Summary : This voyage is specifically timed to coincide with the arrival of spring as the region emerges from the long and frigid winter. It is an exceptional time to visit the sub-Antarctic Islands and Antarctica. The early season marks the beginning of the wildlife migration and commencement of the breeding cycle for many species. In South Georgia, scenes of male elephant seals battling for control of the beaches and the intimate and beautiful courtship rituals of the albatross, will have you believing you are on the set of your very own wildlife documentary. To the south lies Antarctica where the ice and snow conditions are in pristine condition. This is an incredibly dynamic time to experience the Antarctic ecosystem. Penguins are returning and busy re-establishing their rookeries, breeding and nesting precious eggs. Over 19 days you will explore on shore in the company of expert guides – including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, and adventurers as well as a resident photography professional.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
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Your journey begins in the morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. You will meet at the airport and fly on the schedule service to Stanley in the Falkland Islands (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute flight 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 England or Scotland. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980s, is a sobering reminder of recent history.
This windswept location, situated in the southern archipelago provides one further day of activity. Today you will launch on Zodiacs and go ashore to view the remarkable wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguins including gentoo, magellenic, and rockhopper 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.
Today you will chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The great pelagic seabirds will be your constant companion on your way to South Georgia. Enjoy educational presentations and lively discussions with fellow travelers and your onboard expedition team. 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.
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. Launching the Zodiacs you will explore 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 Harbor. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross and they fill the skies above, coming and going from the nest.
The scenery is spectacular and the snowy peaks of the island will make you pause to consider the incredible feat of mountaineering when Shackleton and his exhausted companions traversed the island from the wild south coast in 1916. They arrived in Stromness whaling station having crossed from King Haakon Bay, to raise the alarm that eventuated in the rescue of this men on Elephant Island, in Antarctica – 100 years ago.
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 the 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.
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, Yankee Harbor or Hannah Point. 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 an aircraft hangar at Deception Island beg for further exploration.
After so much anticipation, you will enter to ice 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 that you will.
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.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, it's time to return to South America. The educational presentations continue. Enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
Plan to arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina in the early morning. It's time to bid 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 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.
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 kayaking equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak-specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak.
Charter flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Stanley, Falkland Islands; transfers from central meeting point in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1; airport to ship transfers in the Falkland Islands; airport transfer upon disembarkation in Ushuaia (or to local hotels) on Day 19; 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; experienced expedition leader; resident photography guide; emergency-trained onboard physician; dedicated hospitality team, including hotel manager, four chefs, professional bar staff, and adventure concierge staff; 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: © Ira Meyer, © David Sinclair