Summary : December provides maximum hours of daylight as you experience Antarctica during the Summer solstice. Over the course of ten nights, you will visit many of the classic locations along the Antarctic Peninsula providing a great variety of exciting activities both on and off the ship. Traditionally, this departure has been very popular with families as it falls over the holiday season. A special feature of this voyage is the two additional days of exploration in Antarctica compared to voyages of similar duration. You will achieve this by flying back from King George Island (Antarctica) to South America at the end of the voyage, saving two days on the return sea crossing. Those two days 'saved' are spent exploring in Antarctica. This equals more time on shore, more time in the Zodiacs, and more time spent in the company of your expert guides. A full range of activities will be offered on this voyage—walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, Zodiac cruising amongst icebergs, visits to historic sites, and possibly even a working science station. For the more adventurous, sea kayaking is a wonderful way to discover Antarctica—and if weather conditions permit—why not spend the night, camping on shore? This trip provides the great opportunity to maximize your time down on the ice!
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Air Cruise (Antarctica)
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Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, Argentina. Gather at the central meeting point and transfer to the pier to embark on your expedition ship. After settling into your cabins and exploring the ship, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail, dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
Sailing south towards Antarctica you will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as you transit the Drake Passage. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill. Your photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of your modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history and the locations you hope to visit in the coming days.
Awaken today to the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica laid out before you. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica.
The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets and numerous small islands. The Gerlache coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adelie, and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. You will frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, usually found hauled out on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on the vast schools of krill. Sightings of orcas are not uncommon. Your activity program is in full swing and you are encouraged to choose how your adventure will unfold. Every day you will plan an exciting range of activities, including guided hikes on shore (both short and long), visits to wildlife colonies with your expert naturalist guides, as well as Zodiac cruising. The historic huts and science stations located along the peninsula provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice, searching for seals and whales is a memorable activity. Meanwhile, your sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship experiencing Antarctica from an entirely different perspective. Your resident photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling and image composition. Maybe what you really want to do is sit on a rock, simply watching the penguins come and go from the water. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show.
Planned excursions along the Peninsula may include Cierva Cove or Mikklesen Harbor, Danco Island, the Melchior Islands, and Fournier Bay – or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the gentoo penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where you will frequently encounter playful humpback whales. Nearby Paradise Harbor is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route to a viewpoint providing expansive views. Andvord Bay and Neko Harbour provide yet another continental landing opportunity. It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline that you will plan a night on shore, camping in Antarctica. You will have all the right gear and equipment and an expert team to make it happen – all you need is an adventurous spirit! Camping always depends on the weather and you can never guarantee it on any voyage. If the weather is good and site characteristics suit the requirements, rest assured, you will always go for it. Camping is included and you can decide to participate while onboard. There is no need to pre-book.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, today you will head for the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, you will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic location. History is all around you as you explore the old whaling station and airport hangar. There are several superb hikes and an opportunity for a swim – the 'Polar Plunge!' Head northeast, cruising along the pristine coast of Livingston Island, which on a sunny day is always a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in this vicinity including Half Moon Island, and the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where you will often encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. Tonight enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s captain, cruising towards King George Island.
This morning you will say goodbye to your expedition team and transfer ashore by Zodiac. Walk from the shore landing site past the Chilean research station and up towards the airstrip where you will board your special charter flight. This flight takes a little over two hours and is included in the price of your voyage. Upon arrival into Punta Arenas a transfer from the airport into town is provided.
Post-voyage hotel included: This itinerary includes a complimentary hotel night in Punta Arenas, Chile, for all guests returning from King George Island at the end of their voyage. This evening will be spent at your leisure. Punta Arenas is home to some cozy restaurants, cafes, and bars – including the historic 'Shackleton Bar' at the Hotel Jose Nogueira – a fitting location to reflect on your journey to Antarctica.
After breakfast and checkout, make your own way to the airport for your onward journey. It's recommended to book flights after midday. Otherwise, why not continue your exploration of Patagonia? Just a few hours north, lies the celebrated Torres del Paine National Park – home to towering peaks, glaciers and spectacular wilderness – a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
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. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Camping: No additional supplement (highly weather dependent activity)
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 (no tents), will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. Please Note: Camping is unlikely to happen in March due to lower average night time temperatures on shore and available hours of light. If weather and ice conditions permit and you are near a suitable location, your expedition leaders will make their best effort to facilitate this activity. Please inquire.
Hiking Option: No additional supplement
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.
Photography: No additional supplement
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.
Sea Kayaking Option: $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 PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak.
Transfer from the central meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship; transfer from the airport in Punta Arenas to the included hotel; one post-cruise hotel night in Punta Arenas; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, hot chocolate in bar/lounge and in-cabin coffee and tea-making facilities; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat breaking into small groups for shore landings; guided hikes and walks on shore of various durations for guests of all abilities; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and community visits; educational presentations and talks by polar experts in their field (i.e. marine biologists, naturalists, historians, etc.); resident photography guide available to assist all guests plus access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained onboard physician; dedicated hospitality team, including hotel manager, four chefs, professional bar staff, and adventure concierge staff; fitness and yoga; access to wellness area (Finnish sauna, plunge pool filled with sea water, hot tub); natural essential oil amenities; access to a well-stocked library of polar reference; end-of-voyage video, photos, and take-home USB; port fees; all permits to access visited areas; gear on loan (wind- and water-resistant jacket, water-resistant pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, trekking poles, and a waterproof backpack). Subject to change without notice.
Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specific in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); meals and transfers in arrival/departure cities; massages from registered therapist; personal laundry charges; personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, or laundry expenses; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses (travel insurance is mandatory on all voyages); a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew (suggested amount $12-15 USD per day).
PHOTOS: © Boomer Jerritt, Ira Meyer, Paul Zizka