Polar ships, exotic trips: 6 of the best warm water expeditions

Travel Advice

Expedition cruising may conjure images of icy terrain and cold weather, and indeed, many of the new breed of expedition vessels launched in recent years are polar specialists, designed to navigate the ice-choked waters of Antarctica and the Arctic. However, in between the polar seasons these vessels utilise their smaller size, enhanced manoeuvrability, fast Zodiac deployment and expert guides to explore some of the world's most exciting exotic destinations. These are the best warm water expeditions.

Many of these remote regions are rarely visited by traditional cruise ships and are best explored by expedition vessel to fully immerse in the incredible surroundings. Here are our top six...

Best warm water expeditions

1. The Amazon

Sailing 2,300 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean to the Peruvian city of Iquitos is about as far from a polar itinerary as you can get. The Amazon river takes you into dense rainforest packed with extraordinary wildlife, and journeys this far upriver are accessible only to smaller vessels with strengthened hulls to navigate the occasionally debris-laden waters. Journeys along this iconic waterway are enhanced on board expedition ships such as Seabourn Venture which explores the region in October 2024 and 2025.

With itineraries exploring the Amazon Delta as well deeper into the heart of the Amazon, your expert Seabourn expedition team will guide you as you discover hidden tributaries and flooded forests by Zodiac and kayak, trek through dense wilderness, and learn about the local communities who depend on this variable natural environment. On board, visit the innovative Bow Lounge to look at the navigational charts for your journey and take in the views of the meandering river.

Capybaras in the Amazon

2. Central America

Many expedition ships spend time in Central America while travelling between the poles, with an emphasis on the region's staggering biodiversity. Costa Rica is a particular highlight, with lush vegetation, pristine beaches and an abundance of wildlife inhabiting the country's national parks.

There are also opportunities to investigate the wild Darién jungle of Panama and travel through the incredible feat of engineering that is the Panama Canal, accompanied by naturalist guides who are on hand to tell you more about the fascinating wildlife. Ponant's Le Bellot is a visitor, offering enhancements such as talks from onboard experts and a specially arranged visit to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama with a January 2025 voyage to Panama and Costa Rica, in partnership with Smithsonian Journeys.

Rainbow toucan in Costa Rica

3. The Sea of Cortez

One of the best expedition operators in the world, Lindblad explore the Sea of Cortez every December, a destination that is often overlooked by UK travellers, nestled between the barren Baja California peninsula and the Mexican mainland. The line have a close relationship with National Geographic and a reputation for offering more aboard, such as a certified photo instructor on every Baja California departure to assist you with camera settings, the basic elements of framing, composition and lighting and general tips to ensure you go home with fantastic photos.

Your ship's fleet of zodiacs will be put to good use in an area famed for its abundant dolphins, sea turtles, blue whales, gray whales, orca, humpback, pilot and fin whales, whale sharks, manta rays and sea lions, earning itself the moniker of 'the world's aquarium' from Jacques Cousteau.

Whale in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico

4. Raja Ampat

With over 17,000 islands comprising the country of Indonesia, there is no better way to explore than by ship. To discover the route less travelled, an expedition on board the sleek ultra-luxury discovery yacht Scenic Eclipse II offers the perfect warm water adventure, sailing the islands of Indonesia in September 2024 and 2025. Take advantage of the ship's fleet of Zodiacs, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to explore the hidden bays and secluded coves, guided by your specialist Discovery Team.

From Darwin sail exotic isles and discover Raja Ampat, a marine biodiversity hotspot located in the heart of the Coral Triangle. With 75% of the world's coral species and over 1,500 species of tropical fish found here, it's a paradise for divers and snorkellers. Ashore you'll explore on guided walks through rainforest where you may catch a glimpse of birds-of-paradise, and you'll visit islands with a diverse array of cultural influences, including Melanesian, Islamic and European, with reminders of the Portuguese explorers and Dutch traders who ventured to the 'Spice Islands' in search of highly-prized spices such as nutmeg.

Wayag, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

5. Japan

Ponant's chic explorer yacht Le Jacques Cartier sails the lesser-travelled sub-tropical islands of Japan in October 2024 and April 2025. Discover the remote Iriomote Island, almost 90% covered in jungle and filled with endemic and rarely-seen wildlife including the elusive Iriomote cat, as well as the wild and remote Yonaguni, home of the Yonaguni horse, a native Japanese breed, and migrating hammerhead sharks between late November and May, making this a great destination for divers.

Other islands offer a combination of powder-white sand, crystal clear waters and traditional heritage, making these itineraries a truly special exploration of the unique natural wonders of Japan.

Amamioshima Island, Japan

6. The Kimberley

You may never have even heard of this wild and isolated region of Western Australia, but the Kimberley is perfectly suited for exploration by expedition ship. Home to towering rust-coloured cliffs, unique natural and cultural wonders, and incredible biodiversity, Mundy's Hayley Hogan experienced this special region first hand with Silversea Expeditions.

Silversea's upcoming seasons of Kimberley adventures are aboard Silver Cloud so you can explore the breathtaking surroundings on Zodiac cruises and hikes, returning each day to elegant luxury.

best warm water expeditions
Meet the author

Alex is Director of Sales & Marketing at Mundy Adventures, having worked with the company for 10 years and in travel for over 18 years. His most recent adventure was a cruise on Seabourn Venture and he has also sailed with Regent, Crystal, SeaDream, Tauck and Ponant. His favourite adventure destination is South America however he's also enjoyed adventures in Antarctica, the Western Mediterranean, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, India, Myanmar and South East Asia. When he’s not travelling he loves walking holidays; a favourite included a trek to Everest Base Camp.

More about Alex

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