Summary : Embark on an Antarctic Peninsula journey featuring an Antarctic Circle crossing, extraordinary birding, and whale watching opportunities. Sail south across the mighty Drake Passage to Cuverville Island, a small precipitous island nestled between the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and Ronge Island, where you will attempt your first landing. Marvel at gentoo penguins and breeding pairs of Brown Skuas. In Neko Harbor and Paradise Bay, with its myriad iceberds and deep cut fjords, you will have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic Continent. Travel onward through the narrow Gullet between Adelaide Island and the Antarctic Continent with spectacular scenery all around. Visit Wilhelmina Bay with truly excellent whale watching opportunities. Numerous humpbacks and Minkes can be sighted here. In the South Shetland Islands, look forward to wildlife encounters from Elephant Seals to Gentoo Penguins.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Diving, Hiking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
$8,300 to $12,400
In the afternoon, you will embark in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located at the Beagle Channel and sail through this scenic waterway for the rest of the evening.
Spend the next two days of your adventure sailing across the mighty Drake Passage. When you cross the Antarctic Convergence, you will arrive in the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. In this area you may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey-Headed Albatrosses, Black-Browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Albatrosses, Cape Petrels, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. Near the South Shetland Islands, you will spot your first icebergs.
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. Then on to Cuverville Island, stabbing up between Rongé Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. On Cuverville lives a massive colony of gentoo penguins as well as pairs of breeding brown skuas. Neko Harbour, the next stop, affords you the first chance to step onto the Antarctic Continent itself—an epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow. During the following stop at Paradise Bay, you may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in its sprawling, ice-flecked water before sailing on to the Lemaire Channel.
After a comfortable night of sailing, you wake among the many islands south of Lemaire Channel. You are now near the Antarctic Circle. At this point a voyage through the aptly named Gullet – a narrow but picturesque channel between Adelaide Island and the Continent – is possible if the ice isn’t too thick. You can explore this area either from the prow of the ship or the edge of a Zodiac, getting the closest possible contact with the terrain as you venture southward. You might also circumnavigate Pourquoi Pas Island, named after the ship of the famous French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot. This location is known for its tight fjords and lofty, glacier-crowded mountains. On Horseshoe Island is the former British Base Y, a remnant of the 1950s that is now unmanned, though still equipped with almost all the technology it had while in service. Stonington Island is home to the former US East Base and British Base E, which was occupied until 1975. If a stop here is possible, it marks the southernmost landing site of the trip – 68° south. From there your road turns north again, through the Gunnel Channel into Hanusse Bay, with its countless icebergs – and a good chance of spotting whales.
Alternate Route (if the route to the south of Crystal Sound/Hanusse Bay is blocked by ice): You may take a course around the western side of Adelaide Island to reach Marguerite Bay. Should ice conditions also not allow this approach, you may continue the program by exploring the Antarctic Peninsula in and around the Penola and Gerlache Straits.
You are near the Antarctic Circle again, cutting north through the countless ice floes of Crystal Sound. Humpback whale sightings are likely, and your approach to the Fish Islands offers the possibility of a Zodiac cruise or even a landing. Whatever the case, the scenery is beyond compare in this area. There may also be more Adélie penguins congregating among the icebergs nearby. If you’re a bird lover, Petermann and Pléneau Islands provide a great variety of avian life as well as Zodiac cruises among icebergs that are popular leopard seal and crabeater seal hangouts. Minke whales, humpbacks, and gentoo penguins also love to frequent this “hot spot” of Antarctic activity. 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; seeing the emperor penguins is not guaranteed. 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.
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.
Dive under shallow water, down along walls, from the beach, or from a Zodiac. You will reach a maximum of 60 feet. Unlike no other dive—the combination of water, sunlight, and ice formations creates an ever-shifting spectacle of colors. Space is limited; request at time of booking. Participants will dive in group of eight divers per guide, with a maximum of 24 divers per excursion. Compressors and weights are provided. Participants must bring their own dry suit with hood and additional equipment. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for a complete list. This activity is available for experienced divers. Participants are required to present their internationally accepted diver certificate, diver's logbook, and a statement from their doctor (not older than two years) that demonstrates they are in a good state of physical health allowing them to scuba dive. Experience with both cold water diving and dry suit diving (at least 30 dives) is required. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
For beginners and advanced photographers, photo workshops are held under the supervision of a photo expert on board. Everybody is welcome to participate, no previous experience required. The workshop group (20 max) will be accompanied by a photo expert during shore landings. Participants should bring their own photo equipment. The workshop does not intend to instruct on how to use specific camera models, but more to give an insight on better photo results by respecting basic rules of photography.
Cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea; pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation); shore excursions by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges; comprehensive pre-departure material; gear on loan (rubber boots). Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; 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; customary gratuity for the ship's crew; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Dietmar Denger; © Franco Banfi; © Sandra Petrowitz; © Richard Wadey