Summary : This voyage combines the comfortable adventure cruises of Classic Antarctica with the spectacular South Georgia. Photograph massive albatross and beautiful pintado petrels as they swoop and soar around the ship, guiding you toward South Georgia. Beaches teeming with king penguins and elephant seals greet you on the fabled island of South Georgia, where you can pay your respects to famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Antarctica awaits, with its soaring peaks and overwhelming enormity. Relax on a Zodiac ride, hike to overlooks of glistening glaciers, share comical moments with inquisitive gentoo, chinstrap, and Adélie penguins, or witness the rugged peninsula from a sea kayak. This expedition is designed to include as much wildlife viewing as possible but also allows for plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of icy waterways, glaciers, and icebergs.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Begin your journey in Ushuaia, a small but bustling port at the tip of South America. It’s the ideal gateway for you to explore the southern extent of Patagonia while preparing for your adventure ahead. Get active in the mountains or enjoy handcrafted chocolate at a café in town.
Embarkation will occur in the late afternoon, after which your vessel will sail down the historic Beagle Channel, which transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America. Expect an air of anticipation as you depart!
There are many activities to keep you engaged while you are at sea. Learn to identify seabirds that glide alongside the ship, or attend dynamic presentations by your expedition team. You will be prepped on safety procedures for Zodiac cruises and shore landings, and also be given instructions for getting the most out of your optional sea kayaking adventures (extra cost), a truly intimate way to experience Antarctica.
If conditions are right, the first indication that you are approaching South Georgia is the sight of birds around a group of rocky spires called the Shag Rocks. Have your binoculars and cameras ready to capture these rocky spires rising out of the icy ocean waters. Shags and prions often rest here, and due to nutrient rich upwellings around the rocks it can be a good place to keep a lookout for whales.
After enjoying South Georgia from a distance, head toward its numerous beaches to find a bay for your first excursion. Landing sites are varied, largely determined by the weather conditions of your voyage. Whichever sites you visit, they’ll provide you with wildlife encounters unrivaled anywhere else on earth.
South Georgia is one of the most fertile breeding grounds in the world for sub-Antarctic wildlife, with beaches blanketed with penguins and seals. It won’t take you long to realize that you are in a bird paradise, as burrowing seabirds, albatross, and petrels can be seen in abundance.
You’ll find that South Georgia, once a popular base for whalers and sealers, is also scattered with abandoned relics and evidence of human activity from centuries gone by. Your expedition team will help bring those days to life while you visit old whaling stations and enjoy presentations on the South Georgia of then and now.
One of the most significant sites you will visit on the island is Grytviken.
This settlement is one of the first whaling stations established in sub-Antarctic waters. Many travelers find that this place has a special appeal, as it is the site of the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the most famous Antarctic explorers.
Say goodbye to the king penguins, as your next destination is Antarctica! Your days at sea are filled with presentations and lectures led by your expedition team, who will prepare you for the wildlife and landscapes that will surround you upon your arrival.
The most common reaction upon reaching the White Continent is a sense of reverence and awe. The experience is hard to put into words, since few places are as untouched, unique, and endearing as Antarctica.
You will discover that Antarctica is a land of extremes. At one moment you’ll be overcome with a feeling of complete desolation and silence, and at the next moment you’ll be inspired by nature as a calving glacier crashes into brilliant blue sea or a penguin waddles by to inspect your footwear.
Your expedition team will take care of you at each landing, whether you are Zodiac cruising, visiting a historical site or consorting with penguin colonies. Chinstrap, Adélie, and gentoo penguins are found here, along with Weddell, fur, crabeater, and leopard seals. Keep a lookout for curious whales, such as minkes, while on a Zodiac cruise. Each day and each landing will present a new collection of creatures to delight you and keep your camera busy.
As exciting as the Zodiac excursions and landings are, perhaps you’ll treat yourself to an extra-special Antarctic experience by partaking in an optional kayaking excursion (extra cost) or going for a plunge in Antarctic waters!
After more than a dozen days of unique wildlife encounters and remarkable landscapes, your journey home begins. Crossing the Drake is your unofficial rite of passage. Spend time on deck watching for seabirds and whales, enjoy presentations by your expedition team, or simply relax and reminisce about your experiences.
You will arrive in Ushuaia in the morning, which allows for you to continue your adventure onward or catch your 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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers must have a minimum $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. 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 U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
Limited availability; pre-booking required. A small group of kayakers will attempt multiple outings per voyage in lieu of shore landings. The number of opportunities is weather dependent; kayaking will only be conducted during calm conditions. Prior experience is required. Participants must be capable of a wet exit in order to participate. Beginners interested in kayaking should consider participating in the Paddling Excursion described below.
If you’re interested in kayaking but would like to try something less in-depth than kayaking, consider a Paddling Excursion. Sign up for a one-time paddle using a stable, unencumbered sit-on-top kayak—perfect for anyone with little to no kayaking experience. Rotating groups will venture out on calm days with expert guides to connect with the sea. Space is limited. Pre-booking required.
One pre-voyage hotel night with breakfast in Ushuaia; group transfer from the airport to the pre-voyage hotel on Day 1; group transfer from hotel to ship on embarkation day; group transfer upon disembarkation in Ushuaia from ship to local airport or luggage storage facility; shipboard accommodations; all luggage handling aboard the ship; Zodiac transfers, cruising, and shore landings as per the daily program; Emergency Evacuation Insurance* to a maximum benefit of $500,000 per person; photographic journal; gear to keep (parka); gear on loan (walking poles, waterproof expedition boots); all meals and snacks onboard the ship; daily housekeeping; select beer and wine with dinner onboard ship; soft drinks and juices onboard ship; coffee, tea, and cocoa around the clock; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned; meals unless specified; alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, except for those included; baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage fees; mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac landing and cruising excursions or any other gear not mentioned; laundry, bar, massage services or other personal charges, unless specified; phone and Internet charges; gratuities; additional overnight accommodation; arrival and departure transfers, except where explicitly stated; Adventure Options not listed in Included Activities; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $500,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only while traveling with the shipping company between the first and last day of the expedition. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition, including pre- and post-packages/hotels/flights, purchased from the shipping company or from suppliers other than the shipping company, are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. This shipping company strongly advises that all passengers purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.
Photos: © Quark Expeditions