Out of the Med
It is a common refrain to hear about how small the world is these days, even out of the Med. One can hardly go on a trip without bumping into someone else we know from home or work; it feels as if we all live in one global community at times. Even during the Covid era where space is to be maintained and distance is at premium, familiar beaches, ski slopes and restaurants seem to be as crowded as ever.
One company, however, is trying to show people that the world is a very big place, rife with opportunities for singular, personal experiences, if you just need to know where to look…and how to get there.
EYOS Expeditions has been consistently helping clients create once-in-a-lifetime experiences far from the everyday world for over ten years. Widely known as the leaders in private expedition travel, EYOS helps its guests look beyond the well-worn destinations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean to a literal world of possibilities.
Expedition and experiential travel have been booming in the mainstream market; commercial ships carrying hundreds passengers in matching parkas routinely visit the polar regions each year. Standing around in large groups, these travelers may stare and photograph an equally perplexed penguin.
While penguins can still be a priority, EYOS stresses that there are new opportunities and ways to visit awe-inspiring landscapes without the requisite crowds. As EYOS CEO Ben Lyons puts it,
“The days where of limited options in less than ideal vessels to get somewhere truly remote are long over. We work with a small but capable fleet of purpose-built privately owned yachts to get groups of any size, to practically any place on earth, safely, comfortably and in whatever standard of luxury they desire. The yachts become incredible platforms to discover a region in privacy, affording a distinct feeling of privilege to witness these areas without others around.”
Although the yachts tend to be the most versatile platforms for exploration, they are by no means the only one.
“New expedition yachts that are being built have capabilities to explore further, deeper or higher than earlier vessels did. They can hold a variety of essential tools for adventure that elevates everyone’s experience and understanding.”
“On deck, they may carry a variety of small landing craft designed to get people ashore where there is no infrastructure, of course, along with the requisite kayaks, stand up paddleboards or other toys. But there may also be helicopters that extend the possible range well beyond where you can visit on the yacht, or submersibles capable of diving 1,000 meters or more below the surface of the ocean. In many of these submersibles dives, people are literally seeing places on Earth that no human eye has ever seen before.”
Lyons, who also holds an unlimited tonnage Master’s License to captain ships of any size, and who is a veteran ice pilot with 15 years experience in polar waters, is typical of the EYOS team. All are products of previous careers that involved living and working in the wilderness areas of the world, and all are bound by the common desire to give people exposure to these pristine regions and help inspire them to protect it for the future.
It is not uncommon for EYOS clients to fund significant conservation efforts or scientific research projects either during or after an expedition.
“It is a different experience to travel in a small, intimate group. Our expeditions are fortunate in that we have all the resources to bring a group of family or close friends, deep into an immersive environment where the landscapes and animals are not simply observed. We spend time and connect with our clients, meaning we can share our passion for what makes each place so special,” notes Kelvin Murray, Director of Expedition Operation and Undersea Projects.
Murray, who formerly managed the scientific diving program for the British Antarctic Survey, now helps EYOS clients to indulge in the magnificent polar landscapes of Antarctica, Svalbard, Greenland, and Arctic Canada including the legendary Northwest Passage, both above and below the water.
The World is Your Oyster
EYOS is quick to point that out expeditions are not limited to the high latitudes, however. EYOS co-founder Rob McCallum grew up on a crocodile farm in Papua New Guinea only a few degrees from the equator. Steeped in a complex cultural landscape from a very young age, McCallum is a passionate proponent of the authentic outposts of societal uniqueness.
“Whether you visit Madagascar, Vanuatu, New Guinea or Indonesia, there is an unrivaled feeling of satisfaction and comfort when true human interaction is shared across seemingly disparate cultures.” McCallum continues, “And in any of these places you can be visiting an absolutely vibrant local market in the morning, then in the afternoon have a reef or surf break entirely to yourself.”
In fact, EYOS has led multiple expeditions to every continent and every ocean around the world, from the first commercial dives to the Mariana trench or numerous expeditions across the Northwest Passage.
EYOS customizes each expedition to match the goals of the client. Every individual or group receives an itinerary tailored to specific requests, whether it be heli-skiing on remote mountain peaks, swimming with whalesharks, or kayaking beside towering glaciers with feeding whales nearby. Past expeditions have offered high adrenaline activities, such as mountaineering, and skiing across polar terrain, but EYOS guides are equally adept at finding the most productive fishing hole, or perhaps the quietest beach for peaceful introspection.
For those with their own yacht, EYOS offers an unmatched resource for captains in terms of itinerary planning, vessel preparedness, permitting and provisioning. McCallum commented, “We really try and take care of everything, a one-stop-shop so to speak, from technical to the guest experience, to make the experience as seamless as possible.” For those looking to charter, EYOS seeks to be a source of information if not inspiration, matching clients with the correct vessel and scope of exploration they desire.
New Generation of Vessels
Over the last several years, the type of vessel available for charter has changed significantly. There is now a new generation of vessels being built or repurposed specifically with remote expedition travel in mind. EYOS has been a driving force in this zeitgeist, providing the experience to help designers and builders shape the most accomplished fleet of explorer vessels afloat.
One of the most notable examples is La Datcha, considered by many to be the ultimate expression of the modern day expedition super yacht. Part of the renowned SeaXplorer series, she was delivered in 2020 and ushered in a new era in expedition yachting. As design partners with Damen Yachting and Azure, EYOS was instrumental in developing La Datcha and the rest of the SeaXplorer range from the first lines drawn on paper.
Public spaces were thought through with expedition experiences in mind. For instance, a forward observation lounge and open deck allows for epic sightings of polar bears or bow-riding dolphins just below. Increased fuel and provisions capability- up to 40 days- allows for extended expeditions well away from supporting infrastructure.
Beyond its unparalleled interior, designed by Vasiliy Shprits Studio, the yacht boasts a Triton submersible, a dive center with a decompression chamber, and ample watersport equipment and tenders. Significantly, a generous sized helideck and enclosed hangar allows for not just one but two helicopters, making La Datcha the ultimate choice for heli-ski expeditions.
Comfortable and no less capable, Nansen Explorer is a new concept for yachting, and a strategic partner for EYOS. Originally built as a research vessel, she is now a hybrid between a capable and powerful commercial ship with the comforts and service of a luxury yacht. Her summers are spent in Greenland, with spring expeditions focusing on heli-skiing, before repositioning to Antarctica every year.
Originally built to carry 60 passengers, Nansen Explorer now carries only 12 guests. Large floor to ceiling windows in most staterooms create a connection with the passing vistas, and the vessel’s bridge is always available for those who want to watch the navigation first-hand. With an Ice-1A classed, 72-meter long hull and a polar experienced Captain and bridge team, she can sail further, and penetrate deeper into ice, than other yachts
EYOS and Nansen Explorer have come together in an exclusive partnership to operate the ship. Expedition capability is at this vessel’s very core, with a hand picked crew and expedition team that thrives on operational capability and flexibility. Bridging the gap between rugged expedition vessel and luxury super yacht, Nansen Explorer is unlike anything else available for adventure seeking charterers. She is also available for those looking to book a single cabin on a scheduled departure in the polar regions.
Fresh from her extensive eight-month rebuild, Nansen Explorer recently conducted a series of shakedown voyages in Iceland before heading south for Antarctic. Amidst the patchwork of covid regulations and border closings, finding a reliable destination in which to offer an expedition experience was somewhat challenging in 2020. However, Iceland has been consistent in their covid approach and has welcomed tourists with manageable restrictions.
That welcoming of tourists, however, created a veritable rush this summer, with crowds and lines common at most tourist sites in the country. Rather than focusing on the standard destinations, however, the Nansen Explorer, led by two EYOS guides, set sail from Reykjavik and sailed almost 150 miles overnight to the northwest corner. Here, the country is a vast network of untouched fjords and towering cliffs well away from population centers.
Over the next several days, guests onboard spent several mornings on long hikes onshore. Climbing higher into the hills afforded a dramatic panorama and sense of limitless space, while the ship lay waiting quietly at anchor below. Other mornings saw the crew launching the yacht’s kayaks and stand up paddleboards, for quiet paddles around rocky coasts and into giant basalt formations. There was also an opportunity to paddle ashore, start off on a hike from the beach, and then jump in at the base of a towering, cascading waterfall in a moment that was both surreal and giddy.
With expedition travel inherently flexible to take advantage of opportune moments, schedules are rarely set in stone when traveling with EYOS. So, too, was the case on this expedition. For instance, one evening, just before dinner, an opportunity arose to fly on a helicopter directly from the yacht’s helipad, dramatically skiring the coastline and soaring inland over dramatic ridges.
One of the greatest shows in nature
But perhaps the most exciting unplanned moment came after visiting with a couple that maintains a small island offshore. On the way into the anchorage, the Expedition Leader had seen whales in the distance. After visiting the island, he gathered everyone into the Zodiacs and set off to see if they could get a slightly closer perspective. After only ten minutes, the first whale surfaced nearby.
For the next 45 minutes, a 30-ton humpback whale repeatedly breached, spy hopped and dove nearby. It was an exhilarating, and emotional moment—every time the whale surfaced, with its guttural exhalation so powerful one could more feel it than hear it, cheers rose from the Zodiac. Every time the whale breached- with its body coming almost completely out of the water, time after time- there were just gasps, shrieks and awe, along with the occasional tear from excitement.
After a year of being locked up due to the pandemic, there was something incredibly freeing about being outside, surrounded by stunning beauty and snow capped mountains, while witnessing one of the greatest shows in nature. It felt as if the world would get back to its natural order, and that the great wild spaces would continue to not only survive, but thrive. For those eager to discover what lies off the beaten track, the breaching whale was a reminder of what is possible. Both intimate and joyful, private yet full of camaraderie, it was a perfectly emblematic EYOS moment.
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