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Get closer to nature with our small expedition boats

Our expedition ships venture where many cruise liners can’t. But we want to go further. We want to immerse you in the raw, untamed beauty of the natural world – and that’s where our small expedition boats come in.

Our expeditions explore the world’s remotest corners, often reaching well beyond human infrastructure to provide a front-row seat to nature’s greatest shows. Central to these immersive experiences are our small expedition boats.  

These agile inflatable crafts enable us to operate landings where there are no piers, ensuring you experience otherwise inaccessible locations where few people – if any – have ever ventured before.

Prince Christian Sound, Greenland. Photo: Ted Gatlin

What is a small expedition boat?

Our expedition ships venture where many cruise liners can’t. But we want to go further. We want to immerse you in the raw, untamed beauty of the natural world – and that’s where our small expedition boats come in.    

Sturdy, safe and stable, these easy-to-manoeuvre Soft Inflatable Boats (SIBs) are operated by highly trained drivers and seat 8-16 guests, depending on the boat type and activity. They feature a lightweight hull and inflatable pontoons that provide stability, buoyancy and shock absorption for a smoother ride.

You may have heard such boats called Zodiacs (a brand of inflatable boat that is used by military special forces and expedition cruises) or pangas, which is a common name for inflatable boats in the Galápagos Islands. Other cruise lines may use enclosed tender boats. However, these vessels limit visibility, cut your connection with nature and severely reduce the areas you can explore.

With us, you’ll step onto the boat from the Expedition Launch Deck, sit on the inflatable pontoons and journey into the heart of the action. 

Landing, Svalbard. Photo: Steffen Kirschner

Landings and cruising activities

Whether you cut through Antarctica's ethereal ice floes to land at a gentoo penguin colony or cruise along Svalbard’s coast in search of hulking polar bears, our small expedition boats provide intimate and unforgettable experiences. 

There are two main types of activities you’ll go on with our small expedition boats: landings and cruising activities.  

With landings, you’ll step over the side of the boat – often into shallow water – and explore remote shores with our Expedition Team. We provide rubber boots and a life jacket, and our Expedition Team is on hand to help you on and off the boat. The journey from the expedition ship to the landing site ranges from approximately two to 20 minutes, depending on the distance.

During cruising activities, we may hug the coastline to search for wildlife on land, collect samples for scientific research or head to where whales have recently been spotted – the possibilities are vast and thrilling. Cruising activities usually last between 30-60 minutes, depending on weather conditions.

Cruising Paradise Harbour. Photo: Espen Mills

Guided by experts

With you all the way are members of our Expedition Team and expert crew. Their passion for the places we explore is unmatched, and their knowledge will elevate your experience as you skim across the water to discover secluded shores and get closer to nature.

Our drivers undergo a thorough in-house training programme, and they learn to master a wide range of skills, including beach and stern landings, and safety procedures. They adhere to strict guidelines and regulations from organisations such as IAATO and AECO. With a deep commitment to protecting wildlife and ecosystems, they always keep the small expedition boats a safe distance from animals to prevent disturbance while also providing an experience that deepens your connection with the natural world.

Stornoway, Scotland. Photo: Ultra Sharp Films Ltd

Accessibility policy

The embarkation of small expedition boats requires that guests must be able to step into and out of the boat. This decision has been made with the safety and well-being of our guests and crew foremost in mind. For more information, please read our Accessibility Policy. 

Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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