Summary : There are many ways one can explore the polar regions: hiking and snowshoeing over rugged landscapes, ascending mountains to capture that perfect panoramic photograph, visiting penguin colonies, searching for whales, exploring the shoreline via kayak or Zodiac, or camping under Antarctic skies. This basecamp adventure is ideal for active individuals who want to do it all. On this expedition, the ship becomes a basecamp from which a plethora of included activities begin. You'll spend two to three days anchored at specific locations, allowing for more time to camp, kayak, snowshoe, hike, mountaineer, and participate in photo workshops. Zodiac rides and shore excursions round out this once-in-a-lifetime experience exploring Antarctica’s ice-laden landscapes and discovering its abundant wildlife of penguins, seals, and whales.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$7,950 to $11,800
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 enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence—Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas—you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. Wandering albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, black-browed albatrosses, light-mantled sooty albatrosses, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels, and Antarctic petrels are a few of the birds you might see.
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. Weather and ice conditions will inform your captain's and expedition leader's decisions about where to anchor. Favorable weather conditions will determine the possible activities in each location. Places you might visit include:
Neumayer Channel: The vessel may position itself here, launching its multiple basecamp activities from the protected waters around Wiencke Island. You can enjoy the splendors of this alpine environment at sea with Zodiac and kayaking trips or, if you’re in the mood for a walk, there are possible snowshoe hikes and soft-climb mountaineering options farther inland.
Port Lockroy: After sailing through the Neumayer Channel, you may 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 also for kayaking and camping here, and when conditions are right, you can even snowshoe around the shore.
Pléneau & Petermann Islands: If the ice allows it, you can 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 and leopard seals here. Kayaking, glacier walks, and more ambitious mountaineering trips are the potential activities at this location.
Neko Harbor: An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow, Neko Harbor offers opportunities for a Zodiac cruise and landing that afford the closest views of the surrounding alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay: You have the chance to make camp here like a true polar explorer (but with a better tent!), enjoying a supreme overnight Antarctic adventure.
Errera Channel: Possible sites in this area include Danco Island and Cuverville Island, but also the lesser-known (though equally picturesque) Orne Island and Georges Point on Rongé Island.
On your last day of near-shore activities, you pass the Melchior Islands toward the open sea. Keep a sharp lookout for humpback whales in Dallmann Bay. You might also shoot for Half Moon Island, in the South Shetlands, with further chances for activities.
Conditions in the Drake Passage will 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 your 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.
Must be pre-booked prior to departure. Camp out under the Antarctic skies. The camping group will be taken ashore via Zodiac after dinner, and returned to the ship just before breakfast. On shore a camp will be made in a place where wildlife will not be disturbed. Special gear and field equipment will be provided: tents, wind and waterproof bivouac bags, mattresses and polar sleeping bags provide comfort during the night. Campers must bring their personal warm and protective clothes. Experienced expedition guides will conduct the activity ashore. One night of camping is the goal; occasionally additional nights are offered when conditions allow. Camping is subject to weather, local site, and environmental regulations. No previous experience is required. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Space is limited; must be pre-booked prior to departure. Polar cruise kayaking is an amazing way to slip into the white and blue beauty of the quiet ocean around you. Kayaking excursions are limited to 14 passengers. Kayaking groups will be accompanied by two guides, one leading in a kayak and one trailing nearby in a Zodiac. Kayaking is subject to weather and prevailing ice conditions. Basic kayaking experience is required and physical fitness is essential. Single seat and double seat kayaks, neoprene wet suits, and life vests are provided. Space is limited; request at time of booking. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Space is limited; must be pre-booked prior to departure. This is a technical and more strenuous activity for mountaineers who wish to walk beyond the shore radius in order to reach higher ground and viewpoints. A maximum of 12 mountaineers at a time will walk in rope parties under the leadership of a certified mountain guide, mostly across glaciated environment in Antarctica. Physical fitness is essential. Personal protective outdoor clothes and mountaineering boots suitable for using crampons are required. Lightweight snowshoes and mountaineering equipment will be provided. Every mountaineer will be able to participate in at least one outing. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Must be pre-booked prior to departure. Snowshoe walking is easy and does not require any technical skills. Easy, moderate, and more demanding walks will take place in the vicinity of landing sites. With the use of snowshoes it is easier and safer to walk on snow surfaces. Snowshoes will be provided to everyone on board.
Must be pre-booked prior to departure. For beginners and advanced photographers, these workshops are held under the supervision of a photo expert on board and are intended to give insight into better results by respecting the basic rules of photography rather than providing instruction on how to use specific camera models. All are welcome to participate, no previous experience required. On cruise days, everyone may attend photo lectures in order to learn more about objects, exposures, and photo composition. The photo expert will accompany 20 participants max during shore landings. Participants must provide their own photo equipment.
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; snowshoeing; camping; hiking; kayaking; mountaineering (1x hike); photo workshop; snowshoeing; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; comprehensive pre-departure material; 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.
Any airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel; 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 charges, and telecommunication charges; and the customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for the ship's crew. Fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Arjen Drost, © Christoph Gniesser, © Dietmar Denger, © Elke Lindner, © Jörg Ehrlich, © Jutta and Erik Swanbom, © Leica Akademie, © Richard Wadey, © Sandra Petrowitz