 24 cabins with sea views this 210-foot boat feels more like a private yacht. The landing parties are with 12 people per guide.
After a quick safety briefing and park orientation, you’re off for a wet landing on Las Bachas Beach, where you might get lucky and see some Caribbean flamingos in the lagoon or nesting green sea turtles on the beach. Definitely bring a pair of Tevas for the wet landings and dry, lightweight hiking boots.
Next day land at Puerto Egas on Santiago Island, and hike along an old salt mining road to the Fur Seal Grottos, beautiful tide pools and caves where penguins sleep and play.
In the afternoon sail to Bartolome Island for a hot, hour-long hike up the 40-plus-foot summit for beautiful views of Pinnacle Rock and Sullivan Bay. Then out to do some snorkeling where you’ll spot harmless whitetip reef sharks and Galapagos penguins.
On day four, you can explore the cactus forests of Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz Island, and stalk the rare land iguanas. Then in the afternoon it’s off to Rabida Island to photograph sea lions.
The next morning you will land at Tagus Cove on Isabela Island and hike through the palo-santo forests up the rugged slopes of a cinder cone. You can photograph finches and mockingbirds. You can also go kayaking in the cove and have a chance to snorkel with penguins again.
Another day it’s off to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island. You’ll be hiking over cold lava flows to a whale skeleton. Later everyone sails to nearby Punta Vincente Roca on Isabela Island for a fantastic few hours of snorkeling with sea lion pups and sea turtles. The sea lions will want to play.
The next morning you are back in Puerto Ayora for a morning visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where you can see the tortoise captive breeding program in action and wander by enclosures that hold adult tortoises. Then you’ll bus up to the highlands for a beautiful hour-long hike to see reptiles in the wild.
You will completely enjoy the next morning as you enter Gardner Bay on Espanola Island to walk and longest white-sand beach in the Galapagos. There is time for freedom to do your own thing without a guide and have another swim and just relax.
On day nine there will be an early morning departure for your flight back to the Ecuador mainland where your adventure ends. Contact Abercrombie & Kent for more information and fares. This is another very fine, upscale travel company that has been in business for many years and is considered very reputable.
In another article, I will outline more expedition land and cruise adventures. I’ll end with a quote from novelist P.F. Kluge: “The ocean puts you on the edge of infinity and eternity. It covers almost three-fourths of the Earth; it could drown Mount Everest; it generates perfect storms and total calms. It puts you in touch with the way things are and were, for even at this late date, every ocean voyage offers an excitement that’s both ancient and childlike.
“Standing at the railing, studying the horizon, something in you wants to shout, ‘Land ho!’ Like Columbus encountering America, Cook probing for a great southern continent, Magellan circling the globe, you feel some old and potent magic. And, like them, you hope to discover a new world.”