Summary : On this far-reaching polar voyage you will visit the sub-Antarctic region of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the frozen continent of Antarctica. In the Falklands, you will aim for excursions to Sea Lion and Bleaker Islands to explore varied bird populations including steamer ducks, ruddy-headed geese, southern rockhopper and magellanic penguins as well as sooty shearwaters and southern giant petrels. In South Georiga, home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife, you will encounter penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds and beaches covered in fur and elephant seals to watch and photograph. Seabirds, including many of the albatross species call these islands home, nest and raise their young in this wild and remote environment. To the south lies Antarctica, where you'll see icebergs of all shapes, sizes, and shades of blue. Here you will find more unique wildlife living in sizable colonies. The waters, which you will explore, are full of aquatic life and you will frequently encounter whales including humpback, minke, and orca. On this voyage, you will spend you days exploring on shore win the company of expert guides – including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, and adventurers as well as resident photography professionals. Cruising in inflatable Zodiac boats is another memorable activity included as part of the voyage. For the adventurous at heart, you will have plenty of opportunities to explore during both short and long hikes ashore, or by sea kayak. This voyage commences in South America, with a flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the Falkland Islands, where you will board the ship. This saves a full day of sea travel allowing you to maximize time, exploring on shore.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Your journey begins in the morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. You will meet at the airport and fly on the schedule service to Stanley in the Falkland Islands (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute flight you will be met on arrival and transferred to the pier.
Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980s, is a sobering reminder of recent history.
This windswept location, situated in the southern archipelago provides one further day of activity. Today you will launch on Zodiacs and go ashore to view the remarkable wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguins including gentoo, magellenic, and rockhopper exist in the vicinity. Southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled out on the beaches. Once ashore you will also look for king cormorants and striated caracaras. Weather permitting; you may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands.
Today you will chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The great pelagic seabirds will be your constant companion on your way to South Georgia. Enjoy educational presentations and lively discussions with fellow travelers and your onboard expedition team. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition is central to any trip to South Georgia. Perhaps you will pick up some valuable tips from your onboard photographic guide.
South Georgia has often been called the 'Serengeti of the Southern Ocean'. As you approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. Launching the Zodiacs you will explore the island, in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal will line the dark sand beaches. Living in the tussock grass, king penguins and their chicks may number up to 100,000 birds in some locations, including Salisbury Plain, St Andrews Bay, and Gold Harbor. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross and they fill the skies above, coming and going from the nest.
The scenery is spectacular and the snowy peaks of the island will make you pause to consider the incredible feat of mountaineering when Shackleton and his exhausted companions traversed the island from the wild south coast in 1916. They arrived in Stromness whaling station having crossed from King Haakon Bay, to raise the alarm that eventuated in the rescue of this men on Elephant Island, in Antarctica – 100 years ago.
Weather and ice will dictate your crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica, leading you perhaps to the South Orkney Islands or Elephant Island. As with all of the itinerary planning, your expedition leader and captain will make a decision based on the conditions at the time. The South Orkney Islands represent the peaks of a submarine mountain range called the Scotia Arc, connecting South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands. Often shrouded in fog and surrounded by ice much of the year, a chance to visit these islands doesn't come often.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland you will find the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites could include King George Island, Half Moon Island, Yankee Harbor or Hannah Point. Weather conditions permitting, you will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. There are some outstanding hikes at these locations and the old whaling station and an aircraft hangar at Deception Island beg for further exploration.
After so much anticipation, you will enter to ice waters of the Antarctic peninsula in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbor or Cierva Cove. Along the shoreline in the bays and harbors of the peninsula lives an incredible abundance of wildlife. Large rookeries are home to chinstrap, gentoo and Adelie penguins. Seals live on the ice floes, including the powerful leopard seal that you will hopefully encounter.
After several busy days of exploring along the Antarctic Peninsula, it's time to return to South America. The educational presentations continue and you will enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join your photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, you will hopefully 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 to some of the most remote corners of the planet. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, you will enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
Plan to arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina in the early morning. It's time to bid farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise, enjoy a night in town 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.
Camping: No additional supplement (highly time and 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 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. Please Note: Camping is unlikely to happen on the 18-night voyage to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica, due to the shorter amount of time spent in Antarctica itself. 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: 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.
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 PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Charter flight from Punta Arenas to Stanley, Falkland Islands; transfer from the airport to the ship in Stanley; transfer from the ship to several downtown locations or the airport in Ushuaia 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; 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. Subject to change without notice.
All airfare, except where explicitly listed above; visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise meals; hotel accommodations; 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: © Ira Meyer, Renato Granieri, Paul Zizka