Summary : Embark on a 22-day expedition cruise, including the Falkland Islands and the South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic region formed by a chain of underwater mountains. These places of adventures are home to a rich and fascinating wildlife including thousands of king penguins, humpback whales, elephant seals, and fur seals. On your journey between Argentina's mythical Tierra del Fuego and beautiful Cape Town, South Africa, discover three of the most isolated islands in the world: Tristan da Cunha, a volcanic and mountainous land; Gough Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to one of the world’s largest seabird colonies; and Nightingale Island, a refuge for many penguins.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$9,560 to $41,560
Board your flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina.
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.
Upon arrival in Ushuaia, embark the vessel, or join an optional tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park (must pre-book, fee applies).
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. Keep an eye out for whales!
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.
If one island of the Falklands calls for use of superlatives, it would undoubtedly be Steeple Jason. Located at the extreme northwest corner of the Falklands, the island is home to the largest black-browed albatross colony in the world. You'll be rapt at the sight of these magnificent birds with black-contoured eyes. Photographers will delight in immortalizing the endless ballet of the albatross, who soars majestically and then alights awkwardly amidst nests. Caracaras, gentoo penguins and Magellanic penguins are also abundantly present, as if to prove to the visitor that here nature is king.
The Neck is a narrow stretch of land connecting the two sides of Saunders Island, located on the northwestern edge of the Falklands. You'll safely enter these blustery surroundings with the assistance of your naturalist guides. And once there, a reward awaits you: a veritable paradise of endless shoreline lapped by turquoise waters. Several bird species, also attracted to this stunning location, have settled here. At the other end of The Neck, you'll encounter Magellanic penguins, southern rockhopper penguins, black-browed albatross and king penguins, all basking in the beauty of their surroundings.
Sailing to South Georgia, you will notice a drop in temperature as you cross the Antarctic Convergence, a natural boundary where the warmer waters of the north meet the cooler waters of the south, creating a zone abundant marine life where 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 will be the arena for the most memorable and the most authentic display of nature. Formed by the withdrawal of the Grace Glacier, high mountains dominate time and space; the blue-tinged landscape demonstrates all the strength and beauty of the unspoiled nature all around. At the heart of this wildlife haven, on the beaches of the bay, a colony of approximately 250,000 king penguins has taken residence. In the midst of all these orange-headed couples, fur seals try to beat a path to feed with their young. Under the southern sun that lights this glacial plain, spectacular flocks of birds fly on the wind.
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.
In May 1916 after a perilous two-week journey on the James Caird followed by an hours-long trek across South Georgia, Sir Ernest Shackleton arrived in Stromness. There, at long last, he found the help needed to rescue his men stranded on Elephant Island. A former Norwegian whaling station, Stromness is now off limits to visitors. Crumbling pieces of abandoned buildings can be swept up by the wind, posing a danger for visitors who get too close. From your Zodiac, however, you'll still get a good glimpse of the island's fur seals, who have completely reclaimed the beach and village.
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.
Visit Grytviken, a former Norwegian whaling station, and follow in the footsteps of the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and visit the tiny cemetery where he is buried. After Roald Amundsen conquered the South Pole in 1912, Sir Ernest Shackleton turned his attention to what he considered to be the last great challenge in Antarctica: The crossing of the continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the Pole. To achieve this he organized the Endurance expedition. This expedition was dogged with bad luck and his ship, Endurance, was a prisoner of the ice for many months and was slowly crushed, obliging the crew to disembark. A series of adventures followed that would cement Shackleton’s myth.
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.
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 pay close attention to your arrival.
Settle into life on board and the ship's many comforts as you sail to Tristan Da Cunha.
A small British archipelago discovered in the 16th century by the Portuguese sailor after whom it was named, Tristan da Cunha is made up of several islands scattered off the South-African coast. Most of these are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. During your cruise, you will discover the archipelago’s eponymous main island, offering visitors basalt land lulled by the swell, home to the only village in the chain of islands, and topped with a volcano.
This small active volcanic island belongs to the isolated Tristan da Cunha island chain, far out in the South Atlantic. Totally uninhabited, the island is visited only by researchers for whom it offers a rich field of observation. The island is colonized by over a million birds, including great shearwaters and Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, two iconic species of these Subantarctic waters.
This small uninhabited volcanic island is the remotest of the Tristan da Cunha islands. Stopovers here are no easy feat and require authorization. But even from your Zodiac, you'll have a chance to take in the beauty of this wild island, lined by steep cliffs that plunge dramatically into the ocean. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gough Island harbors one of the largest colonies of seabirds in the world. Endemic species include the Gough finch and the Gough moorhen. Along with its ‘little sister’, Inaccessible Island, Gough constitutes one of the most well-preserved natural sites in the world, virtually unaltered by man.
Settle into life on board and the ship's many comforts as you sail to Cape Town.
Located at the southern tip of the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope was originally dubbed the Cape of Storms by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias, due to its position at the confluence of two opposing ocean currents. One of the most iconic sites on the planet, the area is a veritable paradise for a number of marine animal species. The cape is one of three promontories offering a breathtaking view onto Table Mountain National Park, a stunning expansive stretch of greenery. From your ship, you'll take in the impressive scene of ocean waves crashing against steep, towering cliffs.
Dynamic and peaceful, cosmopolitan and hip, Cape Town offers its visitors a most unique mix. Here, the locals like to say that their city is “the quintessential melting pot of South Africa”. Located in the heart of one of the most beautiful bays in the world and dominated by the famous Table Mountain, it is graced with extraordinary landscapes including sheer cliffs that plunge into the Atlantic Ocean and vast whitesand beaches. Further on, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve awaits you and is home to a wide variety of endemic fauna and flora.
Disembark the vessel after breakfast.
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 are French/English.
One-way flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia; meet and greet by your representatives in Ushuaia and transfer from airport to ship; meals on board the ship; captain’s welcome cocktail and gala dinner; luggage transfer between pier and ship; 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 - list available upon request); port and safety taxes; crew gratuities; 24-hour room service (special selection); butler service is included for guests staying on Deck 6; parka; boot rental. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; 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; spa charges; beverages other than those mentioned; laundry services, Wi-Fi, hair salon; personal expenses, on board medical consultations and drug prescriptions; cancellation/luggage/assistance/repatriation/medical insurance(s); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Olivier Blaud, © Lorraine Turci