Summary : This voyage is specifically timed to coincide with the arrival of spring as the region emerges from a 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 female harems) 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. Indeed, it is no surprise that many of the famous wildlife documentaries of the region are filmed at this time of year. To the south lies Antarctica where the ice and snow conditions are in pristine condition. This is a dynamic time to experience the Antarctic eco-system. Penguins are returning to reestablish their rookeries, breeding, and nesting precious eggs. Seals are on the move and busy feeding as the sea ice breaks up. Early season whales are starting to return. Over nineteen days you will explore onshore in the company of knowledgeable guides, including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists, and adventurers as well as a resident photography professional. A flight at the begining of the voyage saves days of sea time, meaning more time for exploring onshore and in the Zodiac boats.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$14,195 to $23,195
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for your included scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. After a short 90-minute journey, you are 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 into your cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner, and cast off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Overnight the ship has navigated across the north of the Falkland Island archipelago. Today offers an incredible introduction to the wildlife of the Sub-Antarctic. The plan is to explore the island of West Point and nearby Saunders Island. West Point is known for its rockhopper penguin rookeries and substantial nesting black-browed albatross colony. The opportunity to observe these spectacular birds in close proximity and on the nest is an immense privilege and an experience not easily forgotten. Repositioning the ship, a visit to the wildlife-rich Saunders Island beckons. Along the white sand beaches and in the surrounding tussock grass hope to encounter no less than four penguin species living in close quarters including gentoo, magellanic, rockhopper, and the impressive king penguin, with their colorful orange, gold, and grey plumage. Depart the Falkland Islands tonight bound for South Georgia.
Chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds will join you once again 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'. As you approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. Explore the island in a Zodiac in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and much larger elephant seals 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.
South Georgia is a thrilling location for history lovers. The rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around you. 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 a 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. 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.
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 and take 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.
As you make our way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you'll enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join your photography guide in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, hope to 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. 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.
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.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip commences in Punta Arenas, Chile and returns to Ushuaia, Argentina. It is recommended that you arrive in Punta Arenas at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of any unexpected travel delays between home and voyage embarkation. A transfer from the ship to the airport or local hotel is provided upon disembarkation. It is advised that you book your outward flight from mid-morning onwards or consider spending a night in Ushuaia at the conclusion of your voyage.
A resident photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in different ways in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia lab with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Kayaking: pre-booking required
Limited to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in 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.
Flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Stanley, Falkland Islands; transfer in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1; airport transfer upon disembarkation in Ushuaia or to local hotels 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 boat; guided hikes and walks on shore; 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.
Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); 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. Fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Ira Meyer, © Jeff Topham