Summary : December and January are a beautiful time to experience Antarctica. It is the height of summer with extended daylight hours, wildlife colonies are busy, and as the sea ice continues to break up, the range of landing sites expands even further. The sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and the island of South Georgia are home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife. There are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds and the beaches are covered in fur seals and elephant seals. Seabirds, including many of the albatross species, call these islands home, nesting and raising their young in this wild and remote environment. Both locations feature fascinating history and stunning scenery. To the south lies Antarctica – the frozen continent and ultimate destination on this outstanding voyage. Icebergs in all shapes and sizes fill the waters, and more unique wildlife can be found living in sizable colonies. The waters are full of life and you’ll frequently encounter whales including humpback, minke, and orca. On this voyage, your days are spent exploring onshore in the company of expert guides – including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, and adventurers as well as a resident photography professional. The use of time-saving flights on this departure means maximized time to experience all the key locations.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
$16,995 to $26,695
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. You will meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for your scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute journey you will be met on arrival and transferred to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal Britain. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. There is time to explore the town, before ship embarkation. After settling in to our cabins and exploring the ship, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail, dinner and cast off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Overnight the ship has navigated down the eastern coast of the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, you will first note the barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. Embark a Zodiac and go ashore to view the incredible diversity of wildlife found at this location. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper, as well as southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. King cormorants and striated caracaras are just some of the bird species you can expect to see. Weather permitting, you may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island—another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands—equally rich in wildlife.
Today, chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds once again join you in the Southern Ocean. The educational presentations continue and are always popular. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition is central to any trip to South Georgia. Perhaps you will pick up some valuable tips from your onboard photographic guide, learning about image composition, the subtle polar light, and all the basics of good camera craft. You will also learn about Polar conservation - a theme particularly close to the hearts of your guides and crew.
South Georgia has often been called the 'Serengeti of the Southern Ocean.' As you approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. You will explore the island aboard a Zodiac in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal will line the dark sand beaches. Living in the tussock grass, king penguins and their chicks may number up to 100,000 birds in some locations, including Salisbury Plain, St Andrews Bay, and Gold Harbor. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross and they fill the skies above, coming and going from the nest.
South Georgia is a thrilling location for history lovers and the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around. You will hopefully be able to observe several of the old stations at locations including Leith, Husvik, and Stromness. A highlight is a visit to Grytviken—the largest of the whaling stations, situated at the head of Cumberland Bay. It is here you will visit the grave site of Sir Ernest Shackleton. For many, being in the presence of the great explorer will be a highlight of the trip. An excellent museum at Grytviken, maintained by the South Georgia Heritage Trust, and the restored church built by the original Norwegian whalers provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Weather and ice will dictate your crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica. Your expedition leader and captain will make a decision based on the sea and ice conditions at the time. The South Orkney Island group represent the peaks of a submarine mountain range called the Scotia Arc, connecting South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands. Often shrouded in fog and surrounded by ice much of the year, a chance to visit these islands doesn’t come often. As you edge ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce your arrival in Antarctic waters. If conditions allow, you will hopefully see the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon. Shackleton and his men were encamped here for many months, having lost HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice, far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. From the tiny beach at Point Wild, Shackleton and five companions set off on a rescue mission to South Georgia aboard the tiny lifeboat, James Caird. To this day, the epic ocean crossing is considered one of the greatest in history. If conditions allow, you will attempt a landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland you will find the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites could include King George Island, Half Moon Island or Yankee Harbor. Weather conditions permitting, the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. There are some outstanding hikes at these locations, and an old whaling station and aircraft hangar at Deception Island beg for further exploration.
After so much anticipation, you will enter the icy waters of the Antarctic peninsula in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbor or Cierva Cove. Along the shoreline in the bays and harbors of the peninsula lives an incredible abundance of wildlife. Large rookeries are home to chinstrap, gentoo and Adelie penguins. Seals live on the ice floes, including the powerful leopard seal.
Explore by Zodiac boat and ashore where a range of exciting activities await. Locations you will hopefully visit include Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbor, Cuverville Island, and the Errera Channel. Join the photographic guide taking pictures of stunning icebergs. Or enjoy a hike to the top of a snowy mountain saddle with one of your adventure guides. If the opportunity presents itself, visit a science base or an old historic hut. The sea kayakers may range up to several miles from the ship, for a truly memorable experience.
This morning you will say goodbye to your expedition team and transfer ashore by Zodiac. Walk from the shore landing site past the Chilean research station and up towards the airstrip where you will board your special charter flight. This flight takes a little over two hours and is included in the price of your voyage. Upon arrival into Punta Arenas a transfer from the airport into town is provided.
This itinerary includes a complimentary post-voyage hotel night in Punta Arenas for all guests returning from voyages that conclude at King George Island. This evening is at your leisure. Punta Arenas is home to some cozy restaurants, cafes and bars—including the historic ‘Shackleton Bar’ at the Hotel Jose Nogueira—a fitting location to reflect on your journey to Antarctica.
After checkout, make your own way to the airport for your onward journey. It's recommended that you book flights after midday.
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.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance. The travel insurance must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter), luggage and personal effects, and personal liability. It is strongly recommended that you purchase cancellation and curtailment insurance. 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.
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:
Trip Planning: This trip commences in and returns to Punta Arenas, Chile. It is recommended that you arrive in Punta Arenas 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. From Punta Arenas you'll fly to Stanley, Falkland Islands, where you'll board the expedition ship and commence your journey. At the conclusion of the voyage, you'll fly from King George Island, Antarctica, back to South America via a special charter flight. Upon arrival, a transfer is provided from the airport to downtown Punta Arenas. This itinerary includes an additional hotel night in Punta Arenas at the conclusion of your voyage. It is strongly recommended that you make onward travel plans for the following day.
Luggage Limits: Different luggage limits apply to the special charter flight between King George Island, Antarctica and Punta Arenas, Chile. Please observe a limit of 20-kg / 44-lb. There is no facility to purchase excess luggage on this flight. Excess baggage can be stored in Punta Arenas for the duration of your voyage for a small fee. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
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.
A resident photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage. The photographer will 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 lab with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Charter flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica; scheduled flight from Stanley, Falkland Islands back to Punta Arenas, Chile; transfers from central meeting point in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1 and from the airport to a downtown hotel on arrival back from Stanley Day 17; 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 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. Fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Ira Meyer, © David Sinclair