Vail Daily travel column: Boating away the blues
There is something about being on a boat that gets rid of the blues. Growing up in the Outback of Australia I did not have a lot of contact with boats. I’m not sure I can count “The Riverlander” — wooden planks strapped to 44-gallon drums anchored in the middle of the Lachlan River — I used to jump off, fish for yabbies and sunbake. Or going to the Festival of the Lakes in Lake Cargelligo every Australia Day, where I learned to water ski.
However, since then, I have managed to be on quite a few boats, of varying sizes. I have sailed up the Bosphourous into Istanbul; that was a long time ago and not on a boat I would recommend to anyone. But Istanbul was glorious. I have been on a Star Clipper Cruise around the Greek islands, and there is no way to do the Greek islands that is bad. I have been most fortunate to be on a friend’s 70-foot Hatteras sailing around the Caribbean; the British Virgin Islands being my favorite. And of course there is almost nothing better than being on Sydney Harbor on a sparkling summer day.
But I have a long bucket list of boating experiences.
I would say first and foremost would be with North Star cruises on the True North sailing the Kimberley coastline of Australia. The Kimberley coast is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas and best explored in the dry season, May through October.
You see spectacular waterfalls, awe-inspiring gorges and ancient cultural history and indigenous rock art. Kimberley icons include the King George Falls, the Hunter River, the Prince Regent Falls, Montgomery Reef and the Horizontal Falls. The scenery is stunning … and the True North is the only adventure-cruise ship in the Southern Hemisphere that travels with an on-board helicopter — an air-conditioned Eurocopter. This is the highlight for a lot of people because you can access places where man has never been before.
There are only 18 cabins or 36 people and the cruises are activity-based, and extended periods at sea are specifically avoided. Daily activities include scenic walks, helicopter flights, culture, fishing, snorkeling, picnics, diving, exploring, nature and much, much more. They have multiple expedition boats so people can do whatever they want, when they want, and the True North is purpose-built to access shallow coastal environs and river systems, where big ships cannot go.
Besides the Kimberley region, the True North also goes to other areas in Australia, one being the Rowley shoals off Western Australia, another area I have yet to visit and have always wanted to.
The three giant atolls of the Rowley Shoals are 186 miles off the coast from Broome. These pristine reefs have outstanding coral cover, fish life and underwater clarity and are visited by only a handful of lucky travelers each year. The Rowley Shoals are among the few reefs in the world affected by dramatic 16-foot tides, which move massive volumes of seawater into and out of the coral framework, creating unearthly, enchanting coralscapes.
Another wonderful boat (also on my bucket list) is the MV Escape, which offers both diving and fishing cruises.
You’ll be able to dive at one of the ocean’s largest, untouched coral gardens, swim among giant clams, shellfish, Maori Wrasse and Giant Potato Cod and discover 233 species of exquisite coral and 688 fish species, many of which are colorful, exotic and unique to the area. Amazingly, the underwater visibility is up to 200 feet and the water temperature is typically and irresistibly tropical.
The best time to go is during the months of September, October and November. These months are normally associated with “the doldrums” — a period of light winds and calm seas.
Heading north to Vietnam, I didn’t make it to Halong Bay when I was there a few years ago, so I have a junket cruise on my list. I had a client there recently on the “Violet” and she said it was fabulous. Outfitted in 1930s Indochine style with six individual theme cabins with marble bathrooms, jacuzzi and a balcony, it travels to untouched areas of the bay on either a two- or three-night program.
Aqua Expeditions also has the Aqua Mekong, a 2014 boat, which has great itineraries in Vietnam and Cambodia along the Mekong River.
They are most known, however, for the Aqua or Aria Amazon in the Peruvian Amazon. They launched the first cruises in the Peruvian sector of the world’s longest river — the Amazon — in 2007 and have three, four and seven-night itineraries. The boats are luxurious and the scenery is amazing.
On the seven-night Amazon River Expedition Cruise, experience the most luxurious and comprehensive Amazon journey among the Amazon River’s three powerful tributaries: the Maranon, the Ucayali and the Puinahua, as well as several hidden black water lakes.
And if I am going to mention another continent, then it should be Africa, one of my favorite places on the planet. There are boating options on this continent that should be mentioned. Paddling in a mokoro (canoe) in the Okavango Delta surrounded by hippos is thrilling, to say the least. And then there is the Zambezi Queen, designed specifically for safari river cruising on the Chobe River. This 28-passenger boat offers a sophisticated on-board experience designed to maximize animal sightings.
Rosie Holliday is an ex-pat Aussie and longtime local travel agent who owns Holiday Adventures, an affiliate of Andavo travel-A Virtuoso Agency. While she can and does book the world, her specialties are Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Europe. You can reach her at email@example.com, 970-748-9818 or http://www.hollidayadventures.com.