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! Go ashore at historic sites like Gold Harbor and Fortuna Bay, 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.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, 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.
Upon arrival in Ushuaia, embark the vessel, or join an optional tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park (must pre-book, fee applies).
Situated between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands, it is the Drake Passage is the shortest route to Antarctica by sea. Seasoned navigators will tell you that you must earn your visit to the White Continent! As a convergence zone where cold currents rising up from the South Pole meet warmer equatorial water masses, Drake Passage harbors a very diverse marine fauna. Head out on deck and watch for whales and look to the sky to catch a glimpse of elegant albatross and Cape petrels, playfully floating about in the wind around your ship.
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.
During your cruise, you'll have the opportunity to stop over at Port Lockroy, a spectacular natural harbor nestled in the very heart of the Antarctic Peninsula on Goudier Island. Discovered by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1903, the site has served over the years as a stopover for whaling ships, a British military base and later a research station. The port is currently one of the most visited sites in the Antarctic, thanks to its tiny museum which allows visitors to experience the base as it was in the 1950s and to take home a souvenir from its gift shop. While you're here, don't miss the chance to send your loved ones a post card from the southernmost post office in the world!
With its spectacular landscapes composed of towering glacial peaks plunging down into the icy waters of the Antarctic, Paradise Bay is true to its name. Discovered and named by whalers in the early 20th century, this protected natural site is currently home to a wide variety of fauna, from Antarctic cormorants and leopard seals to sheathbills and gentoo penguins, who mingle on the long stretch of rocky beaches. With some luck, you'll even be privy to an unforgettable underwater dance between passing humpback whales. During your excursion, head off to discover the old Argentine base Almirante Brown, which is only occupied for a few weeks each year, during the austral summer.
South Georgia is an unparalleled destination. 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.
Take a seat in a Zodiac and head out to explore Cooper Bay, near Gold Harbour. It was named after the first lieutenant of the famous sailor, Captain James Cook, and the bay offers a quite unexpected sight, with long basalt canyons forming high cliffs that loom over a turquoise-blue water. In the center of the bay, a magical atmosphere reigns when just a few rays of sunshine pierce the gauzy layer formed by the morning mist. The craggy coastlines are home to colonies of macaroni penguins who may pay close attention to the arrival of your tiny crafts.
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.
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.
Disembark in Montevideo.
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.
One-way flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia in Economy class; meet and greet by representatives in Ushuaia and luggage direct transfer from the airport to 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