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.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$13,695 to $22,495
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 new 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.
After several busy days your exploration of South Georgia is complete and your attention now turns south, towards Antarctica. It takes several days to cross the Scotia Sea in the comfort of your modern expedition ship. Large tabular icebergs announce your arrival in Antarctic waters. The dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear and it is this location that ‘bookends’ the Shackleton story for many. Here Shackleton and his men were camped for many months, having lost HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice, far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. If conditions allow you will attempt a landing here.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland lies the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites might include King George Island, Half Moon Island, Yankee Harbour or Hannah Point. Weather conditions permitting you will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. After so much anticipation, you will enter the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbour or Cierva Cove. Snow covered mountains soar from the dark waters. Along the shoreline in the bays and harbors of the peninsula live an incredible abundance of wildlife. You will explore by Zodiac boat and ashore where a range of wonderful activities awaits. Locations you hope to visit include Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbour, Cuverville Island and the Errera Channel. Join the photographic guide and take close up photos of the penguins, or of the impossibly blue ice. Or enjoy a hike to the top of a snowy mountain saddle with one of your adventure guides. If the opportunity presents itself, visit a science base or old historic hut. Each, you have a range of great choices.
After several busy days of exploration 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. If conditions allow you will hopefully make a rounding of the fabled landmark of Cape Horn.
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, 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 PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
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.
Transfer from the designated meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on the day of embarkation; transfer from the ship to several downtown hotels or the airport 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; 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. Subject to change without notice.
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; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © C. Lawton; © Ira Meyer; © Adam Riley; © Claudio Suter