Summary : On this far-ranging Discovery and Learning voyage aboard a newly-built expedition vessel, experience the birds, culture, and Victorian charm of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, encounter massive penguin colonies in South Georgia, follow in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton to legendary Elephant Island, explore the Antarctic Peninsula, attempt to cross the Antarctic Circle, and witness the windswept vistas of the South Shetland Islands where you'll find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of seabirds such as kelp gulls, cape petrels, and Antarctic terns. Along the way, encounter several species of whales, seals, and penguins, and enjoy a host of performances, interactive workshops, and activities unique to the Hondius—both on board and ashore. Seasoned divers can choose to participate in an optional polar diving program.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
$15,350 to $31,350
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Several species of albatross follow the vessel into the westerlies, along with storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
The Falkland (Malvinas) Islands offer an abundance of wildlife. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of a 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of bird live here, but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters.
During this segment of the voyage, you may visit the following sites:
West Point Island – This beautiful island hosts a bounty of birdlife, from shore birds near the landing site to black-browed albatrosses on the nest. Among them is a rookery of rockhopper penguins who have to undertake an incredible climb from the sea to get to their nests among the albatrosses.
Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here.
The capital of the Falklands and center of its culture, Port Stanley has some Victorian-era charm: colorful houses, well-tended gardens, and English-style pubs. You can also see several century-old clipper ships nearby, silent witnesses to the hardships of 19th century sailors. The small but interesting museum is also worth a visit, covering the early days of settlement up to the Falklands War. Approximately 2,100 people live in Port Stanley. Feel free to wander at will, though be aware that admission fees to local attractions are not included in the voyage.
En route to South Georgia, you now cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within the space of a few hours, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.
Today you arrive at the first South Georgia activity site. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program.
Over the next several days, you have a chance to visit the following sites:
Prion Island – This location is closed during the early part of the wandering albatross breeding season (November 20 – January 7). From January on, the breeding adults have found their partners and are sitting on eggs or nursing their chicks. Witness the gentle nature of these animals, which possess the largest wingspan of any birds in the world.
Fortuna Bay – Near beaches inhabited by various penguins and seals, you'll have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall. As the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbor – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for southern elephant seals. Only during this time of year do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the four-ton bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. You can also see a substantial number of Antarctic fur seals here during the breeding season (December – January).
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.
Depending on the conditions, you might visit Orcadas Base, an Argentine scientific station on Laurie Island in the South Orkney archipelago. The personnel here will happily show you their facility, where you can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding glaciers. If a visit isn’t possible, you may instead land in Signy Island’s Shingle Cove.
You‘ve now completed roughly the same route (albeit in the opposite direction) that Sir Ernest Shackleton did using only a small life boat, the James Caird, in the spring of 1916. Watching Elephant Island materialize on the horizon after a lengthy ocean crossing, it’s hard not to marvel at how he and his five-man crew accomplished that feat.
The purpose of Shackleton’s crossing was to rescue 22 shipwrecked members of his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Endurance Expedition, who were stranded on Elephant Island. For four and a half months, Shackleton undertook this legendary rescue.
Conditions on Elephant Island are severe. The coastline is mostly made up of vertical rock and ice cliffs highly exposed to the elements. If possible you will take the Zodiacs to Point Wild, where the marooned members of Shackleton’s expedition miraculously managed to survive.
If ice permits, the ship will sail into the Antarctic Sound at the northwestern edge of the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern edges of the Antarctic Peninsula. Brown Bluff is a potential location for a landing, where you may get the chance to set foot on the continent.
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist, but they do offer subtle pleasures: there’s a wide variety of flora (mosses, lichens, flowering grasses) and no small amount of fauna (gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels).
At Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows and into the flooded caldera. Here you find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels – along with kelp gulls, brown and south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns. A good hike is a possibility in this fascinating and desolate volcanic landscape.
Gray stone peaks sketched with snow, towers of broken blue-white ice, and unique polar wildlife below and above welcome you into the otherworldly expanse of Antarctica. You enter the area around Gerlache Strait, venturing into one of the most beautiful settings Antarctica has to offer.
Sites you may visit here include:
Neko Harbor – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow, Neko Harbor offers opportunities for a Zodiac cruise and landing that afford the closest views of the surrounding alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay – You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters, where there’s a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales.
Pléneau & Petermann Islands – If the ice allows it, you could sail through the Lemaire Channel in search of Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags. There is also a possibility you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales here, as well as leopard seals.
The aim is then to cut south, reaching Crystal Sound and the Antarctic Circle. You may make a landing at Detaille Island and visit an abandoned British research station, taking in the limitless landscape. Afterward you venture back into the area around Lemaire Channel and the Gerlache Strait.
Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
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.
NOTE: This ship is NEW for the 2019-2020 season! As with any new vessel, we strongly suggest selecting a departure date at least six weeks after launch. Please ask for details.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase insurance including medical, accident and repatriation/evacuation insurance. 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Space is limited; request at time of booking. This activity is available for highly experienced divers who are familiar with both cold water and dry suit diving (at least 30 dry suit dives). Dive sites will vary from shallow ice diving, diving along a wall, from a beach, or from a Zodiac. Maximum depth is around 60 feet. The combination of sunlight and the often-extraordinary formations of ice cause an overwhelming, ever-changing spectrum of colors with a fantastic variety of shades and brilliance. Diving in Antarctica doesn’t just offer ice, but also interesting marine life, such as kelp walls, sea-snails, crabs, sea butterflies, various Antarctic fish, shrubby horse-tails, jellyfish, sea-hedgehogs, starfish, krill and giant isopods. You might have the possibility of snorkeling or diving with fur seals, leopard seals, and penguins. Participants will dive in groups of eight divers per experienced guide, with a maximum of 24 divers per excursion and a goal of 1-2 different dives per day. Basic equipment such as scuba tanks, compressor, weights and diving essentials are provided but divers must bring their own personal gear, including dry suit with hood and two separate freeze-protected regulators. Participants are required to present their internationally accepted diver certificate, diver's logbook, and a statement from their doctor (less than two years old) that demonstrates they are in a good state of physical health allowing them to scuba dive. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Hondius Special Activities:
Each voyage aboard the Hondius includes an extensive array of activities unique to the ship itself. Interactive workshops, captivating exhibitions, and vibrant performances are planned both on board the ship and ashore. Special activities are as engaging as they are informative, covering a kaleidoscope of subjects that vary based on voyage and embarkation point. Navigation, astronomy, art, geology, and botany are just a few of the topics that might be covered, along with presentations that explore the fascinating world of whales, land mammals, birds, and the other species that call the polar regions home. In addition to colorful musical performances, Hondius offers dynamic courses in language, cooking, and mixology taught by authorities in their field. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Pre-scheduled group transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia directly following disembarkation; luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on day of embarkation in Ushuaia; shipboard accommodations; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; Hondius Special Activities: in-field and on-board discovery and learning workshops, exhibitions, and performances; leadership by experienced expedition staff; gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals onboard the ship; snacks, coffee, and tea; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; travel insurance; excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage, and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Dietmar Denger, © Erwin Vermeulen, John Neuschwander