Summary : March is a period of great transition in Antarctica as the short summer comes to an end. The arrival of Autumn brings prolonged hours of soft twilight and a distinct night time. The sunrises and sunsets in March provide a staggering palette of oranges, pinks and purples, setting the snowy mountains of the Antarctic continent ablaze with color. With darkness comes light, and in March there's the chance of encountering the mythical Aurora Australis. These eerie lights dance across the night sky, adding another layer of color to your experience. You may also witness the fascinating phenomenon of watching the sea ice freeze literally before your eyes, forming 'frazil' and 'pancake' patterns on the surface. Penguin chicks are fully grown and ready to take to the water, and other forms of marine life, including seals and whales, are on the move. One of the goals of this expedition is to make landfall at Detaille Island, below the Antarctic Circle, where you'll venture on shore to explore an old science base from the 1950s.
An additional highlight of this trip is the shipboard photography symposium open to all guests. Led by award-winning photographers Dave Brosha and Paul Zizka, the members of the photographic team each have a special area of expertise including wildlife photography, landscape and composition, and technological knowledge of gear, equipment, and computer-based processing. Participants will make regular use of the shipboard multimedia studio for breakout sessions. With a varied and diverse itinerary and flexible plans, one of the goals of the symposium is to make the most of the beautiful Antarctic light, even if it's outside conventional shore landing times.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
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Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. Gather at a central meeting point, transfer to the pier, and embark your expedition ship. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
Chart a southerly course for the Antarctic Circle. This stretch of water is rich in its 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. Or join the ship’s captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of a modern research vessel. Throughout the journey, onboard specialists will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the areas you hope to visit. The presence of icebergs announces your arrival into Antarctic waters.
Awaken today with the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica laid out before you. The plan is to navigate via Matha Strait and attempt a shore landing at Detaille Island, below the Antarctic Circle. Visit an abandoned British science station, ‘Base W,’ established in the 1950s and in a remarkable state of preservation. For history buffs this is a fascinating place providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic visitors. Toast a successful crossing of the Antarctic Circle and turn your gaze northwards, viewing the spectacular chain of glacier-covered peaks stretching as far as the eye can see. This coastline begs further exploration.
Overnight the ship has navigated north towards the low-lying Yalour Island group. Hope to visit a working scientific base to learn of the important climate-related research happening there. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to stretch your legs and explore an old British Antarctic Survey hut. Petermann Island is home to a sizable Adelie penguin rookery. Adelies, the smallest of the Antarctic penguins, nest here and share the location with gentoo penguins and Imperial cormorants.
The view to the north of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott is impressive. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. 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.
The aim is to transit the Lemaire Channel on the way north towards Paradise Harbor. This may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbor offers another continental landing. Both locations offer great hiking opportunities up to panoramic view points. For the sea kayakers, the paddling opportunities here are endless. It is somewhere in this vicinity that you may camp if conditions allow.
Orne Harbor is another beautiful location you can hope to visit. The hike up to a rocky knoll provides stunning views and great access to a chinstrap penguin rookery. At Cuverville Island, there is a large gentoo penguin colony you can observe at close quarters. Leopard seals are often sighted cruising the shallows along the landing site. For the kayakers, a full circumnavigation of the island is a possibility. Navigate into Willhelmina Bay, a known location for large numbers of humpback whales which you can view in close proximity from the ship or when out Zodiac cruising.
After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor—expect sightings of humpbacks or the resident pod of orcas that inhabit this stretch of water.
By morning you've arrived in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if 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 Antarctic flight in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater.
After leaving Deception Island cruise along the coast of Livingston Island which, on a sunny day, is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the South Shetlands including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where you'll sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a zodiac cruise. Hannah Point, with its elephant seal colony and nesting Antarctic petrels is another possibility. In the evening, the ship will navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage.
As you make your way back to South America, 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. 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’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, you will 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.
No pre-booking required but please notify ExpeditionTrips of your interest at time of booking. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear such as bivy sacs and sleeping bags (no tents), will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. Please Note: Camping is unlikely to happen in March due to lower average night time temperatures on shore and available hours of light. If weather and ice conditions permit and you are near a suitable location, your expedition leaders will make their best effort to facilitate this activity. Please inquire.
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.
Photography Symposium: Included
Antarctica is every photographers dream: towering glaciers, immense icebergs, outstanding wildlife encounters and gorgeous natural light, providing the perfect conditions for budding photographers of all abilities. Throughout the voyage, experts in their field—led by award-winning photographers David Brosha and Paul Zizka—will offer fantastic insight and advice on this unique program in an incredible destination. The program includes daily pre-excursion meetings, dedicated photographic Zodiacs, specialty landings and excursions based on light, interactive workshops, and group or personal reviews. Photographers will engage you with a hands-on approach and a focus on landscape, wildlife, nature, and astrophotography.
Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport upon disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; participation in photography symposium and access to computers in multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; adventure concierge staff; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat; camping; guided hikes and walks onshore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks; 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.
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.
Photos: © Daisy Gilardini, © Boomer Jerritt, © Ira Meyer, © David Sinclair