Summary : The towering peaks and immense glacial systems of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to a great abundance of wildlife. Large penguin rookeries are found at several locations and you will encounter seals and whales in the iceberg filled waterways. Opportunities to visit historic huts and active science stations add further interest. Explore on shore through guided walks which may last up to several hours. Or if you prefer to sit and observe the penguins as they come and go from the water—why not? The more active may choose the sea kayaking option and experience a whole new side of Antarctica. Your journey continues as you follow the course taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton whose epic small boat journey, from Elephant Island across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia remains one of the greatest feats of navigation in history. You will explore the northern coastline of the island, home to some of the largest king penguin colonies on earth. The shores are covered in wildlife—including nesting albatross, fur seals, and elephant seals. Rusting relics from the old whaling era sit silent and provide a dramatic contrast to the green tussock grass, and snowy peaks that surround you. You will then head for the Falkland Islands and aim to spend one final day exploring the wildlife-rich Sea Lion Island and nearby by Bleaker Island. Your voyage comes to an end in Stanley—the small capital from where you will fly back to South America.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Air Cruise (Antarctica)
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Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, Argentina. You will gather at an established central meeting point and transfer to the pier to embark 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 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 this modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history, and the locations you will hope to visit in the coming days.
Take a deep breath and venture out on deck as the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent are laid out before you. This is the moment you have been waiting for! For the next three days you will have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. If ice conditions allow, you will cruise through the Lemaire Channel and may visit sites which include Pleneau Island and the Penola Strait. Southerly Petermann Island, is home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adelie and gentoo penguins nest side by side. A visit to an active research base nearby provides a fascinating insight into the important climate change science occurring in Antarctica. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline feature heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Your activity program is in full swing by now, and each day you will enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with your expert guides providing insight and interpretation. Planned visits could include Paradise Harbour, Orne Harbor or Andvord Bay, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location where you will frequently encounter humpback whales.
You are now heading north, skirting the coastline of the South Shetland Islands. Along the way you will hope to make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, you will sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around you as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is an outstanding hike here to a location known as ‘Neptune’s Window’—high up onto the rim of the crater. If conditions allow, you will hope to enter Antarctic Sound—the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. This is the entrance to the Weddell Sea.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetlands, you will head for Elephant Island—a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats—pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are notoriously tricky due to often gale force winds and pounding surf onto the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
As you depart Elephant Island you cannot help but ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his four companions—as they attempted the near impossible—navigating 800 nautical miles in a 30 foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. You will make a much easier time of the crossing in your state of the art expedition ship. Onboard experts keep you busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussions throughout the day. The great pelagic seabirds are sure to keep you company—and you will anticipate excellent sightings of albatross and giant petrels soaring on the winds of the South Atlantic Ocean. Anticipation builds as the mountainous peaks appear on the horizon, marking your arrival at South Georgia.
Rounding the remote southeastern end of South Georgia, you will spend the next four days exploring the coastline. Dark sand beaches, tussock covered hinterland and a backdrop of towering peaks and glaciers are a feast for all the senses. South Georgia has often been called the greatest wildlife show on earth. Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies and living in rookeries of immense size, live the majestic king penguins. Your aim is to visit a number of these huge colonies—where naturalists estimate that more than 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins live in close proximity. Locations you will hopefully visit include Gold Harbor, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay, and Salisbury Plain. Dotted along the coastline are the rusting relics of the early whaling era. The largest of these locations is Grytviken. Here you can find a fascinating museum and a beautifully restored Norwegian Lutheran Church. Adjacent to the old whaling station lies a small cemetery. This is the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton—who was laid to rest here in 1922. For many onboard, being in the presence of the great polar explorer is a highlight of the trip. Continue your journey along the coastline, hoping to visit Stromness—another former whaling station—and the final destination of Shackleton and companions Frank Worsley and Tom Crean having made the near impossible traverse across the interior of South Georgia after their epic boat trip from Antarctica a century ago.
By now you are in sensory overload, your cameras full of images and your journey towards the Falkland Islands commences. The spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species are your constant companions as they soar above the ship. The onboard educational program continues and your experts recap your remarkable journey to date. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images in the multimedia room and catch some rest after several busy weeks of activity.
Today you will wake to the sight of landfall in the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, you will first note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. Launch the Zodiacs and go ashore to view the incredible diversity of wildlife found at this location. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic, and rockhopper, as well as southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. King cormorants and striated caracaras are just some of the bird species you will expect to see. As you cruise along the coast of the Falklands, bound for Stanley, you will enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s captain.
In the early morning, navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer will take you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Otherwise enjoy a night in Punta Arenas, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather, 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.
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.
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 a single or double kayak.
Snowshoeing: No additional supplement
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable, you may choose to snowshoe on the continent. Snowshoes and trekking poles provided. Traveling by snowshoes offers a new view of Antarctica! Come prepared with warm socks and comfortable clothing. A small knapsack to carry water and an extra layer of clothing is recommended.
Scheduled flight from Stanley, Falkland Islands, to Punta Arenas, Chile; transfer from a central meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on Day 1 and from Punta Arenas airport to a downtown location on arrival back from Stanley on Day 20; transfer from the ship to the airport in Stanley, Falkland Islands; 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 (waterproof 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: © Dave Brosha, David Sinclair, Ira Meyer, Gabe Rogel