Summary : On this far-reaching expedition to the islands of the South Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic mainland, revel in exploration aboard a comfortable and well-appointed research vessel. Throughout your trip, a highly experienced expedition staff will provide excellent customer care in a casual and active environment—daily hikes, kayaking excursions, and daily Zodiac rides. Experience the historic Falklands, and enjoy three days on magnificent South Georgia—known for dramatic mountains and the majestic king penguins numbering in the thousands. Enjoy stops in the South Orkney Islands before arriving at the much-anticipated Antarctic Mainland where you encounter an unimaginable profusion of penguins, whales cresting in close proximity, and sweeping ice sheets that span an entire continent.
Amelia Tockston has sailed aboard the Akademik Ioffe. Click to view her travel journal and photos!
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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$13,095 to $25,995
Today is the first day of your adventure. Board your ship in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city on the tip of Argentina, and settle into your "home" for the next 18 days. In the early evening, set sail and begin your voyage leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
You have the chance to spend plenty of time with onboard polar experts. They will be educating you as you travel through the wonders of Antarctica. Sailing northeast, you will likely be joined by swooping seabirds including the wandering albatross, who you will come to know well on this journey.
Arriving in the Falklands during the night, by morning you are excited to make your first shore excursion. The plan is to explore the islands of the West Falkland Archipelago, home to a profusion of seabirds and migratory birds including the black-browed albatross. Your first penguin sightings will be on the islands of West Point with its bustling rookeries of rockhoppers. On Carcass Island, observe nesting Magellanic penguins along with oystercatchers, geese and the flightless steamer duck who is a permanent Falkland resident.
The next day, make a stop in Stanley, the captial of the Falkland Islands. As you wander through the charming streets of brightly painted houses, learn how this quiet harbor was once a major port in the 19th century for ships attempting to round the formidable waters of Cape Horn. You also make a stop in Stanley's famed philatelic museum with its impressive collection of historic stamps.
Now you sail southeast bound for the island of South Georgia. These days at sea are never dull. Much of your time is spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals as well as seabirds. Your friendly onboard experts continue to fill minds with heroic stories of some of the earliest daredevils to explore Antarctica. You also learn about Polar conservation--a theme particularly close to the hearts of your guides and crew. The anticipation grows particularly as you cross the Antarctic Convergence and notice a dramatic drop in temperature.
Majestic snow-covered mountains greet you on the island of South Georgia, the most rugged island in this region. Cruise the protected waters of the eastern coast looking for suitable landing spots such as Salisbury Plain and St Andrews Bay. The highlight of both these excursions is the mind-boggling abundance of king penguin adults and young that live in these locations by the hundreds of thousands, covering every inch of the shore. That is not the only wildlife on display. Fur seals can be seen poking their heads above the water, skuas and giant petrels swoop in the skies above, and the albatross--your constant companion--is never far away. You may explore an old whaling station at Grytviken (Greet-vik-in) and visit the grave of the most famous Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.
As you cross the Scotia Sea, sailing ever closer to Antarctica, you may visit the South Orkney Islands. Linked to the Antarctic Peninsula by an enormous sub-marine mountain range these islands, often shrouded in mist, are protected by large icebergs and sea ice. If you are lucky, there will be an excursion to Coronation Island to observe penguins nesting in moss beds alongside graceful snow petrels. You may also stop at the remote island of Laurie and visit the Argentinean meteorological station located there.
Elephant Island, en route to the South Shetland Islands, will be your next destination if conditions are suitable. Here, learn more about the famous Antarctic adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton. This island was a place of refuge in 1916 for Shackleton and his crew after his ship was destroyed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea. Next, you spend some time cruising among the South Shetland Islands just off the Antarctic Peninsula. Dazzling wildlife sightings await on your excursions to some of these islands including King George, Half Moon, Aicho or Livingston. Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins thrive here, as do several species of seal. You may even see the gentle humpback whale dining on krill off King George Island.
Weather permitting, enter the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. At this recently active volcano the hot, thermal water mixes with the icy, Southern Ocean making this a great place for a quick dip for the more intrepid guest. If you prefer to stay dry, you may choose to enjoy a spectacular walk to the higher points of the crater rim. There is also an abandoned whaling station nearby begging exploration. Finally, after so much anticipation, arrive at the Antarctic mainland in Paradise Harbor or Hope Bay. The scenery here--from the colossal icebergs to the seemingly endless Antarctic ice sheet--is truly breathtaking. Weather permitting, you may undertake a shore excursion and set foot on the White Continent itself.
Make your way back, heading again across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage before rounding Cape Horn. Sailing down the Beagle Channel, you celebrate the conclusion of your Polar expedition at a special dinner.
In the early morning, arrive back in Ushuaia. It is time to 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.
Photography Symposium – Special Guest Daisy Gilardini: (1/28/2017)
Nature and wildlife photographer, Daisy Gilardini, will lead photography groups and teach skills to capture wildlife in its natural environment. Gilardini has almost two decades of polar exploration experience. She has joined over sixty expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, including skiing the last degree to the North Pole. The photographic goals on this departure will be formed and led by the light available both onshore and on the water. With a varied and diverse itinerary and flexible plans, aim to make the most out of the beautiful Arctic light, even if outside conventional shore landing times.
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.
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.
Camping Option: No additional supplement. (Possibly available on select departures. Contact ExpeditionTrips for details)
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.
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; all 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; 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: © C. Lawton, Ira Meyer, Adam Riley, Claudio Suter