Summary : On this far-reaching expedition to the islands of the South Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic mainland, revel in exploration aboard a comfortable and well-appointed research vessel. Throughout your trip, a highly experienced expedition staff will provide excellent customer care in a casual and active environment. Enjoy daily hikes, kayaking excursions, and Zodiac rides. Experience the historic Falklands, and the magnificent island of South Georgia—known for dramatic mountains and the majestic king penguins numbering in the thousands. Enjoy stops in the South Orkney Islands before arriving at the much-anticipated Antarctic mainland where you encounter an unimaginable profusion of penguins, whales cresting in close proximity, and sweeping ice sheets that span an entire continent.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Your epic journey to the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. You will gather at your central meeting point and transfer to the pier and embark on your expedition ship, Akademik Ioffe. After settling in to your 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 and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime!
Sailing northeast towards the Falkland Islands you will be joined by hundreds of seabirds, including the wandering albatross, who you will come to know well on this journey. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship 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 this modern research vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the Southern Ocean and the locations you hope to visit in the coming days.
Having arrived in the Falkland Islands overnight, you will launch the Zodiacs and make your first shore excursion this morning. The plan will be to explore several locations in the West Falkland archipelago. These remote islands are home to a proliferation of seabirds and migratory birds including the stunning black-browed albatross. Your first penguin sightings will be on West Point Island with its bustling rookeries of rockhoppers. On Carcass Island, you will observe nesting magellanic penguins as well as oystercatchers, geese and the striated caracara – a bird of prey.
The following morning you will arrive in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands Islands. As you wander through the charming streets of brightly painted houses, learn how this quiet harbor was once a major port in the 19th century for tall ships rounding the fabled Cape Horn. There are several interesting activities to enjoy today. Stanley has an excellent museum that outlines the historic events that took place during the conflict with Argentina in 1982. The waterfront memorial built to commemorate the lives of the British servicemen killed during the war is a sobering reminder of recent history. Stanley’s famed philatelic museum with its impressive collection of historic stamps is another interesting diversion.
Chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds once again will join you in the Southern Ocean. Your 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’—and as you approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. Launching the Zodiacs you begin your exploration of the island, 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 Harbour. 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 and the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around us. You will hope 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 gravesite 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, leading you perhaps to the South Orkney Islands or Elephant Island. As with all of your itinerary planning, your expedition leader and captain will make a decision based on the conditions at the time. The South Orkney Islands 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 six companions set off on the 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 you will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. There are some outstanding hikes at these locations and the 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. Snow-covered mountains soar from the dark waters. 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 that you will hopefully encounter. Gulls, skuas, and cormorants are also found nesting and feeding at many sites along the Antarctic Peninsula. Explore by Zodiac boat and ashore where a range of exciting activities await. Locations you will hopefully visit include: Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbour, 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.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, it’s time to return to South America. The educational presentations continue and you will enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by our 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 to some of the most remote corners of the planet. 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 into Ushuaia, Argentina. 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. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise, enjoy a night in town or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather, 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. 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 designated meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on the day of embarkation; transfer from the ship to several downtown hotels or the airport 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; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat; resident photography guide; emergency-trained onboard physician; fitness and yoga; end-of-voyage video, photos, and take-home USB; port fees; 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: © Dave Brosha, David Sinclair, Ira Meyer, Gabe Rogel