Summary : March is a time of great activity in Antarctic waters and historically you will encounter a higher concentration of whales 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 you will 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), 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
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$8,695 to $16,595
Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the pier to embark your expedition ship. After settling in to 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 dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
Chart a southerly course for Antarctica. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its bio-diversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller cape petrels are also constant companions as make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and your photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of your modern research vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the locations you hope to visit in the coming days. As you approach the coastline of Antarctica, anticipate an increase in whale sightings.
Awaken today and the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica are 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 the immense power of Antarctica. Take a deep breath—you have arrived. The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves, inlets, and numerous islands. The landscape features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adélie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life.
You will frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, often found relaxing on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and smaller minke whales are found in sizeable numbers in this region. Sightings of orcas are not uncommon. Fournier Bay is a known whale ‘hot-spot’ and ice permitting, you will explore in Zodiacs hoping to encounter pods of whales.
The science team hopes to deploy non-invasive tracking devices on the whales to collect data on dive and feeding patterns. Observation and photography of whale flukes (tails) is something everyone is encouraged to participate in, both from the ship and while Zodiac cruising. Whale flukes are unique identifiers of particular animals, in much the same way as a human finger print. Collecting and analyzing this data is vital to understanding whale migration patterns and social behavior.
In addition to your whale encounters, you will enjoy a regular program of exploration on and off the ship. Popular activities include guided hikes on shore and visits to wildlife colonies with your naturalist guides. Historic huts and science stations provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice is a memorable activity. Those who opted to sea kayak may range several miles from the ship. Your photography guide will be on hand to help with your camera handling, image composition, and the peculiar light found in Antarctica.
Planned excursions could include Cierva Cove, Danco Island, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay never disappoints and is another important location where the scientists hope to deploy their research tools. Neko Harbor is yet another highlight and offers an excellent hiking route providing stunning 360 degree views.
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 and frequent sightings can be expected of humpbacks and even the fast-moving orca.
By morning you will arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, the ship will sail into a flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. History is all around this dramatic place 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.
After leaving Deception Island, you will 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 will sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. Hannah Point, with it's 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, charting a course for South America.
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, you will hopefully 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 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. 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.
Pre-booked option for up to 16 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. You must also 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 from a central meeting point in Ushuaia on Day 1 and from the port to the airport (or a downtown hotel) at the conclusion of your voyage on Day 11; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; assistance of resident photographer; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat breaking into small groups for shore landings; guided hikes and walks on shore of various durations for guests of all abilities; 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 onboard or ashore; 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.
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