Summary : Observe several delightful species of penguins and seals, watch for whales, and experience the remote South Shetland Islands on an expedition with several activity options, from camping to polar diving. 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, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$8,050 to $11,900
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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 (select departures) 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 (select departures) 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 travel insurance including medical, accident, and a minimum of $100,000 in repatriation/evacuation insurance. Furthermore, the shipping company strongly recommends obtaining trip cancellation 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.
Please Note: All voyages will operate subject to a minimum of 70 participants.
Camping: (All departures)
Must be pre-booked prior to departure. Camp out under the Antarctic skies. Campers will be taken ashore via Zodiac after dinner and returned to the ship just before breakfast. A camp will be made on shore 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. One night of camping is the goal; occasionally additional nights are offered when conditions allow. Camping is subject to weather, local site, and environmental regulations. No previous experience is required. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Kayaking: (1/7/2021, 2/4/2021)
Space is limited; must be pre-booked prior to departure. Polar kayaking is an amazing way to slip into the white and blue beauty of the quiet ocean around you. Limited to 14 passengers, kayaking groups will be accompanied by two guides: one leading in a kayak and one trailing nearby in a Zodiac. Kayaking is subject to weather and prevailing ice conditions. Basic kayaking experience is required and physical fitness is essential. Single seat and double seat kayaks, neoprene wet suits, and life vests are provided. Space is limited; request at time of booking. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Polar Diving: (only offered on 2/4/2021 departure)
Space is limited; request at time of booking. This activity is available for highly experienced divers who are familiar with both cold water and dry suit diving (at least 30 dry suit dives). Dive sites will vary from shallow ice diving, diving along a wall, from a beach, or from a Zodiac. Maximum depth is around 65 feet. The combination of sunlight and the often-extraordinary formations of ice cause an overwhelming, ever-changing spectrum of colors with a fantastic variety of shades and brilliance. Diving in Antarctica doesn’t just offer ice, but also interesting marine life, such as kelp walls, sea-snails, crabs, sea butterflies, various Antarctic fish, shrubby horse-tails, jellyfish, sea-hedgehogs, starfish, krill and giant isopods. You might have the possibility of snorkeling or diving with fur seals, leopard seals, and penguins. Participants will dive in groups of eight divers per experienced guide, with a maximum of 24 divers per excursion and a goal of 1-2 different dives per day. Basic equipment such as scuba tanks, compressor, weights and diving essentials are provided but divers must bring their own personal gear, including dry suit with hood and two separate freeze-protected regulators. Participants are required to present their internationally accepted diver certificate, diver's logbook, and a statement from their doctor (less than two years old) that demonstrates they are in a good state of physical health allowing them to scuba dive. 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; 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); all meals onboard the ship; snacks, coffee, and tea; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Any airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; camping; kayaking; polar diving; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; travel insurance, including medical, accident, and repatriation/evacuation insurance (required); baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges; and gratuities. Fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Erwin Vermeulen, © Franco Banfi, © Hanneke Dallmeijer, © John Neuschwander, © Sandra Petrowitz, © Oceanwide Expeditions