|Photo by Freeimages.com/Anders Hansen|
Chris Moss, The Daily Telegraph, January 04, 2016
The best Galapagos, Antarctica, Amazon and Chile cruises for 2016, including expedition trips to Cape Horn, and Robinson Crusoe island.
In Darwin’s footsteps
Why go? A cruise is the only way to open up the windswept, isolated archipelago of Tierra del Fuego – which the two countries share – and its impressive mountain-top and water-side glaciers, sub-Antarctic forests and densely wooded labyrinth of narrow channels.
Chilean company Cruceros Australis runs regular cruises on its luxuriously appointed vessels between the cities of Punta Arenas – in Chile’s southernmost Magallanes region – and the Argentine port of Ushuaia, taking in Cape Horn en route. In December, up to two children under 17 can travel free on selected cruises (if each is accompanied by a paying adult).
What’s new? For the coming season Australis is offering a Darwin-themed cruise that combines a visit to remote Wulaia Bay, where Darwin and Captain Robert FitzRoy had their famous encounters with Fuegian Indians, with a landing on Cape Horn (weather permitting). Australis is also offering whale-watching cruises this season. From £1,222pp for a three-night Route of Charles Darwin cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, departing January 27, 2016, excluding flights ( australis.com ).
In Magellan’s wake
Why go? A cruise taking in Madeira, the Azores, Cape Verde and the Amazon brings opportunities to experience some of the western hemisphere’s most stunning vegetation and wildlife. The great Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan is honoured by the ship, Magellan, and several Portuguese-speaking stopovers and former colonies of his home country are featured on an itinerary from Cruise and Maritime.
What’s new? The January voyage, round-trip from London Tilbury, takes in the legendary Boi Bumba Festival in Parintins on the Amazon river as well as the former penal colony of Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana. From £1,999pp for a 42-night Amazon, West Indies and Azores cruise, departing January 5, 2016 (0844 998 3800; cruiseandmaritime.com ).
Robinson Crusoe’s remote island
Why go? In some countries a coastal sojourn can make you feel as if you might be missing inland wonders (or you have to take planes or bus rides to see them). Not so Chile – which is long and thin and looks out to the sea. The 4,000-mile long Chilean seaboard runs the whole gamut of topographies from the world’s driest desert at Atacama in the north to the lush wine-growing lands of the central region.
What’s new? A Swan Hellenic cruise aboard the elegant 350-passenger Minerva takes in the isolated Robinson Crusoe island, where stranded navigator Alexander Selkirk survived for four years and four months, and whose story inspired Daniel Defoe’s novel. The only other way to get here is on a small plane with a hair-raising landing at the clifftop airport. From £1,924pp for a 15-day Chilean Grand Reserve cruise from Callao (for Lima) to Valparaiso departing January 18, 2016, excluding flights (01858 898542; swanhellenic.com ).
Why go? A voyage on the Peruvian branch of the Amazon is considered to afford the best opportunity for combining a cruise on a major river with the chance to see unspoilt rainforest and its wildlife. In 1542 conquistador Francisco de Orellana discovered the Amazon river and later served with the Spanish forces in Peru. The river is still the only way to explore the north of the country, as Iquitos is not connected to the rest of the country by road.
What’s new? For the 2015-16 season Abercrombie & Kent is using the luxurious 22-suite Amazon Discovery, launched in October 2015. The new cruise visits Monkey Island (home to eight endangered species), a Bora tribal settlement and the five-million-acre Pacaya Samiria Reserve, a habitat for pink river dolphins and many forest species. From £4,032pp for a six-night Amazon Adventure cruise, including two nights in Lima, excluding flights. Departures from December 2015 to February 2016 (01242 547760; abercrombiekent.com ).
The Galapagos, glamorously
Why go? The protected islands, 730 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are unique. Giant tortoises, iguanas, mockingbirds, flightless cormorants, finches and blue-footed boobies all let you get close up while in the water, miniature penguins, turtles and marine iguanas swim with you. The quality of your experience is easy to determine: the smaller your ship, the quieter your group – and the more you’ll see.
What’s new? In January 2016, Ecoventura (see ecoventura.com and origingalapagos.com ) will launch cruises aboard its ultra-luxury 10-stateroom yacht, MV Origin. From £4,170pp for a seven-night Galapagos cruise, excluding flights and National Park tax (US$100 for adults). Bookable through UK operators – see the website of the Latin American Travel Association ( lata.org ).
South Atlantic in depth
Why go? The Falklands is brilliant for wildlife watching, with significant colonies of five penguin species, as well as elephant seals, dolphins, whales and albatrosses. Its human settlement is also fascinating, and a longer stay allows visitors to see the 1982 battlefields.
As evocative as Patagonia and teeming with wildlife on a par with Antarctica, the Falkland Islands are a too-often ignored wonder. A short flight from Chile takes you to another world, and the opportunity to join a new cruise from Stanley.
What’s new? Many cruises make brief stops on the Falkland Islands but One Ocean Expeditions ( oneoceanexpeditions.com ) has a 14-night voyage aboard the ice-strengthened Akademik Sergey Vavilov that starts and finishes in Stanley. Departing January 30, 2016, it offers an in-depth look at South Georgia, spending eight days there before returning to Stanley via the Falklands’ Sea Lion Island. From £8,336pp, including return flights to Stanley from Punta Arenas in Chile, booked through South America specialist Last Frontiers (01296 653000; lastfrontiers.com ).
Why go? Antarctica is the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime trip. The whales, penguins, elephant seals and sea lions amaze, the ice sculptures startle and the historic sites move most passengers – forced as they are to compare their ice-proofed vessels and cutting-edge gear with the sailing boats and loose mittens of the pioneers. The voyage from South America to Antarctica typically involves traversing the 500-mile wide Drake Passage, where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans converge to create a current-crossed, wind-lashed maelstrom of frothing silliness – even big ships bob about like dinghies and very few passengers make breakfast.
What’s new? Because not everyone has a lot of time to spare or wants to cross the Drake Passage twice, Quark Expeditions is offering a new Antarctic Express 10-day cruise on the 117-passenger Sea Adventurer to the Antarctic Peninsula – closest point to South America – which makes the return journey by plane. The ship reaches the peninsula from Ushuaia in two days via the Beagle Channel and Drake Passage, while the flight back to Punta Arenas takes just three hours. Departing February 5, 2016, from £7,400pp excluding flights from the UK ( quarkexpeditions.com ).
Plan your next great adventure
Plan your next great adventure at the inaugural Telegraph Travel Show at the ExCeL London. Book a free session with one of our travel experts at the Genius Bar, or be inspired by Levison Wood, Monty Halls and Will Greenwood who will be among the celebrity speakers on stage. Meet over 200 exhibitors – from leading tour operators and cruise lines to the best tourist boards – who will be offering insights, tips and exclusive show-only offers or sample exotic food and fine wines from around the world. The event takes place at the ExCeL London. See telegraph.co.uk/travelshow for full details. Telegraph readers can claim a third off all entry tickets with the discount code: TELETRAVEL16.
This article was written by Chris Moss from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.