Summary : This special journey takes you further south than at any other time in the season. By flying to King George Island in Antarctica at the start of the voyage, you will save two days on the ocean crossing. The time you will save by flying south allows for a more substantial exploration below the Antarctic Circle. Here you will witness stunning landscapes, sizable Adélie penguin rookeries, and large flat-topped tabular icebergs that drift north from the Bellingshausen Sea. You can anticipate exciting ice navigation when pushing this far south. Navigate the glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula, passing through the Argentine, Fish and Yalour Island archipelagos when exploring the Gerlache Strait region. There are several important scientific stations here and a number of significant historic sites you can hope to investigate. You will then aim to cross 66 degrees, 33 minutes south latitude, which officially marks the position of the Antarctic Circle. With favorable weather and ice conditions you can hope to reach Marguerite Bay. This is a spectacular location reached by just a handful of ships each season. Every day you will explore off the ship in the company of your expert local guides, enjoying shore visits and Zodiac cruises that may last up to three and four hours at a time. This trip is ideal for those who love the excitement and spontaneity of exploration. There is no better way to travel than via an expedition ship, cruising to remote destinations.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise, Antarctic Circle
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Your journey commences in Punta Arenas, located in southern Chile, where you will board your two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Upon arrival at the King George Island in Antarctica, you will embark on your ship via Zodiac inflatable crafts.
Having crossed the broad expanse of the Bransfield Strait overnight, you will wake to see the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent for the very first time. You will push southwards, navigating to your ultimate objective below the Antarctic Circle. There is much to see and experience on your way south. You will be opportunistic, making shore landings in locations that provide great wildlife encounters, or the chance to stretch your legs on a short or long hike, such as Paradise Harbor or Port Charcot. Petermann Island is home to a substantial Adélie penguin rookery. Researchers are minitoring the penguin population here and study over many seasons is providing insight into possible changes to number and density of both Adélie and gentoo penguins, with subtle changes being observed. Your onboard experts will be able to explain some of these theories and what they mean for the penguins and possible implications of climate change in Antarctica.
Petermann also provides outstanding views towards Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel which you will hopefully have navigated earlier in the day. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, in the shallow waters of the Penola Strait, massive icebergs run aground. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you could ever imagine. For many, a Zodiac cruise here will be a highlight of the voyage.
There are several other locations in the Yalour Island group which allow for Zodiac cruising and potential shore landings. You will hope to visit a working scientific base to learn of the important climate-related research, which is ongoing. This science station is best known for research into the earth's ozone layer. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to explore the old British Antarctic Survey hut, 'Wordie House'. This is a beautiful location offering amazing views from the summit of the island.
It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline where you will plan a night on shore, camping in Antarctica. You will have all the right gear and equipment and an expert team to make it happen—all you need is an adventurous spirit! Camping always depends on the weather and we can never guarantee it on any voyage. If the weather is good and site characteristics suit your requirements you will always go for it. Camping is included and you can decide to participate when onboard. There is no need to pre-book this activity.
Given optimal ice conditions, you will aim to sail south of the Antarctic Circle. A favored landing site here is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut. ‘Base W’ was established in the 1950’s and is in a remarkable state of preservation. For the history buffs this is a fascinating place, providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic scientists and researchers. You are at the mercy of prevailing ice conditions navigating even further south. Your expedition team has drawn from years of experience to determine that February gives you your best chance of reaching Marguerite Bay. You may take the ‘shortcut’, through a narrow channel known as 'the Gullet' if the passage is ice-free. Otherwise, you could navigate around the outside of Adelaide Island—which will take more time, yet bring you to the same destination.
Marguerite Bay is home to several important science bases: Rothera (UK), San Martin (Argentina), Carvajal (Chile) and features rich history. You will hope to make a visit to at least one of these locations. The area is full of history and the British Graham Land Expedition (BGLE) of the early 1930's—led by intrepid Australian explorer, John Rymill, established their Southern Base in this area. They explored and surveyed large areas of the Antarctic Peninsula by airplane, establishing the Antarctic Peninsula was indeed connected to the main continental landmass and not just a series of off-shore islands as earlier believed.
As you make your way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you can enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. Or spend time on the outside observation decks or the bridge, observing the incredible pelagic birds soaring on the winds around the ship. Several albatross species, as well as giant petrels and other seabirds can be observed at close quarters. If weather conditions allow, you can hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
In the early morning, arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise enjoy a night in town or perhaps 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Charter flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica; transfer from a central meeting point in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1 and from Ushuia to the airport (or a downtown hotel) on arrival back from Antarctica on Day 14; camping (gear provided); 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 (waterproof 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 Zeissett, Boomer Jerritt, Ira Meyer, Paula Zizka, Renato Granieri