Cruis­ing the South At­lantic in grand com­fort

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - CRUISING -

Hans van Heukelum DE­CEM­BER 2012 will see the ar­rival of one of the finest small ships in the world – MS Is­land Sky – af­ter com­plet­ing a jour­ney from Cape Verde along Africa’s west coast with calls in Ghana, Cameroon and Namibia, among oth­ers. A great bonus to s t arti ng a great cruise will be em­barka­tion right here in Cape Town.

With a pas­sion f or the po­lar re­gions and small ves­sels, po­lar cruise spe­cial­ist Unique Des­ti­na­tions is fre­quently asked for cruises which com­mence in Cape Town and ex­plore the re­mote South At­lantic is­lands with their phe­nom­e­nal bird life.

Unique Des­ti­na­tions en­cour­aged No­ble Cale­do­nia to of­fer such a voy­age, for which the de­mand is high. Is­land Sky will un­der­take a leisurely cruise of longer than three weeks from Cape Town to Punta Are­nas in Chile, with calls at Tris­tan da Cunha, South Ge­or­gia and the Falk­land is­lands from De­cem­ber 22, 2012 to J anuary 15, 2013. Lec­tures and en­ter­tain­ment will be of­fered on the leisurely cruis­ing days.

Be­sides the ex­pe­ri­enced ex­pe­di­tion teams, the lec­tures will be of­fered by award-win­ning jour­nal­ist, t r a v e l wri t e r a nd a dven­turer Matthew Paris and Dutch an­i­mal ecol­o­gist Al­bert Bein­tema, who has writ­ten four books on the birdlife of Antarc­tica and Tris­tan da Cunha. And in con­trast to the sci­en­tific pre­sen­ta­tions, Rod­ney Trud­geon of Fine MAG­NIF­I­CENT: Is­land Sky is pop­u­lar among those who pre­fer small ship cruis­ing. Mu­sic Ra­dio will present a se­ries of talks fo­cus­ing on mu­sic that has been in­flu­enced by these re­mote re­gions.

Af­ter six days at sea, ac­com­pa­nied by a va­ri­ety of seabirds of the trop­i­cal and sub- trop­i­cal zones, Is­land Sky will ar­rive at Tris­tan for a five-day visit.

First set­tled in the early 1800s, the is­land was vis­ited by naval ves­sels and whalers through­out the 19th cen­tury. To­day it is home to some 260 hardy souls who make their liv­ing from the sea. New Year will be cel­e­brated with the is­lan­ders and guests will also en­joy hik­ing with a lo­cal guide. A visit to nearby un­in­hab­ited Nightin­gale Is­land is also planned. This is a unique wildlife lo­ca­tion and home to mil­lions of seabirds.

Four days at sea will fol­low, i nclud­ing a cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of Gough Is­land and its seabird colonies. South Ge­or­gia, the next port of call, is also one of the world’s most mag­nif­i­cent wildlife des­ti­na­tions. As a sub­Antarc­tic is­land, it is home to thou­sands of king pen­guins, fur and ele­phant seals, a nd wan­der­ing al­ba­trosses, against a back­drop of glaciers and snow-cov­ered moun­tains. Dur­ing the three-day call, a visit will be made to Grytviken, one of four his­tor­i­cal whal­ing sta­tions there.

Af t e r t wo days a t s e a , t he windswept Falk­lands will be in sight. Here yel­low goarse-cov­ered is­lands are the home of gen­too, mag­el­lanic, rock­hop­per and king pen­guins, with many nest­ing wan­der­ing and sooty al­ba­trosses on higher ground. Vis­its will be made to Point Is­land, New Is­land, the cap­i­tal Port Stan­ley and some of the sites as­so­ci­ated with the Falk­land War.

On dis­em­bark­ing at Punta Are­nas, the flight home will be via San­ti­ago and Buenos Aires.

Is­land Sky is pop­u­lar among those who pre­fer small ship cruis­ing. This is due to her max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of only 114 pas­sen­gers, un­usu­ally large suites, lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed pub­lic ar­eas and spa­cious out­side decks. Although she is ca­pa­ble of ac­com­mo­dat­ing more, the own­ers re­alised the suc­cess of fewer pas­sen­gers oc­cu­py­ing more space. The at­mos­phere on board is akin to a pri­vate yacht or coun­try ho­tel.

There are 57 suites spread over five decks, all with out­side views and en-suite bath­rooms with mar­ble­topped van­i­ties. Each suite has a flat screen TV with built-in DVD/CD player. The pub­lic rooms in­clude a large lounge for lec­tures, an el­e­gant bar, a well-stocked li­brary with ref­er­ence books per­tain­ing to the des­ti­na­tions and two com­put­ers with in­ter­net ac­cess.

There is wi-fi ac­cess through­out the ves­sel. There is also a rear sun deck for out­side mealss. The stan­dard of cui­sine is high, with one sit­ting per meal. A good se­lec­tion of wines is in­cluded with lunch and din­ner. Is­land Sky is equipped with the lat­est safety, nav­i­ga­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment.

This un­usual jour­ney will ap­peal to those who en­joy trav­el­ling “off the beaten track”. It of­fers amaz­ing birdlife, in­ter­est­ing lec­tures, qual­ity mu­sic, mar­vel­lous food and the ex­pe­ri­ence of one of the most com­fort­able ex­pe­di­tion ves­sels in the world.

For those “trav­ellers of the mind” who pre­fer a unique land ex­pe­ri­ence, Unique Des­ti­na­tions is of­fer­ing an in-depth 19day jour­ney to Bhutan in com­fort­able 4x4s. The jour­ney will in­clude un­usual side val­leys and colour­ful Bud­dhist fes­ti­vals. The size of the group will be lim­ited to 12 trav­ellers. See the Unique Des­ti­na­tions ad­vert on this page.

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