Experience unrivalled beauty on these small ship cruises

This is sponsored content for Coral Expeditions.

Expeditionary cruising isn't just about going somewhere, lining up to take the selfie and buying the T-shirt, like you might in a large group tour off a big cruise ship. It's about the experience of it all, assimilating knowledge and memories to cherish as you go. Boutique expeditions have the benefit of proficient guides and highly-qualified experts who bring additional insights to the natural and epicurean encounters. Small cruise ships can reach into the sort of places bigger ships can't access. But the real point of difference is created by the sharp planning, intimate understanding and community involvement these comprehensive adventures embrace.

Gary Wilson, Senior Master with Coral Expeditions, has explored all of the destinations offered by the company, including Cape York & Arnhem Land, the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, The Kimberley, New Zealand, the islands of Indonesia, the islands of the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and the Spice Islands & West Papua. He has guided small ships through tropical seas, to unnamed beaches and around tight little bays. Gary loves talking about these destinations but when asked to name his favourite, he pauses like he's just been asked to name his favourite child.

"That's a tough one," he says. "The Kimberley coast is hard to beat. You could never get tired of it. And the Ribbon Reefs on the Great Barrier Reef is always a favourite with passengers. Some of the reefs around Papua New Guinea are amazing too. We also go the island of Hatta near Banda up in the Spice Islands and that is truly spectacular. I really enjoy the Spice Islands. There's so much history up there and the diving and snorkelling is fantastic."

This Raja Ampat and Spice Islands itinerary (Darwin-Biak in West Papua, or the reverse) is a unique, 11-night exploration of the region's scenery, history, wildlife and rarely-visited villages, as well as extended snorkelling and diving stays on the incredible multi-hued coral reefs of Raja Ampat.

Gary recalls a recent trip that brought guests face to face with the world's biggest fish on the very first day of a cruise out of Biak.

"We had a morning swimming with whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay. One guest said it wouldn't matter what we did for the rest of the trip, she would be happy! Another time we had five whale sharks swimming with us there."

And even though whale sharks are indeed enough to make you happy, you could also experience guided rainforest walks and visits to local markets piled high with colourful produce. Take advantage of Captain Gary's knowledge of maritime history and learn about the early Western explorers as you retrace their path to the tiny island of Banda Neira, where a plume of volcanic smoke brushes the horizon.

The Pristine Tasmania itinerary is beloved by photographers for the dramatic sea cliff panoramas and wildlife. You'll see fur seals basking at the base of low rocky cliffs, and quite likely dolphin pods and whales, as well as wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils and seemingly infinite birdlife. There's two full days of guided wandering – and kayaking – in the pristine Port Davey World Heritage Wilderness area, including the remote Mount Beattie track.

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The Coastal Treks of Tasmania itinerary walks you through beautiful Maria Island, taking in spectacular Painted Cliffs and ageless Fossil Cliffs. You'll enjoy the wildlife- and history-rich Fluted Cape walk on the coastal cliffs of Bruny Island with spectacular views of Fluted Cape and Tasman Peninsula in the distance. You'll also head to Cape Hauy for the views of Fortescue Bay and the dolerite cliffs, Wineglass Bay Track in Freycinet National Park for the picture postcard photos and visit the poignant Port Arthur Historic Site. There's also a fun tour and tasting at Grandvewe Cheeses at Birchs Bay, one of only four sheep's milk cheeseries in Australia. (Make sure you try the piquant Blue Sapphire with pinot paste and the ultra-sweet Vanilla Whey Liqueur.)

Seafarers can venture to the Great Barrier Reef in ways never imagined on three, four and seven-night explorations of the world's largest living organism. Already extensive itineraries are enriched by the on-board marine biologist, who will tell you more than you ever thought to ask about the fish, turtles, eels, coral and breeding habits of sea cucumbers; and by the dive instructor, who will take you through a Scuba introductory session off the spectacular beach at Lizard Island before you relax with a drink on the beach in the evening.

Private moorings ensure guests enjoy intimate encounters with the reef and its inhabitants, and programs also feature glass bottom boat tours, guided rainforest walks, beach barbecues and informative lectures on the history, cultures and early explorers of the region.

From the sunrise climb up to Cook's Look on Lizard Island to the sunset drinks on a secluded sand cay, or any of the multitude of thrills in between, Coral Expeditions' Great Barrier Reef cruises are personal, sensory adventures to remote, pristine, crowd-free parts of the Reef.

For over 30 years, Coral Expeditions has had one purpose – to take small groups of explorers to remote parts of the world with expert guidance and warm Australian hospitality. Australian flagged and crewed, Coral Expeditions provides the highest standard of service, environmental responsibility and the intimate and personal experience of small ship cruising. Our expedition cruises bring you closer to history, culture, pristine coastlines, and wildlife in our remote destinations:  The Kimberley, Cape York & Arnhem Land, Tasmania, the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific, New Zealand, and the Indonesian Archipelago.

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