From exploring extremely remote places to joining a scientific expedition, these charter companies allow you to carve out a one-of-a-kind adventure.
Among the 1,200-plus journeys that EYOS Expeditions has arranged over the past 12 years, the adventures in the Antarctic stand apart. Considering the company has overseen more than 800 custom voyages there, it’s not surprising. Still, doesn’t traveling to the same destination that many times get a bit old? Quite the contrary, according to Rob McCallum, EYOS’ founding partner and expedition leader.
From Antarctica’s amazing wildlife to the rich exploration history dating back centuries, the region keeps McCallum and his colleagues in a state of constant awe. “It’s the seventh continent, a notch in your belt,” he says. Or the ultimate definition of venturing off the beaten track to find yourself.
Jimmy Carroll understands the power of heading into unchartered territory. He was the expedition manager for Xtreme Everest 2 in 2013, the largest ever medical-research journey conducted on Mount Everest. As the co-founder of Pelorus, Carroll helps adventurers cross unthinkable trips off their bucket lists. The list of Pelorus-
led expeditions over the past year include one to the archipelago of Svalbard, where polar bears outnumber people, and a four-month global voyage that included eight days in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. As disparate as his client base can be, “The one thing that binds them is curiosity,” Carroll says. “Curiosity and passion.”
It’s a similar situation for Henry Cookson, founder of Cookson Adventures. “The vacation, the escape, is embedded in our psyche,” he says. “They’re coming to us because they want something different. It’s all in the spirit of ‘what’s next?’”
Cookson knows this spirit all too well, holding the Guinness World Record for completing the first expedition to the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (the exact center of the Antarctica landmass) on foot. “We’re trusted to hold people’s hands and invited into their unknown,” he says.
Using a yacht as the chosen support vehicle adds a layer to the trip that cannot be overlooked. The activities on board are as much a part of the experience as those off the yacht. The remote destinations headline the trip, but the priority is ensuring clients “have time to escape with their family, their friends and their loved ones,” says Cookson. “When they see a place, they see it—not just superficially; it gets under their skin.”
McCallum, Carroll, Cookson and their respective companies make it possible for charter clients to enjoy these exceptional adventures. And they’re fielding growing inquiries in keeping with the ongoing trend of experiential travel. Instead of merely visiting far-flung places, many travelers want to immerse themselves in the environment and culture of a region. These companies take immersion to the next level. They are hands-on from the moment you contact them until you board a plane and eventually return home, mitigating challenges and handling all logistics.
Each company operates essentially as a one-stop shop. It starts with a conversation about where you want to go: the Northwest Passage, or Vanuatu and the rest of Melanesia—it’s up to you. Equally important, the operators glean information about your yacht’s capabilities and abilities of the crew, particularly vital for hard-to-reach regions like the poles. Armed with these details and their own knowledge of where provisioning can be obtained (if at all) along the way, they craft a custom itinerary.
“We don’t cookie cut,” McCallum says. Neither do Cookson Adventures or Pelorus. “I’m adamant that we meet clients face to face as much as possible to plan,” Cookson explains, and Carroll and his team “create a day-by-day, hour-by-hour outline for crews and clients.” Even with detailed itineraries, though, each company can pivot to accommodate new desires or weather changes. This hands-on approach alleviates the burden on the crew while ensuring clients enjoy every unforgettable moment.
Sometimes it takes gentle nudging to convince clients to commit to a trip. For instance, the eight-day experience one Pelorus client had in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea aboard the superyacht SuRi several months back nearly fell apart. Having never been aboard a superyacht, the client’s view “was that yachting was boring,” Carroll recalls. “We explained, ‘You’re going to areas of the world without infrastructure, like hotels, so the only option for this is a yacht.’”
Then there are the toys. SuRi carries dive equipment, a submarine and even a helicopter, more than enough to suit the youngsters as much as the grown-ups. The adults can enjoy jungle treks while the kids learn to wakeboard. Guests wake up someplace different every day, revealing a whole new sea of opportunity.
Enlisting a professional assuages certain fears about visiting such unknown places. When people ask Cookson about the dangers of crevices or polar bears on Antarctic journeys, he assures them proper planning is always in place. “It’s the same as crossing a road,” he asserts. “If you’ve never seen a car and cross the road in New York City, you’re going to get flattened by a yellow taxi.”
A lot of apprehensions come down to “their unknown,” says Cookson. “Everyone has a different definition.” As intriguing as the Galapagos or Antarctica may be, many clients choose an unfamiliar destination a bit closer to home. Some have never been to the Bahamas, for example, so they’re keen to visit, especially the less-popular, quieter islands. Costa Rica is also high on many clients’ lists because it’s “a treasure trove of wildlife,” Cookson says. Head 60 miles into the jungle and you’ll find yourself under a canopy occupied by parrots and howler monkeys, punctuated by the occasional turquoise waterfall.
EYOS, Cookson Adventures, and Pelorus also conduct trips in which guests can contribute to the betterment of an area or the environment. EYOS is organizing a diving expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench—7 miles down—that supports exploratory science. Ordinary citizens will work alongside ocean mappers and film producers as a submersible heads into the trench to collect biological samples, shoot video and assess and document the impact of plastic pollution and other environmental factors. “This will be a rare and special opportunity to participate in and help fund genuine exploration in the modern age,” McCallum says. “More people have been to the moon than the bottom of the ocean.”
Cookson Adventures, meanwhile, helped the yacht Harle enable leading European scientists and marine archaeologists to unearth unforeseen, centuries-old soft coral and a rare species of black coral in Italy late last year. They also discovered a Roman shipwreck. “The guests have a more meaningful experience,” Cookson explains. “They’re more connected. If we want future generations to see these things, we have to get involved.”
A family on a Pelorus expedition to the Solomon Islands helped plant coral and donated eyeglasses and other much-needed items to a local hostel. “The clients found it incredibly rewarding,” Carroll says. “More and more clients want to build that giving aspect into their trips. Ultimately, it’s about creating memories for them all.”
With today’s uncertainty and tomorrow’s fuzzy forecast, these once-in-a-lifetime experiences may be in more demand than ever. The price point for these trips is steep and the amenities offered are vast, but it’s what money can’t buy that really stands apart: Memories made on the water.