Summary : This classic small-ship air-cruise takes you to three unique locations. Witness the towering peaks and immense glacial systems of the Antarctic Peninsula, home to a great abundance of wildlife which can be observed onshore, from Zodiacs or from the ship. Discover large penguin rookeries and encounter seals and whales in iceberg-filled waterways. Opportunities to visit historic huts and active science stations add further interest. Explore onshore through guided walks, opt to sea kayak or simply sit and observe penguins as they come and go from the water. Then follow the course taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton whose epic small boat journey from Elephant Island across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia remains one of the greatest feats of navigation in history. Experience the northern coastline of South Georgia, home to some of the largest king penguin colonies on earth. The shores are covered in wildlife, including nesting albatross, fur seals, and elephant seals while rusting relics from a bygone whaling era sit silently and provide a dramatic contrast to the green tussock grass and snowy peaks. Finally, head for the Falkland Islands and spend one final day exploring wildlife-rich Sea Lion Island and nearby Bleaker Island. The voyage comes to an end in Stanley, the small capital of the Falkland Islands.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$21,195 to $29,995
Your journey commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, Argentina. Gather at a central meeting point, transfer to the pier, and embark your expedition ship. After settling into your cabin, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner, and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
Sailing south towards Antarctica, hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross will be your constant companions as the ship transits the Drake Passage. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill. Your photography guide will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge or relax in the spacious observation lounges and outer decks. Throughout the day your onboard specialists will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the locations you hope to visit in the coming days.
Take a deep breath and venture out on deck as the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent are laid out before you. This is the moment you have been waiting for. For the next three days you'll have a varied itinerary, exploring the Gerlache coastline and South Shetland Islands. One objective is Paradise Harbor and the opportunity to step foot on the continental land mass of Antarctica. For many, this is the fulfillment of a life-long goal. A hike here leads up to a high point affording incredible views of the glaciers and mountains. This is a good location to observe nesting Imperial cormorants on the cliffs. Zodiac cruising or paddling kayaks into nearby Skontorp Cove are other memorable activities – the small cove is surrounded by towering glaciers on all three sides.
The activity program is in full swing by now, and each day you'll enjoy guided walks onshore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with your experienced guides providing insight and interpretation—they have been exploring this section of Antarctica’s coastline for many years and have a few special locations in mind. The Errera Channel has several such spots including Danco Island, a dome-shaped sentinel providing some great hiking options. Cuverville Island is another favorite with its substantial gentoo penguin rookeries.
The ship will navigate north through the Gerlache Strait towards Spert Island, a little-visited rocky outcrop with remarkable geology. The island is crisscrossed by narrow channels which make for fantastic Zodiac cruising and sea kayaking. The cliffs are home to numerous nesting bird species and you'll often encounter whales here. Nearby Mikkelson Harbor also allows for another off-ship excursion. After several busy days of exploration, head north, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor. Expect sightings of humpbacks or the resident orca group that inhabits this area.
If weather conditions permit, the ship will sail right into the middle of a volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around as you explore an old whaling station with rusted relics, dilapidated wooden buildings, and fur seals gathering among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. 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 an outstanding hike here to a location known as ‘Neptune’s Window,’ high up onto the rim of the crater.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetlands, head for Elephant Island, a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. Point Lookout on the southern tip of Elephant Island is home to an impressive chinstrap penguin colony. Macaroni penguins also breed here and are a species you probably haven't encountered on this trip to date. Southern elephant seals and fur seals are hauled out on the rocky beaches. If conditions permit, hope to visit the fabled location of Point Wild on the north coast of Elephant Island. It is here that Shackleton's men were encamped for several months in 1916 while Shackleton and five men set off on a rescue mission to South Georgia in their tiny lifeboat, the James Caird.
Departing Elephant Island, you cannot help but ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his five companions as they attempted the near impossible: navigating 800 nautical miles in a 22-foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. Onboard experts 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. Excitement builds as the mountainous peaks appear on the horizon, marking your arrival at South Georgia.
Having arrived in South Georgia, spend the next three days exploring the coastline. Dark sand beaches, tussock covered hinterland, and a backdrop of towering peaks and glaciers are a feast for all the senses. South Georgia has often been called the 'greatest wildlife show on earth.' Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies, and majestic king penguins live in rookeries of immense size. The plan is to visit several of these huge colonies where naturalists estimate that more than 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins live in close proximity to each other. Locations may include Gold Harbor, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay, and Salisbury Plain.
Dotted along the coastline are the rusting relics of a bygone whaling era. The largest of these locations is Grytviken. Here you'll find a fascinating museum and beautifully restored Norwegian Lutheran Church. Adjacent to the old whaling station lies a small cemetery. This is the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was laid to rest here in 1922. For many onboard, being in the presence of the great explorer is a highlight of the trip.
The journey continues along the coastline. Hope to visit Stromness, another former whaling station and the final destination of Shackleton and companions Frank Worsley and Tom Crean after making the near-impossible traverse across the interior of South Georgia after their epic boat trip from Elephant Island a century ago.
By now your camera is full of images and your journey towards the Falkland Islands commences. Spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species are your constant companions as they soar above the ship. The onboard educational program continues, and your guides recap the remarkable journey to date. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images at the multimedia stations, and catch some rest after several busy weeks of activity.
Wake to the sight of landfall in the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, first note the barren and windswept landscape, exposed to prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. Go ashore via Zodiac 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. As you cruise along the coast of the Falklands bound for Stanley, enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s captain.
This morning find yourself back in the port of Stanley. Say goodbye to your crew and, after some free time in town, make your way to the airport for your return charter flight to Santiago (See Additional Costs.). On arrival in Santiago your journey comes to an end. A transfer is provided to a downtown location for those choosing to stay and explore Santiago and the delights of Chile.
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 Ushuaia, Argentina and concludes in Stanley, Falkland Islands where you will fly via a special charter service to Santiago, Chile (see Rate Notes). It is recommended that you arrive in Ushuaia at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of unexpected travel delays between home, voyage embarkation, and departure. At the conclusion of your trip, a transfer is provided from the airport to a central downtown location.
Luggage Limits: Different luggage limits apply to the special charter flight between Stanley and Santiago. 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.
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.
An onboard photographer will work with you throughout the voyage to 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 download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport upon 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; guided hikes and walks; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists; 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.
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 specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); personal expenses onboard 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, © Jeff Topham