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Exploring the seven seas on an explorer yacht is one of the most life-affirming experiences out there.
By Ellie Brade | March 22 2021
Over the past decade, the popularity of luxury explorer yachts has soared. And with good reason — is there a better way to see the world than from the deck of your own superyacht? Exploring the seven seas while authentically connecting with their natural beauty, is undoubtedly one of the most desirable and life-affirming experiences out there. Here, Ellie Brade presents 10 of the finest explorer yachts currently available for the intrepid travelers among you.
Year of build: 2012
LOA: 139.7 ft
Number of guests: 9
There is no mistaking Adastra (pictured above) thanks to her distinctive futuristic design and trimaran hull. Adastra has more than demonstrated her explorer credentials and has traveled the world, turning heads wherever she goes. Highly fuel efficient, she has a very small eco footprint, and her stable hull ensures a comfortable ride. With a trans-Pacific range of 10,000 nm she can cross the Atlantic twice before needing to refuel. An impressively shallow draft of just four feet allows her access to cruising grounds that other yachts cannot visit, meaning very few places are off limits. Her 52-ft beam provides generously proportioned spaces, including the main saloon and a shaded outdoor deck. A light-filled, modern interior ensures an inviting base to conduct adventures from and accommodations include a full-beam master cabin. Adastra’s garage door folds out to create a platform for diving, and she carries plenty of toys and tenders for getting out and enjoying the water.
Itinerary: Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Originally built for use in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, Adastra is at home in Indonesia’s warm waters. The archipelago of Raja Ampat — meaning Four Kings — straddles the Equator and has over 1,500 islands and islets, which surround the four main islands of Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta and Misool. Very few yachts visit here due to strict regulations, and the area is largely uninhabited, meaning you will often feel as if you have the ocean all to yourself. Crystal-clear waters, endless beaches, and a variety of dive sites and reefs are all waiting to be sampled. Adastra’s draft works to her advantage here, allowing the yacht to move easily between even the shallowest of anchorages.
Start your cruise with a visit to the paradisiacal rain forest-covered island of Kri before cruising towards Gam Island, which offers incredible diving — step straight into the water from Adastra’s dive platform. Move on to Wayag Island, where you can take kayaks into the Wayag lagoon, which is mesmerizingly blue. If you’re feeling energetic, hike inland and upwards to enjoy long views across the water. Cruise through Dampier Strait and spot hundreds of manta rays before visiting Pulau Gam to try and spot the rarely sighted red bird of paradise. Diving fans won’t want to miss traveling south and visiting Misool, which is renowned for its myriad of underwater sites. Venture into the Gua Sacral ancestral caves, which were once an indigenous burial site. Kayaking through Misool’s Blue Water Mangroves, which are peppered with reefs, will have you in awe of the natural beauty.
[See also: Hydrogen-Powered Yachts: What to Know]
Year of build: 2003
LOA: 414 ft
Number of guests: 26
One of the world’s most traveled yachts, Octopus is a groundbreaking expedition vessel that set the tone for the many explorer yachts that have followed in her impressive wake. With eight decks and at a gargantuan 414 ft, it’s no surprise that Octopus is packed with feature after feature, from a full basketball court to the entertainment-focused bridge deck. Her glass-bottomed underwater observation lounge means you can watch fish and sea creatures in their natural habitat. Huge storage capacity lets her carry no less than seven tenders, two helicopters, a submersible for eight guests and two crewmembers that’s capable of diving for up to eight hours, and even a large SUV for onshore adventures. Octopus has undertaken some truly special adventures, including recovering the ship’s bell from the wreck of the HMS Hood, cruising the coast of Antarctica and discovering the wreck of the WWII battleship IJN Musashi off the Philippines. Now, her legacy can continue with a new owner, as she’s currently for sale.
Often a gateway to Antarctica, Patagonia possesses an unspoilt beauty. Ripe for adventure, it offers an incredible mix of landscapes with glaciers, hot springs, mountains, remote islands, beaches and a wide variety of wildlife. Begin your journey at Puerto Montt, which ushers you into the company of the Patagonian Fjords and Andes Mountains. Make for the Corcovado Volcano and take in the awe-inspiring National Park. Explore by tender, or even take in the landscape from above in one of Octopus’s helicopters.
The waters boast a diverse ecosystem, and you are sure to spot whales as you cruise — there are many whale research programs around these waters, and the yacht’s glass-bottomed lounge provides an unrivaled view into the kingdom of these giants of the sea. Make your way to the Piti Palena Fjord, located in the delta of the Palena River — this is an excellent spot for fishing. Continue onwards to the Guaitecas Archipelago, which has eight main islands and waters famed for being home to yet more whales and dolphins. North of the archipelago is one of the world’s largest nursing and feeding grounds for blue whales — a sight not to be missed.
For sale €235m (approx. $285m). Contact Matt Emerson, senior partner-director, Americas, email@example.com, +1 212 223 0410, burgessyachts.com
Builder: Profab Engineering
Year of build: 2019
LOA: 128.7 ft
Number of guests: 12
With the yacht’s camouflage exterior, The Beast’s owner describes her as “a little different.” What an understatement! Built to explore, and incredibly stable (no need for sickness pills on this one), this catamaran explorer-style yacht can tackle just about any cruising ground except Antarctica and has a long range of 5,000 nm. Thanks to her 39.4-ft beam, she has an incredible 4,000 sq ft of living space, elegantly fitted out with a modern interior. The Beast is packed with all the equipment needed for enjoying remote itineraries, not the least of which is a 42-ft custom composite fishing boat adorably dubbed The Baby Beast. An industrial-style, 49-ft aft deck is packed with water equipment that includes a custom amphibious tender for driving straight from water to land. A favorite spot is the upper deck with its teppanyaki grill and bar.
Itinerary: New Zealand
Often described as ‘the whole world in one country’ New Zealand packs a punch as a destination, delivering 9,300 miles of coastline, snow, rain forest, white-sand beaches and a rich local culture. As a relatively young country, New Zealand is a blend of cosmopolitan cities and wild, remote beauty that begs to be explored by superyacht.
Join The Beast in Auckland and soak up the skyline as you head for Great Barrier Island, where you can visit the Glenfern Sanctuary and learn about the country’s native birdlife. The island is a Dark Sky Sanctuary with incredible stars — learn about the significance of the stars to the local culture as you gaze up at the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds.
Head for the Poor Knights Islands, an incredible marine reserve, where you can make the most of The Beast’s diving setup, using The Baby Beast as a base for daily adventures. Continue north to the Bay of Islands, home to a cornucopia of marine life and more than 100 different islands; come ashore and explore the island of your choice on board The Beast’s amphibious tender. Northland has great spiritual importance, so take the opportunity to learn about the local culture and experience an authentic cultural performance.
Cruise onwards towards Cape Reinga, the very tip of New Zealand where the Maori people believe that souls depart this life for the next, and watch the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea, which is an unusual and powerful sight. On the west coast, Ninety Mile Beach is a seemingly endless stretch of golden sand dunes. Away from the marine reserves, make sure to take advantage of The Beast’s extensive fishing gear Below and right The Beast; her sunlit bridge and land some fresh seafood to cook on her teppanyaki grill for lunch. Make your way back down the east coast, calling in at Auckland’s Waiheke Island on the way to enjoy a long vineyard lunch before reluctantly returning to civilization.
Builder: Royal Niestern Sander
Year of build: 2012 (rebuilt 2020)
LOA: 223.8 ft
Number of guests: 12
There is nowhere on earth that Ragnar can’t take you, from glistening ice to remote desert islands. Named for the Norse King of the Vikings, Ragnar is a powerful and luxurious yacht, with full ice-breaking functionality and an impressive 6,000 nm range. Ragnar is able to tackle all conditions, so make the most of your surroundings by taking your pick from her abundant toy and tender collection, with something to suit every type of cruising ground. These include an Airbus EC145 helicopter for heliskiing, a three-passenger submarine, snowmobiles, quad bikes, a 30-ft Marelli ice condition tender and more. Expansive onboard spaces include a top deck hot tub and pool, an observation deck, fully equipped gym and tranquil spa center for soaking away the day’s activities.
Itinerary: The Philippines
Although well-equipped for colder climates, Ragnar has plenty of warm destinations in her cruising plans, and 2022 will see her visit the Philippines, which is fast gaining popularity as a desirable charter location. Why? With more than 7,000 islands it is an ideal spot for exploring by yacht. Beautiful beaches and clear waters are a given, but each different island group — Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao — has its own character.
Board the yacht in bustling capital city Manila before heading for quieter cruising grounds. As you cruise towards Palawan, the largest province in the Philippines with over 1,700 islands, stop off at the hidden gem island of Busuanga and climb the 700 steps to the top of Mount Tapyas, which delivers incredible views across the region. Busuanga offers unparalleled cruising and plenty to do on land and on the water; hike through rain forests and dive the crystal waters, which are home to several wrecks. Nearby Coron has sacred freshwater lakes that are carefully maintained by the indigenous population — take a swim beneath impressive limestone cliffs that overlook the lakes.
A must-do is a visit to Palawan’s underground river, as is a stop at Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site where you’ll be able to sample what is arguably the country’s best diving. Make your way back to Manila, island-hopping as you go, and relax on board as you admire the landscape.
Year of build: 2018
LOA: 240 ft
Number of guests: 12 (plus 4 staff)
A world-class explorer yacht, Planet Nine has a guest-centric design with edgy naval-inspired styling. She is ice-classed, allowing her to tackle polar waters, and has an MD-600N Explorer helicopter, hangar and commercial landing pad for arriving and departing in style. Abundant spaces across her five decks, which are all connected by elevator, include social areas such as the cinema room, Jacuzzi, numerous dining spaces, beach club, sea terrace and an entire owner’s deck for ultimate privacy. Three Rupert Marine RIBs are tailored for use in extreme conditions — so you can explore secluded coves or glide past ice floes while spotting local wildlife. Back on board, the observatory delivers stunning 180° views.
Itinerary: Saudi Arabia
As the spiritual home and birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia is rich with history and cultural significance, and has long been a center for pilgrims. Follow in their footsteps on your own journey of discovery. Explore the exquisitely blue waters of the Red Sea, seek endless sand dunes, and immerse yourself in the bustling towns and markets. Fans of diving will delight in all the Red Sea has to offer and can make the most of Planet Nine’s extensive dive gear.
Tabuk, just 62 miles off the border with Jordan, is the start of the Saudi coast and bears Egyptian and Ottoman influences — check out some of the area’s wild beauty spots and walk in the footsteps of the prophet Moses, who lived east of the city for many years. Cruise south towards the town of Al Wajh, which has over 60 miles of untouched beaches on either side. Continuing down the coast, Umluj (called the ‘Maldives of Saudi Arabia’) has 104 islands to its north. Jump on board one of Planet Nine’s RIBs and pick out your own private island. An hour inland of Umluj takes you to Harrat Lunayyir, a black lava field filled with cones and craters.
Visit Yanbu, an ancient spice trading post that was once home to TE Lawrence. A huge desert sits north of the town and gives way to the stunning ocean — a helicopter ride over the dunes will provide an unbeatable view before you touch down back on board for an aperitif as the sun sets. Round off your charter with a visit to historic Jeddah, the gateway to Mecca and crossroad of traders and pilgrims. Marvel at the beautiful architecture, visit the local souk (maamoul, anyone?) and revel in the city’s blend of old and new.
Builder: Hitzler Schiffswerft
Year of build: 1973 (refitted 2020)
LOA: 179.4 ft
Number of guests: 12
In beautiful condition following a mammoth two-year refit completed in June 2020, Latitude will suit outdoor enthusiasts. An expansive lineup of water toys and vast deck spaces — bigger even than yachts twice her size — will keep you outside and busy all day long. This is truly a yacht for connecting with nature and discovering new and remote destinations away from the stresses of everyday life. For those looking to wind down and disconnect, she has a strong focus on wellness and relaxation with a two-tier yoga deck, private masseuse/yoga instructor and a fully equipped open-air gym. Fishing fans will particularly enjoy Latitude — her explorer qualities and hardy design can take you to remote fishing grounds where you can take your pick from her comprehensive lineup of all the latest fishing gear.
Itinerary: French Polynesia
Set in the heart of the South Pacific, French Polynesia is a picture-perfect destination that combines a friendly welcome with incredible diving, idyllic beaches and unspoilt beauty. Plus, there’s a string of islands for yacht-hopping. With Latitude planning to spend two years in the region, the yacht and her crew will know all the best secret spots. Join the yacht in Moorea, which pairs volcanic mountains with sandy beaches.
Dive off the coast, where you’ll be in the company of Tahitian stingrays — this will be just the first encounter with impressive sea life during your time on Latitude. Cruise onwards to Huahine, which presents a beautiful backdrop for a morning yoga session. Come ashore and meet the locals, who will be only too happy to tell you stories of French Polynesia’s history.
Next you’ll visit Taha’a, a white-sand island dotted with thatched villas. There is colorful coral off the island’s shores — dive and explore before heading ashore by tender for a picnic and a walk in the lush jungle. Raiatea is well worth a visit; it is regarded as a central point in French Polynesia and is believed to be the source of many ancient migrations to countries such as New Zealand and Hawaii. Finish your visit in Bora Bora, an extinct volcano set amidst an achingly serene lagoon.
Bora Bora is known as one of the world’s most beautiful islands, and with good reason. The vibrant shoreline contrasts with the blue waters, which are teeming with fish, and vibrant hibiscus flowers carpet the side of Mount Otemanu. Make the most of Latitude’s water toys and spend the day in the warm water before a final wind down back on board.
Year of build: 2015
LOA: 251.4 ft
Number of guests: 18
One of the world’s most sustainable and green yachts, Yersin ensures guilt-free cruising with an incredibly low cruising footprint — she is even 95% recyclable. This spectacular explorer yacht was built with science and discovery at the forefront of her design. She offers an unmatched opportunity to cruise the world and learn about its oceans firsthand. Able to travel from the Poles to the Equator, Yersin is a true explorer. There has been no compromise on comfort, and her many features include a gym, hammam, spa, cinema, dining spaces, an owner’s suite and eight guest staterooms. Thanks to her history as a luxury research vessel, her setup also includes classrooms (hello, homeschooling), laboratories, a hospital, media room and multifunction tenders. This is a unique yacht that is fully equipped to visit the most remote destinations.
Itinerary: Arctic Circle
Impressive green credentials make Yersin the perfect vessel for exploring the pristine wilderness of the Arctic Circle. A charter aboard this luxurious yet intrepid yacht showcases the region, from epic icebergs and polar bear sightings, to fjord landscapes and fine dining beneath the shimmering Northern Lights. With Greenland acting as your gateway to the Arctic Circle, step on board Yersin in the quaint settlement of Nuuk before raising anchor and cruising towards the vast Jakobshavn Glacier in Ilulissat. One of the highlights of Greenland is the ice itself, with its pure, imposing beauty, and the town of Ilulissat, meaning ‘iceberg,’ is the obvious spot for enjoying this natural wonder.
Travel further to the impressive Eqi Glacier. From here, take Yersin’s tender to enjoy a ringside seat to witness ice calving, where new icebergs are formed as fragments of the glaciers fall into the sea. Having hiked through icy landscapes, sampled the extreme sports of glacier skiing and ice diving, or immersed yourself in the rural communities of this unique region, it’s time to depart Greenland. Watch Uummannaq Mountain recede into the distance as you take the passage to Canada’s Baffin Island. It is full of marine life, so look out for whales and seals as you cruise — they swim undisturbed by the near-silent Yersin. The coastline of Baffin Island is an excellent place to spot the most iconic creature of the Arctic region, the polar bear.
Cruise up the fjords and observe these majestic animals from the comfort of the vessel’s deck or, for a closer encounter, take a private wildlife tour with a local expert. Enjoy a lunch of fish caught fresh by the crew, and after a day in the crisp polar air, warm up by enjoying a sauna in the opulent spa.
For sale from €72m (approx. $87.6m, VAT paid). Contact David Legrand, firstname.lastname@example.org, +377 931 004 50, and Antoine X. Larricq, email@example.com, +377 931 004 50, fraseryachts.com
Year of build: 2019
LOA: 279.8 ft
Number of guests: 16
Designed by fabled aesthetic powerhouse Espen Øino, Bold has a naval-inspired design and is the biggest yacht built by Silveryachts to date. Described by her builders as “a fast, world explorer vessel with a genuine, fully-fledged superyacht finish,” Bold is the world’s fastest explorer yacht with an extraordinary top speed of 23 knots. Her low draft, unparalleled in other yachts of her size and length, also affords access to shallow waters. Accommodation is for 16 guests and includes the master suite with a private salon. Social spaces inside and out include large entertaining decks and a huge open plan ‘loft style’ main salon, with floor-to-ceiling windows that lead directly out to a large wintergarden. An outdoor cinema on the sundeck calls for family movie nights under the stars. Ready for adventure, Bold has a large inventory of water equipment including three different Rupert tenders. A heli-hangar and heli-landing deck allow the use of helicopters if desired.
Itinerary: The Whitsundays, Australia
Bold is set to return home to Australia this year for the first time since her launch — she is the largest Australian-built yacht in the world, and she will be available for charter all around her country of origin. Venturing around Australia’s expansive coastlines requires a yacht with serious muscle, and Bold more than fits the bill. Begin your cruise by heading to Hook Island where you can snorkel before traveling to Blue Pearl Bay for more world-class snorkeling off the back of Bold’s tender. Nearby Langford Island, home to reefs and coral, is another inviting dive spot. Spend some time relaxing on the island’s sandy beach before departing for Chance Bay, where you can hike along the Ngaro Sea Trail towards Whitehaven.
Cruise south to Lindeman Island, which has some beautiful national park walking tracks. Escape even further towards the seclusion of the southern anchorages off Thomas and Shaw islands. Here, you can take your pick from Bold’s toy garage and explore the anchorage. The yacht will then make its way back towards Whitehaven Beach, which some claim is Australia’s finest. Take a walk inland through the rain forest and drink in the views across Hill Inlet before being collected by tender and whisked back to your floating home.
A visit to the Whitsundays wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system — a helicopter ride will guarantee the best views.
Builder: Icon Yachts
Year of build: 1974 (refitted 2015)
LOA: 254 ft
Number of guests: 22
Legend is packed with every tender and toy you can possibly imagine. Carrying submersibles, dive gear, snowmobiles, tenders, diving apparatus and more, she has something to suit every climate. Legend has extensively traveled the world, visiting Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Europe and the Baltics, moving effortlessly from sun to ice. Transformed from a Soviet icebreaker in a no-expenses-spared refit, Legend offers high luxury on board with unique features such as a waterfall-fed 16-seater Jacuzzi, 14-person cinema, Balinese spa, modern gym, piano and whisky bars. Her sheer size and impressive internal volume mean that even the longest trips at sea won’t feel claustrophobic — there’s plenty of space to both gather and retreat. For serious expeditions, there is accommodation flexibility on board for up to 10 extra expedition staff. A commercial helideck and two helicopters mean it is easy to join the yacht even in remote anchorages.
Journey on board Legend to Antarctica, where you’ll become one of the lucky few to have ventured 66-degrees south. Make the most of your mobile nature and get out on the water, whether kayaking through icy waters or gliding across the snow on Legend’s snowmobiles. As a Class 1 icebreaker, she can venture into pack ice sheets.
Join Legend at her anchorage off King George Island in nearby Maxwell Bay. Sail into the Bransfield Strait, passing penguins and icebergs as you go. On your first morning, a mandatory International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) briefing will outline the environmental responsibilities of visitors to Antarctica. Head for mainland Antarctica via the Gerlache Strait, spotting humpback whales along the way. The next morning, travel through the Neumayer Channel and watch calving Weddell, leopard and crabeater seals — an unforgettable sight. Legend’s crew will launch the Zodiac tender so you can cruise through brash ice for up-close encounters with local wildlife. Visit Andvord Bay to spot humpback whales and killer whale pods. Hop into the Zodiac again to visit Cuverville Island and its huge colony of Gentoo penguins. Later, drop anchor at Foyn Harbor and kayak around the wreck of the Governoren — keep an eye out for fur seals.
Cruise to Deception Island, where you can sail into the crater of a live volcano. Atmospheric whale factory ruins and the old bones of Whalers Bay hark back to the area’s past as a whaling center. Enjoy a hike up ‘The Nipple’ with views across steaming lava fields, then round off your charter with a visit to the chinstrap penguin colony on Baily Head, spotting plenty of other wildlife as you go. Disembark at Frei Station and visit the Russian Orthodox Trinity Church, where you can reflect in peace on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Year of build: 2020
LOA: 252 ft
Number of guests: 12
One of the newest explorer yachts to hit the water, La Datcha, was designed to fulfill the owner’s brief for a yacht that could let charter guests “set out on the journey of a lifetime to places others can’t reach.” The resulting yacht delivers luxury in spades and is the ultimate crossover between comfort and performance. From her head-turning profile, care of Azure Yacht Design, to countless tenders and toys including two helicopters, snow scooters and a submersible, it is near impossible to narrow down her best features. La Datcha’s six decks boast a modern interior, and when hanging out on board you’ll have plenty of options — head to the luxury spa to unwind or relax after a day of exploring in the observation lounge. Two master cabins make her ideal for two families to share her unforgettable experiences. Able to operate autonomously at sea for up to 40 days, the world is her oyster.
Itinerary: Kamchatka, Russia
Dramatically dubbed Russia’s ‘Land of Ice and Fire,’ the Kamchatka Peninsula lies in eastern Russia and stretches over 740 miles. With glaciers, geysers, snow and over 300 volcanoes, Kamchatka’s landscape is like nowhere else on earth. There is plenty of wildlife to spot, including the Kamchatka brown bear. Start your charter in the peninsula’s capital city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, which is surrounded by three snow-capped volcanoes. Settle in on board, then fly to a nearby mountain top to ski a run or two. Cruise the fjords to reach Vilyuchinskaya Bay and fish abundant waters, whale watch or heli-ski. Enjoy incredible views from the top of the Vilyuchinsky Volcano before heading south towards Russkaya Bay. Take a helicopter flight over the Mutnovsky and Goreliy volcanoes; the brave can ski into the crater of the Mutnovsky volcano, which is home to a hidden glacier.
Back on board, your crew will take you by tender to spot Steller sea lions and sea otters. Cruise north to Cape Shipunsky and Bechevinskaya Bay, once a top-secret submarine base, and enjoy heli-skiing en route. Visit the ‘Valley of Geysers’ in the heart of Kamachatka — this spectacular Unesco World Heritage Site is home to a number of volcanoes including Karymsky, one of the most active in the world. Next, visit Klyuchevskaya Sopka and Morzhovaya Bay, home to yet more spectacular volcanoes. Round off your visit by heli-skiing on Zhupanovsky Volcano before relaxing at the Nalychevo Nature Park. Here, you can bathe in wild springs and hot thermal pools with a chilled glass of champagne in hand.