Summary : Towering glaciers, amazing wildlife encounters, snow-covered landscapes, massive icebergs and the option to choose your favorite activities each and every day make this voyage a wonderful introduction to the White Continent. In the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, spend days off the ship exploring by Zodiac boat, making several shore landings each day in the company of expert guides. By breaking into small special interest groups, discover Antarctica and its remarkable wildlife through photography, Zodiac excursions, hiking onshore, and for the more adventurous, camping and sea kayaking. Visits to historic huts and the opportunity to visit a working research station add another dimension to the voyage. This popular 10-night expedition features many of the well-known landing sites such as Neko, Paradise and Orne Harbors, Cuverville Island and the Errera Channel. Ice conditions permitting, transit the spectacular Lemaire Channel. A final highlight will be a visit to the beautiful South Shetland Islands. Aim to visit Deception Island and other nearby locations such as Half Moon Island or Yankee Harbor. Returning to South America, enjoy the final thrill of rounding the legendary landmark of Cape Horn.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the pier to embark your expedition ship. After settling in to your cabins and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and 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, and 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 a modern research vessel. Throughout the day, onboard experts educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, 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 the immense power of Antarctica. Take a deep breath; you have arrived. The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets, and numerous islands. The landscape 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. Seals, including the powerful leopard seal, are often found relaxing on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are found in sizable numbers feeding on the rich krill blooms. Sightings of orca are not uncommon. Enjoy several days of exploration with the activity program in full swing, allowing guests to choose how their adventure unfolds. 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 a memorable activity and sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship. Your photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling, image composition and the peculiar light found in Antarctica. Planned excursions could include Cierva Cove, Danco Island, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where playful humpback whales are frequently encountered. Paradise Bay is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route providing stunning 360 degree views.
After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and, if the weather conditions allow, sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic location. History is all around as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden structures. On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, and the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor where you may encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is a great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. In the evening, navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage, charting a course for South America.
Make your way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join the photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
In the early morning, arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. 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.
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 PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Camping Option: No additional supplement
(Possibility of camping on select departures)
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear such as a few tents, 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.
Hiking Excursions: 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.
Accommodation aboard the ship; meals during the voyage prepared by onboard professional chefs; 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; 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; transfers from the meeting point in Ushuaia to the pier to board the ship on day 1 of the cruise and transfers from the pier to the meeting point or airport on the last day of the cruise.
All airfare; 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.
PHOTOS: © Ira Meyer, Adam Riley, C. Lawton