Summary : This 12-night expedition begins at the tip of South America. You will chart a course through the Drake Passage and make visits along the way through the South Shetland Islands. When you arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula, be prepared to be dazzled. Even the most seasoned Antarctica expert is astonished by the pristine beauty. The abundance of wildlife here is truly extraordinary including five seal species, massive penguin rookeries of gentoo, Adélies and chinstraps, as well as a profusion of seabirds from albatross to skuas. The journey will take you through Antarctica waters where you encounter colossal icebergs and ice landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Hardy adventurers or those with a yen for history may endeavor to camp out on the ice overnight and feel the thrill and audacity of early explorers who attempted to conquer this continent. An opportunity to participate in an overnight sea kayak camping excursion is available to those enrolled in the traditional sea kayaking program. Experienced skiers with ski touring experience will venture into the beauty and remote wilderness. Or follow a good line up-slope for great views in the expedition snowshoeing program led by experienced mountain guides.
Amelia Tockston has sailed aboard the Akademik Ioffe. Click to view her travel journal and photos!
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Today is the first day of your adventure. Board the Akademik Ioffe, in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city at the tip of Argentina. Become familiar with your home for the next 13 days and get excited for the journey ahead. In the early evening, set sail and begin your voyage leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
Crossing the Drake Passage, there is so much excitement in the air as you make your way ever closer to the White Continent. Guests eagerly soak up the friendly atmosphere on board as numerous Polar experts prepare you for adventures with presentations on everything Antarctic, from wildlife to history. Eventually, you will cross the Antarctic Convergence where you will notice a distinct drop in temperature as you enter the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Along the way, you will witness many spectacular sights from icebergs to an array of seabirds and even several whale species, some of which are known on occasion to fully breach from the sea.
Awaken today with the magnificent snowy peaks of the South Shetland Islands laid out before you. Depending on ice and weather conditions, plan on entering the McFarlane Strait, which separates Greenwich and Livingstone Islands. Half Moon Island or nearby Yankee Harbor are possible landing sites. A short way to the southwest lies Deception Island – a flooded volcanic caldera. Navigating the ship into the narrow passage takes great skill. The old whaling station here begs exploration and there are some fantastic hikes available along the black sand beach to investigate the old aircraft hangar and other relics. A hike of several kilometers up to a highpoint known as Neptune’s Window is another option.
Overnight cross the Bransfield Strait, navigating along the coastline of continental Antarctica. Over the following days, the itinerary is deliberately flexible to account for early season ice conditions, and to take advantage of optimal snow conditions at several of favorite landing sites. Your planned exploration starts in vicinity of Mikkelson Harbor and neighboring Cierva Cove – both beautiful locations and the perfect introduction to Antarctica.
Heading south along the coastline of the continent, your busy program of activities will now be in full swing. Days are spent exploring on and off the ship. Popular activities include guided hikes on shore and visits to wildlife colonies with expert naturalist guides, while the historic huts and science stations provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice is always a memorable activity.
Based on site characteristics, the ski touring group may set off to explore the pristine terrain and range several kilometers inland with experienced mountaineering guides. What a unique thrill it is to carve "fresh tracks" in the virgin snow of Antarctica. The expedition snow shoe group may follow in the tracks of the skiers, climbing to high points which afford breathtaking views. If you are not up to the more strenuous snow shoeing program, you will be able to try this unique activity at other landing sites.
Epedition sea kayakers will head out on excursions which may last all day. An overnight kayak/camping excursion is available to the more adventurous in the group. Everyone aboard will have an opportunity to camp onshore for the night in Antarctica if the weather conditions cooperate. Photography enthusiasts will enjoy the chance to spend an entire day with the expedition photographer on an all-day field workshop.
Range as far south as ice conditions permit and hope to navigate as far as Neko Harbor and into the Errera Channel. Witnessing the migration of the penguins early in the season as they busily reestablish their rookeries and prepare nests is a fascinating experience.
The adventure is not over and an additional day of exploration is planned in the South Shetlands. Prevailing weather conditions will dictate landing locations. Aitcho Island is another possibility and is a great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. King George Island also has a number of interesting landing sites. In the evening, navigate into the Drake Passage, charting a course for South America.
As you leave this magical place and make your way north, heading again across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage before rounding Cape Horn, spend time sharing and reflecting on the wonderful experiences of the last few days. Sailing down the Beagle Channel, celebrate the conclusion of your Polar expedition at a special dinner.
In the early morning, arrive back in Ushuaia, and say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
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.
Camping: No additional supplement
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.
Expedition Field Photography: $45 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 18 people. Join the expedition team and specialty photographers for an extended shore excursion aimed at capturing specialty subjects with a remarkable backdrop. 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.
Expedition Snowshoeing: $45 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 12 guests. Snowshoes and trekking poles provided. Traveling by snowshoes offers a new view of Antarctica! Snowshoe hikes will be 1-3 hours in duration and will at times be on challenging terrain without the assistance of trails. Come prepared with warm socks and comfortable clothing. Also, it’s recommended to bring a small knapsack to carry water and an extra layer of clothing.
Hiking: 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.
Overnight Sea Kayaking: $300 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 6 guests (4 guest minimum required). The overnight sea kayaking adventure with camping is available for those already enrolled in the standard sea kayak program. Participation is dependent upon guide approval onboard.
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, this option must be booked in advance. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers for 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.
Ski Touring: $750 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 12 guests (2017-18) or 16 guests (2018-19). Back country ski experience is essential and participation in this option is dependent upon guide approval onboard. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for a required gear list prior to departure.
Traditional Snowshoeing: No additional supplement
No pre-booking required. Snowshoes and trekking poles provided. Ten pairs of snowshoes will be available.
Transfer from the meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on the day of embarkation; transfer from the ship to several downtown locations on the day of disembarkation; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; all Zodiac excursions; extensive program of relevant educational presentations; advice from experienced team of naturalists; overnight camping gear; use of snowshoes and ski poles; 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. Subject to change without notice.
All airfare; visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise hotel accommodation, transfers, and meals; 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; supplements for optional activities; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © C. Lawton; © Ira Meyer; © Adam Riley