Summary : Observe several delightful species of penguins and seals, watch for whales, and experience the remote South Shetland Islands on an expedition with optional kayaking and camping. Sail through the spectacular Beagle Channel, enjoy impressive landscapes composed of high mountains and huge glaciers, navigate by Zodiac among ice floes, and set foot on the Antarctic continent on this trip of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$7,950 to $11,800
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence—Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas—you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. Wandering albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, black-browed albatrosses, light-mantled sooty albatrosses, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels, and Antarctic petrels are a few of the birds you might see.
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. Sites you may visit include:
Danco Island – Activities here may focus on the gentoo penguins nesting on the island, in addition to the Weddell and crabeater seals that can be found nearby.
Neko Harbor – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow. Opportunities for Zodiac cruising and kayaking provide you the closest possible view of the ice-crusted alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay – You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters, where you have a good chance of seeing humpback and minke whales.
Port Lockroy – After sailing through the Neumayer Channel, you may get a chance to visit the former British research station (now a museum and post office) of Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. You may also be able to partake in activities around Jougla Point, meeting gentoo penguins and blue-eyed shags. There are great opportunities also for kayaking and camping here, and when conditions are right, you can even snowshoe around the shore.
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist, but they do offer subtle pleasures: There’s a wide variety of flora (mosses, lichens, flowering grasses) and no small amount of fauna (gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels). In Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows and into the flooded caldera. Here you find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels – along with kelp gulls, brown and south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns. A good hike is a possibility in this fascinating and desolate volcanic landscape.
As an alternative, you may be able to engage in activities near Half Moon Island. Here chinstrap penguins and Weddell seals often haul out onto the beach near Cámara Base, an Argentine scientific research station. 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; 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.
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.
Must be pre-booked prior to departure. Camp out under the Antarctic skies. The camping group will be taken ashore via Zodiac after dinner, and returned to the ship just before breakfast. On shore a camp will be made in a place where wildlife will not be disturbed. Special gear and field equipment will be provided; tents, wind and waterproof bivouac bags, mattresses and polar sleeping bags provide comfort during the night. Experienced expedition guides will conduct the activity ashore. Camping is subject to weather, local site, and environmental regulations. No previous experience is required. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Space is limited; must be pre-booked prior to departure. Polar sea kayaking is an amazing way to slip into the beauty of the quiet ocean around you. Chances of meeting wildlife are high. Kayaking excursions are limited to 14 passengers. Prior sea kayaking experience is required and physical fitness is essential. Groups will be accompanied by two guides, one leading in a kayak and one trailing nearby in a Zodiac. Subject to weather and prevailing ice conditions. Single seat or double seat kayaks, neoprene wet suits, and life vests are provided. Space is limited; request at time of booking. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Pre-scheduled group transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia directly following disembarkation; luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on day of embarkation in Ushuaia; shipboard accommodations; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; gear on loan (rubber boots and snowshoes); all meals onboard the ship including snacks, coffee, and tea; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; 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, and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Erwin Vermeulen, © Franco Banfi, © Hanneke Dallmeijer, © Rob Tully, © Jutta & Erik Swanbom, © Sandra Petrowitz