Summary : Antarctica and the remote islands of the South Atlantic are home to some of the largest wildlife colonies found anywhere on Earth. On the dark sand beaches and in the tussock-covered dunes of South Georgia, king penguin colonies contain more than 100,000 adult birds and their young. To the south, in the remote Weddell Sea region of Antarctica, find Adelie penguin rookeries of a similar size and scale. In March 2018, scientists from Stony Brook University and their international colleagues announced the discovery of a previously unknown penguin colony, estimated to contain more than a million Adelie penguins. Studying detailed satellite imagery of the remote Danger Islands, researchers visited and confirmed the astonishing find. These islands sit at the remote and little-visited northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. ‘Mega colonies’ are the focus of this unique voyage, a world first in polar expedition travel, but history is a highlight as well. Visit several important locations containing relics from early explorations and the whaling era. Explore off the ship every day in Zodiac boats, sea kayaks or by hiking onshore, all in the company of experienced guides who will educate you and interpret your fantastic surroundings.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$21,195 to $29,995
Depart Santiago this morning on a special charter flight (See Additional Costs.) direct to Stanley, the small capital of the Falkland Islands. You'll be met on arrival and transferred from the airport into town. There is time to explore the town or enjoy a guided visit to nearby Gypsy Cove which provides your first opportunity for observing the local wildlife, including nesting Magellanic penguins and other sea birds. Make your way to the port and board the expedition ship in the afternoon. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail celebrating the arrival of a new year, and cast off to explore one of the most remote regions on Earth.
Chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. Sea birds join you in the Southern Ocean and follow in the updrafts created by the ship. Educational presentations begin 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. Board a Zodiac to begin your exploration of the island in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal 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 as they fill the skies above, coming and going from the nest. South Georgia is a thrilling location for history lovers; the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around. Hope to observe several of the old stations at locations including Leith, Husvik, and Stromness. One 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 the ship's crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica. Onboard guides will keep you busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussions throughout the day. The great pelagic seabirds are sure to keep you company. Anticipate excellent sightings of albatross and giant petrels soaring on the winds of the South Atlantic Ocean. As you edge ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce your arrival in Antarctic waters. Excitement grows as the low-lying Danger Islands appear on the horizon, situated at the extreme northern point of the Antarctic Peninsula and offshore from larger Joinville Island.
Your excursions today will be dictated by the prevailing weather. Strong currents flow out of the Weddell Sea bringing variable ice conditions to the archipelago. Explore the waters around the island groups by Zodiac and plan to make shore landings at several locations. You will be struck by the immense scale of the Adelie penguin rookeries here. These are the smallest (and most comical) of Antarctica's penguins, resplendent in their black and white plumage. They are fascinating to observe, coming and going from fishing forays, sitting on the nest or raising their chicks. Your guides will be keen to share their knowledge of the penguin life-cycle and tell of the recent scientific research at this location.
Anticipate exciting ice navigation and notice an increase in the huge, flat-topped tabular icebergs as the ship navigates into the Weddell Sea. This region of Antarctica is rich in history. The early Swedish explorer, Otto Nordenskjold, and his companions spent several years here in a remarkable yet little-known tale of survival. Just over a decade later, Sir Ernest Shackleton's leadership ensured the survival of his crew after the sinking of their ship, the HMS Endurance, in 1915. To this day, Shackleton’s journey remains one of the great tales of polar exploration and survival.
Along with the Danger Islands, the region is home to a number of other sizable penguin rookeries at locations which include Paulet Island and Gourdin Island. Nearby Vega Island is home to some of the most fascinating paleontology found in all of Antarctica. Fossils here tell the story of Gondwanaland, giant penguins, other dinosaur species, and early plant life on Earth. Brown Bluff and d’Urville Monument are other landing possibilities in the area.
Approaching the South Shetland Islands as the ship navigates south, you may aim for a shore landing at Half Moon Island, home to a boisterous colony of nesting chinstrap penguins. A short hike will bring you to an elephant seal haul out site. These are fascinating animals to observe and your naturalist guides will explain their unique family dynamics and behavior. There are several other nearby locations, including Yankee Harbor or Hannah Point which may be alternative landing sites. A thrill for many will be sailing into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. At Whalers Bay, the remains of a rusting old whaling station provide a glimpse into history. There are a couple of excellent hiking routes here, one up to a high point overlooking the entire bay and another to the far end of a black-sand beach where an old aircraft hangar can be viewed. It’s from here that the very first flight Antarctic flight took to the air.
Places such as Cierva Cove or Mikkelson Harbor allow for some great excursions onshore or in the Zodiacs, and it’s a good place to look for leopard seals on the ice floes. The remote Spert Islands provide a fascinating lesson in geology. The island group is criss-crossed by narrow channels and coves. Seabirds nest on the cliffs above, while seals can be found resting along the shoreline. Enter the maze of islands and waterways along the Antarctic Peninsula and enjoying shore landings, Zodiac cruises, and kayak excursions several times per day. As the ship cruises into the Errera Channel, there are great landing sites to consider including Cuverville Island with its sizeable gentoo penguin rookery. Neko Harbor is another possibility for a landing. A very active glacier can be heard creaking and groaning, and it is common to observe large slabs of ice calving from the glacier face into the dark waters.
As you make your way back to South America, the educational presentations continue, and you will enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join the resident photographer in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, hope to 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 the early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
Arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina in the early morning. 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.
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 Santiago, Chile and returns to Ushuaia, Argentina. It is recommended that you arrive in Santiago at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of any unexpected travel delays between home and trip departure time. From Santiago, you'll fly south to Stanley in the Falkland Islands via a special charter flight (see Rate Notes). Upon disembarkation in Ushuaia, a transfer from the airport to a central downtown location is provided.
Luggage Limits: Different luggage limits apply to the special charter flight between Santiago and Stanley. Please observe a limit of 20-kg / 44-lb for checked baggage and 5-kg / 11-lb for carry-on baggage. There is no facility to purchase excess luggage on this flight. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
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 boots 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 photography guide 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.
Kayaking: pre-booking required
Limited to 30 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.
Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport on disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; adventure concierge staff; assistance of resident photographer; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat; guided hikes and walks onshore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks; 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, Finnish 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. Subject to change without notice.
Additional Inclusions for Suites:
Exclusive check-in service on day of embarkation; deluxe welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); single brew coffee machine; mini-stereo; private in-room One Ocean Adventure Concierge service; in-room dining menu; early morning in-room café service; evening après dinner drink service; premium in-room mini bar replenished daily (including spirits); complimentary 1-hour massage/spa experience. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Charter flights; 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; personal laundry charges; personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, laundry expenses or spa services such as massages; 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, © Jeff Topham