17 Boat Adventures You Have to Take


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Geiranger Fjord, Norway
Photo credit: AlexanderNikiforov/istockphoto

Some destinations are just meant to be explored by boat. Think the Greek Islands, Vietnam's Halong Bay, or the Mekong Delta for starters. Small-boat journeys provide an intimate view of such destinations, offering access to under-the-radar communities and places where there are few, if any roads. Such trips often include being treated to an up-close view of nature and wildlife, as well as exposure to the rhythms of everyday life that would otherwise be missed. And perhaps most importantly, many boat trips also offer a level of adventure that tour buses and big cruises just can't provide. (Note: Prices and availability are subject to change.)

sea kayak in the San Juan Islands, Washington
Photo credit: Courtesy of outdoorodysseys.com

Get up close to orcas, seals, and more while kayaking amid the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. Outdoor Odysseys Kayak Tours of the area have been featured in numerous publications. The company's four-day inter-island kayak camping itinerary takes participants to remote and uninhabited islands, and include paddling through prime orca watching areas, as well as hiking to explore the various islands. In between it all, there will be three-course dinners customized by your tour guide and chef and camping on both Stuart and Jones islands. Tour prices start at $799 per person and include all kayaking equipment, camping tents, food, and guides.
Junk in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

A stunning and widely photographed body of water in northeast Vietnam, Halong Bay is known for its striking and towering limestone islands that rise up out of the water. Among the most memorable and popular ways to explore this bay is by junk boat tour or sea kayak expeditions. Halong Bay Tours offers two-night trips on the bay starting at $125 per person. The experience includes passing through the extraordinary shaped islets, as well as stopping at fishing villages to visit with local families, explore fish farms and schools, and a chance to chat with local fishermen.
Yacht in Alter do Chao, Brazil
Photo credit: Courtesy of viaretravel.com

One of the world's longest rivers, the Amazon offers endless opportunities for one-of-a-kind adventure. Viare Travel offers a unique five-day itinerary in northern Brazil that explores the flora and fauna of the river, while also exposing participants to the cuisine of the northern Brazilian state of Para. The trip, which takes place on a yacht-style boat, includes visiting communities that have existed in the region for centuries and even an indigenous warrior community far off the beaten path. The cost for the trip is about $2,800 for two people sharing a cabin and $2,140 for a single traveler seeking a private cabin.
blue-footed boobies in Galapagos Islands
Photo credit: guenterguni/istockphoto

For many reasons, traveling by boat is the best way to experience the Galapagos. For one, it's a far more environmentally friendly approach. (By not staying on the islands themselves, your visit won't have as much impact on the fragile environment.) In addition, there are some remote places in the Galapagos that only boats can reach. Adventure Life's five-day boat trip includes hiking, swimming, snorkeling, and venturing to Pitt Point, likely the only site where the Galapagos' three species of booby birds can be seen together. Additional highlights include viewing colonies of sea lions and hiking to a lagoon that's home to one of the largest flamingo populations on the islands. Prices start at $2,215 per person.
houseboat in Kerala, India
Photo credit: Courtesy of karmakerala.com

Explore backwater canals in Kerala in southwest India on a thatched roof houseboat, visiting places other boats don't go. Passing through an area that is largely unvisited and unspoiled, the highlights will include paddy fields, farming villages, 400-year-old churches, bird sanctuaries, and more. Karma Karala cruise options include luxury houseboats, eco-friendly houseboats and standard houseboats. A standard houseboat cruise for two starts at about 10,000 rupee ($150 per night).
people biking in the countryside of France
Photo credit: paulprescott72/istockphoto

Traveling by barge through the French countryside is yet another unforgettable experience. Sail along France's Seine and Loing rivers, while notching up the adventure slightly by including days spent exploring the countryside by bicycle. Each morning, participants set out on bikes through the farmlands, forests, and fields of France. Along the way, there are medieval towns and local museums to see. Come afternoon, you rendezvous with the barge again, a compact vessel designed to navigate the smaller locks and canals of French waterways. The barges feature cabins below deck, and on upper decks are a salon, lounge, bar, and sun deck. Prices start at $2,300 per person and include seven nights' accommodations, daily breakfast and dinner, bicycle rentals, and an English-speaking guide, as well as transport to and from the airport. There's an additional $800 fee for solo travelers.
Geiranger Fjord, Norway
Photo credit: AlexanderNikiforov/istockphoto

Known for its towering waterfalls, deep blue fjords, and snow-capped mountains, the fjord region in western Norway is always breathtaking. Boat tours through the UNESCO-listed Geiranger Fjord in the Sunnmore region pass the famed Seven Sisters, Bridal Veil, and Suitor waterfalls, as well as majestic fjord cliffs and abandoned mountain farms. And on occasion, visitors even spot porpoises playing in the fjord. The cost for this trip, which lasts just a few hours, is $45.
Fethiye, Turkey
Photo credit: KenanOlgun/istockphoto

There's nothing quite like exploring the Mediterranean on a wooden gulet, spending days sailing the stunning turquoise waters, spying ancient underwater ruins, visiting tiny islands, and dropping anchor in secluded bays. Cruises can be taken to and from the Turkish Riviera coastal towns of Fethiye, Marmaris, Bodrum, and Olympos. Additional itinerary highlights for these fascinating journeys include touring ancient cities and rock tombs, and soaking in sulfurous mud baths. Prices for some eight-day trips, which include breakfast, lunch and dinner, start at $369 per person, with an additional single-supplement fee for solo travelers that varies by season.
Santorini, Greece
Photo credit: Aetherial/istockphoto

Sailing around the Greek Islands is a travel experience of a lifetime, between the Mediterranean waters, the stunning whitewashed towns, and ancient ruins everywhere you turn. And then there's the food -- fresh-caught fish, Greek olives, feta cheese ... it's a journey you'll never want to end. The adventure-travel company Intrepid offers a 10-day boat trip that begins and ends at one of the most famous Greek Islands, Santorini, and takes a maximum of 11 travelers on a yacht to island hop through the Cyclades, stopping at Amorgos, Noxos, Syros, and more. There'll also be plenty of time to swim off the side of the boat and feast on fresh seafood at sleepy waterfront tavernas. Prices start at $1,233.

pink Amazon river dolphin
Photo credit: aniroot/istockphoto

One could spend years discovering the Amazon's lengths as it winds its way through various countries. A unique option from Adventure Life is the company's five-day river journey on the Ecuadorian Amazon, which takes in remote villages and unique, untamed biodiversity. The trip, which takes a maximum of 30 people, includes visiting Yasuni National Park and perhaps most interestingly, scouting for the legendary pink river dolphin. You might also spot black caimans, anacondas, river turtles, and various species of monkey along the way. There will also be a visit to Laguna Panacocha (also known as Piranha Lake) to look for the infamous fish. Prices start at $1,965 per person.
Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
Photo credit: Courtesy of mapleleafadventures.com

Sail Canada's western fjords searching for the rare white spirit bear on the historic ship Maple Leaf, a schooner constructed in 1904. After boarding in Bella Bella, British Columbia, you'll explore the wild and remote regions of the province's central coast. During the fall, the return of salmon provides an opportunity to witness a feeding frenzy. Whales, marine mammals, marine birds, bears, and more all gather to feast on the plentiful fish. If you're lucky, you may also observe a mother grizzly teaching her cub to catch salmon. The nine-day trip starts at $4,700 and includes all accommodations, meals, shore excursions, guides, fishing gear, and more. Maple Leaf Adventures also offers slightly cheaper adventure boating explorations of Canada, such as a sea expedition with Canadian Geographic magazine starting at $1,887.
divers in a cage with Great White shark underwater
Photo credit: izanbar/istockphoto

For the truly bravest of adventurers, Horizon Charters offers five-day, all inclusive shark cage diving excursions. The experience has been featured on the Discovery Channel's Shark Week. The company has been hosting the trips for 18 years and guarantees sightings, and if there are no sightings, you get a free trip back. The cost of the trip, which departs from San Diego, California, is $2,795. This year, Horizon Charters will be hosting several shark-diving research expeditions, some of which will include Craig O'Connell, from such television shows as Jungle Sharks, Sharks Among Us, and Shark Island.
Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania
Photo credit: Courtesy of tasmancruises.com.au

It's not every traveler who makes it all the way to Tasmania. And far fewer experience boating in the Tasmanian Islands along the spectacular coastline between Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck in southern Tasmania. This three-hour experience includes traveling beneath the highest vertical cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere, exploring waterfalls, rock formations, archways, and deep-sea caves. Along the way you'll likely see hundreds of seals, migrating whales, thousands of sea birds, and pods of dolphins. The trip, which costs $135 for adults and $85 for children, takes place on custom-built yellow boats that are designed for viewing the coastline and wildlife.
small cruise ship in Milford Sound, New Zealand
Photo credit: Onfokus/istockphoto

Milford Sound is located within Fiordland National Park and is known for its combination of mountain-peaks, inky-dark waters, and dramatic cliffs covered in forest. It's a place that for centuries could be visited only on foot or by boat. There are a variety of boat options to for exploring this magical place, including aboard a catamaran for the Milford Sound Nature Cruise (regular rate $65 for adults/$25 for children) for up to two hours, or by sea kayaking ($149 per person).
boats in a line rowing down the Mekong river
Photo credit: bzzuspajk/istockphoto

The Mekong has been the lifeblood of Southeast Asia for millennia. The tour company Journeys Within offers an Ultimate Mekong experience, an adventure that begins in China, ends in Vietnam and also includes Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, allowing participants to witness authentic rituals of daily life on the river. The over-the-top 27-night experience showcases history, culture, and food, and includes riding on everything from a 34-foot cruise boat to a long-tail boat. While the cost may be steep at $9,085, the price covers accommodations every night for nearly one month, food, guides, tips, and local road transport. Want to do it cheaper? Opt for a shorter itinerary that doesn't cover as many countries. Mekong Boat offers two and three-night trips starting around $200 and $400 per person.
Houseboat on the Chobe River, Namibia
Photo credit: Courtesy of zqcollection.com

The Chobe Princess ships operated by the Zambezi Queen Collection have just four to five cabins per ship, making the trip feel like a private African journey. The two- to three-day itineraries can be customized to your interests and desires to include stopping to search for big game, exploring villages on the Namibian side of the river, bird watching, or a taking walking tour to a 2,000-year-old baobab tree. Prices are about $1,175 per night, per person. In the low season (December), prices drop to $954.
person kayaking the Nile
Photo credit: jriddell/flickr.com

Think of this trip as a 30-mile journey of a lifetime on the world's most famous river. The four-day Navigate the Nile experience offered by Kayak the Nile showcases the best that this famed river has to offer, including visiting its source. Guided by an instructor for the whole trip, participants do not need to be expert kayakers. Each day will conclude at a lodge or campsite. Prices range from $625 to $775 per person and include all accommodations and pickup from the Entebbe or Kampala airport.

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