Summary : Join an exciting new Antarctic air-cruise—undoubtably the most comprehensive journey to Antarctica ever offered! Only scientists and researchers, who spend many months working at the numerous research stations in Antarctica, can claim to spend more time 'down on the ice'. This unique experience links two existing voyages to create one 'super adventure'. Over the course of three weeks, you will spend an unprecendented 16 days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, the spectacular, icy Weddell Sea region and the wildlife-rich Falkland Islands. In practical terms, this voyage will provide you with more than thirty off-ship excursions! Over the duration of the voyage, you will visit wildlife colonies, historic sites, science bases, and spend plenty of time ashore enjoying extended walks, many up to stunning viewpoints. Cruise by Zodiac among the ice floes and search for whales and seals, or admire and photograph the deep blue icebergs.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
$19,290 to $30,390
Your epic journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. You will 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 you will be met on arrival and transferred 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. There will be time to explore the town before you make your way to the ship for embarkation. After settling in to your cabins and exploring the ship, you will 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 the adventure of a lifetime.
You will chart a southerly course for Antarctica. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in marine life 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 you make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill. 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, the wildlife and history and the locations you hope to visit in the coming days.
This morning you are in position at the northern end of King George Island—the largest in the South Shetlands groups. There are two potential 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 you will continue your journey south making you way ever slower to the Antarctic coastline. Large icebergs will be present from this point onward 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. You will 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.
Today you will be encouraged to spend time on the outer decks soaking up the scenery as your ship navigates south. You will pass through the ice strewn waters making your way towards the ultimate objective—the Antarctic Circle! Given that ice conditions are favorable, 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 a turnaround point and from now on, you will return in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. Hopefully you will be able to visit a working scientific base to learn something about the important climate-related research happening there. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island will allow you to stretch your legs and explore an historic British Antarctic Survey hut. If the conditions are right, you will aim to camp overnight somewhere in the vicinity. Your expedition team will provide all of the gear to make this a night to remember!
Petermann Island is home to an Adélie penguin rookery. Adelies—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 Islands offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, massive icebergs run a round 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 the highlight of their voyage.
Today you will cruise 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 viewing points. 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 you will arrive in the South Shetland Islands. Whalers Bay at Deception Island is a very dramatic place and history is all around you here as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end o the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian explorer and pioneer aviator, 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.
This morning you are anchored off King George Island. You will say farewell to many of your fellow passengers as they disembark, transfer to the airstrip and board their charter flight back to South America. There will be an opportunity to go ashore, or you may wish to relax on board, updating the diary or visit the multi-media room to download and back up your images. New guests are welcomed aboard the ship and you are soon underway—for the second leg of your epic adventure.
For the next three days you will have a varied itinerary exploring the northern peninsula coastline. This whole region is one large Polar 'playground' with a great variety of landing sites. As always the weather and ice will dictate your route. Planned visits could include Port Charcot, Orne Harbour or Andvord Bay. All three locations offer excellent hiking opportunities, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to and land on Danco Island—a large dome shaped island affording terrific views of the whole region from its summit. Wilhelmina Bay is another favourite location you could stop at for a second visit, as you frequently encounter pods of humpback whales in this area. If the channel south of Brooklyn Island is ice-free, you may ship cruise through here as you push to the north into the broad expanse of the Gerlache Strait. Cierva Cove and Mikkelsen Harbor are also possible locations you could visit—both providing good Zodiac cruising opportunities. You are now on your way towards Antarctic Sound—the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. On your port side, will be the South Shetland Islands. It won’t be the first time you have cruised these waters, but there are some terrific sites here which you may go and explore. Half Moon Island is nearby and is home to a sizeable chinstrap penguin rookery. Across the MacFarlane Strait is Yankee Harbor—with its broad pebble beach—a known location for Weddell seals.
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. Sailing into the sound you will witness for the first time the vast sweep of the Antarctic icecap. It is an awe-inspiring sight. Heading into the Weddell Sea you will 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 so far. The Weddell Sea region is home to Adélie penguin rookeries of staggering size—some contain more than 100,000 nesting birds. Such colonies dwarf the rookeries you will have visited so far. Weather permitting, excursions may include Hope Bay, Paulet Island, and Brown Bluff.
All eyes will be trained on the ice floes through which you will navigate the ship. There have been successful sightings of emperor penguins in this area in recent years. Based on the size and plumage, your wildlife experts believe them to be juveniles out exploring and fishing—and possible residents of the known emperor colony on the southern side of Snow Hill Island. 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 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 the ice months earlier. As you head north and out of the Weddell Sea, the lavender pink sunset off the port quarter of the ship will make some of you pause to consider the bravery (or foolhardiness) of those early explorers who traveled these waters a hundred years before you.
Today you will approach Elephant Island from the south. Point Lookout, on the southern tip of the island, is home to an impressive chinstrap penguin colony. Macaroni penguins also breed here and are a species which have yet to be encountered to date. Both southern elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals are hauled out on the beaches in large numbers. 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 five men set off on a rescue mission to South Georgia in their tiny lifeboat.
While sailing north to the Falkland Islands your onboard polar experts will recap on your Weddell Sea adventures and prepare you for the final days ahead. The spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species once again join you and are your constant companions as they soar above the ship. Your educational program continues and your experts entertain you with presentations and lead lively discussions.
Arriving into the Falkland Islands overnight, today you will explore the islands of West Point and Saunders, both in the West Falkland archipelago. West Point is known for its rockhopper penguin rookeries and large 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 the wildlife-rich Saunders Island. Along the white sand beaches and in the tussock grass you will hopefully encounter no less than four penguin species living in close quarters including gentoo, magellanic, and rockhopper—and your goal during the Falkland Islands visit, observing the impressive king penguin. Saunders is a fitting end to an epic Antarctic adventure. Charting a course for the port of Stanley in early evening light, you will 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 you will navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer will take you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). It will be possible to connect to flights to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Otherwise, enjoy a night in Punta Arenas, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
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. 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.
Camping: No additional supplement (highly weather dependent activity)
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.
Enhanced Photography Program:
Select departures host an enhanced photography program, where in addition to the photographer in residence, a professional photographer will serve as one of the expedition guides. This expands the opportunities and bandwidth for those passengers looking to learn more and get more out of their images. 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.
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.
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 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.
Roundtrip flight between Punta Arenas, Chile and Stanley, Falkland Islands; 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: © Ira Meyer, Paul Zizka