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Eco-cruising: The benefits of bringing an expert on board

If you own or are chartering an explorer yacht this season, it can pay huge dividends to bring an eco-expert on board and learn while you cruise, says Risa Merl...

What’s the must-have that should appear on every yacht owner and charterer’s eco wish list? An expert who will educate everyone on board in how to make as little impact on the oceans as possible. Working with a true specialist will not only ensure that your favourite cruising grounds are kept safe, but also improve your trip tenfold.

Companies such as EYOS Expeditions, whose staff have diverse backgrounds spanning everything from botany to marine biology, can send experts on board to work with owners and guests (arranging eco-themed tours to understand an area better) or will consult with captains and crew on how best to protect cruising grounds.

It’s recommended for peace of mind, too: those travelling without a sustainability consultant can easily contravene laws and cause major harm to the environment. In Antarctica last year, a dog left the yacht it was on and got a little too close to penguins and seals – a non-native species in a pristine environment could wipe out an entire penguin colony. EYOS instructs guests to wash their feet in Virkon disinfectant before getting on and off the boat so there’s no chance of disease being transported.

“You need to make sure you’re not stressing [animals] out or doing anything in violation of local laws,” says Ben Lyons, EYOS CEO, who recalls an incident when visitors to the Arctic approached a walrus in a harmful way. “Not treating these animals with the utmost care could lead to legal action against guests or crew,” he says. Being respectful and upholding the reputation of the yachting community also makes it easier for yachts to visit in the future.

Having good guides on board can make the cruising experience more enriching. In the Maldives, EYOS partners with a leading manta ray researcher for diving trips, granting “an extra level of insight and appreciation you’d otherwise never have”, says Lyons. On board personal visits from climate change experts can also be arranged, giving guests lectures on how they can make a difference.

Owing to demand from clients, EYOS is announcing its new Conservation Initiatives, managed by expedition leader Justin Hofman. The programme will connect owners with conservation projects in cruising grounds all over the world.

Marine biologist and dive instructor Rodolphe Holler, founder of Tahiti Private Expeditions, goes on board with owners and charterers to run courses on marine life. When diving, he recommends not to touch anything (dead or alive), to kill only the fish you are going to eat and not to practise catch and release because many fish don’t survive the trauma. “A local guide will know which species shouldn’t be consumed because they are endangered, and which are safe to eat,” he says. “Coral trout, for example, can have a toxin called ciguatera. I once visited a boat where the crew had just eaten a bunch and they all got sick. I missed warning them by about an hour!”

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