“It is human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice, really; it’s an imperative.” – Michael Collins
For the longest time, humans have been inclined to explore worlds that are so far away, so different from their own.
Centuries ago, these explorations were a conquest, a necessity to survive and expand. These days, it is the human necessity to fulfill our curiosities that encourage us to make explorations.
And what better way to explore far-flung places on earth than to do it in luxury? After all, if you are travelling to the northernmost (and southernmost) tip of the world in extreme weather, you’d want to be as comfortable as you can.
Here are four popular destinations that attract tourists and expeditioners alike, along with available tours that offer exploration of the place in luxury.
Located roughly 1,000 km west off the coast of Ecuador, these UNESCO Heritage Listed islands are so famed for inspiring Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The unique location of the Galapagos Islands allows it to be a melting pot of marine species as it is a site where three ocean currents meet, known as the Humboldt Current. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activities also currently shape the unique terrain and landscape of the Galapagos.
These factors, along with the unique isolation and location of the islands has resulted to the development of unusual animal life.
Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world make the journey to Galapagos in order to see species that are unique to the island: The Galapagos Tortoise, Marine Iguana, Lava Lizard, the Flightless Cormorant, Blue Footed Boobies, and Galapagos Finches are just a few of the species that can be found only in the Galapagos.
With the abundance of both land and underwater animals (not to mention just the landscapes and flora of the island), a trip to the Galapagos can be as leisurely or as active as you want it to be. For land explorations, a trip to the bird colony island of Genovesa is recommended, and those who explore the underwater world of the Galapagos may be rewarded with interactions with Galapagos Sea Lions and Green Turtles.
If there is one thing that is even more unique than the sheer abundance of wildlife in the Galapagos, it is the unusual behaviour of the animals that is quite stunning. Animals in the Galapagos do not regard human beings as threats so they remain quite ambivalent and often curious, towards humans.
Explore it in luxury:
Operating since 1990, Ecoventura is the leader in sustainable expedition cruising through the Galapagos Islands. In February of 2016, they just launched their latest luxury vessel, the MV Origin. Operating on a 20-passenger capacity, the 142 foot Origin features ten deluxe staterooms all on the main deck with large windows for ocean views. This kind of luxurious environment is the perfect ‘residence’ for a week-long active exploration of the Galapagos Islands.
2.) Arctic Circle
Like an invisible ring on top of the globe, the Arctic Circle encompasses the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, Baffin Island, other smaller northern islands, and the far northern parts of Europe, Russia (Siberia), Alaska and Canada.
Perhaps more popularly known (and collectively), as the North Pole, where the sun rises once each year and sets once each year. It is in this region where there are generally six months of continuous daylight and six months of continuous night. In terms of wildlife, several species of animals are unique to the Arctic (e.g., polar bear, walrus, musk ox) and many species of birds have their summer home there.
Due to the extreme northernmost location of this region, exploration of this area may seem to be reserved just for the likes of rough adventurers, scientists and perhaps documentary-makers.
However, unlike its polar opposite (Antarctica), the Arctic region is inhabited, and as mentioned above, made up of several different countries, so Arctic Circle tourism and commercial cruising has opened up.
Explore it in Luxury:
AdventureSmith Explorations specialises in small cruise ship explorations with extensive knowledge of Arctic itineraries. While most cruise ships that explore the Arctic circle carry guests over a hundred, AdventureSmith has small ships (16-20 guests) that allow a more intimate and close-up encounter with wildlife as it provide access to shallow harbours and small islands.
On the opposite end of the North Pole, Antarctica is the fifth largest continent in the world. It covers the South Pole with a surface area approximately twice the size of Australia. The nearest land masses to this continent are: South America (it’s southernmost tip)- 1,000 km away, Australia – 2,500 km away, and South Africa – 4,000 km away.
Antarctica is the coldest and also the windiest continent. The lowest temperature on earth ever recorded was at -89.2 degrees Celsius (-128.6 degrees Fahrenheit) at the Southern Geomagnetic Pole. Summers in Antarctica can get as ‘warm’ as 15 degrees Celsius ( 59 degrees Fahrenheit)
Due to its extreme and harsh weather conditions, Antarctica is semi-uninhabited. During the summer months of November to March, scientists, exchange students or temporary settlers “live” in Antarctica for reasons of study and experiments. However, it is also home to abundant wildlife, where penguins, seals and whales are the only permanent residents.
Explore it in luxury:
Among all these adventure destinations, it is in Antarctica where small cruise ships are hard to (if not impossible) to obtain. This is due to the vast distance from the nearest inhabited land mass which will be the port of departure, and in part due to the extreme weather conditions that ships need to be equipped with ice-strengthened hulls, for instance and also be strong enough to withstand the temperatures.
Seaborn Quest is an ultra-luxury cruise ship that offers voyages to Antarctica that offer pampering touches to this expedition. Well-timed glasses of champagne, and rejuvenating massages after a day of exploration are just some of the indulgences onboard. This experience is like combining the comforts of a large cruise ship (and the megalithic amenities that come with it), along with the excitement of remote exploration.
4.) The Amazon River
The Amazon basin is the largest in the world, covering about 40% of South America and runs through Guyana, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
The main reason why the Amazon basin is a popular place for exploration is its massive abundance of wildlife both in its river and rainforests, sheltering more than 30,000 plant species, 1,800 fish, 1,300 bird species, 311 mammals and 165 types of amphibian. More than a third of the world’s species make their home in the rainforest.
Jaguars, sloths, piranhas and anacondas are just very few of the hundreds of wildlife one may sight during a single cruise to the Amazon.
Explore it in luxury:
Due to the numerous countries that the Amazon river runs through, there are a multitude of cruises and tours available to choose from. One company that offers luxury cruising along the Amazon is Delfin Expeditions, on their three-level vessel, the Delfin I. This classic river vessel features 4 oversized suites, all with private panoramic terraces. All remaining guest rooms also offer floor to ceiling window views of the Amazon River.
Nobody owns the world, so we should all feel free to explore it! Which among these luxurious expeditions calls out to you the most?