The best of both worlds

Legend in Antarctica. Photo: Christopher Scholey & EYOS Expeditions

The best of both worlds

Legend in Antarctica. Photo: Christopher Scholey & EYOS Expeditions

Journeys

The best of both worlds

What is driving the unstoppable trend for explorer yachts and increasingly remote travel?

By Dominique Afacan | 1 May 2019

Over the past few years, the phrase ‘explorer yacht’ has been dropped into yachting conversations with growing regularity. Designed for travel to remote regions and equipped to cope with the world’s roughest conditions – such as the icy polar wilderness – explorer yachts have come to represent everything that is new and exciting in the world of superyachting. Increasingly, owners and charter guests are lapping it up – searching for ever-more daring escapades and adventures that will take them far, far away from their usual yachting hotspots in the Med and the Caribbean.

John O’Ceallaigh, luxury travel editor for The Telegraph, believes the trend is driven by the sense of freedom these voyages offer in an evermore-hectic world. “The cachet that comes with being perceived as the first to explore little-known terrains is obviously a factor for some,” he says, “but more compelling is the sense of adventure and freedom that goes with these voyages into the wilderness, where it’s just you, your nearest and dearest and a spectacular landscape devoid of the interference and annoyances caused by other people.”

The best of both worlds

Whale spotting in Antarctica. Photo: Christopher Scholey & EYOS Expeditions

The best of both worlds

Whale spotting in Antarctica. Photo: Christopher Scholey & EYOS Expeditions

The polar regions have perhaps garnered the most attention when it comes to talking about the sorts of destinations these yachts are capable of going to – and it’s easy to see why. Images of superyachts parked up in front of colossal icebergs do demand attention – especially with the added draw of humpback whales, penguins or polar bears, depending on which end of the earth you choose. Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS Expeditions, a company which accompanies superyachts on these intrepid expeditions, has numerous anecdotes to explain the appeal of the polar regions.

“One of my favourite memories was this year down in Antarctica,” he says. “We sailed south of the Lemaire Channel and navigated for hours in the ice, with no other vessels anywhere nearby, and then put up the helicopter for a new perspective on this amazing landscape. Watching the yacht slowly sail through the ice from the helicopter was absolutely spectacular and you got a sense of just how vast an area you were in.”

The best of both worlds

Legend in Antarctica. Photo: Justin Hofman & EYOS Expeditions

The best of both worlds

Legend in Antarctica. Photo: Justin Hofman & EYOS Expeditions

That’s not to say that all the adventures start and end in Antarctica or the Arctic. EYOS Expeditions is seeing increasing interest in tropical regions. “Melanesia, in particular, is seeing a huge amount of interest now,” says Lyons, “There is a real level of engagement and discovery that you can find in Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands, and yachts are starting to head there.” It’s true that the right guide, speaking the local language will bring any of these remote destinations to life, just as an expedition guide might in the polar regions.

O’Ceallaigh, who experienced a superyacht charter to Antarctica last year – now knows first-hand the appeal of these sorts of adventures. “My own explorer yacht voyage provided our party ample opportunities to be the lone surveyors of unblemished landscapes, remarkable wildlife and endless shimmering parades of glistening icebergs. The privilege I felt through being a witness to all this beauty easily superseded the more traditional luxury of a Michelin-starred meal or fancy hotel suite.”

The best of both worlds

Fire dance ceremony in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

The best of both worlds

Fire dance ceremony in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

That’s not to say that any of the usual superyacht luxuries are sacrificed for such trips. Most explorer yachts are kitted out with all the high-level amenities normally associated with a superyacht – so that after a day’s heli-skiing, iceberg hiking or diving – guests can return to the spa for a massage, before settling down to an exquisite dinner. It’s the best of both worlds – as the likes of Northern Star, Cloudbreak and Equanimity – with their helidecks, pools, overflowing toy garages and ground-breaking technology – can attest.

And that groundbreaking technology is important when it comes to this type of travel, as PRIVA who help keep superyachts connected at sea, can testify. “Connectivity onboard is no longer a luxury but a necessity with remote travel,” says Juliette Warter, director. “A business-driven owner usually needs video conferencing available anytime, while streaming high volume of data may be of higher value for entertainment-seeking guests. Explorer yachts also tend to stream live events from remote regions and use communications onboard for scientific purposes.”

The best of both worlds

REV

The best of both worlds

REV

That scientific angle is on the up, too, with some owners – such as Kjell Inge Røkke, who is behind the upcoming REV – using their boats for groundbreaking research all over the world ­– much of which is centered around ocean preservation and conservation. As Warter explains, “Among the new generation of UHNWI are several millennials, who are becoming superyacht owners. Their interest in yachting goes beyond parties, fun, and fortune. Concerns with social justice, climate change, and a thirst for adventure are driving this new generation, who value experience over materialism.”

And if you are craving experience – an explorer yacht could well be the very best place to start.

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