A safari experience is an extremely special one; it allows for a myriad of memories, to be treasured and reminisced over during the course of a lifetime. The abundance of such opportunities, however, means that premium travellers are increasingly finding traditional safaris passé. So, what next?
There’s no going wrong with a well-planned, traditional African or Amazon safari – those types of voyages are always special and allow travellers to walk away with an arsenal of fodder for reminiscing by the fire. However, these days the more seasoned explorer has been on not one, but several such trips! Where then should one travel when the plains of Africa and the jungles of Asia have been exhausted? We’d say your next animal-spotting site should be a more watery one. In fact, we’d go so far as to argue that one isn’t a truly experienced traveller until one has returned home from a marine safari adventure.
After all, in the days of the great explorers, arriving at any exotic destination involved a great deal of oceanic adventuring. As air travel took off in the second half of the 20th Century, that sense of wonder got lost. It’s time to recapture that feeling – the feeling of being a small speck in an endless ocean, surrounded by creatures great and small (some familiar, others magically unusual).
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT
Land safari opportunities are easy to come by, but seeing the wild, watery world of the Pacific Ocean is far more logistically challenging. Meridian Adventure Sail is one of the only companies on the planet offering this type of exclusive experience. They offer fully crewed, luxury yachts which take premium clients around Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands. This archipelago consists of four major islands and has been nicknamed “The Four Kings” due to its indescribable majesty. Getting to Raja Ampat is simple enough; Indonesia has many airports and a number of major airlines service this Southeast Asian nation. But few people ever do – and that means that the area is untouched by civilisation, and utterly enchanting.
For now, only a select few people outside of Indonesia actively know of Raja Ampat. The unusual nature of Meridian Adventure’s destination is precisely what makes their experience offering so thoroughly unique. Marine biologists believe this unspoilt pocket of paradise to be one of the most important areas of the sea in the world. In fact, Raja Ampat is recorded to hold 75% of all known species of ornamental and coral fish! Due to this scientific value, it continues to be a key destination for researchers, but in recent years it is gaining notice as a nirvana for discerning tourists (particularly for those with a keen interest in the oceanic world).
Understanding that the world of the ocean is a fickle one, a trip with Meridian Adventure never follows an exact itinerary. The professionals guiding this trip are focused on cultivating a true sense of adventure, not on ticking boxes and fulfilling futile obligations. What makes this area so interesting is its wilderness – there’s no way to control the wild! So if migrating whales have been spotted off the coast of another island, the professional and knowledgeable crew will immediately pursue them, rather than continuing to take lunch or sticking to a pre-existing plan.
That said, such a pre-existing plan does exist. A provisional itinerary is put together once the booking dates are fixed, with a range of activities suggested for each day. Each and every itinerary is custom-built, and no two Meridian “Adventures” ever look identical. An extensive conversation with clients takes place, ensuring interests are catered to and that the clients really feel their personalities reflected in the trip. But then the hard logistics get involved, which is where exact booking dates come in. Those are vital for the experts involved to be able to gauge exact tidal streams and the current set and drift, consider forecasted weather, and plan accordingly. While weather is important, it’s actually the ever-shifting nature of the ocean currents that are particularly key – knowing which directions they will be flowing allows for wildlife migratory patterns to be considered.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Migrating whales are seen regularly on Meridian Adventure trips. After all, whales migrate between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean annually from May until October, giving visitors plenty of chances to get a glimpse. Onboard a yacht off Indonesia’s coast, there are truly ample opportunities to see the world’s greatest mammals in action. But there are more unusual creatures to be found as well if you’re lucky. For example, in 2018 a Meridian Adventure crew and their spoilt guests spotted the extremely rare Crocodylus porosus (saltwater crocodile). These are massive beasts, whose ferocity is widely renowned. Males grow up to 6m (20ft) and females grow up to 3m (10ft)! They’re not animals to encounter unaccompanied, but the skilled crew members on board Meridian Adventure’s yacht made sure clients were safe and had seen a real-life underwater monster in splendid action!
With less intimidating animals, there are opportunities to get up close and personal. Small marine life – jellyfish, corals, the ornamental fish mentioned above – can be viewed on scuba diving adventures (this is referred to as macro hunting). Diving prospects in Raja Ampat are incredible, and the well-maintained equipment onboard each yacht will ensure that the experience must be felt to be believed. Paddleboarding safaris are an additional, extraordinary experience that guests regularly rave about to crew members and their friends and family back home. There are few chances on land to sense the sort of romance and adventure involved in paddling through the mangroves in search of magical fireflies in the middle of the night!
There are plenty of other opportunities to get adrenalin levels going, with a range of possible action sports (all of which still provide a chance to experience marine life in a different, and unusual context). Every single vessel comes with state-of-the-art Seabob jets, stand-up paddleboards, kite foil boards, and even an inflatable tube! All of these different pieces of equipment allow guests to experience the sea in a different way. They can see it all from a new angle… And they can encounter the marine fauna and flora in a whole new way.
A final way to encounter marine life exists onboard Meridian Adventure’s yachts: fishing. For Marine Adventure Sail, sustainability is always key, and their teams go above and beyond to ensure that the impact of each trip they undertake on the environment is a positive one. This means that the professionals on board may suggest for or against fishing depending on location, in line with sustainability requirements and eco-friendliness. But there’s really something to be said for feeling like the apex predator that humans are and capturing a fish when the time is right… For that reason, each vessel does come equipped with a number of fishing tools (such as standing rods, trolling reels and a host of accessories as well) and if you’re new to fishing, the crew members will be more than happy to demonstrate and teach!
A truly special experience is one that exists in the moment, to be reflected on fondly in years to come. But with the advent of the global village – and the rise of social media – it has become increasingly more important to have tangible “evidence” of one’s trips. Meridian Adventure allows the best of both worlds, as a photography and videography crew is included onboard every yacht! The teams come on board with top-of-the-range equipment, ready to tell the story of the travellers’ experiences in a distinctive and fun way; all content is created with major social media channels and overall share-ability in mind. These capable professionals are responsible for filming and editing a video, which each client receives on their return; talented photographers collate the best pictures of the experiences into a beautifully printed book. It removes the stress from the client, and allows them to focus on what actually matters: the holiday itself, the people they’re with, and the once-in-a-lifetime oceanic experiences they’re part of!
In this way, it becomes possible for clients to fully engage with the feelings of the safari without being dragged down by the worry of capturing every special moment on their cameras or cell phones. The client’s journey is masterfully documented, with every unexpected encounter and every precious second captured for posterity by people who specialise in this line of work. Particularly considering the ever-changing nature of the itineraries, this is an incredibly wonderful opportunity. Too often, special moments are missed when those involved get swept up in the excitement. But Meridian Adventure’s storytelling crew will masterfully translate the visceral into shareable videos and premium printed books. Suffice to say the travellers who were fortunate enough to spot that saltwater crocodile had plenty of pictures of the great big beast!
EVERYTHING TAKEN CARE OF
Of course, it’s not just the photography and the videography that Meridian Adventure takes complete care of. Onboard one of their yachts, there is no need for the client to fret and no hidden costs exist. Everything, from the moment an itinerary starts getting crafted, is taken care of by a skilled team of experts. The knowledge they espouse is practical – everything suggested by an employee has been tested out by that particular employee. Adventure activities are organised and managed by pros who can give out helpful advice when needed. Even “landlubbers” are accommodated with magnificent cultural immersion excursions.
Onboard the vessel itself, crews put together a fabulous experience, serving five-star meals and mixing delicious cocktails to be enjoyed on the deck. Other first-world comforts are considered (for example, they offer a satellite internet service which allows for complete connectivity). The hospitality is out of this world; a voyage with Meridian Adventure Sail is like no other holiday. The reason for this is simple. At Meridian Adventure Sail, they know their private clients’ time is limited and precious.
They are there to ensure those clients make the most of it – and so far, they’re succeeding in ensuring a growing niche of satisfied clients clamouring to return to the watery heaven that is Raja Ampat.