Summary : Search for the giants of the sea on this special whale watching voyage in the remote Antarctic islands. Discover amazing icescapes, sail through the spectacular Beagle and Lemaire Channels, and witness impressive landscapes composed of high mountains and huge glaciers. Cruise by Zodiac among ice floes with experienced guides, learn from knowledgeable naturalists, and spot several species of whales, seals, and penguins on this trip of a lifetime. Polar diving option available.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Diving, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$5,750 to $8,800
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you catch a taste of life from the perspective of the polar explorers who first braved these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling waves, maybe even a fin whale blasting up a column of sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence – Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer subantarctic seas – you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too: A variety of albatrosses and petrels show up, along with Cape pigeons and southern fulmars. Then, near the South Shetlands Islands, the first icebergs flash into sight.
Gray stone peaks sketched with snow, towers of broken blue-white ice, and dramatically different wildlife below and above. You first pass the snow-capped Melchior Islands and Schollaert Channel, sailing between Brabant and Anvers Islands.
Sites you may be able to visit include:
Cuverville Island – Stabbing up between Rongé Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, Cuverville houses a massive colony of gentoo penguins as well as pairs of breeding brown skuas.
Danco Island – Activities here may focus on the gentoo penguins nesting on the island, in addition to the Weddell and crabeater seals that can be found nearby.
Neko Harbor – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow. Opportunities for Zodiac cruising and kayaking provide you the closest possible view of the ice-crusted alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay – You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters, where you have a good chance of seeing humpback and minke whales.
Port Lockroy – After sailing through the Neumayer Channel, you get a chance to visit the former British research station—now a museum and post office—of Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. You may also be able to partake in activities around Jougla Point, meeting gentoo penguins and blue-eyed shags. There are great opportunities for kayaking and camping here.
Pléneau & Petermann Islands – If the ice allows it, you may sail through the Lemaire Channel in search of Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags. There’s also a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales here, as well as leopard seals.
Wilhelmina Bay & Guvernøren – This is a great place to spot humpback whales. You also may embark on a Zodiac cruise ending at the ghostly wreck of the Guvernøren, a whaling vessel that caught fire here in 1915. Around the Melchior Islands, amid a frozen landscape peopled with icebergs, you may encounter even more whales, leopard seals, and crabeater seals.
Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you're again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It's now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase insurance including medical, accident and repatriation/evacuation insurance. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Space is limited; request at time of booking. This activity is available for highly experienced divers who are familiar with both cold water and dry suit diving (at least 30 dry suit dives). Dive sites will vary from shallow ice diving, diving along a wall, from a beach, or from a Zodiac. Maximum depth is around 60 feet. The combination of sunlight and the often-extraordinary formations of ice cause an overwhelming, ever-changing spectrum of colors with a fantastic variety of shades and brilliance. Diving in Antarctica doesn’t just offer ice, but also interesting marine life, such as kelp walls, sea-snails, crabs, sea butterflies, various Antarctic fish, shrubby horse-tails, jellyfish, sea-hedgehogs, starfish, krill and giant isopods. You might have the possibility of snorkeling or diving with fur seals, leopard seals, and penguins. Participants will dive in groups of eight divers per experienced guide, with a maximum of 24 divers per excursion and a goal of 1-2 different dives per day. Basic equipment such as scuba tanks, compressor, weights and diving essentials are provided but divers must bring their own personal gear, including dry suit with hood and two separate freeze-protected regulators. Participants are required to present their internationally accepted diver certificate, diver's logbook, and a statement from their doctor (less than two years old) that demonstrates they are in a good state of physical health allowing them to scuba dive. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Pre-scheduled group transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia directly following disembarkation; luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on day of embarkation in Ushuaia; shipboard accommodations; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; gear on loan (rubber boots and snowshoes); all meals onboard the ship; snacks, coffee, and tea; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; polar diving; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; travel insurance; excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage, and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © John Neuschwander, © Erwin Vermeulen