Summary : Explore the mythical White Continent on a grand voyage to see not only the Antarctic Peninsula but also the epic wildlife haven of South Georgia, and the not to be missed Falkland Islands! Go ashore at historic sites like Gold Harbor or Fortuna Bay, and walk amongst the penguins, and observe elephant seals basking in the southern sun. The highlight will come at Salisbury Plain which is home to more than 250,000 king penguins and their regal orange-yellow feathered-crowns. The ancient whaling station of Deception Island will reveal its amazing colony of chinstrap penguins, and sail the famous Drake Passage as you carve through waters often populated by orcas, humpback whales, and other cetaceans – an amazing sight. An added bonus of this trip is a planned visit to Half Moon's wild lunar-like landscape which is home to chinstrap penguins, fur seals, Weddell seals and Antarctic terns.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Board your flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Considered to be the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, lying at the very tip of Argentina looking out over the Beagle Channel. This surprising little town of 45,000 people is surrounded by mountains and fertile plains. Tierra del Fuego's forests cover the lower slopes of the Andean mountains which are crowned with snow-capped peaks - a unique and unforgettable sight. Embark the ship in the afternoon.
As you sail to the Falkland Islands, your lecture series will begin, educating you about the wildlife, environment and history of the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Sea birds may accompany your ship and provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
Visit New Island with its distinctive jagged relief located on the western edge of the Falkland Islands and home to a tiny village of two families. Step onto the golden sand of its flower-lined beaches, beside which an old stone house still stands, and you'll feel like you've entered a natural paradise. A narrow pathway weaves around typical Falkland moorlands. Follow it and in under 20 minutes you'll find yourself at the heart of a colony of southern rockhopper penguins, black-browed albatross and imperial shags. It's the perfect opportunity to watch the albatross swoop down from the cliffs and skim the waves that crash against the rocks on the exposed side of the island.
Make your way through the turbulent Woolly Gut strait and emerge in the stillness of Grave Cove. Located in the northern edge of the Falkland Islands, this bay owes its name to the vestiges of whalers’ graves that overlook the beach. As you step off the boat and onto the white-sand beach, you might find yourself escorted by a few hospitable Commerson's dolphins, elegantly adorned in black and white. A stroll along the grassy dunes will lead you to a vast plain of lush green grass, tended by a few sheep. On the other side of the island you'll find one of the largest gentoo penguin colonies in the area. With some luck, you'll also glimpse a sea lion scouring the waves for his next meal.
Sailing to South Georgia, you'll cross the Antarctic Convergence, a natural boundary where the warmer waters of the north meet the cooler waters of the south. This creates a zone with more abundant marine life where you may see whales feed.
South Georgia is an unparalleled destination within Antarctica. This sub-Antarctic region is a peak emerging from the Scotia Arc, an underwater mountain chain that extends from the Andes to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Salisbury Plain is home to one of the most unforgettable natural vistas of South Georgia. Formed by the retreat of Grace Glacier, the same majestic peaks that once awed Shackleton still tower over the surrounding land. The island's bluish landscape exudes the magnificence and beauty of unspoiled nature. At the heart of this wild refuge, on the beaches of the bay, lies a colony of 250,000 king penguins. Amidst this sea of black and orange heads, fur seals and their young can be spotted nosing their way through the crowd. Under the pale austral sunlight that reflects off of the plain, flocks of birds are carried by the winds in a graceful show of nature's wonder.
The Grytviken stopover is a highlight of South Georgia Island. This former whaling station, now a ghost town, is set against a serene backdrop of ochre-colored earth. Vestiges of the whaling industry are still very much present, particularly old whale bones and remnants of shipwrecks. Grytviken's other historical point of interest is the grave of famous adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton. During the legendary Endurance expedition (1914-1917) Shackleton and his men survived against all odds after having been trapped in pack ice for several months. The series of exploits leading to their rescue will remain forever etched in the annals of Antarctic exploration.
Situated at the foot of sharply-rising mountains, Fortuna Bay is a truly dazzling vision to behold. You’ll marvel at a panorama of cliffs rising up from the icy waters and small streams fed by melting mountain snow meandering through vast green plains. The bay itself bows inward to form a perfect crescent, indented by a torrent. During your excursion, you can follow in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton or even encounter the 50,000 king penguin couples who call the island their home and whose densely-packed silhouettes form a remarkable silver swath with a sprinkling of brown and bright orange.
Majestic glaciers with a bluish sheen, waterfalls that reflect the rays of the setting sun, pitch-black volcanic sand beaches: these are just a few of the wonders to be found in Gold Harbour's landscape. This natural gem is blanketed by bright green tussocks and framed by snow-capped peaks. On this island where summer days are endless, the wildlife stays up with the sun. Fur seals, elephant seals and king penguins move about the island like tiny black dots along the landscape. Those humans who enter this kaleidoscope of colors and sensations do so as privileged and tolerated observers of the austral wildlife.
Facing out towards the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean, you'll safely disembark along Saint Andrews Bay with the assistance of your naturalist guides. This bay bears a gift that is sure to enchant photographers. From the bay's long grey-sand beach, home to abundant fur seals and elephant seals, you can easily access a vast glacial trough bordered by steep mountainsides and enclosed by Ross Glacier. Here, at the heart of this valley, lies the climax of your visit: the largest colony of king penguins on the South Georgia Islands. You'll be witness to a surreal visual and auditory experience: entire hillsides covered with adult penguins dutifully going back and forth from land to water in order to feed their young.
As you voyage farther south, ever nearer to the Antarctic Peninsula, your expedition leaders and naturalist guides continue their lecture series, expanding your knowledge of this unique part of the world.
Amidst the quietness of the Weddell Sea, you'll wind your way through a veritable labyrinth of majestic table icebergs. Sweeping ice platforms sculpt a landscape unlike any other, populated by fur seals, penguins, wandering albatross and other majestic seabirds. Listen for the Weddell seal's call that breaks the surrounding silence. You'll recognize it by its dark grey coat and spotted belly. Weddell seals have the impressive distinction of being able to stay underwater for more than an hour!
Between 1897 and 1899, Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache led an Antarctic expedition aboard the Belgica. There, he discovered a quiet, protected bay which he named in honor of the Dutch queen, Wilhelmina of Orange-Nassau. In this enchanting place, towering mountains reflect off of still waters, offering up a magnificent and colorful feast for the eyes. Yet another source of wonder are the humpback whales who frequent the bay feeding amidst a stunning seascape of ice floes and icebergs.
Situated just above the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island is easily recognizable thanks to its distinctive horseshoe shape. The crater of this former volcano caved in 10,000 years ago and the resulting caldera was flooded, creating a natural harbor. Deception Island still bears traces of its past as a longtime hub of the whaling industry. The vestiges of abandoned sheds that line the black sand of its volcanic beaches share space with the island's spectacular fauna: the Antarctic Peninsula’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins, as well as numerous elephant seals, and fur seals.
Nestled among the South Shetland Islands in the icy waters of the Antarctic, Half Moon plunges visitors into a surreal and mystical setting. Long, jagged coastlines alternate with gently sloping bays, overlooked by petrified volcanic pipes. Camara, a former Argentine research station built at the center of the island in 1953, still stands in the crook of a vast, crescent-shaped beach of large ash-colored pebbles washed by icy electric-blue waves. Half Moon's wild lunar landscape is home to a number of animal species, including chinstrap penguins, fur seals, Weddell seals and Antarctic terns.
Crossing the Drake is a rite of passage and concludes your journey to the White Continent. Located between the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake Passage can have plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities including whales and albatross.
Disembark in Ushuaia and transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Bilingual Departures: All departures French/English.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase medical evacuation insurance. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.
Round-trip flight between Buenos Aires/Ushuaia in Economy class; meet and greet by representatives in Ushuaia; transfers between Ushuaia airport and the ship; meals on board the ship; captain’s welcome cocktail and gala dinner; mineral water, tea, filter coffee, a selection of white, red and rosé wines offered during meals, afternoon tea; open bar (pouring wines, house champagne, alcohol except premium brands); 24-hour room service; butler service is included for guests staying on Deck 6; parka; boot rental. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare except as mentioned; passport and visa expenses and/or immigration reciprocity taxes if applicable; any ground services before and/or after the cruise other than the ones mentioned; optional Tierra del Fuego tour; spa charges; beverages other than those mentioned; laundry services, hair salon; personal expenses, on board medical consultations and drug prescriptions; cancellation/luggage/assistance/repatriation/medical insurance(s); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Lorraine Turci, © Olivier Blaud, © Nathalie Michel, © Ponant