Going off grid
A thirst for adventure and increasingly hardy superyachts have driven a trend for travel to remote destinations.
Once upon a time, owning a superyacht meant luxurious holidays in Monaco, epic travels around the Mediterranean and warm winters in the Caribbean. Those things are all still true, of course, but in today’s world, they only tell half the story. As yachts have become ever more advanced – and owners have become ever more intrepid – destinations have become increasingly far-flung. For some, a weekender to Capri might still suffice, but increasingly, only a fortnight in Antarctica or some other remote outpost will do.
“Even before covid, people were looking for more meaning in their travel, and wanting to spend more time together as families,” says Ben Lyons, CEO of Eyos Expeditions, which accompanies owners and charter guests on trips to remote destinations. “Expeditions offer the perfect setting to do so – there is a natural camaraderie and excitement that forms when out on expedition and the wildlife encounters or peaceful evenings surrounded by unbelievable natural beauty. It brings people together in a very natural setting.”
It’s a sentiment that many yacht owners who have now made the leap to these remote outposts would agree with. Jan Verkerk is one of them. “Most guests know the Mediterranean off by heart by now,” he says. “It’s still fantastic, of course, and the likes of Monaco and St Tropez are still highlights, but people are starting to want to experience something completely different.” For Verkerk, this thirst for adventure has taken him all over the world, but there is one place that stands out from the crowd.
“In terms of wildlife, South Georgia is the most incredible destination in the world,” he says. “There are so many seals on the beach that you have to make some noise when you arrive with your Zodiac to get a space. And so many penguins that you can get literally millions covering a valley.”
For Dominique Gerardin, owner of Lamima, the Banda Islands in Indonesia get his vote, thanks to the hammerhead sharks that gather there every October and November. “It’s beautiful being in the water with them,” says Gerardin, “and not scary at all. When it’s mating season, they are not interested, they don’t even look at you.” Gerardin believes that travellers today are searching for something very different to a decade back. “People want to do something more authentic, less shiny,” he explains.
And although owners are partly driving the trend, there’s another influence; the yachts. As these vessels become ever more more advanced, the opportunities for intrepid travel blossom. “Yachts that are now being built with ice class allow for their guests to go deeper into the ice, and it is often in the ice that some of the most magical moments or wildlife encounters occur,” explains Lyons. “A stronger yacht affords more flexibility – and with more flexibility, there are more opportunities. Also, the toys helicopters and submersibles that these yachts now carry provide a different perspective on the continent and also open up experiences that were not possible previously.”
Recent years have seen the launch of increasingly impressive explorer yachts. The winner of Boat International’s Voyager 2021 award, V6, was only purchased last year and has already been to the Shetlands, Arctic Norway, Gibraltar and beyond. And typically, there is no sacrificing of luxury to enable such hardy yachts – Jan Verkerk’s vessel Legend is equipped with all the requisite bells and whistles for exploration – but after a day of adventure, guests can come back to the onboard Jacuzzi, have a treatment in the Balinese spa or even watch a film in the movie theatre. This is bold travel, but it is done in style.
The journalist John O’Ceallaigh had it right, when he boarded Legend and sailed to Antarctica. “How often, today, is it possible to look at a perfect panorama and know it has never once been blemished by the hand of man?” he told Superyacht Life after the trip. “Day and night I stood captivated by the window, on the deck, greedily surveying all before me; we were in the middle of nowhere and yet there was always so much to see.”
On a superyacht, not only is the world your oyster – but you can have that world all to yourself.