Summary : Discover a remote stretch of the Antarctic Peninsula visited for just a few short months each year. From January onwards, seasonal ice conditions offer exciting ice navigation and the best chance of achieving the objective of crossing the Antarctic Circle. Here you will witness expansive landscapes and sizable Adelie penguin rookeries, and hope to see large tabular icebergs that have drifted north from the Bellingshausen Sea. Aim to cross 66° 33' south of latitude, which officially marks the position of the Antarctic Circle on the global map. Detaille Island, below the Circle, is a spectacular location where the surrounding snowy peaks soar more than 6,500 feet above ice-strewn waters. Return north along the heavily glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula, passing through the Argentine, Fish and Yalour Island archipelagos and into the Gerlache Strait and Danco Coast region. Several locations in the South Shetland Islands provide more fascinating places to explore. Each day of the voyage choose from an exciting selection of activities, including short or long hikes ashore, visits to historic points of interest and wildlife colonies, Zodiac cruising, searching for whales and seals or simply photographing incredible icebergs. Such activities are enjoyed in the company of wilderness guides, naturalists, marine biologists, historians, and photographers.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
$13,695 to $20,195
Depart Santiago this morning on a special charter flight direct to Stanley, the small capital of the Falkland Islands. (See Additional Costs.) You'll be met on arrival and transferred from the airport into town. There is time to explore the town, or enjoy a guided visit to nearby Gypsy Cove which provides your first opportunity to observe the local wildlife, including nesting Magellanic penguins and other sea birds. Make your way to the port and embark your expedition ship in the afternoon. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off to explore one of the most remote regions on Earth.
Chart a southerly course for Antarctica. This Drake Passage is rich in bio-diversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the celebrated wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as you make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill. Your photography guide will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of a modern research vessel. Throughout the day, onboard specialists will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the areas you hope to visit. As you approach the coastline of Antarctica, you'll start to encounter icebergs and anticipate your first whale sightings.
Awaken today with the magnificent snowy peaks of Antarctica's fringing islands laid out before you. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica.
The McFarlane Strait makes a natural entry point into the South Shetlands. There are several landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where you will sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. In the afternoon, cruise along the coast of Livingston Island, which on a sunny day is a memorable experience. If the weather conditions allow, the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a dramatic place and history is all around as you explore an old whaling station with rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater.
Overnight the ship will navigate across the Bransfield Strait and aim for the broad expanse of Willhelmina Bay. This is a known whale 'hot-spot'. It's a rich feeding ground for humpback and minke whales. Hope to encounter these gentle giants from the ship or when cruising in the Zodiacs. This is a spectacular location, featuring sweeping views of the glaciers up to the mountainous ridge of the Antarctic peninsula. Nearby lies the Errera Channel, home to several exceptional sites, including Cuverville Island with its substantial gentoo penguin rookery, Ronge Island, and the snow-capped dome of Danco Island. In the soft evening light, the journey commences south, towards the Antarctic Circle.
The ship has covered substantial distance overnight as it heads south. The objective is to cross the Antarctic Circle this afternoon, hoping for a shore landing at Detaille Island. An abandoned British science station, ‘Base W,’ established in the 1950s, is in a remarkable state of preservation here. For history buffs this is a fascinating place providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic visitors. Toast to the success of crossing the Antarctic Circle and turn your gaze northward to view the spectacular chain of glacier-covered peaks stretching as far as the eye can see.
Heading north, the peaks of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott loom on the horizon. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings and observation of the gentoo penguins who nest here in large numbers. Just offshore, in the shallow waters of the Penola Strait, massive icebergs run aground. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you could ever imagine. For many, a Zodiac cruise here will be a highlight of the voyage. If ice conditions permit, aim to transit the Lemaire Channel on your way north towards Paradise Harbor, which provides a continental landing opportunity. There is a wonderful hike here, up to a high point which provides jaw-dropping views. Zodiac cruising in the glacial amphitheater of Skontorp Cove is also a possibility.
The ship will then navigate north through the Gerlache Strait towards Spert Island, a little-visited rocky outcrop with remarkable geology. The island is crisscrossed by narrow channels which makes for fantastic Zodiac cruising and sea kayaking. The cliffs are home to numerous nesting bird species and you'll often encounter whales here. Nearby Mikkelson Harbor also allows for another off-ship excursion. After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, head north, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor and you can expect sightings of humpbacks or the resident pod of orca that inhabit this stretch of water.
The adventure is not over. Plan to visit several additional landing sites in the South Shetlands including the Aitcho Islands. There are some great hiking routes here showcasing the colorful mosses and lichens found on the islands. Gentoo and chinstrap penguins nest here and on the beaches, and you'll usually encounter seals coming and going from the surrounding waters. Fort Point situated on Greenwich Island is another favored location for a visit. Eventually you'll leave the snow-covered peaks behind as the ship pushes northward on your return trip to the Falkland Islands.
As you make your way back to Stanley, the educational presentations continue and you will enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join your photography guide in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. Approaching the coast of the southern Falkland Islands in the early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
This morning you find yourself back in the port of Stanley. Say goodbye to your crew and, after some free time in town, make your way to the airport for your return charter flight to Santiago. On arrival in Santiago the journey comes to an end. A transfer is provided to a downtown location for those choosing to stay and explore Santiago and the delights of Chile.
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 is not responsible for itinerary changes.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance. The travel insurance must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter), luggage and personal effects, and personal liability. It is strongly recommended that you purchase cancellation and curtailment insurance. 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed, and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Important Voyage Logistics:
Trip Planning: This trip commences and concludes in Santiago, Chile. From Santiago you will fly via a special charter service to Stanley, Falkland Islands (see Rate Notes). It is recommended that you arrive in Santiago at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of unexpected travel delays between home, voyage embarkation, and departure. At the conclusion of your trip, you will fly from Stanley back to Santiago. A transfer is provided from the airport to a central downtown location.
Luggage Limits: Different luggage limits apply to the special charter flights between Stanley and Santiago. Please observe a limit of 20-kg / 44-lb for checked baggage and 5-kg / 11-lb for carry-on baggage. There is no facility to purchase excess luggage on this flight. Excess baggage can be stored in Santiago for the duration of your voyage for a small fee. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
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 boots 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.
Kayaking: pre-booking required
Limited to 30 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in this activity during the expedition, please book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. All intending kayakers must complete a questionnaire outlining their prior paddling experience and attend several compulsory onboard meetings prior to the first kayak excursion. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in different ways 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.
Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport upon disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; adventure concierge staff; assistance of resident photographer; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat; guided hikes and walks onshore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained physician on every voyage; use of onboard library, Finnish sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center; end of voyage video, photos and take-home USB; gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles); all meals onboard the ship; daily housekeeping; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); port fees and permits to access visited areas. Subject to change without notice.
Additional Inclusions for Suites:
Exclusive check-in service on day of embarkation; deluxe welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); single brew coffee machine; mini-stereo; private in-room One Ocean Adventure Concierge service; in-room dining menu; early morning in-room café service; evening après dinner drink service; premium in-room mini bar replenished daily (including spirits); complimentary 1-hour massage/spa experience. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Charter flights; any international or local airfare, pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations, or pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary (or pre-arranged); visa and passport expenses; personal expenses onboard such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, laundry expenses or spa services such as massage; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses (travel insurance is mandatory on all voyages); a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew. Subject to change without notice.
Photos: © Daisy Gilardini, © Boomer Jerritt, © Ira Meyer, © David Sinclair