Summary : Follow in the footsteps of the great Antarctic explorers and visit sites that Shackleton and Weddell explored. Visit one of South America’s most important paleontological museums and explore South America’s first paleontological park looking for ancient fossils. Visit the Valdes Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike across New Island and West Point Island to see Black-browed Albatross. See snow-covered mountains, mighty glaciers and spectacular icebergs. Encounter Rockhopper, Gentoo, Macaroni, Adelie, Magellanic and Chinstrap Penguins, and possibly King Penguins. Watch for Commerson’s and Peale dolphins in the Falkland Islands and Southern right whales close to the Valdes Peninsula and identify different species of albatross, shearwaters and petrels on this trip of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark Silver Cloud in Buenos Aires and meet some of your fellow explorers as you become acquainted with the luxurious amenities found on board.
A mandatory safety drill will take place before you set sail. During the afternoon you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and important members of the crew.
At sail-away say goodbye to the Capital of Tango –Tango is recognized as an Intangible Heritage by UNESCO.
Take the opportunity to relax after your long flight to join Silver Cloud in Buenos Aires and have a leisurely breakfast before you join one of the talks by our Expedition Team members. These talks will cover a wide range of subjects –from geology to history, biology and even botany (to be seen in the Falkland Islands).
You will also be invited to attend a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party hosted by the Captain, who will introduce his senior officers and various members of the Silver Cloud crew.
Puerto Madryn is the starting point for two different excursions: a full-day tour to the Valdes Peninsula (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to see Southern right whales, penguins and seals or an extended half-day tour to see one of the most accessible fossil sites in Argentina.
To reach the Valdes Peninsula, travel by bus to sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals that can be found along the shore of the peninsula. Southern right whales and orcas may bee seen too. A museum and interpretive center will introduce you to the terrestrial and aquatic fauna of Patagonia and allows a view of both gulfs (Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San Jose) from a watchtower at the narrowest part of the isthmus connecting Valdes Peninsula with the mainland. A site of global significance for the conservation of marine mammals the peninsula will be one of the highlights of this voyage.
If you are more interested in the evolution of animals and fossils, the Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio and the Paleontological Park Bryn Gwyn (some 70 kilometers south of Puerto Madryn) will be to your liking. Both the museum and the park have an outstanding collection of fossils from the last 40 million years and will show the evolution of life in this part of Patagonia.
Taking advantage of the day at sea, the Expedition Team will present talks about the Falkland Islands (Malvinas -as the Spanish-speaking world calls them) that will prepare you for the exciting adventures ahead. Birders out on deck want to keep an eye out for Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrels and Cape Petrels.
Today you have two opportunities to enjoy the remarkable beauty of the remote Falkland Islands.
During the morning, visit New Island, a wildlife and nature reserve. The New Island Conservation Trust, a private environmental conservation group, protects its many birds and animals. Zodiacs take you ashore near the island’s small settlement at Coffin Harbour. From there, hike past the Barnard Memorial Museum crossing the island from east to west to reach the rocky cliffs and a rookery where Rockhopper Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags share the same nesting area. Observe Black-browed Albatross going about their daily routines and may even spot Upland Geese on your hike.
Your on-board historian might tell you about ‘Barnard’s barn’ — a stone structure once belonging to an early settler and now a museum, as well as the wreck of Protector III — an old minesweeper used for seal hunting, now grounded just off the shore not too far from the landing site.
During lunch Silver Cloud will sail in a northeasterly direction to West Point Island. Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins with their distinctive black and white markings can often be spotted on the approach to West Point Island.
Zodiacs will take you to a jetty; from there enjoy a 2 mile walk to Devil’s Nose. Walking across rolling moorland and past gorse, you may observe Grass Wrens, Long-tailed Meadowlarks, Falkland Thrushes, Striated Caracaras and Turkey Vultures. The goal is to reach colonies of Black-browed Albatross that nest side-by-side with Rockhopper Penguins. The winds at Devil’s Nose are usually so strong that the albatross only have to spread their wings to take off, while the penguins (as their name implies) have to hop from rock to rock to reach either the shore or their nests.
Once back at the farm, the hospitable island owners will invite you to have tea, coffee and home-made cakes and cookies and are always happy to answer your questions and share their stories.
Stanley is the capital of the remote Falkland Islands, and although Argentine authorities have repeatedly claimed the islands as part of their country, it has a distinct British ambience. A reminder of the 1982 Falkland War between Britain and Argentina can be found at the War Memorial.
Opt to take a ‘city tour’ by bus with a local guide or stroll through the charming streets of this colorful little town, lined with quaint cottages and a variety of traditional pubs. Visit the 19th-century Anglican cathedral (the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world) and wander through the Falkland Islands Dockyard Museum. For stamp collectors a visit to the Philatelic Bureau is a must.
Depending on local conditions, there might be a chance to see Gentoo, Magellanic or King Penguins at Bluff Cove or Volunteer Point.
Leaving the Falkland Islands behind, Silver Cloud will head for the South Shetland Islands and Antarctica.
The day at sea will be used to present further lectures. As you are heading for Elephant Island, the on-board Historian might talk about Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and the crew members awaiting their rescue at Point Wild, while your Marine Biologist and Ornithologist will cover the wildlife to be seen.
As part of the preparation to visit Antarctica, briefings regarding correct procedures when going ashore and a thorough inspection of clothing and outdoors gear will take place. Participate in other on-board activities or peruse an array of titles and topics in the well-stocked Library. Take a stroll on deck and enjoy the solitude and splendor of the vast sea and sky.
Awesome glaciers and steep cliffs greet us as we approach Elephant Island — so named for its former abundance of elephant seals. The island is home to several Chinstrap Penguin rookeries, Antarctic fur seals and elephant seals as well as old moss colonies. Weddell seals and Macaroni Penguins can also be found here.
When Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was crushed in pack ice in the Weddell Sea in late 1915, the crew was eventually stranded on the island for 135 days. A solitary bronze bust can be seen at Point Wild, honoring the Chilean pilot Luis Pardo, who took the cutter Yelcho across the Drake Passage to rescue Shackleton’s men.
While sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula, every turn can reveal a new and breath-taking adventure. The pack ice becomes thicker the closer the ship gets to Antarctica’s vast white wilderness. Remote and otherworldly, Antarctica is irresistible for its spectacular iceberg sculptures and calving glaciers, and for the possibility of close encounters with marine mammals. As late spring is the beginning of the Antarctic season, Silver Cloud will take you to seemingly untouched and never before visited sites.
Watch for seals sunbathing on slow-moving ice floes and for humpback, Minke, and orca whales to surface from below the frigid waters. Each day, attempt Zodiac departures, and, if conditions permit, cruise amidst colorful icebergs or step ashore to visit a variety of penguin rookeries and perhaps scientific research stations on complimentary excursions led by your team of natural history experts.
A flexible itinerary allows you to take advantage of favorable sea and weather conditions. In the true spirit of expedition cruising, each day the Expedition Leader and Captain will determine the best course depending on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encountered. Here are some of the places you may visit:
Named after Nordenskjöld’s ship, this 30 mile long stretch of water at the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula offers some of the best tabular iceberg observations.
Brown Bluff, Tabarin Peninsula:
Brown Bluff is an ice-capped, 745-meter-high, flat-topped mountain with a prominent cliff of reddish-brown volcanic rock. Adelie and Gentoo Penguins, Kelp Gulls, and Cape Petrels use this as a breeding area. Birds such as the all-white Snow Petrel and skuas may be seen from a distance. As you explore the area, Weddell seals may be seen basking in the sunlight. If conditions permit, a hike onto a nearby glacier might be possible.
Cuverville Island, Errera Channel:
The island was discovered during de Gerlache’s Belgica expedition of 1897–99, and was named for a vice-admiral in the French navy. The large, bare rock areas near the shore provide nesting sites for Gentoo Penguins, but the penguins also look for exposed rocks on the slopes. Snow Petrels and Pintado Petrels may be seen, and Wilson’s Storm Petrels nest in the higher scree of the island. Depending on conditions a hike towards the top of the island for stunning panoramic views might be offered. During Zodiac tours, you may see hauled-out Weddell seals.
The bay is well named for its spectacular scenery of mountains, glaciers and icebergs. From the ship, observe Argentina’s “Base Almirante Brown”, one of many Antarctic research stations. Here, you can actually set foot on the continent of Antarctica. Close to the station Gentoo Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags, Antarctic Terns, Kelp Gulls and skuas have all been seen nesting. Depending on the conditions, view the wildlife from sea level while cruising in Zodiacs or cruise the bay with Silver Cloud. There’s a good chance you’ll come across a crabeater seal relaxing on a nearby ice floe, or, if you’re very lucky, your Zodiac driver may locate a Minke whale.
The site is named after a whale factory ship, which often used this bay –and Neko Harbor still today offers good chances to see whales. A landing will provide an opportunity to see Gentoo Penguin rookeries and quite possibly Weddell seals and crabeater seals hauled out on the cobble beach. A hike to a lookout point will be a good exercise and will be rewarded with panoramic views of the glacier, Andvord Bay and the Gerlache Strait.
Port Lockroy, Goudier Island:
The British built a listening station on Goudier Island during WWII, which was then used as a research station in the 1950s. Bransfield House was restored in 1996 and since then has acted as a museum and gift shop. The Antarctic Heritage Trust operates a post-office at the station, which is open during summer. Snowy Sheathbills and Gentoo Penguins roam outside the museum and leopard seals often patrol the sea.
Deception Island is an excellent example of a caldera where it is believed that the volcano’s summit collapsed when one section sank far enough to allow the sea to flood the interior. Plan to sail into the caldera through a narrow entrance called Neptune’s Bellows and anchor in sight of the former whaling station and the former British Antarctic Survey station. The resident geologist will take the opportunity to explain the unique volcanic features of the area and their importance for science, while the historian will discuss the whaling history of Deception Island. Still visible on the island are the boilers used to make whale oil in the early 1900s. Conditions permitting, hike to Neptune’s Window for spectacular panoramic views.
The Drake Passage has a notorious reputation for its turbulent seas due to the funneling effect of the mountain ridges and seafloor pushing winds and water eastwards. When Silver Cloud reaches the Antarctic Convergence, a fluid and fluctuating natural boundary where cold polar waters from the south meet warmer water moving southward, there is another good chance to see whales and seabirds as nutrients are pushed to the surface by the different currents.
Spend some time on deck watching Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrels, Southern Fulmars, Cape Petrels and other seabirds gliding in the air currents of Silver Cloud’s wake.
There will be opportunities to attend additional presentations offered by the Expedition Team lecturers, to edit the countless photos taken and to socialize with new friends as you travel north towards Ushuaia.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Cloud.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.
Kayaking will be offered complimentary and will run on a first-come-first-serve sign up basis. Guests cannot pre book the kayak tours. It will be run by two professional kayak guides. Participation requires good physical condition and right of participation is reserved. The kayak guides will make the final determination if a guest is fit to participate. Kayaking will be weather dependent.
Ship accommodation; most onboard meals (Le Champagne Restaurant excluded); butler service; most wines, champagnes and spirits on the ship; tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water and soda; parka; onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Vista and Veranda Suites receive one hour of included internet access per guest/per day; Medallion, Silver, Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive unlimited internet access; Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive laundry service throughout the voyage as well as dinner for two in Le Champagne (one evening per voyage) and two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; meals on board at Le Champagne Restaurant unless mentioned above as included; boot rental; some alcoholic premium beverages; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; internet use not mentioned as included; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry (unless mentioned as included) and spa options, fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Richard Sidey (two penguins, passenger walking), © Ray Stranagan (landscape, penguins and zodiac)