Honeymoon on the rivers by Aqua Expeditions

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(Di Francesca Ferrara) – Partire all’avventura zaino in spalla è il sogno di molti, ma poco adatto alla nostra luna di miele. Come rinunciare alla sicurezza e comodità di un viaggio organizzato? Soprattutto se dovete partire per il viaggio di nozze. Noi di Fables abbiamo trovato la soluzione perfetta, per coniugare l’Indiana Jones che c’è in voi con l’agiatezza del lusso: terre lontane e fiumi selvaggi sfidati su navi da crociera, costruite ad hoc per il vostro benessere. La compagnia Aqua Expeditions è stata fondata nel 2007 con lo scopo di creare per i propri viaggiatori esperienze uniche verso mete inesplorate. Abbiamo conosciuto il fondatore Francesco Galli Zugaro. “Questa impresa è basata completamente sulla mia passione – racconta -. L’idea iniziale era poter essere la prima compagnia di viaggio avventuroso, che offrisse crociere fluviali di lusso e si rivolgesse a viaggiatori esigenti, indirizzandoli verso remote e bellissime aree del pianeta. I fiumi ti permettono di esplorare luoghi dove le grandi navi non possono arrivare”. Le navi sono tre: Aria Amazon e Aqua Amazon, che navigano lungo il Rio delle Amazzoni, e Aqua Mekong, che attraversa Vietnam e Cambogia.

“I nostri itinerari effettivamente offrono qualcosa per tutti i sensi – spiega Zugaro -. Entrambe le navi della crociera amazzonica sono state realizzate dall’architetto Jordi Puig e offrono agli ospiti un livello di lusso mai sperimentato prima sui fiumi. I nostri itinerari su misura consentono di raggiungere la sorgente del Rio delle Amazzoni e la riserva protetta Pacaya Samiria, incontrare vari esemplari di fauna locale, come i delfini rosa, i piranha, le scimmie cappuccine e i tucani, tutto con l’aiuto di guide naturalistiche esperte. Il tempo sulla nave è speso godendo della comodità delle suites, in particolar modo della finestra ‘dal pavimento al soffitto’, e assaggiando la cucina dell’executive chef peruviano Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. Con la nave Aqua Mekong, che naviga sul fiume Mekong, l’asticella si è alzata. L’imbarcazione segue lo stile di quelle peruviane, è piccola abbastanza da essere intima, ma è lo stesso spaziosa e lussuosa. Abbiamo mantenuto un’alta attenzione per i dettagli, dalla progettazione all’arredamento della cucina e del servizio. La nave ha 20 suites rivolte all’esterno ed è stata progettata in stile asiatico con materiali locali, nel rispetto della sostenibilità”.

“Lavoriamo con l’executive chef David Thompson – continua -, del famoso Nahm (noto ristorante di Bangkok, n.d.r.), per creare fantastiche ricette che uniscono la tradizione culinaria del fiume Mekong e gli ingredienti freschi della regione. Le crociere offrono itinerari da 3, 4 e 7 notti, arricchite da escursioni safari sull’acqua, per vivere l’avventura in prima persona”. E se non vi piace la compagnia di altri ospiti, potrete prenotare la nave per il vostro viaggio privato. “Abbiamo una serie di emozionanti pacchetti privati per entrambe le crociere – aggiunge il numero uno di Aqua Expeditions -. Per esempio, nella primavera 2016, il celebre autore William Shawcross sarà a bordo dell’Aqua Mekong e accompagnerà gli ospiti in un esclusivo viaggio tra Cambogia e Vietnam. Abbiamo pacchetti per famiglie numerose, prenotazioni in esclusiva e pacchetti a tema. Sul Mekong abbiamo avuto un gruppo di 40 ciclisti, mentre sul Rio delle Amazzoni un gruppo di buongustai che hanno viaggiato con il nostro chef. I nostri viaggi sono diventati molto popolari per gli sposi che amano lune di miele più avventurose: la tranquillità della regione, i panorami mozzafiato, tutto combinato con il lusso delle navi”. Presto nuove mete per i crocieristi? “Con la nostra sede centrale a Singapore, credo che siamo nel posto giusto per la crescita futura verso altri posti esotici sulle acque”. Tenete d’occhio questo spazio, vi terremo aggiornati!

Fables Interview: Francesco Galli Zugaro

How did Aqua Expeditions begin? Aqua Expeditions was founded in 2007. I had been working in the cruise industry in The Galapagos and this experience led me to dream of starting my own company that would create unforgettable trips for travellers looking for authentic experiences in unexplored destinations.

Combining sense of adventure with luxury comfort is a great success. Who is your the typical customer? Our concept attracts soft adventure, luxury travellers from across the globe, which creates a really interesting dynamic of guests on board. They are guests that want an adventure, but don’t want to sacrifice the creature comforts that they have come to expect from any leading, world-class hotel.

Why did you choose river cruises rather than sea cruises? This venture is all about my personal passion. The concept was to be the first adventure travel company to offer five-star luxury river cruises that truly cater to discerning travellers in remote and beautiful areas of the globe.  Rivers allow you to get up close and explore areas where big ships cannot go. However this does not mean that we will not venture into coastal cruising in the future. Stay tuned.

What drove you to Peru and Cambodia? The Peruvian Amazon is a completely remote, truly beautiful destination filled with exciting and biodiverse flora and fauna. The rich culture of the ribereños is also fascinating and I wanted guests from across the globe to experience the region in a sustainable fashion. The Mekong came next after I explored the region with river pilots and my photographer – and immediately fell in love with it.  Vietnam and Cambodia offer something entirely different to our river cruises on the Amazon – there is the same remoteness and sense of discovery, but rather than the flora, fauna and wildlife, guests are immersed in a lot more human life, culture and history.

Top interior designer, 5-star cuisine and tour with qualified guides. Can we talk about a sensory cruise? Our itineraries do indeed offer something for all the senses. Both Peruvian Amazon cruisers were designed by architect Jordi Puig and gave guests an unprecedented level of luxury on the river. Our bespoke Amazon River itineraries allow travellers to reach the source of the Amazon and the protected Pacaya Samiria Reserve, encountering all kinds of Amazon wildlife from pink dolphins and piranha, to capuchin monkeys and toucans with the help of expert naturalist guides. Time back on the boat is spent enjoying the comfort of the suites, particularly the floor-to-ceiling windows, and sampling delicious Peruvian cuisine from our Executive Chef, Pedro-Miguel Schiaffino. With our recently launched third cruiser – Aqua Mekong – on the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia, the bar has been raised. The vessel is very much in keeping with the style of the Peruvian vessels – small enough to be intimate but equally spacious and luxurious. We have maintained a high level of attention to detail, in everything from the design and décor to the cuisine and service. The cruiser has 20 outward-facing suites with our signature floor-to-ceiling windows, and is designed in an authentic Asian style, using local and sustainable materials throughout. We are working with Executive Chef David Thompson – of nahm fame – to create fantastic dining that combines the culinary traditions of Mekong River with the region’s freshest ingredients. All of our cruisers offer 3, 4 and 7-night itineraries, on which guests head out on water safari excursions each day to really get under the skin of the destination with the help of expert guides.

You book your ships for private cruises. Do you ever celebrate weddings on board? We have had a number of exciting private charters in both regions. For example, in spring 2016, celebrated author, William Shawcross, will be on board the Aqua Mekong accompanying our guests on an exclusive journey from Vietnam to Cambodia. We have numerous multigenerational family charters, and executive retreats and specific ‘themed’ charters. For instance on the Mekong we recently had a group of 40 cyclists, whilst on the Amazon we had a group of 40 foodies that were co hosted with our executive chef. Our journeys are also ecoming ever more popular with adventuorus honeymooners – the tranquility of the regions, and stunning scenery; combined with the luxurious set-up of the boats, make for the ultimate honeymoon adventure.

Your cruiseship’s design reminds me of an american steamboat. Is this on purpose or just a suggestion? From the very beginning of the design process we wanted to create a feel throughout the vessel of being in a truly luxury boutique hotel, but at the same time, keeping a feel of being on board a boat. It was important, as with any resort or hotel, that the guest has a feeling of escape by creating a very bespoke and tailored experience. Each space of the boat has been tailored to different needs and requirements throughout the day, with its own identity and experience. There is not one element in particular that we have been inspired by but rather by many elements. We have therefore, been inspired by rich local materials/techniques, the colours of the Amazon or the Mekong, luxurious Asian hotel interiors or crafts from the Amazon, but with a contemporary take. It was important to create very bespoke and luxurious vessels, enveloping guests in a very cosy and comfortable experience. All of this has been achieved while remaining authentic and unique with a sense of place.

What is the future for Aqua Expeditions? Do you imagine news lines for your cruises? With our global headquarters in Singapore I believe we are in the right place for future growth on other exotic bodies of waters.

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