Green is good: the best eco focused superyacht adventures
1/5
Zanzibar
_For dolphins and beaches_

From glacial ice fields to kaleidoscopic coral reefs, superyachts allow us to experience the ocean’s most diverse ecosystems, but they also create opportunities to help protect them. Francisca Kellett reveals the best ways to add eco projects to your adventures.

Zanzibar: for dolphin pods and white beaches

Where: Zanzibar and Pemba Island offer an extraordinary mix of culture and watery wonderlands, from the Arabian history of Stone Town in Zanzibar to the practice of voodoo on Pemba, with a good smattering of brilliantly white beaches washed by startlingly turquoise waters.

The area is crammed with diverse marine life, but of particular interest are the schools of humpback whales and pods of dolphins that congregate off the shores. A marine biologist can join a yacht to accompany the journey, providing laser-sharp insight into the area.

How: The Explorations Company, which specialises in matching clients with philanthropic adventures, organises exclusive yacht charters on an Ocean 750 catamaran with an onboard marine biologist. Dr Gill Braulik, based in Zanzibar, will join guests sailing around these beautiful archipelagos to spot and research whales and dolphins. Her organisation is connected to the Zanzibari government, and an additional donation of €5,000 goes towards future research and conservation.

Days are spent diving in areas such as the tiny, uninhabited Misali Island, where the reefs are filled with hard and soft corals, while on land are sunbirds, flying foxes, endangered coconut crabs and caves, rumoured still to be used for voodoo. Excursions inland explore Pemba’s ancient forests, and afternoons might be spent snorkelling around the pristine Mnemba Island atoll, kayaking with cavorting pods of dolphins just south of Tambatu, or visiting Fundu Lagoon for beachside cocktails.

When: October and November are peak season for whales and dolphins in the region, and this is also when wind and sea conditions are calm.

2/5
Greenland
_For icebergs and whales_

Where: Western Greenland is the place, and icebergs are the main attraction. This is where some of the largest icebergs in the world are spewed out by a giant glacier (itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site) into Disko Bay. Hours can be spent cruising between the floating mountains of ice, kayaking alongside them, or you can walk right up to the glacier and watch the natural phenomenon close up. There are Inuit villages to visit on land, as well as heli-hiking in the interior, and polar bears to spot further north, while humpback whales, narwhals and walruses can be seen off shore. And eco elements are begging to be built into the itinerary.

How: EYOS Expeditions arranges individually tailored itineraries on superyachts, bringing a team of guides and experts on board. En route, a research tow can be put in place to collect water samples, which are then sent off to find how much microplastic is present in the water. The onboard guides also encourage guests to take photographs of breaching whales, particularly the unique patterning on the underside of their tales known as flukes; the photos are sent to a central database maintained by researchers. Information is often returned to guests the next day, detailing where and when the whales were last seen. Beach clean-ups are also regularly arranged, while specific interests can be met head on. “We arranged for a client particularly interested in climate change to visit a scientific research base in Greenland,” says Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS. “Two days later he was helping with leading research on climate change, and then the scientist came on board in the evening for dinner.”

When: May to August, for more clement weather.

3/5
Mapia Atoll
_For remote reefs_

Where: Mapia Atoll in Indonesia has an extraordinary diversity of marine life. The atoll is made up of four tropical islands encircling a clear lagoon, with dramatic outer reef walls that drop off thousands of metres into the western Pacific abyss. The best part of this experience is that guests will take part in one of the first ever underwater research efforts in the area.

How: Luxury adventure operator Pelorus has teamed up with Rascal Voyages and Conservation International to survey the area from 31-metre traditional phinisi Rascal. The area is of particular interest as it’s  flagged as a new potential Marine Protected Area. “No research work has ever been undertaken in the Mapia Atoll,” explains Pelorus co-founder Geordie Mackay-Lewis. “It is on the periphery of Indonesian waters and is fascinating in terms of the marine species and activity that guests will uncover.”

Each bespoke expedition will be headed by Dr Mark Erdmann with a team of local scientists, and will survey reef fish diversity and coral health, using scuba dives and drone technology to view turtles and mantas. Guests will spend their days underwater with the Conservation International team, charting, measuring and photographing the reef and drop off, uncovering information that could be of huge importance to the scientific community. There are also visits to local communities, with a view to better understanding their approach to marine resources.

When: December, for clear, calm waters.

4/5
Mergui Archipelago
_For manta rays_

Where: Thousands of islands make up the Mergui Archipelago off Myanmar, where vibrant vegetation and empty beaches are a given. The area is home to elusive tribes of sea gypsies, and beneath the clear water lies what may be the largest population of manta rays in the Indian Ocean. These seas are fairly uncharted by divers, and it’s rare to see other yachts, while the underwater landscapes are filled with vibrant soft coral, anemones, fish and huge groups of swooping giant manta rays.

How: Known as “the queen of the mantas”, there is no better guide than Dr Andrea Marshall to introduce you to these elegant creatures and the area itself. A marine explorer and researcher, Marshall has logged several thousand dives around the world and is regarded as a leading authority on manta rays. She is the founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, and carries out vital research and conservation work. She organises her own trips through her Ray of Hope expeditions, and regularly accompanies private yachts to areas of particular interest.

On her radar for 2019 is the Mergui Archipelago, to document and research the vast numbers of mantas. “These trips tend to be for people who want to get off the beaten path... and learn more about the research we’re doing,” she explains. Working with her husband, Janneman Conradie, a National Geographic lmographer, Marshall presents her research on board, often to the guests and crew. She then encourages them into the water with her to do anything from collecting genetic samples and deploying satellite tags to planting temperature loggers or acoustic listening stations – all the while, Conradie documents everything for the client. Interaction with local people is key, too, and they work with groups of sea gypsies, bringing supplies and helping with educational programmes.

When: November to April is the best time to cruise the Mergui Archipelago; peak months are December to February.

5/5
Cocos Island
_For shark encounters and dramatic landscapes_

Where: Cocos Island, a remote speck in the Pacific Ocean, 300 nautical miles off the western coast of Costa Rica, is famous for being the filming location for Jurassic Park. “Arriving at Cocos Island is like stepping back in time to a lost world,” says Henry Cookson of Cookson Adventures, which organises bespoke expeditions for private clients. The interior is dramatic, with rainforest-covered volcanic peaks soaring into the mist and huge waterfalls cascading down on to sandy beaches.

It is a remote, two-day cruise from Costa Rica, but that’s what makes it so extraordinary – that and the fact that this is one of four tropical Pacific points where a wide variety of other marine life congregates. The focus is on helping to protect sharks by monitoring their movements, behavioural patterns and social connections. At least nine species can be seen here, including scalloped hammerheads, tiger, blacktip and whale sharks.

How: Cookson Adventures arranges a separate research vessel to accompany a client’s superyacht, with a team of marine researchers and scientists on board. This is one for passionate scuba divers; each day is spent at two or three dive sites, working alongside marine biologists in the water (which has challenging currents) and with submersibles.

Research involves counting, catching and tagging sharks with acoustic devices, and measuring them using lasers and collating footage from underwater cameras. Trips are between  five and 10 days, and information obtained from tagging sharks here has enabled a better understanding of their migratory routes. “Cocos is critical to shark populations,” says Cookson. “Being able to participate in shark tagging research, especially with submersibles, is a spectacular opportunity.”

When: May to August is best for shark tagging, but this is a year-round diving destination.

All images courtesy of shutterstock.com

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