Summary : This Polar Circle and Antarctic Peninsula cruise passes through waters travelled by Humpback, Minke and Fin whales. Anchoring in various spots around the region, the expedition offers the chance to hike, kayak, and dive in the iceberg-heavy waters.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
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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.
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence – Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas – you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. Wandering albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, black-browed albatrosses, light-mantled sooty albatrosses, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels, and Antarctic petrels are a few of the birds you might see.
Options for Antarctic Peninsula activities are many, and no less great during the late summer. Humpback whales are prolific in this region, gorging themselves on krill before their migration north. The penguin chicks are also fledging, stirring up activity on the beaches while sleek leopard seals lie in wait, poised to attack the less fortunate ones.
Sites for your Antarctic adventures may include:
Livingston Island – Here you find a wide variety of gentoo and chinstrap penguins on Hannah Point, as well as southern giant petrels and elephant seals hauling out onto the beach.
Deception Island – Actually a subducted crater, this island opens into the sea and creates a natural harbor for the ship. Hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and multiple bird species – cape petrels, kelp gulls, brown and south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns – can be seen here. Wilson’s storm petrels and black-bellied storm petrels also nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay.
Cuverville Island – A small precipitous island nestled between the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and Rongé Island, Cuverville houses a large colony of gentoo penguins and breeding pairs of brown skuas.
Neko Harbour – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow, Neko Harbour offers opportunities for a Zodiac cruise and landing that afford the closest views of the surrounding alpine peaks. You might also be able to set foot on the continent here.
Paradise Bay – You could take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters, where you have a good chance of seeing humpback and minke whales.
Pléneau & Petermann Islands – If the ice allows it, you may sail through the Lemaire Channel in search of Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags. There’s also a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales as well as leopard seals.
Crystal Sound – Your journey takes you south along the Argentine Islands to this ice-packed body of water, and from here across the Polar Circle in the morning.
Detaille Island – You may make a landing at an abandoned British research station here, taking in the island’s lofty mountains and imposing glaciers.
Fish Islands – Further north you encounter one of the southernmost Adélie penguin and blue-eyed shag colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Melchior Islands – These islands offer a beautiful landscape rich with icebergs. Leopard seals, crabeater seals, and whales are found here, and there are excellent opportunities for kayaking and diving.
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.
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.
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 65 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.
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; 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; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; polar diving; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; 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: © John Neuschwander, © Erwin Vermeulen, © Oceanwide Expeditions