Summary : This far-reaching polar expedition itinerary includes visits to three different locations—the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and South Georgia are home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife. There are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds and the beaches are covered in fur seals and elephant seals. Seabirds—including many of the albatross species—call these islands home, nesting and raising their young in this wild and remote environment. Both locations feature a fascinating history and stunning scenery. To the south lies Antarctica—the frozen continent and the final destination on this remarkable voyage. Icebergs in all shapes and sizes fill the waters, and yet more unique wildlife can be found living in sizable colonies. The waters are full of life and whales including humpback, minke and orca are frequently encountered. Days are spent exploring on shore in the company of expert guides including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists and adventurers as well as a resident photography professional. Cruising in inflatable Zodiac boats is another memorable activity. For the adventurers, there are plenty of opportunities to explore on long hikes ashore, or by sea kayak.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at the airport and fly on the scheduled service to Stanley in the Falkand Islands. After a short 90-minute flight, arrive in Stanley where you're met by representatives and transferred to the pier. Stanley is home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a charming rural town in coastal England or Scotland, 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. There's time to explore town before embarking the ship. After settling in to you cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner, and then cast off—bound for South Georgia and the adventure of a lifetime.
Cruise down the eastern coastline of the Falkland Islands overnight, arriving at the far south-eastern end of the archipelago. Find remote Sea Lion Island which features a barren and windswept landscape. Launch Zodiacs and go ashore to view the wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper inhabit the area. Southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled out on the beaches. Once ashore, look for king cormorants and striated caracaras. The steamer duck is another known resident. If you enjoy good weather conditions, you may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island, another settlement on this remote eastern coast of the Falklands. In the evening,push out into the Scotia Sea towards South Georgia.
Chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds follow in your wake from the moment you leave the Falklands. Spend time on the outer decks watching the giant albatross and numerous petrels as they duck and weave on the winds of the South Atlantic. Educational presentations commence and are always popular. 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. You may pick up some valuable tips from the onboard photographic guide, learning about image composition, the subtle polar light and all the basics of good camera craft. You will also learn about polar conservation—a theme particularly close to the hearts of your expedition guides and crew.
South Georgia has often been called the "Serengeti of the Southern Ocean," and as you approach the deep bays of this rugged rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. Launching the Zodiacs, begin your exploration of 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 make cause one to pause and consider the incredible feat of mountaineering when Shackleton and his exhausted companions traversed the island from the wild south coast in 1916. They arrived into Stromness whaling station having crossed from King Haakon Bay, to raise the alarm that eventuated in the rescue of his men on Elephant Island, in Antarctica – 100 years ago.
South Georgia is a thrilling location for history buffs and the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around. Observe several of the old stations at locations including Leith, Husvik and Stromness. A highlight is a visit to Grytviken – the largest of the whaling stations, situated at the head of Cumberland Bay. Here you can visit the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton. For many, paying respects to the great explorer will be a highlight of the trip. There’s an excellent museum at Grytviken, maintained by the South Georgia Heritage Trust, and the restored church, built by the original Norwegian whalers, provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Weather and ice dictate your crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica, possibly leading you to the South Orkney Islands or Elephant Island. 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.
As you edge ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce that you've arrived in Antarctic waters. If conditions allow, you will hope to see the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon. Shackleton and his men were encamped here for many months, having lost HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice, far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. From the tiny beach at Point Wild, Shackleton and six companions set off on the rescue mission to South Georgia, aboard the tiny lifeboat, James Caird. To this day, the epic ocean crossing is considered one of the greatest in history. If conditions allow, attempt a landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland, find the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites include King George Island, Half Moon Island, Yankee Harbor or Hannah Point. Weather conditions permitting, 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 aircraft hangar at Deception Island beg for further exploration. After so much anticipation, enter the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbor or Cierva Cove.
Snow covered mountains soar from the dark waters. 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 hope to encounter. Gulls, skuas and cormorants are also found nesting and feeding at many sites along the Antarctic Peninsula. Explore by Zodiac boat and ashore where a range of wonderful activities await. Locations you might visit include Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbor, Cuverville Island and the Errera Channel. Join the photographic guide and go 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 an old historic hut. The sea kayakers may range up to several miles from the ship, for a truly memorable experience. Each and every day, 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. Enjoy continuing educational presentations and an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join your photography experts in the multimedia room to download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, you might 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, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
In the early morning, arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. Say 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. It must cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. 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.
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.
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; one-way flight Punta Arenas / Port Stanley; 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 Stanley airport to the pier on day 1 of the cruise and from the pier in Ushuaia to the airport or downtown hotels on the last day of the cruise.
All airfare (except where explicitly stated above); 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: © Claudio Suter, Ira Meyer, C. Lawton, Adam Riley