There are some serious changes happening in the world of luxury cruising.
With a growing demand for more unique travel experiences, luxury cruise lines are racing to release their latest and most impressive expedition ships.
One of our favourites is Silversea’s Silver Explorer vessel. Having undergone refurbishment this year, Silver Explorer was purpose built to traverse the most hardy destinations, with an industrially-strengthened hull that can break through Polar ice and remote areas.
Ocean cruising is no longer just about kicking back and waiting for the next beach to arrive. It’s now also for adventurous types seeking unique travel experiences, something Silver Explorer caters to with its range of exciting excursions and fleet of 12 Zodiac boats, ready to whisk guests off-the-beaten-track and get into the nooks-and-crannies of a destination.
Interview With Silversea’s Akvile Marozaite
High up on our list of places to see with Silver Explorer is Baja California and the surrounding Sea of Cortez, a Mexican state that borders California, this lush peninsula and its surrounding waters teem with marine life and untamed natural beauty. As you cruise this area, known as ‘Mexico’s Galapagos’, you will spot an array of colourful birdlife, dolphins, whales and herds of resident sea lions, while a snorkeling trip will reveal the world of manta rays and colourful fish that frolic below.
“An expedition cruise gives a unique perspective of exploring a coastal destination – it is a little bit like a safari on the sea.”
We spoke to Akvile Marozaite, Silversea’s expert adventurer, who helped us create our own bespoke journey around Baja California, including a day trip to Mexico’s ancient city of Teotihuacán, finishing in the always-sunny city of San Diego. She shares her unique travel experiences and gives us her insight into her expertly tailored cruise itinerary.
What was the inspiration behind creating a Baja California cruise?
At Silversea Expeditions, we are always looking for new, exciting and unique travel destinations to offer to our clients. Baja California is a part of West Coast of Central and North America voyage program, all new destinations to Silversea Expeditions in 2018. The Sea of Cortez that separates Baja California peninsula from the mainland Mexico is an exceptional hotspot for marine life and home to a variety of endemic wildlife species, making it an ultimate expedition cruising destination.
What were your personal highlights during your journey across Mexico and Baja California?
An excellent question – there were so many of them! On the land, it’s a hike through giant Cardon and Barrel cactus forest on Isla Santa Catalina– an out of this world landscape and nothing like what I experienced before.
Encountering chuckwallas, an endemic species of land iguana only found on the Isla San Esteban, was another highlight. And of course being surrounded by a pod of 300 common dolphins chasing tuna, only in half an hour to witness similar numbers of bottlenose dolphins. There is nothing more wonderful than to see these gracious creatures of the ocean in their natural habitat and Sea of Cortez is an exceptional place for these encounters.
What makes Baja California stand out as such a fantastic destination?
Baja California and Sea of Cortez left on me an impression that it is still a relatively wild, untouched place. The desert islands of Sea of Cortez are often referred to as Mexico’s Galapagos, partly since some of the same species that reside on Darwin’s island can also be seen here, including the iconic blue-footed booby and Sally Lightfoot Crabs, alongside the healthy population of California sea lions. It also has a high number of endemic species and phenomenal marine life, making it an exceptional hotspot for wildlife viewings. I also found locals very welcoming and warm, and of course, there is excellent local cuisine!
“Being active and embarking on an adventure makes us feel good and I think more people are becoming aware of it.”
The Sea of Cortez was termed ‘The World’s Aquarium’ by Jacques Cousteau. What was your most impressive underwater encounter?
While it is always wonderful to see a variety of fish and plant species in healthy numbers, there are few experiences that beat snorkelling with sea lions. While on land, they may appear lazy and sluggish, but once in the water they transform into these sleek, fast, elegant swimmers, that love playing and are extremely curious. Being in water with them, and seeing them play, is one of my most special and unique travel memories of this trip.
When is the best time to go to Baja California to see the region’s array of marine life?
Baja California is mostly known for grey whale migration that occurs on the Pacific coast from late December until March. However, there is a lot more to it than that. You can travel there throughout almost the entire year with an exception of couple of months (July to October), when the weather comes into way (extremely hot and potential hurricanes).
What has been your most memorable or unique travel adventure?
There are many of them, but perhaps the few that stand out would be seeing birds of paradise in West Papua – to see them, we had to get up at 4am in the morning, board the zodiacs in the pitch dark, trek through rainforest and wait patiently for them to arrive to the tree they are known to congregate at the crack of the dawn. Birds of Paradise are perhaps some of the most beautiful and elusive birds in the world, and watching the males perform a mating dance in an attempt to attract a female was something very special indeed.
I have recently returned from Galapagos islands, where we were very lucky to witness a sea lion give birth – Galapagos is a phenomenal, unique place and you do feel that in that place nature dominates everything and you are only an observer.
What are your essential items that you take with you when embarking on an adventure?
Possibly the most important thing to ensure when you are embarking on any adventure is to have the right gear: for cold climates, layers of clothes to keep you warm and dry; for hot areas, to make sure you are equipped to protect yourself from the sun, rain, and potentially mosquitos. The right footwear is also essential. I like to take pictures, so I also take my camera wherever I go.
For Baja California, I would encourage passengers to bring lightweight shirts, trousers and shorts, sunscreen, a hat, and polarized sunglasses, mosquito repellent, good hiking shoes, and water shoes for wet landings.
“Silversea expeditions is a luxury expedition cruising brand. We have some of the highest expedition staff to guest ratios in the industry, and a wealth of knowledge of destinations we visit.”
We are seeing a trend for more experiential and unique travel. Why do you think this is?
I believe we have more opportunities to travel than ever before – both because of accessibility of places and an increased knowledge about destinations outside the usual tourist routes. I also feel that our ordinary lifestyle is becoming more sedentary, ever busier, and we need that reconnection with nature; doing things as opposed to being a passive observer or information consumer.
What are the benefits of using a Silversea Cruise to explore an area?
Firstly, it is a great platform to observe marine life in their natural habitat and no aquarium will ever replicate that. Secondly, it allows accessing some truly remote destinations that would stay out of reach otherwise, for example Galapagos archipelago, South Pacific Islands, Antarctica, Arctic, etc.
Expedition ships are typically small in comparison to bigger ocean cruise ships and carry a fleet of rib boats that allow us to get our guests ever closer to the destination. And, of course, the educational, immersive aspect of this form of travelling – each expedition voyage is guided by an expert expedition team, who are not only your guides in the destination, but also deliver lectures and interpretation of the destinations we visit.
The on-board experience is also unparalleled – we promise that we will use the most comfortable ship to take you to some of the remotest destinations of the world. We offer butler service to each of our suites and some of the best dining on board any expedition ship. Our voyages are all-inclusive – dining, drinks, butler service, gratuities and of course all activities.
For more information on our bespoke Silversea Explorer cruise from Baja California to San Diego, or to make an enquiry, please call our expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 578 or visit elegantresorts.co.uk.