A journey to the Top of the World featuring the North Pole has just been named the world’s greatest expedition cruise.
And in a major coup for Australia’s tourism industry, Kimberley cruising in Western Australia runs a close second in the list of the 10 most highly rated expedition cruises world-wide.
The world’s Top 10 was announced by the leading experts in this exclusive field, Expedition Cruise Specialists. General Manager Andrew Castles revealed the rankings which were based on each destination’s “wow factor”, affording traveller’s unique life experiences.
There were some unexpected destinations in the rankings including Kiribati and Iceland. Surprise omissions include the much-touted Amazon and Africa which is still developing as a cruise destination.
For generations of explorers and adventurers, a journey to the Arctic and the North Pole has been the ultimate expedition. Mr Castles said: “Pristine landscapes, bountiful wildlife, indigenous tribes, polar bears and natural phenomena give the Arctic a unique appeal and make it the world’s best expedition destination.” Getting to the North Pole is difficult, but the world’s most powerful icebreaker, the nuclear-powered 50 Years of Victory, makes it possible.
The sheer scale and awesome beauty of the Kimberley has to be seen to be believed. Every visitor to this stunning region returns home a changed person. Mr Castles is one such person and he admits to a being a long term fan of the region. “Kimberley cruising aboard Coral Discoverer or True North takes you through the daunting canyons, waterfalls and untouched wilderness of Australia’s north west wonderland and has to be experienced to appreciate how amazing it really is.”
Our southern neighbour offers the unique combination of amazing wildlife and awesome landscapes frozen in time. According to Mr Castles there are many ways to see experience the region, but one unique adventure is the Base Camp Ortelius expedition. “Designed for Antarctic exploration the Ortelius acts as a floating base camp while anchored for several days in specific locations. You can explore by kayak and zodiac on the water or go hiking in snowshoes and even mountaineering. There is nothing quite like it.”
Glaciers, ice covered mountains, frontier towns and pristine waters make Alaska one of the most sought after destinations on earth. Mr Castles said it was a very popular region, but aboard a ship like the new National Geographic Quest you can get far away from the normal cruise routes. “This type of cruise is not just a sightseeing trip, it is a full on journey for people who enjoy hiking and physical activities. You immerse yourself in a world of fjords, ancient villages and stunning forests.”
It is the people decorated in their traditional dress, dancing and singing with great joy and happiness that make Papua New Guinea such an inspiring place to visit. Cruising through unspoilt islands and visiting remote villages is an unforgettable experience. Mr Castles said: “Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s last great frontiers. You will experience magical and rarely-visited islands aboard small ships such as the luxury Coral Discoverer and enjoy a voyage rich in culture, history and natural beauty. Papua New Guinea is home to the largest area of intact rainforest outside of the Amazon and guests will discover magnificent scenery ranging from colourful coral atolls to volcanic mountains, pristine waterways and mighty rivers.”
Every lover of wildlife, sea life and unique experiences rates the Galápagos Islands right at the top of their list of places to visit. “It is a region offering many expedition experiences from smaller catamaran ships like Ocean Spray and Sea Star Journey through to Lindblad Expeditions’ impressive National Geographic Endeavour II. Whichever way you see it, you will be mesmerised by the experience.”
Seen as the “impossible” sea journey for generations, modern specially designed ice-rated ships have made the daunting North West passage accessible. Mr Castles said the Akademik Ioffe offers a crossing to Greenland that is one of “life’s great trips”. “On the way explore the remote Northwest Passage and the stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline before crossing to Greenland. Wildlife is a major drawcard of this 13-day expedition, venture through the home of the polar bear, musk ox, caribou and walrus.”
Our near neighbour is a surprise inclusion, but beyond the tourist hordes of Bali lies a region full of friendly people, unknown islands and crystal clear lagoons teeming with life. You will immerse yourself in the Komodo National Park and Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands from an intimate perspective, cruising through a panorama of islands and encountering new wonders on a daily basis. For example, a 7-day voyage of discovery aboard the 24-passenger Ombak Putih offers a cross-section of remote beaches, quiet coastal villages, jungle-clad mountain ranges, towering volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls, tribal rituals, a mysterious lake, and the legendary Komodo Dragons.”
Iceland is the new wonder destination for expedition travellers. Mr Castles said this one off expedition combined the unforgettable waterways of the region with the fjords of Greenland, remote settlements and the chance to experience the famed northern lights. ”There is nothing else quite like it,” he said.
Way out in the Pacific is a remote region which is virtually unknown to most adventurers. However Mr Castles said the “wonders of this amazing paradise were both above and below the water.” Aboard National Geographic Orion you will discover that the notion of tropical paradise is alive and well - as are some of the world’s best dive and snorkel sites. The expedition explores from Rangiroa’s sparkling lagoon to the verdant peaks of Tahiti’s neighbor, Moorea. This voyage maximises your time in some of the most vibrant undersea sites in the world. Plus, there’s time to stroll pristine beaches, kayak peaceful coves, and experience true Polynesian hospitality.
Dallas Sherringham is a media professional, world traveller and regular contributor to our blog.