Summary : December is a beautiful time to experience Antarctica. Enjoy extended daylight hours at this time of the season, busy wildlife colonies and, as the sea ice continues to break up, an expanded range of landing sites. Fly from South America to Antarctica in a little over two hours where you will board your ship and enjoy a thorough exploration of the glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. You will then follow the course taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose epic small boat journey, from Elephant Island scorrs the Scotia Sea to South Georgia remains one of the greatest feats of navigation in history. Commence your exploration at the remote southeastern tip of South Georgia and then spend the following days exploring the northern coastline. Here you will find some of the largest king penguin colonies on earth. The shores are covered in wildlife—including nesting albatross, fur seals, and elephant seals. Rusting relics from the old whaling era sit silent and provide dramatic contrasts to the green tussock grass, and snowy peaks that surround you. In South Georgia, celebrate a most memorable Christmas Day. Then you will head for the Falkland Islands and aim to spend one final day exploring the wildlife-rich Sea Lion Island and nearby Bleaker Island. Your voyage will come to an end in Stanley—the small capital from where you will fly back to South America.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
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$15,995 to $25,295
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. You will gather at a central location and transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica (this flight is included in the price of your voyage).
Upon arrival on King George Island, you will embark on your ship via Zodiac. After settling in to your cabin and exploring your new surroundings, you will meet you expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and your first meal.
Navigate overnight through the Gerlache Strait and awaken to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent laid out before you. For the next three days you will have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. If ice conditions allow, plan to cruise through the Lemaire Channel and visit sites which may include Pleneau Island and the Penola Strait. Southerly Petermann Island is home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adelie and gentoo penguins nest side by side. A visit to an active research base nearby provides a fascinating insight into the important climate change science occurring in Antarctica.
The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline feature heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Your activity program is in full swing by now, and each day you will enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with expert guides providing insight and interpretation. Planned visits could include Paradise Harbor, Orne Harbor or Andvord Bay, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location where you will frequently encounter pods of humpback whales.
Today head north towards Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way you will hopefully have a chance to visit Deception Island. If weather permits, you will sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around you as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather 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.
The goal is to enter the icy Weddell Sea, through the board channel that separates the continent of Antarctic from Joinville Island. At first you will be aw struck by the sheer size of the tabular icebergs in this area. Their presence always makes for exciting navigation on the ship. This region is also home to some of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries found in Antarctica.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea, you will now head for Elephant Island – a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats, pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are notoriously tricky due to often gale force winds and pounding surf onto the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
As you depart Elephant Island, ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his four companions – as they attempted the near impossible – navigating 800 nautical miles in a 30-foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. You will have a much easier time with the crossing in your state of the art expedition ship! Onboard experts will keep you busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussion throughout the day.
Rounding the remote southeastern end of South Georgia, spend the next four days thoroughly 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 most staggering wildlife show on earth. Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies and living in rookeries of immense size you will find majestic king penguins.
Locations you will hoping visit include Gold Harbor, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain.
Continue your journey along the coastline, hoping to visit Stromness – a former whaling station – and the final destination of Shackleton and companions Frank Worsley and Tom Crean. This is a fitting location to celebrate Christmas. Your team of chefs will prepare a wonderful dinner with all of the trimmings!
Sail towards the Falkland Islands. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images in the multimedia room and catch some rest after a busy two weeks of activity.
After several days crossing, Sea Lion Island marks your arrival on the Falkland Islands. This windswept location, situated in the southern archipelago provides one additional day of activity. Launch on Zodiacs and go ashore to view the remarkable wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguins including Gentoo, magellenic and rockhopping exist in the vicinity. Southern Elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled out on the beaches. Once ashore you will also look for King cormorants and striated caracaras. Weather permitting, you may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands. Charting a northerly course towards Stanley, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship and reflect on your remarkable expedition to the farthest corners of the planet.
Navigate in the early morning through the narrows and into port. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubcs. There is time to explore the town, before you make your way to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage).
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and 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 PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Charter flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica and from Port Stanley, Falkland Islands to Punta Arenas; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; Zodiac excursions; gear on loan (pants/jacket/wellington boots OR waterproof backpack/waterproof binoculars/wellington boots); 'Memory Book' (log book chronicling your trip, includes photos); onboard medical officer; transfers to the pier to board the ship on day 1 of the cruise and transfers from the pier to the meeting point or airport on the last day of the cruise. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare not specified in the itinerary; visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise meals, transfers, and hotel accommodation; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; fee for optional programs; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Amanda Zeisset, © Ira Meyer