“It is difficult to explain to someone who might have only been to the Mediterranean,” says Jan Verkerk, owner of 70m M/Y Sherakhan. “ The whole feeling in colder places is something completely different.” And Verkerk is certainly speaking from experience. A charter yacht with a difference, able to accommodate up to 26 guests, Sherakhan has been to all the usual spots in Europe and the Caribbean, but in February 2013 she embarked on an epic expedition to Antarctica. “Antarctica is a very special destination,” he tells us. “It is the most beautiful place that I have ever been in the world, it is that simple. There are no bars, no discos, no private jets — you are back to nature.”

Credit: Kevin van Luijn

Verkerk describes seas of penguins, pods of 20m whales riding the waves of the bow like dolphins, icebergs as big as skyscrapers and thousands of sea lions lining the beaches. “Guests were on deck all the time,” he remembers. “When we arrived in South Georgia for example, the first thing we saw were three whales right next to the boat and the next thing we saw was 2000 sea lions. It is all so overwhelming, you don’t know where to look, you drop anchor and you are in the middle of nowhere among nature. If we took the tender out we had to clap to scare away the baby sea lions so we didn’t run them over. And none of them are in any way scared of you. It is fantastic.”

For families who think that perhaps children would get stir-crazy on a trip with no swimming or beach time, adventures like these are a great chance to get them inspired, learning about the wider word. Sherakhan had a tutor on board as well as world-famous nature photographer Paul Nickelen and marine scientists to teach guests about what they were seeing. For Verkerk, there is no better time than now to experience these places. “Can you imagine two million penguins all looking at you, some running to your purse and trying to steal your things?” he asks. “This is how it is now, completely unspoiled at the moment but this may not last.” With this in mind, Verkerk has purchased a new yacht, a 70m A1 ice breaker that he intends to charter in the northern hemisphere, taking in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Arctic and the Northwest Passage, while Sherakhan will start a world tour of the southern hemisphere next year, hopefully including Antarctica again.

Credit: Kevin van Luijn

Interestingly, Verkerk says that a large portion of Sherakhan's guests are fellow superyacht owners."They have their own yachts, they charter them out but they want to do something adventurous themselves," he says. "They come on board Sherakhan and do that without destroying their own boat. Going to these places is a logistical hassle, it costs tonnes of fuel."

As the pace of life continues to speed up and the old favourite superyacht spots in the warmer parts of the world get busier, the need to find those special escapes where you can fully relax, retreat and experience something truly special becomes more and more important. “You really are taken back to your roots,” says Verkerk. “You can go to the best clubs in St Tropez, and after you can go to the best club in Monaco, and maybe then Portofino, but if you put them all together, there is nothing particularly memorable about them. When you go to somewhere like Antarctica there is really something memorable.”

Jan Verkerk is the cover story in Issue 10 of The Superyacht Owner. Subscribers can read the article online here. To become a subscriber, click here.

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