Summary : On this exceptional voyage, explore the South Shetland Islands and the spectacular waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Enter the Weddell Sea, the ice-choked region made famous by the saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men from the Endurance Expedition nearly 100 years ago. Massive tabular icebergs, abundant wildlife, and fascinating history come to mind when contemplating the Weddell Sea. Experience every day at yet another exciting location to go in search of spectacular wildlife, from whales and seals to several species of penguin. Journey north to the beautiful Falkland Islands and enjoy time exploring the western archipelago discovering several additional penguin species and viewing nesting albatross. Spend maximum time exploring the region of Antarctica on a unique itinerary designed for a more in-depth experience.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Air Cruise (Antarctica)
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Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Upon arrival at the Chilean Antarctic base on King George Island, embark your ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, via Zodiac. After settling in to your cabin and exploring your new surroundings, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner, with everyone on board looking forward to the incredible adventure ahead.
Cross the Bransfield Strait overnight and awake to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent laid out before you. For the next three days, enjoy a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. If ice conditions allow, cruise through the Lemaire Channel and visit sites which may include Pleneau Island and the Penola Strait. To the south lies Petermann Island, home to a sizable penguin rookery where both Adelie and Gentoo penguins nest side by side. A visit to an active research base nearby provides a fascinating insight into the important climate change science occurring in Antarctica. There’s a fantastic walk on a nearby island and you can make a full traverse across a snowy knoll from one side of the island to the other. The old British Antarctic Survey hut of Wordie House begs for further investigation.
Returning north, pass the massive granite sentinels of Mount Scott and Mount Shackleton where you may attempt a second transit of the Lemaire Channel. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline feature heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. The activity program is in full swing by now, and each day you enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with your expert guides providing insight and interpretation. Planned visits could include Paradise Harbor, Orne Harbor or Andvord Bay, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where pods of humpback whales are frequently encountered.
Heading north towards the Antarctic Sound—the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way, hope to make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, the ship sails right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around as you explore the old whaling station with rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is an outstanding hike here to a location known as "Neptune’s Window" high up on the rim of the crater.
At about 25 nautical miles long and about 10 nautical miles wide, the Antarctic Sound separates Joinville Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. As you sail into the sound, witness the vastness and majesty of the Antarctic icecap—it is an awe-inspiring sight. Heading into the Weddell Sea, notice a significant increase in the number of huge tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. These massive icebergs break from the huge ice shelves to the south and drift north on the currents. This always makes for exciting navigation.
This region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of staggering size. Maximize your time onshore as well as in Zodiac boats, absorbing as much of the wilderness as possible. Weather permitting, excursions may include Hope Bay, Paulet Island, and Brown Bluff, where you might observe Weddell and elephant seals, skuas and other seabirds as well as a staggering abundance of penguins. All eyes will be trained on the ice floes through which the ship navigates. Emperor penguins have been successfully sighted in this region in recent years, believed to be residents of the known emperor colony on the southern side of Snow Island.
The history of exploration in this region is incredibly rich. Remnants of Nordenskjöld’s Swedish expedition of 1901-1904 are found in several locations in this area. The epic century-old story of Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition has strong links to the region. It was here that he and his men drifted north on the ice after their ship had been lost in the ice months earlier. Heading north and out of the Weddell Sea, the lavender pink sunset off the port quarter of the ship will make some pause to consider the bravery (or foolhardiness) of those early explorers who traveled these waters a hundred years before.
Approach Elephant Island from the south. Point Lookout, on the southern tip of the island, is home to an impressive macaroni penguin colony. Gentoo penguins are also known to nest here and there are often sizable numbers of Antarctic fur seals hauled out on the beaches. Shore landings at the fabled Point Wild on the north coast of Elephant Island, where Shackleton and his men were encamped under their upturned life boats, are notoriously tricky due to the surging ocean currents and pounding surf on the rocky beach. If conditions are right, you will attempt a landing. This is a thrilling location and a major highlight for history buffs.
While sailing across to the Falkland Islands, your onboard polar experts will recap on your Weddell Sea adventures and prepare you for the time ahead. Days at sea are never dull, with much of your time spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. The spectacular seabirds, including several albatross and petrel species, are your constant companions as they soar above the ship. Your onboard educational program continues and experts entertain with interactive presentations.
Arriving into the Falkland Islands overnight, explore the islands of West Point and Saunders, both in the West Falklands archipelago. West Point is known for its sizable rookeries of rockhopper penguins and nesting black browed albatross. While nearby Saunders Island with its white sand beaches features no less than four penguin species, including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper, and your ultimate goal for the Falkland Island visit, the impressive king penguin. Saunders is a fitting end to an epic Antarctic adventure. Charting a course for the port of Stanley in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship and reflect on one of life’s great travel experiences.
In the early morning, navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer will take you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Otherwise enjoy a night in this delightful city, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
Luggage Weight Restriction:
Due to the limited carrying capacity of the aircraft, participants in the Antarctica Fly and Cruise program can only carry 20 Kg/44 Lb of personal luggage, including carry-on. This weight restriction is enforced strictly. Note that hand luggage will be weighed as well as checked baggage. Softsided luggage is recommended.
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear, such as bivy sacs and sleeping bags, will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable outhouse tent is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards.
No pre-booking required. Trekking poles are available onboard for passenger use and instep crampons will be provided if necessary to improve traction on slick surfaces. Sturdy hiking books and warm hiking socks are needed to join this activity. Hikes will be 2-3 hours in duration and will involve negotiating challenging terrain without the assistance of trails. Antarctica hiking rewards with images of snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers.
Sea Kayaking: $795 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and many other vital paddling accessories.
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Return flights Punta Arenas to King George Island / Port Stanley to Punta Arenas; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; Zodiac excursions; extensive program of relevant educational presentations; advice from experienced team of naturalists; foul weather gear set (pants/jacket/wellington boots OR waterproof backpack/waterproof binoculars/wellington boots); use of multimedia station; welcome reception; welcome dinner; farewell dinner hosted by Captain; 'Memory Book' (log book chronicling your trip, includes photos); onboard medical officer; pre-departure information; hairdryers available on request at no charge; group transfers from airport to ship in King George Island and from the ship to the airport in Port Stanley. Subject to change without notice.
All airfare (except where explicitly stated above); visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise meals, transfers, and hotel accommodation; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; fee for optional programs; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © David Sinclair; © Gabe Rogel; © Ira Meyer; © Renato Granieri