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 Antarctica. In the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, you will spend your days off the ship exploring by Zodiac boat, making shore landings in the company of expert guides. By breaking into small special interest groups, you can see Antarctica and its remarkable wildlife through photography, Zodiac excursions, hiking onshore, and for the more adventurous – camping and sea kayaking. Visits to historic huts and working research bases add another dimension to the voyage. This classic 10-night expedition features many of the well-known landing sites such as Neko, Paradise and Orne.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Today is the first day of your adventure. Board your ship in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city on the tip of Argentina, and settle into your home for the days ahead. In the early evening, you will set sail and begin your voyage leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
Chart 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 make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and your 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 your modern research vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, history, and 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. 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 the smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on the vast schools of krill. Sightings of orca are not uncommon.
Every day there is an exciting range of activities, including guided hikes on shore (both short and long), and 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 you 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 Harbour, 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 Harbour provide yet another continental landing opportunity. It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline you will plan a night on shore, camping in Antarctica. You will have all the right gear and equipment and an expert team to make it happen – all you need is an adventurous spirit!
Camping always depends on the weather and you can never guarantee it on any voyage. If the weather is good and site characteristics suit your requirements, rest assured, your expedition team will always go for it. Camping is included and you can decide to participate on the day – there is no need to pre-book. 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 and 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, you will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around you as you explore the old whaling station, with the 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, high up onto the rim of the crater. After leaving Deception Island, cruise along the coast of Livingston Island which in a sunny day is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the South Shetland's including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where you sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. Hannah Point, with it's elephant seal colony and nesting Antarctic petrels – is another possibility. In the evening, navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage.
As you make your way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join your photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, you will hopefully 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 back in Ushuaia. It is time to say farewell to your crew 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.
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. 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.
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. Please Note: Camping is unlikely to happen in March due to lower average night time temperatures on shore and available hours of light. 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 books 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 onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you 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 download studio 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. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak.
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable, you may choose to snowshoe on the continent. Snowshoes and trekking poles provided. Traveling by snowshoes offers a new view of Antarctica! Come prepared with warm socks and comfortable clothing. A small knapsack to carry water and an extra layer of clothing is recommended.
Transfer from the meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on the day of embarkation; transfer from the ship to several downtown locations on the day of disembarkation; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, hot chocolate in bar/lounge and in-cabin coffee and tea-making facilities; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; 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 community visits; educational presentations and talks by polar experts in their field (i.e. marine biologists, naturalists, historians, etc.); resident photography guide available to assist all guests plus access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained onboard physician; dedicated hospitality team, including hotel manager, four chefs, professional bar staff, and adventure concierge staff; fitness and yoga; access to wellness area (Finnish sauna, plunge pool filled with sea water, hot tub); natural essntial oil amenities; access to a well-stocked library of polar reference; end-of-voyage video, photos, and take-home USB; port fees; all permits to access visited areas; gear on loan (wind- and water-resistant jacket, water-resistant pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, trekking poles, and a waterproof backpack). 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 specific in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); meals and transfers in arrival/departure cities; massages from registered therapist; personal laundry charges; 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.
PHOTOS: © Amanda Zeisset; David Sinclair; Ira Meyer