Summary : Discover the unique wildlife and vast, breathtaking landscapes of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Starting from Puerto Madryn, sail to the western portion of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), where the largest black-browed albatross colony in the world is located—approximately 113,000 birds! Experience the unique culture of Stanley, a combination of South American characteristics and Victorian charm, evident in colorful houses, well-tended gardens, and English style pubs. Sail onward to the remote wildlife haven of South Georgia where elephant seals and king penguins line the beach. Travel to the South Orkney Islands and enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding glaciers. If conditions permit, sail into the Weddell Sea through the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound where huge tabular icebergs announce your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$12,600 to $18,150
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You embark from Puerto Madryn in the afternoon, the ship's prow aimed for the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Golfo Nuevo is renowned for its visiting southern right whales, so you have a good chance of spotting one as you sail toward the open ocean.
Though you’re now at sea, there’s rarely a lonesome moment here. Several species of bird follow the vessel southeast, such as albatrosses, storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
Largely unknown gems, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) offer an abundance of wildlife. Various species of bird live here and there's a good chance you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters. During this part of the voyage, you may visit the following sites:
Steeple Jason – Home to the world’s largest black-browed albatross colony (roughly 113,000), Steeple Jason is a wild and rarely visited island buffeted by the wind and waves. Weather and swell conditions dictate the journey here.
Carcass Island – Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife, from breeding Magellanic and gentoo penguins to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wren and tussock-birds).
Saunders Island – Here 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 gentoo penguins 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 are all to be found here. 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. 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.
In the early afternoon, you will arrive at your first landing site in South Georgia. Sites you might visit include:
Prion Island – Note: the island is closed for visitors during breeding season from November 20 through January 7. The previous summer’s wandering albatross chicks are almost ready to fledge and adults are seeking out their old partners after a year and a half at sea.
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 at this time of the 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 to January).
Fortuna Bay – Near beaches inhabited by various penguins and seals you 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." The terrain is partly swampy with some small streams to cross along the way (hiking boots or sturdy rubber boots recommended).
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals have taken up residency. Here you may see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave nearby.
There may be sea ice on this route. At the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.
Depending on conditions, you might visit Orcadas Base, an Argentinean scientific station located on Laurie Island in the South Orkney archipelago. From the facility you can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding glaciers. Alternatively, you may attempt a landing in Signy Island's Shingle Cove.
Enormous icebergs and a fair chance of fin whale sightings ensure there’s never a dull moment on this last sea voyage south. Your best chance to spot Antarctic petrels is here.
If ice conditions permit, the ship will sail into the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Paulet Island, with its large population of Adelie penguins, is a possible stop. You might also visit Brown Bluff, located in the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound, where you could get the chance to set foot on the Antarctic continent itself.
If conditions aren’t favorable to enter the Weddell Sea from the east, the ship will set course for Elephant Island and head into the Bransfield Strait, between South Shetland Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, attempting to access the Antarctic Sound from the northwest.
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist, but they nonetheless offer a wide variety of flora (mosses, lichens, flowering grasses) and fauna (gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels). Chinstrap penguins and Weddell seals often haul out onto the beach near Cámara Base, an Argentine scientific research station on Half Moon Island. On Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows and into the flooded caldera. Here you can find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels. Kelp gulls, brown skuas, south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns can be spotted too. Wilson’s storm petrels and black-bellied storm petrels also nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay. As an alternative, take part in activities near Telefon Bay, further inside the caldera.
This extended voyage gives you the chance to sail even farther down the icy coast of the western Antarctic Peninsula. In the Gerlache Strait are several opportunities for great landings where you might set foot on the Antarctic continent, surrounded by an epic landscape of alpine peaks and mammoth glaciers calving at sea level. Gentoo penguins, leopard seals, Weddell seals, humpback whales, and minke whales are often seen here. The breathtaking scenery continues in the southern Gerlache Strait, and—if ice conditions allow—you may even reach Lemaire Channel. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
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.
Arrive and disembark in Ushuaia, located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago and nicknamed the "End of the World." Despite this stopping point, the wealth of memories made on this Antarctic expedition will travel with 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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase travel insurance including medical, accident, and a minimum of $100,000 in repatriation/evacuation insurance. Furthermore, the shipping company strongly recommends obtaining trip cancellation 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.
Please Note: All voyages will operate subject to a minimum of 70 participants
Pre-scheduled group transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia directly following disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and 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.
Any airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfer to the vessel in Puerto Madryn; luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on day of embarkation; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; admission fees to local attractions in Port Stanley; meals ashore; travel insurance, including medical, accident, and repatriation/evacuation insurance (required); baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges; and gratuities. Fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Dietmar Denger; © Erwin Vermeulen; © Martin van Lokven; © Rinie van Meurs; © Wim van Passel, © Oceanwide Expeditions