Summary : Towering glaciers, amazing wildlife encounters, snow-covered landscapes, massive icebergs, and the option to choose your favorite activities every day make this voyage the perfect introduction to the white continent. In the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, spend your days off the ship exploring by Zodiac boat, making shore landings in the company of knowledgeable guides. By breaking into small special interest groups, you'll discover Antarctica and its remarkable wildlife through photography, Zodiac excursions, hiking onshore, and—for the more adventurous—camping and optional sea kayaking. Visits to historic huts and working research bases add another dimension to the voyage. This voyage visits many of the well-known landing sites along the Antarctica Peninsula such as Neko, Paradise, and Orne Harbors, Cuverville Island, and the Errera Channel. Ice conditions permitting, you will transit the Lemaire Channel, the gateway to the southern jewels of Petermann Island and Pleneau Island. A further highlight will be visiting the South Shetland Islands. Here, hope to visit Deception Island and other nearby locations such as Half Moon Island, Hannah Point or Yankee Harbor. Returning to South America, you'll have one final thrill: rounding the legendary maritime landmark of Cape Horn.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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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 guide 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 and the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica are laid out before you. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath—you have arrived. This is Antarctica.
The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets, and numerous small islands. The Gerlache coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adelie, and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. You will frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, usually found hauled out on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on vast schools of krill. Sightings of orca are not uncommon.
Your activity program is in full swing and you will be encouraged to choose how you want your adventure to unfold. Every day there is an exciting range of activities, including guided hikes on shore (both short and long), visits to wildlife colonies with expert naturalist guides. The historic huts and science stations located along the peninsula provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice searching for seals and whales is a memorable activity.
Meanwhile, sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship experiencing Antarctica from an entirely different perspective. Your resident photography guide will be on hand to help with your camera handling and image composition. Maybe what you really want to do is sit on a rock, simply watching the penguins come and go from the water? Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show.
Planned excursions along the Antarctic Peninsula could include Cierva Cove or Mikklesen Harbor, Danco Island, the Melchior Islands and Fournier Bay—or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the gentoo penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where you will frequently encounter playful humpback whales. Nearby Paradise Harbor is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route to a viewpoint providing expansive views. Andvord Bay and Neko Harbor provide yet another continental landing opportunity.
After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, you will head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor. You can expect sightings of humpbacks, or the resident pod of orcas that inhabit this stretch of water.
By morning you will arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around as you explore an old whaling station, with its rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Sir Hubert Wilkins of Australia made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater.
After leaving Deception Island, you will cruise along the coast of Livingston Island which on a sunny day is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the South Shetlands including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where you will sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. Hannah Point, with its elephant seal colony and nesting Antarctic petrels, is another possibility. In the evening, you will navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage.
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 resident photographer 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 and less likely to happen in March. 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 11; 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); 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; Daisy Gilardini; Jeff Topham; Paul Zizka