Aurora Expeditions, the Australian adventure company with a reputation for pushing the envelope, has released a brochure for the coming year containing two firsts: landing on Cape Horn, and polar snorkelling.
The Cape Horn landing took expedition leader Tom Holik two years to negotiate, and involved opening up a new Antarctic gateway at Puerto Williams in Chile.
According to Tom, in Sydney for the 2014/15 brochure launch, Aurora’s Russian-built Polar Pioneer is only able to land at Cape Horn because it leaves from a Chilean port.
But it has meant a major logistical exercise to built up Puerto Williams.
Aurora, first Australian member of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, has over 200 voyages to the Antarctic alone, but also to Ecuador, Kimberley, Alaska and the European arctic.
Their boast: “We push the boundaries of expedition cruising! Flexible itineraries, Zodiac landings, an ‘open bridge’ policy, onboard lectures and optional adventure activities such as sea kayaking, scuba diving, photography, climbing and camping!”
Asked what the difference was between Aurora and some other brands offering “luxury adventure”, Tom answered without hesitation: “If you saw a pod of whales at lunchtime, on some ships you would be expected to eat first and watch later.
“On an Aurora ship, lunch would be postponed! The whales come first.”
Polar snorkeling is another first and fits with Aurora’s pledge to allow passengers on its small ships – average number of passengers around 50 – to get up close and personal with nature.
In this case, with penguins and seals sliding off the ice and into the water.
Here’s how the brochure sells it: “Through crystal clear waters adventurers will discover the amazing mobility and speed of penguins entering and exiting from the ice, marvel at the beauty of sculpted icebergs below the water and swim alongside large charismatic marine mammals.”
The good news is you don’t need to get wet.
Aurora has specially designed dry suits, meaning you can wear lots of woolly jumpers underneath!
The company has also opened up trekking opportunities in Nepal, Bhutan and Patagonia.
CEO Lisa Bolton believes the offerings are unique.
She maintains the company would do a lot more in Australia, if only the port costs were lower.
“I can turn around in a port in Argentina 11 times for the price of one landing in Tasmania, “ she told Cruise Passenger.