Nine Unique Ways to Explore the World by Water

A lot has been said about how harmful air travel is to the environment, not only because of the sheer number of planes flying every day, but because of the fact that green house gasses are emitted directly into the atmosphere. Much has also been said about how train travel is a greener way of exploring the world. But water travel, though admittedly not as eco-friendly as catching a train, is another alternative to flying. Apart from that, it is also terribly fun, and can grant you access to some of the most beautiful corners of the world. Are you already itching to step aboard? Here are nine ideas about where a boat can take you.

Go beyond Bali

You’re already in paradise, but somehow still crave more and want to travel further. Who can blame you, since just a bit beyond South East Bali, you have the opportunity to go to places with even whiter beaches and thinner crowds via an inexpensive boat ride.

Start by catching a public boat, a Perama tourist boat or a Scoot from Bali’s Sanur to Nusa Lembongan. The trip will take between 30 minutes to two hours depending on the type of boat you choose, and prices will also differ slightly. On Nusa Lembongan, it’s all about walking or cycling to pretty beaches, enjoying the mellow atmosphere, and if you like, diving and surfing.

From Jungutbatu in Nusa Lembongan, catch another boat to Nusa Penida, an island even less-touristy than your previous stop. Once again, take your time to enjoy the beach, dive, or cycle around the flat coast road.

From Nusa Lembongan you will need to back-track to Bali’s Sanur, from where a boat will take you to Lombok’s Gili Islands and another fantastic opportunity for island hopping. From here, you can either call it a day, or travel further onto Lombok.

>> Look for airfare to Bali
>> Find hotels in Bali
>> Plan your trip with our Bali travel guide

Island hopping in the Mediterranean

What better way to spend your summer than on a sailing boat heading from one beautiful Mediterranean island to the next, with so many that your options are limitless? It would take years to explore all the Greek and Croatian islands, and then you would have only covered the Eastern part of this sea, with all the gems of the West still left to explore. Since these islands are pretty much what makes the area so famous, the ferry system tends to be well-organized and comprehensive.

Having said that, to make this trip one of a life time, you might want to consider renting a sailboat with a skipper (unless of course, you’re fully qualified yourself). While the cost of this is obviously not small, it can be affordable if you get a few friends to join in and split the cost. And when you remember that onboard accommodation is included in the price, then a week or two sailing across the Mediterranean becomes a doable trip.

>> Check out the best Greek islands
>> Choose the best Italian island for you
>> Discover 8 small and beautiful Italian islands you’ve probably never heard of
>> Learn about ferries in Greece

Travel the world on a freight ship

Nowadays, travelers keen on not stepping foot on a plane are opting for transport by freight ship, through which you can quite literally travel around the world. While a trans-Atlantic trip is what comes to mind when one things of this sort of transport, in fact there are as many options as there are sea and ocean routes, and your trip could take you anything from a few days to a couple of months. This sort of travel is of course not for everyone, given that a journey you’d make by plane in a few hours will take you days, and that the entire voyage will cost you more than an air ticket.

Sailing the seas on a freight ship is, in short, more about the journey itself than the destination.

>> Learn about how to travel by cargo ship
>> Read about the pros and cons of small-ship cruising

Sail Europe’s canals and rivers

There is something very alluring about sailing in the heart of Europe on a long boat, and exploring without having to worry about whether you’ll find accommodation or not. Luckily, Europe is filled with countries and cities with extensive canal networks, and these include Birmingham in the UK, Hamburg and Berlin in Germany, and of course, Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Added to this, you can also cross from the Atlantic through Europe all the way down to the Mediterranean along canal routes.

If you would like just to sample some bits of these rivers and canals, once again ferries and private boats are easy to find due to their appeal to tourists. Just to mention one example, you can travel from Vienna to Bratislava and then finally to Budapest by catching a hydrofoil.

>> Read more about staying in a narrowboat in London and houseboats in Amsterdam
>> Check out nine more quirky accommodation options in Europe

Istanbul’s ferry cruises

Many would argue that what makes Istanbul so picturesque and romantic is its location right by the sea, and the locals surely have made the most of this by embracing commuting by boat. For the passing traveller, going on a couple of day trips on Istanbul’s ferries is not only dirt cheap (prices need to appeal to locals first and foremost) but also full of delights.

A Bosphorus ferry cruise lasts approximately 90 minutes (one way). Starting from Eminonu, the trip takes you up the Bosphorus strait where Europe and Asia seem to almost touch. The trip is done is segments, so you can stop at various points along the way to explore the various mosques, palaces and neighbourhoods which you come across. Alternatively, you can opt for a shorter Golden Horn cruise which cuts, as it were, into the very Western tip of Europe. Take this trip if you’re looking for a less touristy Istanbul. Finally, a 1-hour boat trip will take you into the Sea of Marmara to the Princes’ Islands, a group of car-free and nicely forested islands which are perfect for a day off from the chaos of mainland Istanbul.

>> Find hostels in Istanbul
>> Search for cheap airfare to Istanbul
>> Read about 10 experiences not to miss in Turkey

Sail through the world’s longest rivers

With their multi-country-straddling quality, the Nile and the Amazon are gateways to two fascinating continents. A cruise up the former can be started from Cairo, although a more popular route is the Aswan to Luxor one. Depending on which cruise you choose, you might get the chance to tour the Aswan Dam, Lake Nasser (the world’s largest man-made lake) and several ancient temples.

Your experience along the Amazon will of course be completely different, as you’ll be making your way through lush forest rather than scorching desert. You can start your cruise from countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and you guessed it, it’s all about the rainforest here as you make your way into natural reserves and take excursions into the jungle.

The daily full-board rates of these cruises are usually similar to mid-range/top-end hotel prices, but you might be able to get some sort of deal if you shop around.

>> Find Amazon adventure tours
>> Look for guided tours in Egypt
>> Check out 10 places in South America to escape the North American winter

Discover the Galapagos

While exploring the Galapagos by boat might make you feel like you’ve landed on a completely different planet, the truth is that on such trips you cannot really get off the beaten track. Trips to this area need to usually be booked as a tour, and the accompanying tour guide will tell you what you can see and do on each particular island. Though this may sound like a pain for the independent traveler, it is done to make sure that tourism impacts the islands’ ecosystems as little as possible.

If you can get used to the idea of always having to stick with your group and group leader, you will be rewarded with close up encounters with wildlife (animals don’t see humans as a threat and don’t usually run away), Martian-like volcanic landscapes and activities like snorkeling in a pristine environment (depending on what tour you book).

The costs of doing this trip include the flight from the mainland, the actual time on the boat and the tour guide service, plus the entrance fee, which at present is 100 dollars. Travelers often report that despite the high cost, the experience is more than worth it.

>> Look for airfare to Ecuador
>> Check out Galapagos adventure tours

Cruising the Swiss Lakes

Switzerland is infamous for how expensive it is, but the good news is that if you invest in a Swiss transport pass, you will be able to travel for free on most of the ferries which serve its many beautiful, mountain-surrounded lakes (as well as trains, trams and buses run by the national railway company). Start by exploring Zurich and then spend a few hours cruising along its clear long lake. While the spots around the lake are mostly residential and lack interesting sites, the lake and the ice-covered mountain views on clear days are attractions in themselves.

Next, go to Luzern for an even more dramatic lake cruise surrounded by mountains which you can track up to. Then, keep heading West to Lake Geneva, where you can go city hopping by ferry to pretty little spots like Lausanne, Montreux, Nyon and Vevey. Along the way you will come across fairytale-like Chateuax, beautiful countryside and even wine tasting opportunities.

>> Search for cheap flights to Switzerland
>>  Read about culinary experiences not to miss in Switzerland

Explore East Asia

This trip will take you across three countries with very distinct cultures without having to leave ground level. If you find yourself half-way across the world in Shanghai and have no rush to return home, you can catch a boat from here and cross all the way to South Korea, one of the most underrated countries in this part of Asia.

From your arrival port in Incheon, the Korean capital of Seoul is just 1 hour away, and you’ll need at least a week to explore it properly. From here, you can either travel to the Eastern city of Sokcho and hop on a boat to Russia, or you can catch a train all the way down to the South and head to Japan from Busan. Many travellers opt to get to Japan via South Korea in order to save money on their plane tickets, as Japan is a notoriously expensive country to fly into.

>> Search for flights to Japan
>> Read about ways to save money on your next trip to Japan
>> Discover an unexpected side of Japan in Okinawa

Further reading:

Photos by:  Mikaku, napaneeGal, mttsndrs, Selkovjr, CdePaz, Davic Berkowitz, CameliaTWU, Paalia, GilloD

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  • Michael Mikaku Doliveck said at 2012-08-20T17:23:16+0000: Hey Guys! Thanks for using my photo and if you need more, please check here. http://www.balifornian.com/galleryWarm regards, Michael