Summary : This special journey travels further south than at any other time in the season. Additional days onboard allow you to venture as far south as ice conditions permit. Here you'll witness stunning landscapes, sizable Adelie penguin rookeries, and large flat-topped tabular icebergs that drift north from the Bellingshausen Sea. With favorable weather and ice conditions hope to reach Marguerite Bay. This spectacular location is reached by just a handful of ships each season. You can always anticipate exciting ice navigation when pushing this far south. Having reached your objective of the Antarctic Circle, you'll return to the north, navigating along the glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula and passing through the Argentine, Fish, and Yalour Island archipelagos while exploring the Gerlache Strait region. There are several important scientific stations here and a number of significant historic sites to investigate. A transit of the Lemaire Channel is another goal on this voyage and always a highlight. Every day you'll explore off the ship in the company of knowledgeable guides, enjoying shore visits and Zodiac cruises that may last up to four hours at a time. For those with an adventurous streak, why not spend a night ashore camping like the early Antarctic explorers? This trip is ideal for those who love the excitement and spontaneity of small ship exploration in the most remote locations on the planet.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
$11,795 to $21,495
Your journey commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the pier to embark the expedition ship. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, 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.
Chart a southerly course for Antarctica. The Drake Passage is rich in its biodiversity 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 guide will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge to learn about the operations of a modern research vessel. Throughout the day, onboard specialists educate with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the locations you hope to visit in the coming days. As you approach the coastline of Antarctica, expect to encounter more icebergs and anticipate your first whale sightings.
Given optimal ice conditions, you will aim to sail south of the Antarctic Circle. A favored landing site there is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut, 'Base W' was established in the 1950s and is in a remarkable state of preservation. This is a fascinating place for history buffs, providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic scientists and researchers.
The expedition is at the mercy of prevailing ice conditions navigating even further south. Late February offers the best chance of reaching Marguerite Bay. You may take a ‘shortcut’ through a narrow channel known as 'the Gullet' if the passage is ice-free. Otherwise, the ship could navigate around the outside of Adelaide Island.
Marguerite Bay is home to several important science bases: Rothera (UK), San Martin (Argentina), and Carvajal (Chile). Hope to make a visit to at least one of these locations. The area is full of history. The British Graham Land Expedition (BGLE) of the early 1930s, led by intrepid Australian explorer, John Rymill, established its southern base in this area. They explored and surveyed large areas of the Antarctic Peninsula by airplane, establishing that the Antarctic Peninsula was indeed connected to the main continental landmass, and not just a series of offshore islands as earlier believed.
This vicinity marks the turnaround point of the voyage. From now on, you'll cruise in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are several locations in the Fish and Argentine Island archipelagos which allow for Zodiac cruising and potential shore landings. Hope to visit a working scientific base to learn of the important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to stretch your legs and explore the old British Antarctic Survey hut.
Petermann Island is home to a sizable Adelie 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 Lemaire Channel. 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 has sculpted 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.
Aim to transit the Lemaire Channel on your way north towards Paradise Harbor. This may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica proper. Nearby Neko Harbor offers another continental landing. Both locations offer terrific hiking opportunities up to panoramic view points.
Orne Harbor is another spot you'll hope to visit. The hike up to a rocky knoll provides great access to a chinstrap penguin rookery and jaw-dropping views over the Gerlache Strait. At Cuverville Island, there is a large gentoo penguin colony you can observe at close quarters. Leopard seals are often sighted cruising the shallows along the landing site. For the kayakers, a full circumnavigation of the island is a real possibility. It is somewhere in this vicinity you can hope to spend a night ashore camping if weather conditions permit. All the gear and an expert team is provided to make this unique experience happen.
You are now at the most northern point on the Peninsula. Additional visits may include Mikkelson Harbor or nearby Cierva Cove, rounding out what has been a comprehensive exploration of the Gerlache coastline. Tonight, leaving the continent in the soft twilight, reflect on an incredible ten days of exploration south of the Circle and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Having crossed the Bransfield Straight overnight, 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 rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike here, high up onto the rim of the crater.
On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where you might encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise.
As you make your 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 guide in the multimedia room and 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, guides, and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
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.
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.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip commences in and returns to Ushuaia, Argentina. It is recommended that you arrive in Ushuaia at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of any unexpected travel delays between home and voyage embarkation. A transfer from the ship to the airport or local hotel is provided upon disembarkation. It is advised that you book your outward flight from Ushuaia from mid-morning onward or consider spending a night in Ushuaia at the conclusion of your voyage.
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. 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.
Kayaking: pre-booking required
Limited 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 and 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.
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in different ways 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.
Transfer from central meeting point in Ushuaia on Day 1; transfer from the port to the airport or a downtown hotel at the conclusion of your voyage on Day 14; 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 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 science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists onboard or ashore; 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.
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 onboard 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: © Amanda Zeissett, Boomer Jerritt, Ira Meyer, Paula Zizka, Renato Granieri