9 Small Ship Cruises for Nature Lovers | Fauna Travel

9 Small Ship Cruises for Nature Lovers

Tusitiri Dhow off the Kenyan Coast / Courtesy of Enasoit Collection

By: Scott Dubois, Fauna Travel Designer

The thought of being on a large ship with thousands of people may not appeal to everyone, but there are plenty of yachts and smaller ship cruise options perfect for nature lovers. In fact, a cruise can be the best way to see some destinations if done properly.

We can help you navigate the right choice of ship and design pre and post-cruise itineraries to meet your specific requirements. Contact us for more information.

Tusitiri Dhow

Kenya

Evening on Tusitiri Dhow / Courtesy of Enasoit Collection
Evening on Tusitiri Dhow / Courtesy of Enasoit Collection

The Tutsitiri Dhow is a large traditional sailing dhow based in the Lamu Archipelago off the Kenyan coast. During the day, the deck is set for aquatic adventures like snorkeling, fishing, and paddleboarding. After sunset, meals are served by lantern light, and mattresses are brought out so that guests can sleep in the open air. Because of this, the ship is only bookable for exclusive use by small groups. It’s the most unique and romantic way to explore the blue waters of the Indian Ocean and makes an excellent ending to your safari.

• Starting at $4500 per night for six guests

Lindblad & National Geographic Polar Cruises

Greenland, Alaska, and Antarctica

National Geographic Endurance / Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
National Geographic Endurance / Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Cruises partnered with National Geographic to create the gold standard for smaller ship cruises in wild places. Their polar expeditions are highly engaging and feature zodiac excursions, expert lectures, and surprisingly spacious suites. It’s one of the best ways to see polar bears, icebergs, and vast penguin colonies. They operate three ships in the Northern Arctic from Iceland to Alaska and Antarctica during the Arctic summers.

• Starting at $15,000 per person for 13 days

Aqua Mare

Galapagos

Aqua Mare / Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions
Aqua Mare / Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions

There are land-based tours of the Galápagos Islands, but cruises are the most convenient and popular way to move between the islands. Don’t worry about crowds; the local tourism authority does an excellent job directing boat traffic. You likely won’t see many other cruises on your journey. There are many different ships to choose from, but the luxurious super yacht by Aqua Expeditions is our favorite.

• Starting at $10,000 per person for 7 nights

Swan Hellenic

West Africa

SH Vega off the coast of Principe Island / Courtesy of Swan Hellenic
SH Vega off the coast of Principe Island / Courtesy of Swan Hellenic

Swan Hellenic offers a range of exciting nature-oriented cruises worldwide, but their African cruises are particularly interesting. We love their West Africa itinerary that combines Angola, Congo, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, and Ghana. These places would either be time-consuming to reach or hard to find decent hotels in, but you can see them all from the comfort of your spacious cabin. En route, you’ll encounter amazing landscapes, as well as forest elephants, coastal chimps, and gorillas.

Starting at $17,801 per person for 13 nights

Nautilus Expedition Yachts

Gulf of California

Nautilus Gallant Lady in the Gulf of California / Bugs and Bears / Courtesy of Nautilus Dive Adventures
Nautilus Gallant Lady in the Gulf of California / Bugs and Bears / Courtesy of Nautilus Dive Adventures

Baja California is one of the world’s premier water safari destinations. In the Gulf of California, you can see blue whales, humpbacks, fin whales, great whites, and whale sharks. Plus, you can interact with the gregarious grey whales of the San Ignacio lagoon on the same trip. Nautilus operates a range of luxury yacht cruises to see them all throughout the year, but we appreciate their nature-oriented ethos most of all.

Sea Cloud

Caribbean

Sea Cloud / Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
Sea Cloud / Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

The Sea Cloud is a magnificent three-masted ship – the largest still in regular service. Every sail has to be hand set by the expert crew on its journey around the Caribbean. You’ll snorkel remote reefs and visit historical colonial towns on your voyage. The rooms are all decorated in a period style, and while some aren’t as spacious, being on such a grand ship is an experience like no other.

• Starting at $11,830 per person for 7 days

Aria Amazon

Peru

Aria Amazon / Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions
Aria Amazon / Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions

The Amazon River is the largest in the world and touches many places that are inaccessible by any means other than boat. You can travel to the remote corners of the rainforest in style on the Aqua Amazon. The luxurious riverboat sets sail in  Iquitos in Northeastern Peru and navigates around the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Wildlife sightings include giant river otters, caiman, capybara, river dolphins, and a wide variety of monkeys and birds. This trip combines nicely with a Peruvian itinerary that includes Macchu Pichu or the Inca Trail.

• Starting at $2,640 for 3 nights

Zambezi Queen

Botswana

Zambezi Queen / Courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection
Zambezi Queen / Courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection

The Zambezi Queen is more of a large houseboat than a cruise ship that operates on a 15-miles stretch of the Chobe River along the border of Namibia and Botswana. The boat includes 14 air-conditioned luxury suites with picture windows that look out onto the African landscape. Days can be spent viewing elephants and other wildlife on a small boat water safari or simply lounging by the pool on the top deck.

• Starting at $625 per person per night for 2, 3, or 4 nights

Guntu

Japan

Cabin view on Guntu / Courtesy of Guntu
Cabin view on Guntu / Courtesy of Guntu

Guntu is a floating luxury ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, that sails Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. The short cruises visit the region’s scenic straights and historical port towns. As with all luxury properties in Japan, the food and hospitality are top-notch, and the 19 wooden cabins are designed in an authentic yet modern style. The cruise is a great way to end a trip to the islands of Naoshima and Teshima or a visit to Hiroshima.

• Starting at $3,926 for three days

Contact us to start planning your journey into the wild.

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