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Top 6 South America Expedition Cruise trips in 2018

Written by Laurent Escobar | 16th November 2017 |

Category: Knowledge

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Ever wondered why so many people return home raving about their latest sailing? Taking an expedition cruise has many advantages such as exploring remote destinations - sometimes unreachable by land or air - as well as offering a wide variety of activities onboard and amazing excursions.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not talking about taking one of those ridiculous huge ships that do more harm than good to the places they go - we’re talking about small ship, expedition cruises that get you up close and personal with the place you’re visiting. No pretension or ‘entertainment’ on board, just hard working crew and naturalist guide(s) who help you interpret the incredible surroundings.

From the Amazon rainforest to the untouched glaciers of Patagonia, taking a cruise to South America means exploring stunning sceneries and immersing yourself in incredible cultures. Find out about our favourite expedition cruise trips for 2018 below.

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a model of conservation, a window into a world where humans are not considered a threat - a place where most of the animals simply don’t fear your approach. And that’s because there isn’t a conservation project on the planet that has been more successful.

The Galapagos never fails to amaze its visitors. The classic Galapagos wildlife experience is to visit the islands whilst staying on a small boat. We specialise in finding the best of the smaller boats, typically 16 to 20 passengers, for cruises lasting at least five days - though more often a full week or 10 days - such as M/Y Beluga or M/Y Sea Star.

From sneezing marine iguanas to lumbering giant tortoises, sailing through the different islands lets you observe and understand the wonderful process of evolution at close range. To visit the Galapagos is indeed a real privilege.

Best time to visit: April to June 

Antarctic Peninsula

Antarctica might be the most hostile part of our planet: cold and dry, it is a truly majestic place, the force and power of nature here dominates more than anywhere else. Nature dictates when you go to Antarctica, when you disembark the ship, what wildlife you see... Antarctica has the power to change the way we look at the world and our place in it. Sailing there is ultimately the only way to understand what a physical place it is.

Therefore, a great way to discover it is doing a ‘Base Camp’ cruise on board M/V Plancius, which lets you explore the scenery and wildlife by means of a range of activities on land and water. The vessel stays for two or three days at specific locations to serve as a comfortable hub for different excursions, allowing more time than usual to explore your Polar area of choice.

Some of the activities include: soft climbing, long walks, ice camping, photography, zodiac excursions and kayaking.

Best time to visit: November to February

Antarctic Ross Sea

Another great way to discover this desolated continent is following the path of the ancient explorers of the Heroic Era entering the ’Gateway to Antarctica’ by the Ross Sea. Which means a much longer trip, with more time at sea, as you sail the shore of Antarctica through the world’s last truly pristine ecosystems (Snares, Aucklands, Macquarie, Campbell, Antipodes, Bounty Islands…) aboard M/V Ortelius.

This is also the opportunity to visit unique sites and sights such as gargantuan glaciers, dry valleys, Mt. Erebus volcano, Ernest Shackleton hut, McMurdo Station, Scott Base, enormous Adélie Penguin rookeries and Emperor Penguins.

Best time to visit: December to February

Peruvian Amazon

If you’re more willing to explore the culture, history and natural wonders of the Peruvian jungle, sail the enchanted Amazon rainforest on M/V Aria Amazon, a luxury riverboat around the Pacaya Samiria Reserve. On board a stylish and safe cruising vessel, local naturalist guides provide incredible educational experiences for the guests.

Participate in shore excursions to explore the jungle deeper. Spot unique wildlife species such as the Amazon river dolphin, Taricaya turtle, Manatee as well as exotic migratory birds and endemic mammals. Meet the Cocama Indians of Puerto Prado and get to know their culture.

With 7-night, 4-night and 3-night cruise options, you’ll be able to travel far into the depths of the Amazon’s rainforests enjoying an intimate glimpse of its wildlife, ecosystems, local customs and marine and jungle landscapes.

Best time to visit: June through November 

Southern Patagonia

If you haven’t got the time available to get to Antarctica, then this is a pretty fine Plan B. Aboard M/V Stella Australis, a scenic maritime route can take you through the fjords of the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego and highlight the stunning beauty of Patagonia. This four-day journey includes visits to wildlife-rich Ainsworth Bay, massive Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley, as well as mystical Wulaia Bay and remote Cape Horn.

Much as with an Antarctic cruise, during the voyage the expedition team hosts interesting presentations (both on board and on land) on the wildlife, history and geography of this legendary region.

Best time to visit: October to March

Brazil Pantanal

In the Northern Pantanal, a fantastic river trip let you explore to the remote Taiama Reserve, one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Brazil, with the highest density of jaguar population in the entire Pantanal. Not to mention giant river otters, anacondas, tapirs, birds and other wildlife.

The emphasis here on board the lovely M/V Jaguar House Boat is on finding the magnificent big cats as a majority of your time is spent on rivers safaris exploring rivers, bays, lagoons and channels. Activities also include guided walks, canoeing and horseback riding. After dinner, the expedition leader usually gives lectures on the wildlife of the Pantanal.

Best time to visit: July to November

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Further reading

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Our 5 favourite Galápagos boats

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The Best Scenic Rail Journeys in South America

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