Summary : This exciting expedition provides great diversity and appeal to those seeking the complete Antarctic experience. It includes the South Shetland Islands, the western and northern sections of the Antarctic Peninsula, the stunning Weddell Sea region located on the eastern side of the Peninsula, and the historic location of Elephant Island. Adding to the experience will be a visit to several locations in the Falkland Island archipelago – home to nesting albatross and the colorful King penguin. These diverse locations feature their own unique attractions. Expect stunning glaciated scenery along the Antarctic Peninsula, enormous Adelie penguin rookeries and flat-topped tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea, rich history in the South Shetlands and Elephant Island, and observe several new wildlife species in the Falklands. Your time on this voyage is maximized by flying from South America to Antarctica, saving two days of crossing the Drake Passage. Another day and a half is saved by flying from the Falkland Islands back to South America at the conclusion of the voyage. The time saved by flying equals more time to explore in Antarctica. You can expect to be off the ship exploring for nine of the twelve days on this trip. This unique expedition has been designed for those seeking the most in-depth and varied Antarctic experience possible.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
$12,595 to $21,195
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the airport for the included two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Upon arrival at King George Island, embark your ship via Zodiac. After settling into your cabin and exploring your new surroundings, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner, with everyone on board looking forward to the incredible adventure ahead.
Overnight the ship will navigate across the Bransfield Strait. You'll wake to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent laid out before you. For the next few days you will have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. If ice conditions allow, you will cruise through the Lemaire Channel and visit sites which may include Pleneau Island and the Penola Strait. To the south lies Petermann Island, home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adélie and Gentoo penguins nest side-by-side. A visit to an active science station nearby provides a fascinating insight into the important climate change research occurring in Antarctica. There’s a fantastic walk on a nearby island where you'll hope to make a full traverse across a snowy knoll from one side of the island to the other. The old British Antarctic Survey hut of Wordie House, begs for further investigation.
Returning north, you will pass the massive granite sentinels of Mount Scott and Mount Shackleton and may attempt a second transit of the Lemaire Channel. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Your activity program is in full swing by now. Each day you will enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with your knowledgeable guides providing insight and interpretation. Planned visits could include Paradise Harbor, Orne Harbor, Andvord Bay or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where you will frequently encounter pods of humpback whales feeding. It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline that you may plan to spend a night on shore, camping in Antarctica. You will have all the right gear and equipment and a specialist team to make it happen—all you need is an adventurous spirit! If the weather is good and site characteristics suit the expedition's requirements, camping will be arranged. Camping is included in the voyage price and there is no need to pre-book this activity.
You'll now head north toward the Antarctic Sound—the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way, hope to make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, the ship sails right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around as you explore an old whaling station with rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. 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 an outstanding hike here to a location known as "Neptune’s Window" high up on the rim of the crater.
At about 25 nautical miles long and about 10 nautical miles wide, the Antarctic Sound separates Joinville Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. As you sail into the sound, witness the vastness and majesty of the Antarctic icecap—it is an awe-inspiring sight. Heading into the Weddell Sea, notice a significant increase in the number of huge tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. These massive icebergs break from the huge ice shelves to the south and drift north on the currents. This always makes for exciting navigation—and stunning photographic opportunities in the soft Antarctic twilight. This is wild and remote Antarctica and has a distinctly different feel from locations visited thus far.
The Weddell Sea region is home to Adélie penguin rookeries of staggering size; some contaiin more than 100,000 nesting birds. Such colonies dwarf the penguin rookeries visited so far. Weather permitting, excursions in the Weddell Sea region may include Hope Bay, Paulet Island, and Brown Bluff. All eyes will be trained on the ice floes through which the ship will navigate. There have been a number of emperor penguins sightings in this area in recent years and they are known to inhabit the area.
The history of exploration in this region is incredibly rich. Remnants of Nordenskjöld’s Swedish expedition of 1901-1904 are found in several locations in this area. The epic century-old story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition has strong links to the region. It was here that he and his men drifted north on the ice after their ship had been lost in pack ice months earlier. Heading north and out of the Weddell Sea, the lavender pink sunset off the port quarter of the ship might make you pause to consider the bravery (or foolhardiness) of those early explorers who traveled these waters a hundred years before.
Point Lookout on the southern tip of Elephant Island is home to an impressive chinstrap penguin colony. Macaroni penguins also breed here and are a species you probably haven't encountered thus far on this trip. Both southern elephant seals and fur seals are hauled out on the rocky beaches. If conditions permit, you may visit the fabled location of Point Wild on the north coast of Elephant Island. It is here that Shackleton and his men were encamped under their upturned life boats, before he and five of his men set off on a rescue mission to South Georgia in their tiny lifeboat, the James Caird.
While sailing north to the Falkland Islands, your onboard polar specialists will recap your Weddell Sea adventures and prepare you for the time ahead. Days at sea are never dull, with much of your time spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. The spectacular pelagic seabirds, including several albatross and petrel species, are constant companions as they soar above the ship. Photographing these stunning birds in flight takes great patience and skill. Your resident photography guide will show you the best techniques. The educational program continues as well. You'll be entertained with interactive presentations and lively discussions.
Arriving into the Falkland Islands overnight, you'll explore the island of West Point and nearby Saunders Island in the West Falkland archipelago. West Point is known for its rockhopper penguin rookeries and substantial nesting black-browed albatross colony. The opportunity to observe these spectacular birds in close proximity on the nest is an immense privilege and an experience not easily forgotten. One final highlight awaits: a visit to wildlife-rich Saunders Island. Along the white sand beaches and in the surrounding tussock grass, hope to encounter no less than four penguin species living in close quarters to each other, including the gentoo, magellanic, and rockhopper. The ultimate goal during the Falkland Island visit: observing the impressive king penguin. Saunders Island is a fitting end to your epic Antarctic adventure. Charting a course for the port of Stanley in early evening, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship and reflect on one of life’s great travel experiences.
In the early morning, the ship will navigate through the narrows and into port. Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is a charming location, with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral, and several local pubs. You'll have time to explore town before a transfer takes you to the airport for your included return flight to Punta Arenas.
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.
Important Voyage Logistics:
Trip Planning: This trip commences in and returns to Punta Arenas, Chile. It is recommended that you arrive in Punta Arenas at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of any unexpected travel delays between home, voyage embarkation, and departure. From Punta Arenas you will fly to King George Island, Antarctica via a special charter flight. Your voyage will conclude in Stanley, Falkland Islands where you will fly back to Punta Arenas. For guests staying in Punta Arenas, an arrival transfer is provided from the airport to a central downtown location.
Luggage Limits: Different luggage limits apply to the special charter flight between Punta Arenas, Chile and King George Island, Antarctica. Please observe a limit of 20-kg / 44-lb. There is no facility to purchase excess luggage on this flight. Excess baggage can be stored in Punta Arenas for the duration of your voyage for a small fee. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
No pre-booking required. Subject to weather conditions. 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. 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.
A resident photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage. The photographer will 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 lab 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 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.
Special charter flight between Punta Arenas and King George Island; scheduled flight between Stanley and Punta Arenas; transfer in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1; transfer from ship to Stanley airport and transfer to downtown location in Punta Arenas at conclusion of voyage on Day 12; shipboard accommodations; camping (gear provided); 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; guided hikes and walks; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists; 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.
Additional Inclusions for Suites:
Welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); early morning adventure concierge coffee service; in-room mini bar, single brew coffee machine, mini-stereo, and iPad with reference and fictional content; complimentary field guide to polar region visited. 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 voyage itinerary (or pre-arranged); visa and passport expenses; personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, laundry expenses or massages; 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. Fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Adam Riley; © C Lawton; © Ira Meyer; © Claudio Suter