Summary : On this far-reaching polar expedition you will visit three distinctive, iconic regions: the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands, and South Georgia. The sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and the island of South Georgia are home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife. There are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds and the beaches are covered with fur seals and elephant seals. Seabirds, including many of the albatross species, call these islands home, nesting and raising their young in this wild and remote environment. Both locations feature a fascinating history and stunning scenery. To the south lies Antarctica—the frozen continent and your final destination on this outstanding voyage. Icebergs in all shapes and sizes fill the waters, and yet more unique wildlife can be found living in sizable colonies. The waters are full of life and you will frequently encounter whales including humpbacks, minkes, and Orcas. On this voyage, your days will be spent exploring on shore in the company of expert guides—including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, and adventurers, as well as a resident photography professional. Cruising in inflatable Zodiac boats is another memorable activity. For the adventurers, there are plenty of opportunities to explore on long hikes ashore, or by sea kayak. The clever use of time-saving flights on this departure means you maximize your time in the key locations. This is the perfect option for those who are short on time and want to see it all!
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
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Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. You will meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for your scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute journey 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 Britain. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. There is time to explore the town, before ship embarkation. After settling in to our 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, dinner and cast off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Overnight you will have navigated down the eastern coast of the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, you will first note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. You will launch the Zodiacs and go ashore 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. Weather permitting, you may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island—another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands—equally rich in wildlife.
Chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds once again 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 the 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 our 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 will 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 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 and the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around you. You will hopefully be able 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 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 your crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica. Your expedition leader and captain will make a decision based on the sea and ice conditions at the time. The South Orkney Island group 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 Harbour 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 Adélie penguins. Seals live on the ice floes, including the powerful leopard seal that we hope to 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 hope to 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. As your voyage comes to an end you will chart a course for King George Island. Tonight, celebrate your voyage with a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning you will say goodbye to your expedition team and transfer ashore by Zodiac. Walk from the shore landing site past the Chilean research station and up towards the airstrip where you will board your special charter flight. This flight takes a little over two hours and is included in the price of your voyage. Upon arrival into Punta Arenas a transfer from the airport into town is provided.
This itinerary includes a complimentary post-voyage hotel night in Punta Arenas for all guests returning from voyages that conclude at King George Island. This evening is at your leisure. Punta Arenas is home to some cozy restaurants, cafes and bars—including the historic ‘Shackleton Bar’ at the Hotel Jose Nogueira—a fitting location to reflect on your journey to Antarctica.
After breakfast and checkout, make your own way to the airport for your onward journey. It's recommended that you book flights after midday. Otherwise, why not continue your exploration of Patagonia. Just a few hours north, lies the celebrated Torres del Paine National Park—home to towering peaks, glaciers and spectacular wilderness—a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
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 PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak.
Scheduled flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Stanley, Falkland Islands; charter flight from King George Island, Antarctica, to Punta Arenas, Chile; transfer in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1 and from Punta Arenas airport to a downtown location on arrival back from Antarctica on Day 17; 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; 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, © Paul Zizka