On board the most traveled supercar in the world

“Back to back – all guests of the bridge,” a voice sang over the intercom at 7am on the first morning of our trip. When I went to sleep, I ran onto the deck in my dressing gown and my eyes got bright through the panoramic windows. Meters in front of our yacht, a pod of four humpback whales feasted on krill, surrounded by huge icebergs, the Antarctic Peninsula looming on the horizon. Close encounters like this would often become the norm during my week aboard Hanse Explorer, a purpose-built touring yacht, which took us off the beaten track in Antarctica.

Most visitors to the White Continent go on board a cruise ship, but the lucky few get to explore private sites. One such vessel is Hanse Explorer. Built in 2006 by German shipping magnate Peter Harren and now owned by Swiss explorer Sven-Olof Lindblad, the 48-metre yacht is the most traveled charter superyacht on the planet.

The Hanse Explorer caters mostly to small groups of the rich and famous

The Hanse Explorer mainly caters to small groups of the rich and famous – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

In 2023 she managed to rack up a whopping 35,397 knots, many of which were combined during charters for the rich and famous (our maps below show exactly where it went last year). “The clients we get are very successful people – some of the most successful clients in the world in whatever they do,” Captain Andriy Bratash told me. Past guests include industry leaders, royalty and movie stars.

Hanse Explorer sleeps 12 guests and up to 20 crew and combines the comfort of a luxury hotel with personalized service and the flexibility of a private yacht. For guests, the exclusive experience begins before boarding. Although cruise ships have to spend two days crossing the treacherous Drake Passage to reach Antarctica, we took the so-called “penguin plane”. The two-hour flight from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is unscheduled and only takes place if there is a suitable weather window, landing on a short gravel runway; hair raising experience.

Superyacht vs cruise ship

Trips on board Hanse Explorer are managed by EYOS Expeditions, a pioneer of Antarctic charters. The voice that woke me from my slumber that first morning was that of eagle-eyed EYOS expedition leader Richard White, a younger version of David Attenborough who first visited the region as a researcher in 1998. Along with Captain Bratash, White led a week-long trip that was dictated by the weather and wildlife rather than an itinerary.

“We don’t try to go as far as fast as cruise ships, and we do it in a different style,” White said. “We have a lot more spontaneity in what we do because we have the ability to say, ‘there’s something cool over there, let’s go in that direction’. We try to go to less trafficked places, and we work hard to keep aspects of the wilderness, things that some of the other vessels have lost.”

Hanse Explorer TeamHanse Explorer Team

On a smaller vessel like this, the crew can afford to be flexible and not be controlled by a strict itinerary – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

The flexibility meant that our zodiac trips and landings on shore were frequent and often spontaneous – within 10 minutes of White seeing something interesting, we would be kitted up and on the water. This is just one of the ways that a private yacht experience surpasses that of a cruise ship. Antarctic regulations allow a maximum of 100 people on a landing point at any one time, so ships carrying hundreds of passengers must stop for a long period to facilitate visits for all. With only 12 guests, we were able to travel with ease and “stop and smell the whales’ breath”, as White liked to say.

Rachel IngramRachel Ingram

Rachel Ingram on one of the ‘frequent and often spontaneous’ shore landings – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

What they don’t tell you on TV

As we sailed, we felt very alone. In a week, I counted on one hand the number of other vessels we passed. We spent the week traveling up and down the Antarctic Peninsula and discovered things they don’t tell you about on TV: the sheer stench of a penguin colony; gunshot-esque cracks of minor stars. We watched adelie and gentoo penguins walking up “penguin highways” to search for their chicks among thousands of colonies. We saw seals screeching on beaches and fighting with peers – “seals are solitary mammals”, warned one fellow explorer, who was afraid to get too close to one.

Penguins in the AntarcticPenguins in the Antarctic

Penguins are entertaining – don’t get too close, says our writer – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

We cruised through the narrow Errera Channel at sunset with a swing of the bow and chased the sun to Wilhelmina Bay where we tried sea kayaking. After the weather one day, we turned from our original plan for a landing at picturesque Neko Bay. “If you hear my tsunami warning, run up the hill,” White said as we walked past a gentoo colony to a vantage point. On one particularly memorable trip on the Zodiac, a curious humpback dived beneath our vessel, turning to flash its white belly as we floated in stunned silence.

Humpback whales were not an unusual sightHumpback whales were not an unusual sight

Humpback whales were not uncommon – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

Made for extremes

Hanse Explorer is not your average private superyacht, most of which are built for the kinder climates of the Mediterranean or Caribbean. She is purpose built to cross the most extreme climates and conditions. “We think of her as a small passenger ship because we are solidly built of steel, we are ice class and we have commercial equipment that is too big for safety,” said Captain Bratash. The strength of the yacht was demonstrated when the captain deliberately sailed into a small iceberg, splitting the ice.

Hanse ExplorerHanse Explorer

The Hanse Explorer is purpose-built for harsh climates, with steel and ice class construction – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

What the yacht has in terms of resilience, she is mirrored in comfort. It’s an intimate experience with six guest rooms – three doubles, two twins and one master with a private terrace – that have all the comforts you’d expect.

Communal areas offer large windows to view the passing scenery. The main deck has a dining room, terrace and lounge where White gave daily quizzes and talks on topical issues such as climate change. On the lower deck there is a gymnasium, sauna with portholes and an equipment room where guests store outdoor gear, while on the upper deck there is an al-fresco lounge and hot tub on the bow – a scenic spot for sunbathers.

On board the Hanse ExplorerOn board the Hanse Explorer

There are plenty of al fresco areas on board for that perfect selfie moment – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

Polar immersion

Life aboard Hanse Explorer was relaxed and efficient. The crew moved like shadows – always present but rarely seen. Pop out for breakfast and your room would be cleaned before you return; your fresh laundry folded neatly on the bed. Come back from the trip and the heated sauna and freshly baked cakes and hot chocolate with Baileys would be waiting in the lounge.

The meals were taken communally around a large dining table that was creatively decorated every day with themes from Polynesia to pirates. Every day we enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast, family style lunches and four course dinners.

The ambience was relaxed; within a day, guests were sitting in their thermals. “We provide the level of service mentioned above, but we aim to create a homely atmosphere on board, so that guests are completely comfortable,” said Captain Bratash, from Ukraine, who has been in charge of the yacht since 2016.

Between trips, the enthusiastic crew organized experiences such as kayaking and the “polar plunge”. As a fair weather swimmer, I was apprehensive about entering the freezing water in a bathing suit but, encouraged by the cheers of my peers, I jumped. The shock was replaced by an adrenaline rush so intense that I collapsed again the next day.

'Polar plunge' from the Hanse Explorer'Polar plunge' from the Hanse Explorer

Completing the polar plunge – Matt Hardy/EYOS Expeditions

On our last day, White took us to a remote bay and suggested we take a moment to reflect. The snow was sparkling in the sun and icebergs were bobbing in the shallows and the penguins were playing on top of them. The only sound was the call of a squaw overhead and the chin of the very happy chick being reunited with its parent, back from the sea with a belly full of krill. I felt a deep connection with nature – and it clicked. Why are people traveling the globe and spending six figure sums for this experience? Total freedom. As it turns out, this is something money can buy – all you need is a private yacht to get there.

How to do it

EYOS Expeditions, hosted by Rachel Ingram, manages charter trips aboard the Hanse Explorer. The yacht will spend the Northern Hemisphere summer in the Pacific Ocean before traveling to Papua New Guinea and then back to Antarctica. For more information or to book a place, contact EYOS Expeditions (eyos-expeditions.com; 001 801 390 7025) or contact info@eyos.com. Prices start from $70,000 (£56,6000) per week for a book-on-cabin charter or from $245,000 (£197,600) plus 35 per cent expenses for a full private charter. There are additional flights.

In the year 2023 the world’s most traveled supercars went

Last year, Global Fleet Tracker BOATPro tracked nearly 7,000 superyacht voyages, recording 18.7 million cumulative knots between them. The four most traveled were:

Hanse Explorer

This 48 meter super hit started the year in Antarctica, before heading to the Caribbean via the Falkland Islands. The Northern Hemisphere summer was spent exploring Scandinavia and the Arctic, before the long journey back to the White Continent.

Gene Chaser

Owned by DNA sequencing scientist Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, Gene Chaser completed a full circumnavigation in 2023, with stops in the Galapagos, Tokyo, Bali, Rhodes and Madeira, among others.


This 56-metre yacht, which is on the charter market, started the year in the Med, visited London, and then embarked on an exciting journey to her namesake country via Bergen, Copenhagen, Hamburg, the Suez Canal and Singapore.


What could be better than spending a year exploring the Pacific Ocean? That – along with the North West crossing – was the main focal point for Tecla, a sailing ketch built in 1915, refitted in 1989, and currently in private hands.

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