Summary : Antarctica is among the most beautiful, pristine and least explored places on the planet—truly exhilarating, mysterious and alluring! For over two centuries, the 'White Desert' has attracted scientists and adventurers, drawn by its unmatched natural beauty. This largely untouched wilderness is now more accessible to a new generation of intrepid explorers. Visit the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands in the comfort of the Ushuaia, a former research vessel. From the southern spring onwards, large birds and sea mammals gather at breeding colonies and the ceaseless daylight of the southern summer makes exploration in this incomparable landscape a unique experience.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Dedicated Solo Cabins, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark in the afternoon and meet your expedition and lecture staff. Settle into your cabin and sail along the famous Beagle Channel and the scenic Mackinlay Pass.
Named after the renowned explorer, Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters. This creates a great upwelling of nutrients which sustains the biodiversity of this region. The Drake Passage also marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds. As you sail across the passage, lecturers will be available to help in the identification of an amazing variety of seabirds, including many albatrosses, which follow in your wake. The open bridge policy allows you to join the officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for whales, and enjoy the view. A full program of lectures will be offered as well.
The first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains indicate that you have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Capt. William Smith of the brig Williams. Lecturers and naturalists will accompany you ashore as you experience your first encounter with penguins and seals.
The South Shetland Islands are a haven for wildlife. Vast penguin rookeries, and beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals make every day spent in this amazing island group unforgettable. Sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island is breathtaking.
King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, features colonies of nesting Adélie and chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls, blue-eyed cormorants, Antarctic terns, and southern giant petrels, and is home to the scientific bases of many different countries. Macaroni, chinstrap and gentoo penguins as well as elephant seals await you at Livingston Island.
The Antarctic Peninsula's remarkable history will provide you with a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have plenty of time to explore its amazing scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains and waterways, and an incredibly wide variety of wildlife. Apart from penguins and seabirds, you are very likely to see Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals as well as minke, killer (orca), and humpback whales at close range.
You will navigate beautiful waterways depending on the ice conditions. Possibilities include the Gerlache Strait, the Neumayer Channel, and the Lemaire Channel's narrow passages flanked by towering rock faces and spectacular glaciers.
Plan to make at least two landings per day at several landing sites, including Paradise Bay—perhaps the most aptly named place in the world. Attempt a landing on the continent proper. After negotiating the iceberg-strewn waters of the Antarctic Sound, visit the bustling Adélie penguin (over 100,000 pairs breed here) and blue-eyed cormorant colonies on Paulet Island. The Nordenskjöld expedition built a stone survival hut here in 1903. Today its ruins have been overtaken by nesting penguins.
Further exploration may take you to the Melchior Island group, Cuverville Island, Portal Point, Neko Harbor, Pléneau Island and, if ice conditions permit, to Petermann Island for a visit to the southernmost colony of gentoo penguins.
Depart Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join your lecturers and naturalists on deck as you search for seabirds and whales. Enjoy some final lectures, relax, and reflect on your fascinating Antarctic adventures on the way back to Ushuaia.
Arrive at Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark after breakfast.
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 emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of $100,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. 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 U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Voyage as indicated in the itinerary; shipboard accommodations; shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; post-expedition log; gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals aboard the ship; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; comprehensive pre-departure material; coffee and tea throughout the day. Subject to change without notice.
Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights; pre- and post- land arrangements; transfers to / from the vessel; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; emergency evacuation / repatriation insurance (mandatory); baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as bar and beverage charges and telecommunication charges; and the customary gratuity at the end of the voyage (guidelines will be provided); fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Antarpply Expeditions, © Weisheng Lin, © Claudio Suter, © Lopez Tapia