FLIBS 2019
The Big Adventure
Destinations

The Big Adventure

Tristan Rutherford
5th February 2019

It’s one thing to spot freshwater dolphins on the Amazon River. It’s quite another to invite 30 of your friends along for the ride. Uniquely, Camper & Nicholsons charter six passenger qualified yachts across the four corners of the globe. From the Mekong to the Baltic, each megayacht can sail with a full complement of naturalists, astrologers, chefs and masseurs voyaging alongside.


VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA

Aqua Mekong

The Mekong cuts a topaz slash on Tibet’s cinnamon coloured earth. It then tumbles through the chokepoint of China and Myanmar, where leaf monkeys and pangolins bark at passing barges. At Luang Prabang in Laos, the river reflects the emerald green of Sunda oaks and Jaggery palms. It meanders through Thailand like a lost backpacker. Then crosses into Cambodia, where it is known in Khmer as the ‘Great River’. In Vietnam the Mekong is reborn as a moving aquarium, containing the most concentrated biodiversity per hectare of any global waterway. After a journey of 4,500km it spreads, exhausted, into several branches that give rise to its local nickname, the ‘River of Nine Dragons’.

It’s a boon that Aqua Mekong was custom built to cruise the river in 2014. For the Mekong at Saigon is populous, untamed and tidally wild. Guests aboard the motoryacht’s 20 luxurious suites may gaze at a panorama that changes by the hour. Using her kayaks and bikes, combined with the know how of experienced river guides, one can navigate through a delta of 13 million souls where floating markets abound. Alternatively, passengers can kick back with a Pimm’s on the observation deck while reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. This is a floating five-star hotel, with an accompanying staff-to-client ratio of one-to-one.

Adventure colours the air upriver. While the Aqua Mekong makes a stately procession at 8 knots, her four speedboats can escort all 40 guests ahead to spot Siamese crocodiles, freshwater rays and up to 20,000 floral species. Locals dine on the river’s 90 types of catfish but Michelin-starred consultant chef David Thompson has other ideas. His bespoke menu pairs Thai spice with Indochine-moderne.

When the crimson sun falls across South East Asia it’s time to retire.
Fortunately Aqua Mekong’s hardwood suites with glass balconies were designed by Noor, the architectural agency behind Furaveri in the Maldives and Raffles Le Royal in Phnom Penh, our next port of call. The Cambodian capital is a blend of French boulevards and tropical fleuristes. A short sail inland, entire villages built on buoyant wooden shacks float on Tonlé Sap Lake. Near its banks the region’s greatest UNESCO site, the ancient temple of Angkor, awaits.

INDONESIA

Salila

The world’s largest archipelago hosts many traditional cruisers. But for a contemporary superyacht with go-anywhere attitude there is only one choice. Salila was built to last in Japan. She contains a steel hull and bulbous bow to boost both speed and range. A splendid refit turned a 56m vessel into a luxurious playground with enough cabins to satisfy Indonesia’s football team - plus their coaches, chefs and masseurs. Luckily there won’t be any jostling over the master suite: Salila has two of them, each equipped with some of the only bathtubs in the Nusa Tenggara.

The Nusa Tenggara, or ‘Southeast Islands’ as they’re known in Bahasa, rise from Lombok to East Timor like a volcanic crown. Expect seismic lakes, black sand beaches and peaks as high as the Eiger. Plus flora and fauna gone feral in a prehistoric scene, as 3m-long Komodo dragons snap at incoming RIBs. In parts of this tempestuous land the macaque monkeys eat crabs. Have the Nikon primed for white-bellied sea eagles, who snatch flying foxes from trees and goldband snappers from fishermen’s nets.
Salila also sails through softer climes. Five splitlevel decks ensure enough sunspots to view wildlife. Following the yacht’s Japanese traditions, seafood purchased from local fishermen is sliced into sashimi, or prepared au beurre should guests prefer. Some Indonesian yachts make do with a single tender. Salila has four. This ensures that every guest can partake in an inter-island swim or a vertiginous hike. A timeless favourite for all is a secret island assault where a beach party has been pre-prepared with chilled Bintang beer and spiced satay. Request gudeg - a stewed jackfruit and coconut milk dessert - to follow.

As Salila sails further east, her two certified diving instructors are in increasing demand. Sebayur Island is like St Lucia without sun loungers. Powder sands meet abundant shallows that average at 29°c (84f ), rendering wetsuits a laughable accessory. Even a novice snorkeller will see clownfish hiding in coral. Plus giant manta that glide all the way to the Spice Islands. Alas, Salila will beat them there. A final highlight on any Indonesian itinerary, Ambon Island is where spiceladen rainforest tumbles into amethyst waters, while uninhabited islets like Pulau Pombo tempt offshore.

BALTIC

Legend

Some yachts are constructed to cruise the Norwegian fjords. Others are made from sterner stuff to tour Iceland or Patagonia. As a former Soviet icebreaker, Legend was custom-built to skip from the Arctic to the Antarctic with 8,000hp under the hood. Moreover, she can carry a complement of 26 guests. Plus 19 fulltime staff including astronomers, marine biologists, ice pilots and off-piste ski instructors to boot.

Legend was built in 1973 to explore above and beyond the 60th parallels. In 2015 she was refitted to do so in style. Snowy expeditions on the six-person Eurocopter can be planned with military precision in the conference room. Movies from Ernest Shackleton’s South to David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet can be screened in the private cinema. Like a floating boutique hotel, Legend operates the only gourmet restaurant this side of the McMurdo Sound. No postdinner cigar to hand? With a range of 7,640 nautical miles, she can sail from Greenland to Havana for a box of Romeo y Julietas without stopping for gas.

Come summer the Baltic Sea’s midnight sun tests Legend’s accoutrements in a different manner.
A favourite itinerary begins with a hard day’s night in Hamburg, before racing through the Kiel Canal towards Copenhagen and its 11 Michelin stars. When Denmark’s beautiful people have finished dessert at Noma, they decamp to the island of Bornholm. By following a food forager - by paddleboard, kayak and bicycle - one can glean enough seaweed and razor clams for chef to host a cooking class on board ship.

Centuries ago, the Baltic was a Hanseatic sea where sailors could shop, sip and sightsee without pause. On Legend those same rules still apply. Culturally rich cities stretch all the way east to Gdansk, Riga, Tallinn and St Petersburg, each of them UNESCO inscribed. The undersea legacy of Hanseatic trade is best seen with the C-Explorer three-person submarine. Wooden shipwrecks shiver under the waves around Gotland, Sweden’s largest island. To give pals back home the ultimate shock, unhook the surfboards at Gotska Sandön Island due north. Here 24-hour sunshine can raise summer highs to 30°c (86f ), making it the world’s most curious place to hang ten.

AMAZON

Aria Amazon

As a child, the naturalist Henry Walter Bates read The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. At the tender age of 23 he followed Darwin’s footsteps to South America in order to discover as many new species as he could. His ultimate destination? The Amazon, the most botanically diverse region on planet earth. By sailing to the river’s upper reaches he discovered 8,000 species that were unknown to science, with a particular interest in butterflies. Bates was so successful that on returning to London he was elected to the Royal Geographical Society, the Linnaean Society and the Royal Society. He even had an emerald tree boa, Corallus batesii, named in his honour.

Bates’s tree boas can be viewed from the comfort of a double bed aboard the Amazon Aria. The dynamic panorama from each fluffed pillow gazes out through a floor-to-ceiling window. A private lounging area and en-suite sits to the side. She boasts more of these sumptuous cabins than most yachts have passengers. This allows all 32 guests to exaggerate their animal spotting exploits in the colonial-chic bar. Come dinnertime, as the sky turns amber and the river glows pink, the air-conditioned salon becomes a silver service restaurant. The modern Peruvian menu has been curated by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Malabar in Lima, one of San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America.

Amazon Aria plies the same waters Bates sailed a century and a half ago. From Iquitos, the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road, she meanders downstream for rainforest walks and wetland kayaks. Even at this humble stage near the Peru-Brazil border, the Amazon has a greater discharge than any other waterway in the world. (At its Atlantic opening it unleashes the power of the next seven rivers combined.)

Such abundant water equals great diversity. Using the yacht’s lightweight skiffs, four English-speaking naturalist guides will point out sloths, tapirs, scarlet macaws and the enchanting pink river dolphin. And finally, rest assured that new Amazonian butterfly species are still being discovered in the 21st century. Spot more than Bates and a seat at London’s Royal Society could be yours.

WESTERN THAILAND

Saluzi

With 16 luxurious cabins, guests on Saluzi aren’t limited to bringing the family - they can bring their entire neighbourhood too. The atmosphere aboard one of Asia’s largest superyachts is akin to a floating beach club. Imagine a veritable flotilla of toys including seabobs, Hobiecats, jetskis and glass-bottomed kayaks. Plus an inflatable rear pool where all 32 travellers may require a restatorive soak.

Guests might need their energy for a midnight karaoke session. Alfresco singalongs take place on a main deck, which is the size of two tennis courts. Need more backing singers? At port the captain can welcome another 200 revellers aboard his 69m charge. Although advance warning would be a plus, if only to place more moo ping skewers on the barbeque. Other nocturnal delights include an outdoor cinema, a must-have when evening temperatures hover around 24°c (75f ). Danny Boyle’s The Beach will leave one hankering after an island of one’s own.

To avoid further drama in the Gulf of Thailand, Saluzi has two of everything. That includes two full-time spa therapists and two Jacuzzis. Better still, a 2014 refit created two master suites, each with an adjoining bathroom as large as an average London hotel room. Zero-speed stabilisers ensure that the only spillage will be a bottle of Singha when one misses a Pong at mahjong.
Fortunately an electronic table will shuffle another 144 tiles at the flick of a switch.

Although Saluzi has chartered from Japan to the Maldives, her heart remains in the Thai islands. The only issue here is that there are 1,400 to choose from. Koh Samui mixes beach bars with pulse-popping licentiousness, while Koh Tao rises at dawn for freediving with Hawksbill turtles. Koh Mak is a haven for fleeing Bangkokians, while Koh Wai has no roads, no ATMs and no problems. Still can’t choose? Simply ride one of Saluzi’s two Castoldi jet tenders to your own private island. Your 31 fellow guests won’t notice you’ve gone.

NORTHERN CORSICA

Elegant 007

Elegant 007 could be the bespoke commission of a Bond villain. Like a prototype superyacht, her upper deck comprises a futuristic swoosh that hides several terraces and a Jacuzzi for 12. As is necessary for every self-respecting Le Chiffre or Blofeld, she boasts more crew than guests - a vast amount when one considers her 15 luxurious cabins. A high staff roster is needed to operate the gadgets on board, which range from a sauna to a cinema. No prizes for guessing the nature of her DVD collection, although the 25th installment of the movie series will be released in 2020.

The 72m yacht regularly anchors below James Bond’s spiritual home at the Casino de Monte-Carlo. From here stabilisers ensure the three-hour passage to Corsica is neither shaken nor stirred. The first landfall is Cap Corse. This feral peninsula is the antithesis of Monaco. Beaches outnumber hotels. Bird species - all 230 of them - outnumber tourists on a regular summer day. France’s wildest stretches of sand include plage de la Cala Francese, which welcomes grazing goats and peregrine falcons. Plage de Tamarone is more easily accessible by mule track than it is by motorised vehicle. In short, one requires waverunners, kayaks and a fleet of tenders to make sense of Corsica’s 1,000km coastline and 200 beaches. Fortunately, Elegant 007 has all of the above.

Corsica reverts to a more exclusive nature a short sail south. The resort of St Florent, the island’s answer to St Tropez, is backed by vineyards to rival Château Minuty. These include Domaine Leccia, housed within a 19th-century cantina, and Domaine Giacometti, which crafts all-organic rosés and whites. Nearby the icing sugar sands of plage de Saleccia are regularly voted among the Top 10 beaches in the world.
Want to invite the toute la plage for a wine-tasting on the sun deck? Elegant 007 can welcome an additional 200 guests for an evening function. Neither a dinner jacket nor a laser-emitting Rolex are required.

Tags: AQUA MEKONG | America (South) | Asia (Southeast) | Europe (Northern) | Mediterranean (Western) | Brazil | Cambodia | Corsica | Indonesia | Thailand | The Baltic | Vietnam |
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