Summary : This far-reaching polar expedition includes visits to three different locations. The sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and 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 in 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 fascinating history and stunning scenery. To the south lies Antarctica, the frozen continent and your ultimate destination on this outstanding voyage. Icebergs of 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 humpback, minke, and orca. On this voyage, your days will be spent exploring onshore in the company of expert guides, including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, and adventurers, as well as your resident photography professional. Cruising in an inflatable Zodiac boat is another memorable activity. Adventurers will have plenty of opportunities to explore on long hikes ashore or by sea kayak.
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. Gather at a central meeting point, transfer to the pier, and embark on your expedition ship. After settling into your cabin 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. Your photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge to learn about the operations of a modern research vessel. Throughout the day onboard specialists 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, the Zodiacs will be launched for 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. 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 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. 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. The 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. From a Zodiac, you'll begin your exploration of the island in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal 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 us. 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 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, perhaps leading the expedition to the South Orkney Islands or Elephant Island. As with all 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 five companions set off on a 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, the ship will sail 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 much anticipation, the ship 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 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. Those participating in the sea kayaking program 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 your 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. You will be transported to your hotel or the airport for your return flight home.
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.
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. All intending kayakers must complete a questionnaire outlining their prior paddling experience. You must also 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.
Transfer from central meeting point in Ushuaia on Day 1; Transfer from port to airport or downtown hotel at end of voyage on Day 19; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; 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:
Welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); early morning adventure concierge coffee service; in-room mini bar, single brew coffee machine, mini-stereo, and iPad with reference and fictional content; complimentary field guide to polar region visited. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Any international or local airfare, pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations, or pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in voyage itinerary (or pre-arranged); visa and passport expenses; personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, laundry expenses or massages; 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