My Writings. My Thoughts.

Sub-Antarctic cruise aboard Silver Discoverer

// November 11th, 2015 // No Comments » // Cruise, Travel

It’s a bit like preparing for a military operation as we are plucked by the beleaguered deckhands from the stern transom into the lurching Zodiac. Trussed up in numerous layers of Gortex and looking almost like space explorers, we endure the biting sea spray whipped up by 30kt gusts as we seat our clumsy bottoms around the inflatable tender.

We push off and head to shore and are immediately hit by a brutal wave over the bow, drenching the first row of passengers. The enemy is not entrenched in bunkers on the beach awaiting our arrival, but rather blowing all around us like an angry bellows, whipping stinging spray into our faces and buffeting our Zodiac as if at the hand of a child’s tantrum.

Landing on the cobble beach at Buckles Bay is notoriously treacherous, but one of the few locations near the ANARE base where one is possible. In 1948 when the modern base was established, it was more out of respect for history than practicality. The site of Sir Douglas Mawson’s original 1911 site was used and expanded rather than a more accessible one found with a safe harbour and solid foundation.

Silversea staff are waist deep in frothing surf as our Zodiac is quickly backed up against the stony shore. One by one, between sets of breakers, we are hauled out of the rubber craft and deposited on the beach with some relief but also a sense of excitement at having completed the tricky job of getting ashore.

Apart from meteorology, biology and the reception of up to 1000 visitors per year, the base hosts TasmanianParks and Wildlife Service staff who recently celebrated the total eradication of introduced pests from Macquarie Island. No mean feat in itself, the eight year project involved the team of 12 hunters and 11 dogs walking 92,000km in search of surviving pests after the end of the aerial baiting program in 2011.

Alien species like horses, donkeys, pigs, cattle, goats, dogs and sheep were relatively easy to deal with. Cats took bit longer, with the last feline removed in 2000 after a decade-long campaign, but the rabbits, rats and mice proved the toughest task, requiring a combination of poisoning and hunting to reach total success. Even now, vermin patrols will be maintained for the time being to be absolutely certain.

After my first visit in 2010, the islands enthusiastic regeneration was evident with renewed vegetation regrowth covering the previously barren sections on hillsides and slopes. The four species of breeding penguin and albatross, as well as numerous other migratory seabirds can now nest unmolested on this southern paradise once brought to the brink by the careless and greedy hand of man.

Silversea Cruises returns to Macquarie Island in January 2016 aboard Silver Discoverer (Voyage 9601) sailing from Dunedin to Christchurch over 16 nights via the New Zealand subantarctic islands (Enderby and Auckland Islands, The Snares). Includes all dining, excursions, lectures, beverages, butler service and gratuities. See

Expedition Cruising

Adventure cruise in the Maldives aboard a traditional dhoni

// July 4th, 2015 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

#expeditioncruising #worldexpeditions #maldives

by Roderick Eime, travelling with World Expeditions in the Maldives.

Regular readers to this blog will be used to reading about all manner of ships from the trusted and sturdy former Soviet oceanographic vessels through to the new wave of luxurious ‘champagne’ adventurers venturing out to the remote corners of the world’s oceans.

Here in the Maldives, expedition cruising takes on a much more rudimentary guise in the form of a traditional local ‘dhoni‘. These traditional wooden vessels have worked the Maldivian atolls for centuries, transporting goods and ferrying locals across the vast expanses of water that separate the inhabited islands making up this expansive oceanic republic.

Global operators like World Expeditions work with local boat owners to provide this fundamental, yet enriching experience here in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Our all-wooden vessel, the 20m ‘Gahaa’ (meaning: North Star) cruises at a leisurely eight knots between the atolls that comprise this aquatic country to the SW of Sri Lanka. Accommodation is in four twin cabins with a crew of five who look after our every need. Our ‘cruise director’ is young ‘Teddy’ who guides us on snorkelling trips out on the myriad coral reefs and enlightens us on the ways of the Maldivians who have lived, fished and traded on these flat, tropical islands for centuries.

We spend our days in a blissful state of relaxing on the sun decks, swimming and snorkelling with interruptions in the form of meals prepared by our resource cook. Fish, salads and vegetables cooked to local recipes.

Maldivians, however, are at something of a crossroads. With the highest point of land anywhere in the country just three metres above sea level, the rising oceans threaten the very existence of these hardy people whose ethnicity and language is a unique mix of Tamil, Hindu and Arabic. Even their native tongue shows influences from all races and their written script is an endemic blend of the complicated-looking squiggles of each culture and language group.

The famous coral reefs of the Maldives are under the same pressures as similar reefs all around the world as ocean acidification, water warming and the many human influences take their toll on the beautiful marine formations created over millennia of slow accretion. My own observations make me wonder about the ecological balance of these reefs as sharks and larger predator species seem to be totally absent from the reefs we visit. Instead we see all manner of common ‘aquarium’ species, hawksbill turtles, rays and dolphins. Pleasing enough, sure, but is this sufficient to ensure the long term health of these delicate eco-systems?

Mix Me a Tui Tai, Darling

// February 6th, 2013 // No Comments » // Cruise, South Pacific, Travel

Mix Me Header med

Fiji does hedonistic ‘escape’ packages up there with the best, but what about something that wraps all facets of these fascinating islands into one irresistible bundle? Roderick Eime disappears off the tourist map to find out.

Beyond the manicured lawns, swimming pools and cocktail bars of Denarau Island, there exists another Fiji; one of remote, deserted beaches, hundreds of uninhabited islands, unspoiled coral reefs and vivid cultural encounters. Many of these outer locations are easily accessible by light aircraft, but to voyage by small ship from a secret anchorage out into the tropical heaven is the sort experience you would only expect to read about in some flowery novel.

As our travel tastes mature and our expectations more sophisticated, the mundane and predictable “brochure” offerings become less alluring, hence the concept of small ship cruising. Niche, intimate and enriching, travel by vessels with as few as a couple of dozen guests enjoying superior service, cuisine and activities in a sustainable and culturally respectful manner is more and more appealing.

One of the best examples of this type of experience is that of Savusavu-based Tui Tai Expeditions. Tui Tai’s delightful three-masted design and generous interior space made her an ideal conversion for boutique itineraries. She was acquired by current owners Tige and Morika Young in 2002 and refitted to carry just 24 guests in comfortable cabins. In 2006, Tui Tai she was remodeled again with more luxurious refinements like a massage/spa studio, private cabanas and deluxe staterooms. There’s plenty of space to flop and relax with a book or just snooze and guests are free to be as active or as lazy as they want.


Tui Tai offers a catalogue of activities that encompasses every possible aspect of tropical island excitement. Scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, snorkeling, village visits and traditional dancing all pack into either a 5- or 7-night all-inclusive itinerary.

On board, you can enjoy private cabanas on the sun deck, spa treatments and marine biology lectures from the biologist travelling with you.

Dining is open air on the back deck and just superb under a brilliant star-lit sky on a balmy evening. A couple hundred metres from shore, your meal is undisturbed by mosquitoes or other flying pests. Alternatively, meals are served inside if it rains, which it will do occasionally in these parts.

Tui Tai’s playground is the gorgeous waters to the east of homeport, Savsavu on Vanua Levu. Each expedition cruise visits the lush garden island of Taveuni and its sublime Bouma Falls Reserve, the anomalous cultural enclaves of Rabi and Kioa, the uninhabited Ringgold Atolls and the eco-reserve of Qamea. National Geographic Adventure were impressed enough to list Tui Tai among their 25 best trips for 2009.


Visits to the islands of Rabi and Kioa deliver a particularly unique Fijian experience. The communities on these islands were moved to their present location from other islands in the Pacific.

My personal passion is scuba diving and Fiji is renowned the world over for its superb underwater opportunities. The outer reefs attract magnificent manta rays, dolphins and giant pelagic fish all against a backdrop of some of the most beautiful hard and soft corals anywhere. Divers of all experience can enjoy these waters and it’s even possible to acquire your PADI Open Water certification with the onboard instructor.

Relaxing in one of voluminous lounges on the deck, a satisfying lunch on top of my morning exercise, it’s easy to drift off into a carefree, fantasy slumber filled with reefs of colourful fish, secluded atolls the gentle flap of a sail in the breeze.

Fact File:

Tui Tai Expeditions offer 5- or 7-night all-inclusive itineraries ex-Savasavu. Fares begin at US$2493 per person, twin share for five nights and $2990 for seven. Suitable for all styles of traveller, but best enjoyed by the more active.

Further information:

Air Pacific flies daily from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne direct to Nadi with daily connections to Savusavu with Pacific Sun.

With the King of Coron

// August 20th, 2011 // Comments Off on With the King of Coron // Asia, Travel

Vessel: Orion II, 100 passengers, 88m
Location: Coron Island, Philippines

With the threat of Typhoon Muifa largely behind us, Orion II sails blissfully among the stunning, otherworldy basaltic outcrops of Coron, part of the northern Palawan region of the Philippines.

There’s considerable excitement on board as this is the first time an international cruise vessel has visited Coron in recent memory and the local Tagbanua people are preparing to greet us. Coron is a perfect venue for expedition cruising. It’s way too small to accommodate large cruise ships, there’s little in the way of formal infrastructure and the local ‘council’ are protective of their semi-autonomous status and scant resources.

HM Tribal Chieftain
Rodolfo Aguilar I

The Coron Island Ancestral Domain is ruled by HM Tribal Chieftain Rodolfo Aguilar I, assisted by his Council of Elders, hence we are being feted by royalty. The ‘king’ of Coron greets us in work shorts, polo shirt and bare feet. He says a prayer and welcomes us on a private beach which Orion expedition chief, Justin Friend, confesses he acquired for ‘chicken feed’. A stark contrast to the horse-trading that took place under the iron grip of Sergey in the Russian Far East.

His Majesty’s junior councillors have excelled themselves with our organisation. Not only do we have this secluded strip of sand and its waters to ourselves, we are treated to a cliff-climbing demonstration as barefooted lads scale the razor-sharp sheer basalt cliffs. Why, you might ask? Well, fishing, as you would expect, comprises the bulk of Coron industry, but there is another source of wealth that fetches far more. Swift nests have been used in Chinese cuisine for hundreds of years and a kilo of saliva that forms the little birds’ nests can be worth up to $10,000 per kilo. The king, therefore, is mindful of potential disturbance to his delicate resource. If the birds are scared away by hordes of noisy tourists and huge cruise ships, he’d quickly be a former monarch.

Stern section of Olympia Maru

Coron’s other tourism resource is less obvious. During the closing stages of WWII, a small fleet of Japanese auxiliary vessels was surprised by Allied aircraft and sunk at their moorings in 20 to 50 metres of water. Although most of their valuable cargo and fittings were salvaged post-war, the hulks of these vessels have provided colourful artificial reefs now alive with marine animals of all types. On my dive, despite poor visibility from recent storms, we were able to see stone fish, lion fish, scorpion fish, clown fish, barracuda and scores of others whose names I’ve never learned. Divers come from all over the world to dive these famous wrecks and dive shops line the shopping strip downtown.

This is early days for well-organised expedition cruising in these waters and so far, I like what I see. Typhoons aside, the water is gloriously clear and warm and enough is happening in town to suit low impact travellers. There’s no sprawling resorts, menacing touts or seedy underbelly that I could see. With smaller vessels (ie around 100 pax) on infrequent itineraries, this region should be on everyone’s adventure list.

For more information on Orion’s expeditions, see, and for Coron tourism information, see

Fiji Adventure Cruise: Tui Tai

// October 3rd, 2010 // No Comments » // South Pacific, Travel

Tui Tai Adventure Cruise

Australians have reaffirmed their deep affection for Fiji with record numbers travelling to the islands despite outcry from some quarters about the controversial political situation. This tourism surge from Down Under has filled any vacuum left by diminishing arrivals from the US or UK even though those numbers are on the turn too.

The Australian experience in Fiji has often been one of fully-contained, somewhat insulated resort packages that do little to expose us to the wider cultural panorama. Sure, Fiji does hedonistic ‘escape’ packages up there with the best, but what about something that wraps all facets of these fascinating islands into one irresistible bundle?

It’s hard to imagine a more complete Fijian experience than that aboard a Tui Tai cruise. Yes, there is a premium pricetag attached (from A$550pp/day twinshare) but the inclusions are generous and the scope of the expedition astonishing. Diving is a big drawcard for TuiTai and packages can also include full PADI certification courses in some of the best diving locations in the Pacific. Add snorkelling, light trekking, mountain biking, village visits and cultural displays all aboard a vessel not much bigger than Cook’s Endeavour.

The motor-schooner Tui Tai began life in 1980 as a modest steel-hulled passenger ferry between the islands often carrying up to 300 souls. But her delightful three-masted design and generous interior space made her an ideal conversion for more boutique itineraries.

She was acquired by current owners Tige and Morika Young in 2002 and refitted to carry just 24 in comfortable cabins. In 2006, Tui Tai she was remodelled again with more luxurious refinements like a massage/spa, private cabanas and deluxe staterooms. Dining is under the stars on the rear deck or inside in the large common room. There’s plenty of space to flop and relax with a book or just snooze. Any itinerary can be made as active or lazy as you like.

Tui Tai’s playground is the rich waters to the east of its homeport of Savsavu on Vanua Levu. Tick off the lush garden island of Taveuni and its Bouma Falls Reserve, the anomalous cultural enclaves of Rabi and Kioa, the uninhabited Ringgold Atolls and the eco-reserve of Qamea and you have some idea of what’s in store for the adventure traveller. National Geographic Adventure listed Tui Tai among their 25 best trips for 2009.

Beyond simply carrying well-heeled eco-travellers into delirious destinations, Tui Tai also operates a charitable fund that supports the many tiny and remote communities visited with medical, educational, logistic and infrastructure support. Driven by guests’ desire to give back to the communities visited, the project played a crucial role in delivery of relief supplies to cyclone-ravaged villages after March’s devastating Cyclone Tomas. Two Fijian crewmembers from TuiTai received civilian bravery awards for the rescue of two crew members from the sinking yacht, Siga Na Vanua, during that severe Category 4 storm in March 2010.

For more information on Tui Tai Adventure Cruises, see

What is Expedition Cruising?

// March 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, South Pacific, Travel

The terms ‘expedition’ or ‘adventure’ has been more frequently attached to cruise products in an attempt to give them a romantic, out-of-the-way appeal. The danger is that the original expedition cruise concept is being diluted and misconstrued.

A true expedition cruise consists of a voyage plan and itinerary that has inbuilt flexibility and redundancy. In the capricious Antarctic waters, all activities and sight-seeing is weather and ice dependent. Passengers are reminded of this time and time again and it is quite common for completely unscheduled landings to take place in fallback planning. The same exists in tropical waters.

As weather, currents and tides play out in the dense South Sea archipelagos, an expedition leader and his/her captain must ‘massage’ the itinerary constantly to capitalise on emerging opportunities and avoid those closing out.

A proper expedition vessel is more than just a smaller ship with Zodiacs piled up on deck. A true expedition vessel is designed for the intended conditions and equipped to deliver the experience upon arrival, whether it be weaving through disintegrating pack ice or creeping past vivid coral atolls.

Passengers aboard expedition vessels have come to expect expert guides and lecturers to help them interpret the rich cultural and natural histories these exotic destinations deliver. Academics, researchers and authors are common both as lecturers and passengers, adding to healthy discussions and enrapturing dinner conversation.

As a niche travel genre, expedition cruising is not for everybody. Don’t be “sold” by an uninformed travel consultant, you’ll know immediately whether this type of travel appeals to you or not. Speak to an experienced agent or specialist operator direct an ask lots of questions.

Served by

Served by

North Star Cruises’ Inaugural Southern Safari a Hit

// January 30th, 2008 // No Comments » // Australia, Travel

Pearson Island, Investigator GroupBroome-based North Star Cruises is delighted at the passenger reaction to the recently completed Southern Safari adventure cruise in the waters off Adelaide, South Australia.

“We’ve been coming this way for several years now on our way back from Sydney,” said Craig Howson, managing director of North Star Cruises, “and we thought it was about time we made a proper exploration of the wonderful beaches, fishing and attractions down here.”

Passengers aboard the 740 tonne, 50m luxury expedition vessel True North enjoyed relaxing wine tasting in McLaren Vale, stunning sightseeing on Kangaroo Island and the Eyre Peninsula, sensational fishing for South Australia’s famous King George Whiting and an exhilarating cage dive with great white sharks off Port Lincoln. The busy 8-night itinerary retraced and revisited many of the sites first explored by Mathew Flinders in 1802 including the pristine Investigator Group.

The journey began in Adelaide on January 17th and finished in Streaky Bay on the 25th, with guests transferring back to Adelaide by commercial flight.

“We’ll make a few small refinements to the itinerary for next year, but otherwise we’re happy with the product and, most importantly, the passengers are too,” said Howson.

“Putting the whole package together was made much easier by the welcome and enthusiastic cooperation we received from all levels of government here in South Australia and we extend our thanks and congratulations to the many departments and individuals who went out of their way to ensure the smooth running of our first Southern Safari. Thank you South Australia.”

The Southern Safari will now be a regular annual offering in multi-award winning North Star Cruises’ expanding catalogue of adventure itineraries that include Adventures in Paradise (PNG), Over the Top (NT and Qld) and their acclaimed signature product, the Kimberley Wilderness Cruise (WA).

Bookings for the 2009 Southern Safari begin immediately with the new itinerary and dates available shortly.

For further information, contact North Star Cruises on (+618) 91921 829 or visit the website at

About North Star Cruises – “Go Wild in Style”

The recipient of numerous state and national adventure tourism awards and with over twenty years operational experience, North Star Cruises and their purpose-built expedition vessel, the 740 tonne, 36-passenger True North, specialise in enriching nature and culture based cruise tours in a luxurious, yet laid-back style with an unmistakably Australian flavour.

New Italian Mega Liner a Floating Pantheon

// December 21st, 2007 // 1 Comment » // Europe, Travel

Passengers arriving aboard the brand new Costa Cruises flagship, Costa Serena, could be forgiven for thinking they’d walked into some Greco-Roman epic. Roderick Eime stows away for a glimpse of glamour cruising, Italian-style.

Costa SerenaLaunched amid great fanfare in Marseilles on May 19, the 114,000 tonne, 1500-berth leviathan is the latest in the frantic Costa build programme that will bring the fleet to 15 vessels by 2010. Following her slightly smaller sister, Costa Concordia, she will be followed by the similarly massive, Costa Luminosa in 2008.

Walking her twelve passenger decks, that make her as high as a 23-storey building, the overriding theme of classic mythology is overwhelmingly evident, over-the-top even. But chief designer, American Jo Farcus, makes no apologies.

“I used the characters of classical mythology to create the sense of fantasy and escapism,” asserts Farcus, “and each of the public spaces from the bars and restaurants to the casino and theatre bear the name of a famous Greek or Roman God.”

Jupiter, the god of light and skies, gives his name to the high-tech theatre; Apollo, the god of music and song adorns the main bar and dance floor; Venus, fittingly sponsors the beauty salon, while Giano, the Romans’ two-faced divinity presides ominously over the casino.

One of the significant points of difference in this latest Costa offering is the Samsara Spa and Wellness concept which includes premium cabins and staterooms, dining and spa access. The Samsara Spa itself is enormous, occupying over 2000 sqm, and acknowledging that the latest trends in land-based hospitality are extending offshore.

Besides the food, wine and therapies, guests can extend their menu of fantasies to include a stint in a state-of-art Grand Prix driving simulator that employs a full scale replica of a Formula One car coupled to the equivalent of a computer flight simulator.

Farcus is also unashamedly excited about the multi-million dollar expenditure on works of art, both original and reproductions, that adorn every corner of the public spaces.

“The is very little off-the-shelf in my designs,” he avows, “almost everything is custom-made from original Costa designs.”

During our preview cruise from Genoa to Venice, much ado was also made of the Michelin star chef, Ettore Bocchia, who will create the a la carte menu for the exclusive Club Bacco Restaurant named after, you guessed it, Bacchus the God of wine and good living.

Costa Serena embarks on her initial programme, sailing from her home port of Venice, on a series of Mediterraean cruises that will include the Greek Islands, Istanbul and the Adriatic Coast.


  • 4 Swimming pools (2 with retractable roofs)
  • 5 Jacuzzi hydromassage baths
  • Jogging Track
  • 2,100 sq.m. Spa and Wellness Centre
  • 5 Restaurants, including one a la carte

* Who for: Suit couples, honeymooners, families
* Itinerary: 7 nights inc Greece, Turkey and Croatia
* Lead in price: AU$3499.00 inc airfares
* Vessel: Costa Serena
* Star Rating: Not Yet Rated, but expect 4.5-5 star
* Tonnage: 114,500
* Max Passenger Capacity: 3780
* Entered Service: May 2007

The writer was a guest of and Costa Cruises

Rare Penguin “Spotted” on South Georgia

// January 2nd, 2006 // 1 Comment » // Travel

Australian expeditioners on a recent Antarctic voyage made an unusual discovery when a rare “mottle-backed” King Penguin was found amongst an enormous flock at Gold Harbour, South Georgia.

Mottled King PenguinThis unique creature wore a coat more akin to a Dalmatian than a flightless sub-Antarctic bird. Genetic aberrations are not frequently observed amongst King Penguins and those currently documented do not include mottled or spotted birds such as that located by the expeditioners.

Dr Kirsten le Mar, a biologist with Adventure Associates who has also seen the resident mottled penguin, notes that this particular genetic mutation is extremely rare. The more common mutations are all black penguins (melanistic), brown and white penguins resulting from a lack of blue pigment in the feathers (leucocystic), or birds lacking all pigment (albino).”

Largely untroubled by the sudden attention and the clicking of dozens of cameras, “Spotty” merely carried on his penguin business within the colony and did not appear to be suffering any teases or taunts from his conventionally plumed brethren. Indeed, this bird appeared to be in good body condition, although it’s unclear whether it is a successful breeder.

The group were travelling on an expedition cruise organised by pioneering Sydney travel operator, Adventure Associates and Managing Director, Dennis Collaton was there to experience the occasion.

“The Antarctic is always full of surprises,” said Mr Collaton, a veteran of more than twenty polar voyages, “I’ve certainly never before seen a bird like this and I imagine few others have.”

More: Postcard from South Georgia || Adventure Associates

$10,000 Reward for World’s Rarest Animal

// January 2nd, 2006 // 1 Comment » // South America, Travel

Lonesome George

The Pinta Island tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni), one of the few species of Giant Galapagos tortoises, is indisputably the rarest animal in the world – because there is only one left alive.

Ravaged by whalers, buccaneers and finally feral animals, the wretched Pinta Island Tortoise was thought extinct until 1971, when a lone, forlorn example was located by rangers. Christened “Lonesome George” by his discoverers, he was evacuated to the sanctuary of the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) on the neighbouring island of Santa Cruz.

For over thirty years, a search has been under way for a female Pinta tortoise. Believing one may still exist in captivity somewhere, the CDRS even posted a US$10,000 reward. Additionally, wardens still scour the dense vegetation of Pinta Island in the hope of locating any fugitive females.

Named after the famous British naturalist, Charles Darwin (1809-82) who spent five weeks on the islands in 1835, the research station runs a successful captive breeding program the has restored many of the previously threatened populations. But not the Pinto Island variety as “Lonesome George” will not mate with any of the “foreign” species. The CDRS also welcomes visitors and “Lonesome George” is the highlight of many tours.

Darwin Foundation

Travel to Galapagos: