Where few had tread
Experiential travel rules supreme among the truly wealthy, with a cruise to Antarctica aboard an adventure-ready superyacht deservedly topping many bucket lists. You fly private, why not cruise private too?
That’s where EYOS Expeditions comes in. A groundbreaking charter business founded and led by a team of hardy-yet-passionate travellers. EYOS will take you, your friends and your superyacht (if you’re fortunate enough to have one) or one of its world-class charter yachts to almost anywhere on the planet, complete with a hand-selected expeditionary crew.
One of EYOS’s most popular charter yachts is Hanse Explorer; part superyacht, part rugged expedition vessel. Hanse (approx US$200,000++, RM840,000++, per week), which caters to just 12 passengers in sumptuous staterooms, is one of the few vessels globally that can truly claim to be an ‘expedition yacht’ and has lines that wouldn’t look out of place in a Monaco marina. But beneath the Ferrari-like aesthetics lie cutting-edge environmental systems, the highest rating for an ice-strengthened hull, powerful engines, a 9,000nm cruising range and the types of built-in redundancies that come in handy when you’re charting courses far from the beaten path.
So, it’s with confidence that we embark on a week-long Antarctic cruise aboard Hanse. Foul weather in the Drake delayed flights into King George Island, a gravel strip that’s increasingly popular with fly-cruise operators, meaning the standard itineraries of commercial cruise ships is put into disarray. However, having a private vessel at our disposal means we can be more flexible with our itinerary: you could land on a beach where you just might be the first human visitor, breeted by pods of humpbacks in the Gerlache Strait or launch the Zodiacs and put the champagne on ice.
Our captain and the expedition team, led by intrepid adventurer and EYOS expedition leader Richard White, mix things up; we leave the large commercial ships to the west coast to duck and weave east and south, across the tip of the continent and into the calm waters of infamously ice-choked Antarctic Sound, where great slabs of glacial ice the size of suburban shopping malls dominate the landscape.
Every day is a new adventure, one which evolves with conditions. In the shadows of Brown Bluff, a towering rocky peak wreathed in ancient ice, we cruise a bay packed with beached icebergs on the ship’s complement of Zodiacs. Gentoo penguins and storm petrels rest on the snow-dusted slabs, unperturbed by our presence, and Antarctic fur seals sneak peaks at us from the inky waters before diving beneath the Zodiacs in a silvery shimmer. At an Adelie penguin colony further down the west coast, thousands of tuxedoed birds feed and groom their young, the thick grey fur of the chicks moulting away to reveal a slick waterproof coat beneath, the cacophony of their gossip echoing off the peaks that ring the deserted bay. There’s even time to trace humpbacks and orca in the Gerlache Strait, the whale super highway; encounter the roaring fur seals and the weathered whaling wrecks of Mikkelsen Harbour; and drink vodka with the scientists of Ukraine’s remote Vernadsky Research Base.
At the end of the week passengers feel like family, the cheerful crew like longtime friends and it’s with sadness that we leave Hanse at King George Island – a new clutch of intrepid millionaires is already jetting to the ship, keen to enjoy their very own private Antarctic encounter.