Summary : This unique expedition provides a modern twist on a much loved classic. From Punta Arenas in Chile, fly to the embarkation point of Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Crossing south to Antarctica you will witness the magnificent pelagic seabirds of the Southern Ocean, including the wandering albatross. This ocean habitat is a fascinating ecosystem in its own right. Navigating your way towards the Circle, enjoy seven days of off-ship exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, visiting a large number of landing sites and cruising among the ice floes in Zodiac boats. Hopefully you will reach the Antarctic Circle in the vicinity of Detaille Island. Over the course of the voyage, plan to visit several classic locations such as Petermann Island, and the iceberg ‘graveyard’ at Pleneau Island. Transit the Lemaire Channel if ice conditions permit and make continental landings at Paradise Harbour or nearby Neko Harbor. Each day you will explore on shore by foot, observing wildlife colonies, visiting historic huts and science bases, photographing icebergs and soaking up the incredible landscapes. Complete your voyage with visits to several locations in the South Shetland Islands, including Deception Island. From King George Island you will fly back to South America in just two hours. For a relatively short voyage, this trip packs a serious punch and offers fantastic diversity of scenery, wildlife, historic and scientific interest.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
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Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for your scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute journey, transfer to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal Britain. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral, and several local pubs. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980s, is a sobering reminder of recent history. There is time to explore the town before making your way to the ship for embarkation. 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, dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica—and an adventure of a lifetime.
Chart a southerly course for Antarctica. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its biodiversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds, including the wandering albatross, following in your ship's wake. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as you make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship 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 a modern research vessel. Throughout the day, onboard experts educate with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history, and the locations you hope to visit in the coming days. If you enjoy good sailing conditions crossing to Antarctica, you may have a chance to visit the very historic location of Elephant Island, a place central to the Shackleton story. From this location, Shackleton and four of his companions set off on their epic ocean crossing to South Georgia 100 years ago. Shore landings at Point Wild are notoriously tricky due to surging swells onto the rocky beach. Nevertheless, this a thrilling place to visit.
This morning, the ship is positioned at King George Island, the largest in the South Shetlands group. There are two landing sites here and a visit depends on the prevailing weather conditions. Penguin Island and nearby Turret Point offer good opportunities for shore landings to view Adelie, chinstrap, and gentoo penguins. Southern giant petrels, kelp gulls, and Antarctic terns are also known to nest here. This afternoon, continue your journey south, navigating into the broad expanse of the Bransfield Strait, making your way ever closer to the Antarctic coastline. This is an important migration corridor for wildlife—keep a lookout for whales in the waters surrounding the ship. Large icebergs will be present from this point onwards and make for striking photographs in the evening light. By morning, the towering mountain peaks of the Antarctic continent loom into view and you should make landfall around Wilhelmina Bay. Sizable pods of humpback whales are often encountered in this spectacular location. Navigate under the towering cliffs of Spigot Peak and into the Errera Channel hoping for a shore landing at Cuverville Island, home to a rookery of Gentoo penguins. It’s a fantastic location for a Zodiac cruise or a paddle in the sea kayaks.
Spend time on the outer decks soaking up the scenery as you navigate south. Pass through the ice strewn waters making your way towards your ultimate goal—the Antarctic Circle. Given favorable ice conditions, your first goal will be to sail south of the Antarctic Circle and into Crystal Sound. A favored landing site here is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut from the 1950s. This vicinity marks the turnaround point; from now on return in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. Visit a working scientific base to learn something of the important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to stretch your legs and explore a historic British Antarctic Survey hut. If the conditions are right, overnight camping with be available somewhere in this vicinity to all adventurers. All the gear is available onboard and an experienced team will make this a night to remember! Petermann Island is home to an Adélie penguin rookery. Adélies—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 nearby Lemaire Channel. Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, massive icebergs run aground in the shallows. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you can possibly imagine. For many, a Zodiac cruise here may well be a highlight of the voyage.
Aim 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 terrific hiking opportunities up to panoramic viewpoints. For the sea kayakers, the paddling opportunities here are endless. Expect to be in full sensory overload by this time of the voyage. By morning, arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around as you explore the old whaling station, with the 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 here, high up onto the rim of the crater. On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where Weddell seals are sometimes encountered while sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Charting a course for King George Island in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
Anchor off King George Island. Say goodbye to your crew and transfer ashore by Zodiac and explore the surrounding area, time permitting. There are several important science bases here including Chile’s Frei Station and Bellingshausen Station. Transfer to the airstrip for the two-hour flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). Upon arrival into Punta Arenas a transfer from the airport into town is provided.
This itinerary includes a complimentary hotel night in Punta Arenas for all guests returning from King George Island at the end of the voyage. Spend the evening at your leisure. Punta Arenas is home to some cozy restaurants, cafes, and bars—including the historic 'Shackleton Bar' at the Hotel Jose Nogueira—a fitting location to reflect on your journey to Antarctica.
After breakfast and check out, make your own way to the airport for your onward journey. It is recommended that you fly out after midday.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. 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. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this. 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.
No pre-booking required. 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 books 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.
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way 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.
Pre-booked option for up to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak.
Charter flight from Punta Arenas to Stanley, Falkland Islands; charter flight from King George Island to Punta Arenas; transfer from the meeting point in Punta Arenas to the aiport on Day 1; transfer from the airport in Punta Arenas to several downtown hotels on the last day of the cruise; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, hot chocolate in bar/lounge and in-cabin coffee and tea-making facilities; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; 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 community visits; educational presentations and talks by polar experts in their field (i.e. marine biologists, naturalists, historians, etc.); resident photography guide available to assist all guests plus access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained onboard physician; dedicated hospitality team, including hotel manager, four chefs, professional bar staff, and adventure concierge staff; fitness and yoga; access to wellness area (Finnish sauna, plunge pool filled with sea water, hot tub); natural essential oil amenities; access to a well-stocked library of polar reference; end-of-voyage video, photos, and take-home USB; port fees; all permits to access visited areas; gear on loan (wind- and water-resistant jacket, water-resistant pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, trekking poles, and a waterproof backpack). 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 specific in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); meals and transfers in arrival/departure cities; massages from registered therapist; personal laundry charges; personal expenses on board 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: © Amanda Zeisset, Boomer Jerritt, Ira Meyer