Summary : March is a time of great activity in Antarctic waters; historically, a higher concentration of whales is encountered during this period. They are busy feeding prior to their annual migrations to tropical waters. However, scientists are now discovering that some whale species remain in the ice-free sections of Antarctica over winter. On this voyage, plan to visit several known locations along the Antarctic Peninsula that are the focus of long-term research projects by esteemed academic institutions including University of California (Santa Cruz), California Ocean Alliance, and the Australian Antarctic Division's Marine Mammal Centre. You will be joined on the ship by several world-renowned cetacean (whale) experts and observe their important scientific fieldwork in close proximity. They will share unique underwater footage and scientific data, and interpret the behavior, migration characteristics, and feeding patterns of adult whales and their calves. Their participation on this voyage is greatly valued and provides a fascinating glimpse into cutting-edge Antarctic research. Antarctica’s seals are also found in sizable numbers late in the season, resting and storing energy that will sustain them over winter. For those with a passion for Antarctica's marine mammals, this unique voyage should not be missed—not to mention the fact that it's the best time of year for blazing orange and pink Antarctic sunrises and sunsets.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
$11,295 to $17,795
Depart Santiago this morning on a special charter flight direct to Stanley, the small capital of the Falkland Islands. 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. A visit to Gypsy Cove will provide your first opportunity to observe the local wildlife, including nesting Magellanic penguins and other sea birds. Make your way to the port to 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. The Scotia Sea is rich in bio-diversity and showcases a great abundance of wildlife. You'll be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill. Your photography guide will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Throughout the day your onboard specialists will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the locations you'll hope to visit in the coming days.
There is great excitement when the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon. This is one of Antarctica's most important historic locations and a fitting introduction. On the rocky beach at Point Wild, Shackleton and his men camped here, having lost their ship, HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. It was from this location that Shackleton and five companions set off on the rescue mission to South Georgia, aboard their tiny lifeboat, the James Caird. To this day, their epic ocean crossing and traversing of South Georgia on foot is considered one of the greatest tales in polar history. If weather conditions permit, aim for a Zodiac cruise to view the site from close proximity. This is a thrilling location for history buffs and sets the scene for an exciting expedition.
Head south overnight, navigating into the Bransfield Strait. The coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula provides many sites for potential shore landings and excursions. The expedition team will showcase some well-known locations and a few hidden gems they've discovered over the years.
Approaching the South Shetland Islands on the way south, you may aim for a shore landing at Half Moon Island, home to a boisterous colony of nesting chin strap penguins. A short hike brings you to an elephant seal haul out. These are fascinating animals to observe as the naturalist guides explain their unique family dynamics and behavior. There are several other nearby locations, including Yankee Harbor or Hannah Point which may be chosen as alternative landing sites. A thrill for many will be sailing into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. At Whalers Bay, the remains of a rusting old whaling station provide a glimpse into history. There are a couple of excellent hiking routes here, one up to a high point overlooking the entire bay and another to the far end of the black sand beach where an old aircraft hanger can be viewed. It’s from here the very first flight in Antarctica took to the air. It’s an awe-inspiring site with glacier-covered mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.
Enter a maze of islands and waterways and enjoy shore landings, Zodiac cruises, and optional kayak excursions several times per day. Willhelmina Bay is always an impressive location and one where you'll often find large pods of humpback whales. Cruising into the Errera Channel, there are great landing sites to consider, including Cuverville Island with its sizeable gentoo penguin rookery. Nearby Danco Island, has a fantastic hike to the snow-covered summit, providing staggering views. Neko Harbor is another possibility for a landing and might be your very first opportunity to step foot on the actual continental landmass of Antarctica. Here, an active glacier can be heard creaking and groaning, and it is common to observe large slabs of ice calving from the face of the glacier into the dark waters.
While you’re enjoying the fabulous surroundings and reveling in a busy activity program, the research team will be out in the Zodiacs observing and recording the movements of migrating whales. This is done through non-invasive tags which attach to the animals using suction cups for around 12-24 hours. The digitally recorded data provides great insight into the feeding behavior, dive profiles, and migration patterns of several whale species. The science team will share their observations and findings once back onboard the ship and are happy to discuss their important work. It provides a fascinating insight into the current scientific field research happening in Antarctica.
As the expedition pushes further south there are more locations to explore. Paradise Harbor provides another opportunity for a continental landing. A climb to the hilltop above an old Argentine refuge reveals another spectacular viewpoint. Zodiac cruising under the cliffs here allows you to observe nesting imperial cormorants, and after a short distance you'll come to Skontorp Cove. This narrow body of water is surrounded by immense glaciers on three sides – one guest likened it to a ‘heavenly ice cathedral.’
Continue to push further south, hoping that ice conditions allow for a transit of the Lemaire Channel. Snow-covered cliffs tower about the Lemaire on both sides and slowly navigating the ship through here is a thrilling experience. At Pleneau Island, visit and observe a substantial gentoo penguin rookery. In the shallow waters nearby, witness a vast field of icebergs which have run aground after drifting on the current and winds. For many, a Zodiac cruise here will be a highlight of the trip. A working science station is located in the vicinity and a visit to the base provides intriguing insight into the life of permanent residents in Antarctica. The station staff will welcome you ashore, provide a tour of the facilities, and explain the important climate change research work taking place here. Nearby Winter Island allows for an excellent hike over a snowy saddle to an old historic hut. As you return to the ship, cast your gaze back toward the soaring peaks of Mount Shackleton and nearby Mount Scott. The time has come for the ship to weigh anchor and commence the return journey to South America.
As the ship makes its way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you'll enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join your photography expert at the multimedia stations and download your precious images. If weather conditions allow, hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It is a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in the early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
In the early morning, you will arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
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:
This trip commences 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. The trip concludes in Ushuaia, Argentina. A transfer is provided from the ship to the airport or local hotels upon disembarkation.
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, you will need to 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; guided hikes and walks onshore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists and guest cetacean (whale) experts; 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, 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. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Charter flight and any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); personal expenses onboard such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, or laundry expenses; 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.
PHOTOS: © Ira Meyer, © Paul Zizka, © Boomer Jerritt