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Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia

South Georgia AFSG Cruise Information

Summary : Antarctica is among the most beautiful, pristine and least explored places on the planet – truly exhilarating, mysterious and alluring! For over two centuries, the "White Desert" has attracted scientists and adventurers, drawn by its unmatched natural beauty. This largely untouched wilderness is now more accessible to a new generation of intrepid explorers. Visit the Falklands, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the wildlife haven of South Georgia in the comfort of the Ushuaia, a former research vessel. A highlight of this voyage is South Georgia, which offers spectacular scenery, outstanding wildlife, a history of human endeavor, and is at the same time such a remote island group that a visit turns into a real privilege. Its mountain ranges offer a beguiling landscape—there are sheltered valleys with meltwater streams, tussac grass-covered moraines, and large populations of wildlife, from fur seals to king penguins and several species of albatross. The ceaseless daylight of the southern summer makes exploration in this incomparable landscape a unique experience.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Dedicated Solo Cabins, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Ushuaia, Argentina / Embark

In the afternoon, board your ship. A welcome drink and an introduction to the crew and expedition staff will follow, and you will have time to get to know your new shipmates. The ship sets sail towards the Western Falkland Islands (Malvinas), known for their rugged beauty and wealth of seabirds and waterfowl.

Day 2
At Sea

The open bridge policy on the Ushuaia allows you to join officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for marine life, and enjoy the views of open ocean. These waters are also home to an interesting group of seabirds, which often ride the currents created in the wake of the ship, such as albatross and petrels. Join the expedition staff and naturalists on deck in search of seabirds and other local wildlife, such as orcas and dolphins. An interesting selection of lectures will help prepare you for your first excursions in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Day 3
Western Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

Explore the Western Falkland Islands where you may visit the following islands:

West Point Island
West Point Island lies off the most north-westerly point of mainland West Falkland. The attractive settlement sits on the edge of a small harbor on the eastern side of the island, in the lee of Black Bog Hill and Michael's Mount. The valley between these two peaks rolls over the center of the island to the dramatic Devil's Nose, one of the island's main attractions. From here visitors are treated to splendid views of Cliff Mountain, the island's highest point at 1,250 feet, with the highest cliffs in the Falklands. This is where you will encounter a vast colony of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatross, nesting together in close vicinity.

Carcass Island
Carcass Island lies to the north-west of the Falkland archipelago (Malvinas). A mature tussac plantation covers much of the lower ground below Jason Hill to the east. The availability of abundant cover and the absence of cats, rats and mice throughout the island have made for a spectacularly large population of small birds, which is one of Carcass Island's most delightful features. Gentoo and Magellanic penguins also nest here. Peal's and Commerson's dolphins frequently come close to the shoreline to get a glimpse of the visitors as well. At a settlement with beautiful gardens you may be invited to enjoy tea and cookies with the locals.

Overnight, the ship will sail around the northern islands of the archipelago in an easterly direction to reach the capital of Stanley the following morning.

Day 4
Eastern Falkland Islands (Malvinas) / At Sea

In the morning hours, enjoy time to explore the quaint little town of Stanley and its wonderful museum, souvenir shops, and pubs. The town was established in the early 1840s. Isolation and the weather conditions made life hard, but progress was gradual and punctuated by the extremely eventful involvement in two world wars.

For those who are more interested in the outstanding wildlife the islands have to offer, you need not leave town to enjoy it. Southern giant petrels often fly close to the shoreline. The endemic Falkland Steamer Duck abounds on the shoreline while kelp gulls can often be seen flying together with dolphin gulls. The less obvious but frequent visitors to the Stanley area are black-crowned night herons, red-backed hawks and peregrine falcons. Turkey vultures are regularly seen on top of any prominent building. Many pairs of upland geese frequent the park and it might be nice to take a stroll around the gardens of town to see some of the singing birds as well.

The ship sets sail in the early afternoon, heading for South Georgia

Day 5 – 6
At Sea

An extensive lecture program is offered during the days at sea. Expert naturalists share their knowledge of the wildlife and unique ecosystems you will encounter throughout your voyage. South Georgia is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on earth with more wildlife than virtually anywhere else on the planet.

Day 7
At Sea / South Georgia

South Georgia comes into sight! Though extremely isolated, it has amazing scenery ranging from high mountains and mighty glaciers to deep fjords and low-lying grassland. If the weather is favorable, aim to visit one of the following sites in the late afternoon:

Elsehul
Situated at the northwestern extremity of South Georgia on the eastern side of the knife-edged summit ridges of Parydian Peninsula, Elsehul is a beautiful little harbor. It is the only visitor site on the island, where colonies of black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses can be viewed from Zodiacs within the protection of sheltered inshore waters.

Right Whale Bay
Right Whale Bay is a 1.5-mile-wide bay, entered between Craigie Point and Nameless Point along the north coast of South Georgia. The name dates back to at least 1922, when South Georgia was still a center for commercial whaling. Today, hope to encounter a small colony of king penguins, along with giant petrels, gulls, and breeding fur seals on the black ashen beach.

Day 8 – 11
South Georgia

Your exact itinerary will depend on local land and sea conditions but the following destinations are among those that you may explore:

Salisbury Plain
Sometimes called the "Serengeti of the South," Salisbury Plain is a wildlife site without parallel. Several large glaciers provide a dramatic backdrop for the tens of thousands of king penguins that nest in the tussac grass of this remarkable ecosystem. The wide beach makes for excellent walking as you visit the colony, where you are literally surrounded and delightfully outnumbered by throngs of curious, gentle penguins. Fur seals also abound, as well as southern giant petrels and the occasional wandering gentoo penguin. Prepare for an awe-inspiring experience, as fur seal pups will want to engage with you and can be observed playing at the waterfront.

Prion Island
Prion Island is a beautiful tussac grass-covered islet. You may have the opportunity to see a breeding colony of wandering albatross on top of it. Climb to the summit on a wooden boardwalk, which takes you close to their nests and offers comfortable viewing platforms.

Grytviken
Grytviken lies within King Edward Cove, a sheltered harbor tucked between Hope Point and Hobart Rock on the western shore of Cumberland East Bay. The rusting ruins of the Grytviken whaling station are situated on a level plain at the head of the cove, backed by steep hills and mountains. Now the site of the South Georgia Museum, the station remains a focal point of interest for many visitors, as does Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave in the nearby whaler´s cemetery and his memorial cross on Hope Point.

The scenery in this area is exceptionally beautiful even by South Georgia standards: the glaciers and snow covered peaks of the Allardyce Range—Mt. Sugartop, Mt. Paget, Mt. Roots, Nordenskjöld Peak, Mt. Kling and Mt. Brooker—form a magnificent backdrop to the cove, and the views from King Edward Point in particular might be among the finest on earth.

Godthul
Situated 5.6-miles east of Cumberland East Bay on the eastern shores of Barff Peninsula, Godthul is a 1.86-mile long inlet that lies between Cape George and Long Point. Gentoo penguins are abundant on the tussac plateau and the cries of light-mantled sooty albatrosses echo off the natural cliff amphitheater that encircles the harbor. A floating factory ship serviced by two whalers was stationed here each summer between 1908 and 1929. A small shore depot supporting the whaling operations was established close by the stream in the southeast corner of the harbor, and the rusting barrels, wooden shed, and boats are fascinating relics of the whaling era, as is the impressive collection of whale and elephant seal bones scattered along the beach.

St. Andrews Bay
The surf beaten coastline at St. Andrews Bay runs north-south in a 1.86-mile long uninterrupted sweep of fine dark sand, covered in penguins and seals and bounded in the interior by the Cook, Buxton, and Heaney Glaciers. The bay hosts the largest colony of king penguins on South Georgia. Early in the season, the beach is also carpeted with fur and elephant seals. Such a large assemblage of wildlife attracts an entourage of persistent and voracious scavengers. Sheathbills dart in and around the penguin colony. Cape petrels nest in a small number on the cliffs north of St. Andrews Bay. Leopard seals patrol the rocks at this end of the beach too, hunting for penguins along the edge of kelp beds. A few white-chinned petrels and light-mantled sooty albatross nest on the tussac slopes. Brown skuas and Antarctic terns breed on the outwash plain and scree slopes at the north end of the beach, defending their nest sites with characteristic noise and vigor.

Cooper Bay
Cooper Bay is found at the southeast extremity of South Georgia. There is a wealth of wildlife at this site in a spectacular setting. Chinstrap, gentoo and maybe one or two macaroni penguins dot the tussac slopes and there are plenty of fur seals on the beaches. Fascinating volcanic rocks tower over small fjords, giving a stunning invitation for a thrilling Zodiac cruise to watch wildlife from the waterfront.

Drygalski Fjord
Drygalski Fjord is also located in the far south east of the island. The glaciers found in this dramatic fjord have retreated significantly in recent decades, but they still remain one of the most striking features of this coastline, particularly the Risting and Jenkins Glaciers. With a little luck, you may see the glaciers calve and witness the birth of a new iceberg from on board the ship.

Day 12 – 13
At Sea

These days crossing the Scotia Sea towards the Antarctic Peninsula offer opportunities to be out on deck, catch up on some reading, browse and edit your photos, or simply reflect on your magical experiences in South Georgia. Lectures and other activities will be offered throughout these days.

Day 14
Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands

You may have a chance to visit the enigmatic Elephant Island. Sir Ernest Shackleton fans will need no introduction to this historic windswept island. In 1916, Shackleton was forced to leave 22 of his men stranded on these shores, while he and five others embarked on an unbelievable last-ditch rescue attempt. What followed is one of the greatest rescue stories of all time. Every passenger will return with a greater knowledge of this gripping tale of adventure in a truly remarkable part of the world.

Day 15
At Sea

Your expedition team will prepare you for your experience on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. Later today, depending on weather and ice conditions, the expedition hopes to arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula in the area of the scenic Antarctic Sound. You might land at one of the following sites:

Argentine Antarctic Station Esperanza
The captain will attempt the passage to the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which traverses the Antarctic Sound and runs northwest-to-southeast. Hope Bay and the Argentine Station Esperanza are located on the western side of the Sound.

Brown Bluff
Brown Bluff, a promontory on the Tabarin Peninsula, is located south of Hope Bay. Both of them might be possible landing sites. The Weddell Sea represents the center of the Peninsula´s Adélie penguin population.

Day 16 – 17
Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands

The expedition team will prepare you for your experience in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. You might visit one or more of the following sites:

Gerlache Strait
This region of broad straits, mountainous islands, protected bays, and narrow channels offer moments of solitude. A profusion of tall peaks humans have never climbed and vast glaciers flowing inexorably seaward are the physical features here.

Hydrurga Rocks
You might visit Hydrurga Rocks, a small group of islets, which lie east of Two Hummock Island in the Palmer Archipelago, at the northern entrance of the Gerlache Strait. Chinstrap penguins, blue-eyed shags and kelp gulls are confirmed breeders here.

Cuverville Island
Cuverville Island lies in the scenic Errera Channel, in the center of the Gerlache Strait. A well-defined raised beach forms a nesting site for many gentoo penguins here. On your way north, plan to explore the South Shetland Islands.

Deception Island
The plan is to sail through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island, the largest of three recent volcanic centers in the South Shetlands, which is truly amazing. Once inside, the rising slope of the black, cinder-covered volcanic rim can be walked uphill to a rather spectacular vantage point.

Half Moon Island
This crescent-shaped island, in the entrance of Moon Bay between Greenwich and Livingston Islands, is home to Chinstrap penguins in breathtaking surroundings.

Day 18 – 19
At Sea

Depart Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join your lecturers and naturalists on deck in search of seabirds and whales. Enjoy some final lectures, take the chance to relax, and reflect on the fascinating adventures you have had over the past several days.

Day 20
Ushuaia, Argentina / Disembark

Arrive at Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark after breakfast.

Notes

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 emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of $100,000 ($50,000 minimum coverage for 2018/2019 season). Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. 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.

Included:

Voyage as indicated in the itinerary; shipboard accommodations; shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; post-expedition log; gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals aboard the ship; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; comprehensive pre-departure material; coffee and tea throughout the day. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:

Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights; pre- and post- land arrangements; transfers to / from the vessel; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (strongly recommended, please contact ExpeditionTrips); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as bar and beverage charges and telecommunication charges; and the customary gratuity at the end of the voyages (guidelines will be provided); fuel surcharge may apply.

PHOTOS: © Antarpply Expeditions; Filip Kulisev

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