Summary : This unique expedition combines many of the classic and well-known locations along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula with a genuine sense of exploration as it enters the icy realms of the Weddell Sea, situated on the less-visited eastern side of the peninsula. It is here that big icebergs roam and flat-topped tabular bergs, some the size of whole city blocks, break from vast ice tongues far to the south before drifting north on ocean currents. The Weddell Sea is home to astonishing wildlife colonies that dwarf those found in other regions. At Brown Bluff, on Paulet Island, and in the Danger Islands, it is possible to visit colonies with more than 100,000 nesting Adelie penguins. This is one of nature’s most amazing sights. A known emperor penguin rookery at Snow Hill Island means that you’ll have the best possible chance of encountering the largest of Antarctica’s penguins while exploring in this region. Rich history is found at every turn adding to the experience. This voyage provides an in-depth exploration of the Weddell Sea at the optimal time of the season for weather and ice navigation. Celebrate the ultimate white Christmas on this holiday journey. If you are seeking a voyage which provides a sense of the ‘wild and unknown’ and of ‘true exploration,’ this may be the trip you’ve been looking for.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$10,895 to $19,895
Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, Argentina. Gather at the central meeting point and transfer to the pier to embark on your expedition ship. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
The captain charts a southerly course for Antarctica. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its bio-diversity 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 takes patience and skill. A resident 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 will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife, and history of the locations you hope to visit in the coming days. As you approach the coastline of Antarctica, anticipate an increase in whale sightings.
Awaken today to the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica laid out before you. Arriving into Antarctic waters via the Bismark Strait, aim for some of the crew’s favorite landing sites today. Anvers Island is one of the largest of the off-shore ‘barrier’ islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are several outstanding sites here and along neighboring Wiencke Island, such as Damoy Point and Port Lockroy. These locations provide your first opportunity to cruise in a Zodiac and venture ashore. A short transit across the Gerlache Strait brings you along the actual continental landmass of Antarctica. A shore landing at Paradise Harbor will be a highlight – as you step foot on the continent proper, for the first time.
An Argentine refuge is located here and the nearby hike up a snow-covered hill provides staggering views. Iceberg-filled waters surrounded by the towering peaks of the continent will leave even the most jaded traveler at a loss for words. If ice conditions allow, Zodiac cruising or sea-kayaking into the nearby ice ‘cathedral’ of Skontorp Cove is another memorable experience. On a still day, the dark water reflects the gigantic glaciers throwing a magical light over this ethereal scene. Navigate in a northerly direction along the Gerlache Strait overnight. This is an important whale migration corridor and with the long hours of twilight at this time of the season, you’re encouraged to be on the bridge looking for the tell-tale blows of migrating pods of humback and minke whales. You may even catch a glimpse of the resident orca pod that inhabits this stretch of water.
By morning you have reached several other favored locations in the northern Gerlache. Places such as Cierva Cove or Mikkelson Harbor allow for some great excursions on shore and in the Zodiacs. There are substantial penguin rookeries located here and it’s a good place to look for leopard seals on the ice floes. The remote Spert Islands provide a fascinating lesson in geology. This island group is crisscrossed by narrow channels and coves. Cruising in a Zodiac or sea kayaking here is a real thrill. Seabirds nest on the cliffs above, while seals can be found resting along the shoreline. You may encounter whales in this vicinity. As the journey continues, you will arrive in the South Shetland Islands by morning.
Sunrise over Livingston Island is a sight to behold. The mountains are a blaze of color as you arrive into the South Shetlands. The captain will enter the McFarlane Strait with an objective of Half Moon Island or nearby Yankee Harbor. Arriving on shore, a sizeable rookery of chinstrap penguins act as a very noisy welcoming committee. Hope to observe a substantial elephant seal colony here. Among the locations you may visit is Fort Point on nearby Greenwich Island with its pebble covered isthmus – a popular location for resting fur seals. After a busy day in the South Shetlands, excitement is in the air as you set sail for Antarctic Sound – the gateway to the Weddell Sea.
Arriving into the Weddell Sea is a humbling experience. You’ll notice an increase in huge, flat-topped tabular icebergs in this vicinity. Always anticipate exciting ice navigation in the Weddell Sea and watching the captain and officers at work is a lesson in skilled seamanship. The Weddell Sea is rich in history. The early Swedish explorer, Otto Nordenskjold, and his companions spent several years here in a remarkable yet little-known tale of survival. Just over a decade later, Sir Ernest Shackleton and the survival of his crew from the Imperial TransAntarctic Expedition (HMS Endurance), in 1914-17, grabbed the imagination of the entire world. To this day, Shackleton’s journey remains one of the great tales of polar exploration and survival.
This region is home to immense colonies of the smallest of Antarctica’s penguin species – the Adelie. In locations such as Paulet Island, Brown Bluff, Gourdin Island and the Danger Islands, these rookeries are home to as many as 100,000 nesting penguins. If ice conditions permit, the ship will push south towards the fabled location of Snow Hill Island. A known emperor penguin rookery can be found here. While the largest of Antarctica’s penguins nest far from the shoreline, all eyes are peeled on the waters and ice floes as you hope to view these superb penguins coming and going from their rookery.
Your adventure is far from over and there’s an exciting day planned with possible shore landings on Vega Island, which is home to some of the most fascinating paleontology found in all of Antarctica. Fossils here tell the story of Gondwanaland, of giant penguins and other dinosaur species and early plant life on Earth. Brown Bluff and d’Urville Monument are other landing possibilities in the area. Celebrate your exploration of the Weddell Sea this evening, enjoying a fine Christmas celebration onboard the ship, commencing your journey home.
As the ship makes its way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you'll enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join the photography experts in the multimedia room to download and back-up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, 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. You will be transported to your hotel or to the airport for your return flight home.
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.
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.
An 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 a different way 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 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. 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.
Transfers from central meeting point in Ushuaia on Day 1 and from port to airport or downtown hotel at conclusion of voyage on Day 13; shipboard accommodations; 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 unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); massages from registered therapist; 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. Fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Boomer Jerritt, © C. Lawton, © Ira Meyer, © Adam Riley, © David Sinclair, © Paul Zizka