Summary : This remote stretch of the Antarctic Peninsula is visited for just a few short months each year. From January onwards, seasonal ice conditions give you your best chance of achieving your objective—crossing the Antarctic Circle. Here you will witness expansive landscapes, sizable Adelie penguin rookeries and you will hope to see the large tabular icebergs that have drifted north from the Bellingshausen Sea. You can always anticipate exciting ice navigation on this expedition. Detaille Island, below the Circle is a spectacular location. The snowy peaks which surround you, soar more than 6,500 feet above the ice-strewn waters. You will aim to cross 66 degrees, 33 minutes south of latitude, which officially marks the position of the Antarctic Circle on the global map. You will then return north, along the heavily glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula, passing through the Argentine, Fish, and Yalour Island archipelagos along the way and into the Gerlache Strait and Danco coast region. Your program of off-ship excursions is well underway and there is an exciting selection of activities to choose from—including short or long hikes ashore, visits to historic points of interest and wildlife colonies, Zodiac cruising looking for whales and seals or simply photographing the incredible icebergs. Such activities are enjoyed in the company of your onboard team of wilderness guides, naturalists, marine biologists, historians and photographers. For those with an adventurous streak why not spend a night ashore camping like the early Antarctic explorers?
Activities : Camping, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctic Circle
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Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. Gather at your central meeting point and transfer to the pier and embark our expedition ship. After settling in to your cabins and exploring the ship, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
Chart a southerly course for Antarctica. The Drake Passage is rich in bio-diversity and showcases a great abundance of wildlife. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as you make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and your photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of your modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history and the locations you hope to visit in the coming days. As you approach the coastline of Antarctica, you will encounter more icebergs and anticipate your first whale sightings.
Seeing the continent for the first time will take your breath away. Given favorable ice conditions, your first goal will be to sail south of the Antarctic Circle and into Crystal Sound. A favored landing site here is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut. ‘Base W’ was established in the 1950’s and is in a remarkable state of preservation. For the history buffs this is a fascinating place, providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic visitors. Further exploration this far south is highly dependent on optimal weather and ice conditions. If conditions allow, you may push even further to the south. This vicinity marks your turnaround point and from now on, you will cruise in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are several locations in the Fish and Argentine Island archipelagos which allow for Zodiac cruising and potential shore landings. You will hope to visit a working scientific base to learn of the important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to stretch your legs and explore the old British Antarctic Survey hut. Petermann Island is home to a sizable Adelie penguin rookery. Adelies—the smallest of the Antarctic penguins nest here and share the location with Gentoo penguins and Imperial cormorants. The view to the north of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott is impressive. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, in the shallow waters of the Penola Strait, massive icebergs run aground. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you could ever imagine. For many, a Zodiac cruise here will be a highlight of the voyage.
In the next few days you will aim to transit the Lemaire Channel on your way north towards Paradise Harbor. This may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbor offers another continental landing. Both locations offer terrific hiking opportunities up to panoramic view points. For the sea kayakers, the paddling opportunities here are endless. Expect to be in full sensory overload by this time of the voyage. The good news is, your adventure is not over and you will still have several days of exciting exploration ahead.
Orne Harbour is another celebrated location you will hope to visit. A hike up to a rocky knoll provides excellent access to a chinstrap penguin rookery. At Cuverville Island, there is a large Gentoo penguin colony which you will observe at close quarters. Leopard seals are often sighted cruising the shallows along the landing site. For the kayakers, a full circumnavigation of the island is a real thrill. It is in this vicinity you will hope to spend a night ashore camping for those interested, if weather conditions permit. You will have all the gear and an expert team of guides to make this unique experience happen. You are now at your most northern point on the Peninsula. Visits to Mikkelson Harbor and nearby Cierva Cove round out what has been a comprehensive exploration of the Gerlache coastline. Tonight, leaving the continent in the soft twilight, you will reflect on an incredible week of exploration.
Having crossed the Bransfield Straight overnight, you will arrive today in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, you will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around us as you will explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike here, high up onto the rim of the crater. On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbour, where you will sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise.
As you make your way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you will enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join your photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, you will hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, you will enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
In the early morning, you will arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise enjoy a night in town or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. 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 you with this. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Camping: No additional supplement (highly weather dependent activity)
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear such as a few tents, bivy sacs and sleeping bags, will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable outhouse tent is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards. Please Note: Camping is unlikely to happen in March due to lower average night time temperatures on shore and available hours of light. If weather and ice conditions permit and you are near a suitable location, your expedition leaders will make their best effort to facilitate this activity. Please inquire.
Hiking: No additional supplement
No pre-booking required. Trekking poles are available onboard for passenger use and instep crampons will be provided if necessary to improve traction on slick surfaces. Sturdy hiking books and warm hiking socks are needed to join this activity. Hikes will be 2-3 hours in duration and will involve negotiating challenging terrain without the assistance of trails. Antarctica hiking rewards with images of snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers.
Photography: No additional supplement
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Sea Kayaking: $795 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 20 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak.
Snowshoeing: No additional supplement
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable, you may choose to snowshoe on the continent. Snowshoes and trekking poles provided. Traveling by snowshoes offers a new view of Antarctica! Come prepared with warm socks and comfortable clothing. A small knapsack to carry water and an extra layer of clothing is recommended.
Transfer from the meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on the day of embarkation; transfer from the ship to several downtown hotels or the airport on the day of disembarkation; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, hot chocolate in bar/lounge and in-cabin coffee and tea-making facilities; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat breaking into small groups for shore landings; guided hikes and walks on shore of various durations for guests of all abilities; camping (gear provided); visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and community visits; educational presentations and talks by polar experts in their field (i.e. marine biologists, naturalists, historians, etc.); resident photography guide available to assist all guests plus access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained onboard physician; dedicated hospitality team, including hotel manager, four chefs, professional bar staff, and adventure concierge staff; fitness and yoga; access to wellness area (Finnish sauna, plunge pool filled with sea water, hot tub); access to a well-stocked library of polar reference; end-of-voyage video, photos, and take-home USB; port fees; all permits to access visited areas; gear on loan (wind- and water-resistant jacket, water-resistant pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, trekking poles, and a waterproof backpack); dream sleep package; 100% cotton bathrobes; custom-blend natural essential oil amenities; linen package; black out curtains; clock radio with media connector; complimentary water bottle; in room coffee and tea station. Shackleton and One Ocean Suite also include: fully-stocked in room mini bar; in room iPad pre-loaded with reference and fictional content; in room single brew coffee station; in room mini stereo; complimentary welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); complimentary field guide to Antarctic or the High Arctic; early morning adventure concierge coffee service. Subject to change without notice.
Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specific in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); meals and transfers in arrival/departure cities; massages from registered therapist; personal laundry charges; personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, or laundry expenses; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses (travel insurance is mandatory on all voyages); a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew (suggested amount $12-15 USD per day).
PHOTOS: © Boomer Jerritt, Daisy Gilardini, Ira Meyer