Each week we place a spotlight on one of the world’s finest superyacht for charter. This week BOAT steps aboard 48-metre Hanse Explorer in Antarctica to discover why she is one of the best yachts available in these icy waters.
She’s one of just a handful of yachts that continuously cruises Antarctica, and despite the other superyacht offerings here, Hanse Explorer remains Antarctica’s most popular charter yacht. Her high commercial ice classification, refined interiors and on-board expedition team offer the ultimate combination for an Antarctic (or tropical) adventure.
The 48-metre superyacht was delivered in 2006 by German shipyard Fassmer. With expedition management exclusively by EYOS she has since then tested her expedition capabilities from the Arctic to Antarctica, proving herself with endless excitement and extreme charters. Hanse Explorer was then extensively refitted in 2021, which saw an all-encompassing redesign with contemporary interiors, brand new exterior spaces and zero-speed fin stabilisers.
“We’ll certainly get through a lot of ice,” says EYOS co-founder, Tim Soper, in Punta Arenas, Chile, where the expedition team often meet guests before making the chartered flight down to Antarctica, gleefully bypassing the notorious Drakes Passage. “Hanse Explorer doesn’t have a faired hull unlike other yachts down here, so we can really get into the ice without damaging the hull.” The 48-metre’s mighty blue hull is indeed a tough looking spectacle, intentionally un-faired so she can venture deeper into the ice.
For a charter that begins in Antarctica, rather than South America, EYOS arrange a chartered flight directly to King George Island with a pre-stay in Torres del Paine. This was first acheived by EYOS 15 years ago with a charter on board Hanse Explorer, and since proved successful for those who don't want to experience the Drakes Passage.
Having landed on Antarctica’s gravel airstrip on King George Island, Hanse Explorer sits just a few 100 metres off the dark sandy beach, surrounded by dramatic ice-capped mountains and the occasional penguin. She has two new Zodiacs that take guests directly to the “mud room” which is pleasingly stocked with impedimenta – hand warmers, boots, skis and everything else one could need for a day among the ice.
Connected with a staircase up to the main saloon, once you step away from the expedition areas, you’re back into superyacht territory with light woods and a neutral palette of creams, clean whites and chromed silvers, with just a touch of nautical navy blue. The main saloon is almost entirely bordered with a cream L-shaped sofa, which faces a concealable television used for daily updates, expedition plans and talks on the Antarctic wildlife and its unique eco-system.
The idea for the refit was to make her refined – beautiful but not brash. Deck spaces were completely transformed to prioritise time in the great outdoors. The top deck, previously off-limits, had the radar raised by three metres to create an outdoor oasis during expeditions. Up on the top deck there is now a hot tub, a cocktail area with Bose sound systems and cabana-style Bali beds for sleeping under the stars in warmer climes. She also has a sauna and new gym on board for an added blast of wellness on board. Although, the plunge pool has been excluded to encourage guests to partake in the Polar Plunge, where guests hop off the stern into the sub-zero waters to cool off.
The crew of 15 are not only made up of experienced seafarers, but photographers, ice specialists and wildlife experts hailing from all over the world including Ukraine, Austria and South Africa.
What’s special about Hanse Explorer?
“Do you mind if I use the PA system if we come across killer whales?” asks EYOS expedition leader Richard White, who is renowned for his extraordinary talent for spotting even the most concealed wildlife. This is the nature of the charter with a team like this, who are on constant lookout for wildlife 24 hours a day. Just a few hours after boarding, guests are out on the water, observing elephant seals and humpback whales from the Zodiacs.
With every Hanse Explorer charter, an EYOS guide will be on board specialising in the local environment, be it polar or Tropical. White’s Antarctic expertise hails back to 1988 when he first visited the region. “I continue to be astonished by Antarctica, it’s unlike anywhere else on the planet and it’s such a pleasure to be able to show that to people in this way,” he says. An avid ornithologist and marine mammal enthusiast, there isn’t much that White doesn’t know about these icy climbs – as we soon discover on board.
“You see those bumps just before the whale's blowhole,” says White, gesturing to a nearby humpback which breaches metres before the Zodiac. “Those are actually hair follicles – they’re mammals.”
In cooler climes like Antarctica, almost all meals are served inside, rather than the aft deck, which is also equipped with a dining table for excursions in French Polynesia or Papua New Guinea (both of which are in Hanse Explorer’s plans for 2024). But the interior space sits between six large windows, from which wildlife can still be seen. “Humpbacks starboard,” announces White during lunch, as the guests leap up to observe a huge humpback and her calf feeding just a few metres from the yacht.
"No other yacht is as comfortable in the ice as Hanse Explorer," says EYOS CEO Ben Lyons. "She can spend full days navigating dense ice flows and get to where the wildlife is. She is an incredibly versatile vessel thanks to her recent refit and packs a ton of stuff in for a 48-metre."
The six well-appointed guest cabins lie forward of the dining area, each with a elegant neutral colour palette, cream sofas and oversized windows to spot the icebergs drifting past. The master cabin utilises half of the upper deck and has its own private deck that has access to the bridge.
“We run an open ship policy on board,” says Captain Andriy Bratash. “We encourage you to come up to the bridge and chat to us whenever you feel like it. Sunrise is at 4:45 tomorrow and the best place to see it is from the bridge, so do come on up if you wish.”
Why is Hanse Explorer the perfect charter yacht?
If you’re heading to Antarctic waters, she is the perfect yacht. Her sturdiness won’t hold you back in the same way faired vessels do and her comfort is well into the superyacht sphere. There is a reason she remains the most popular charter yacht in Antarctica. Experiences offered on board Hanse Explorer, such as diving, are created consciously and in line with a passion for the environment. That’s why you won’t find any Jet Skis in the toybox, and why it took almost two and half years to meticulously trial the viability of offering a kayaking experience in Antarctica on board.
“We get so many repeat clients on Hanse Explorer," adds Lyons. "People come back because they love the atmosphere that develops on board. Both captains have been with the yacht for years and they know Antarctica and ice navigation so well and it really makes all of the difference.”
Experiences on board are meaningful, educational and mesmerising, designed to immerse you into the environment in a way that very few superyacht pilots will be able to replicate.