Summary : The vast Patagonian ice sheet that straddles the Andes mountains in South America is the third largest ice mass on the planet. It is a remnant of the earth’s most recent ice age and dominates the landscape, ecology and geology of Patagonia. Immense glacial systems cut through towering mountains as they move inexorably towards the sea. Take a look at any map of the region and this action becomes immediately apparent, in the maze of fjords and islands that make up one of the earth’s last great remaining wilderness regions. Ancient boreal forests also tell a story of an evolving planet and the supercontinent of Gondwanaland. They are home to several species of flora only found in South America, New Zealand, and Australia’s most southerly state, Tasmania. Commencing in Ushuaia, make your way north through a vast network of deep fjords and channels, occasionally venturing out to the Pacific Ocean as you navigate towards Valparaiso—Chile’s historic deep-sea port. Explore your surroundings by Zodiac boat, approaching huge glaciers and observing resident and migratory wildlife and birdlife. On shore, enjoy hikes of varying durations to outstanding viewpoints, in the company of expert guides. In addition, visits to small coastal communities showcase the unique way of life of the hardy local inhabitants—telling a story of both indigenous and European settlement.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$5,695 to $9,895
Your journey through Chile’s spectacular fjord region commences this afternoon in Ushuaia (Argentina). You will gather at a central meeting point then transfer to the pier for embarkation. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner before casting off, bound for the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, rugged coastal Chile and historic city of Valparaiso.
During the night you will have sailed in a westerly direction along the Beagle Channel, which separates Argentina from neighbouring Chile. This morning you wlil enter Garibaldi Fjord, where two glaciers rise up towards a stunning mountain backdrop. You will take to Zodiacs for the first time and explore them from a safe distance. Resident wildlife in the fjord includes South American sea lion and several species of birds such as the iconic Andean condor. In the afternoon, you will arrive at Alberto de Agostino National Park, designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve due to large tracts of ancient sub-Antarctic forest systems that cover much of the reserve. Naturalists believe these forests started growing around 10,000 years ago. There are some excellent hiking trails here or alternatively enjoy a Zodiac cruise along the shoreline.
The most famous of the park’s glaciers is the impressive tidewater Marinelli Glacier. This huge, crevasse-covered ice field spills from the Darwin Mountain range into Ainsworth Bay. From a distance, the glacier can be heard creaking and groaning, and large icebergs that have calved from its face brood silently in the dark waters. Easy hikes in the lush Magellanic forests provide great opportunities to spot birdlife and to immerse yourselves in some of the purest wilderness on the planet. You can anticipate sightings of seals and possibly Magellanic penguins, which are known to inhabit this area, before continuing your voyage through the famous ‘Glacier Alley’ and into the Magellan Strait.
This morning you will make your way ashore by Zodiac boat to explore the promontory of Punta Santa Ana, where the historic ‘Fuerte Bulnes’ (Fort Bulnes) is located. Founded in 1843, the settlement was established both as a territorial claim and to protect the strategic Magellan Strait. Although none of the original structures remain, the fort has been faithfully reconstructed, offering outstanding views over the strait. Explore the grounds and visit the small church, barracks, powder magazine and log cabins. The fort was abandoned after a more permanent settlement was established further north, in present day Punta Arenas.
Today you will cruise north along the rugged Chilean coastline and the views from the observation lounge and outer decks are breathtaking. Forested mountains, snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and glaciers continue for mile after mile. Enjoy onboard talks and discussions with your expert guides, covering a wide variety of subjects including history, wildlife, geology and glaciology as well as photography. The ‘open bridge’ policy means you can also watch the Captain and officers steer the ship, learning something about navigation as well as having a look at the charts. For a bit of relaxation, why not soak in the hot tub or indulge in a massage at the day spa?
For many, today’s excursion is one of the highlights of the trip. After breakfast head ashore and enter the national park. This iconic location boasts some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world, with the celebrated 'towers' (from which the park gets its name) looming above the surrounding plateau and glacier-fed lake systems. Powerful waterfalls surge through narrow channels between the lakes, and there are some excellent short hikes to lookouts and viewpoints, providing jawdropping views of the immense massif. The Guanaco (similar to a llama) is resident in the park and can be found in sizeable numbers grazing on the native grasses. Spend a full day here, soaking up the views from all directions.
Today look forward to an exciting day of navigation. A highlight will be the transit of White Narrows—a channel of water just 80 meters wide. No doubt everyone will be on the outer decks as the Captain skillfully steer you through this challenging passage. More spectacular scenery is on offer today. The Bernal Glacier is a particular highlight and provides a textbook lesson in glaciology, featuring a large moraine, pushed forward by actions of the moving ice.
In a trip full of superlatives and highlights, today may well be near the top. Navigating into Eyre fjord, the vast sweep of the Brüggen Glacier comes into view. Often called the ‘Pio XI’, at almost 37 miles in length it is the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica. From the low vantage point of the Zodiacs the sheer scale of the glacier face is overwhelming. It rises almost 230 feet above the surface of the water and is a staggering 2.4 miles wide. In the afternoon sail into the Messier Channel that separates continental South America from Wellington Island. Join a wildlife expert out on deck as you look for marine and bird life. It promises to be another exhilarating day of exploration.
After several days immersed in the glacial systems, fjords and forests, today you will visit the small outpost of Caleta Tortel. Situated on a steep escarpment, the village has no roads but is instead connected via a series of wooden walkways that link houses to town services. Most residences have jetties as boats are virtually the only mode of transport—even the local fire engine is a boat! The area was first visited by Europeans in the 1950’s, while the indigenous people of the regions have lived in the area for much longer. Today the town is dedicated as a national monument. You will have time to explore at your leisure, treading the boardwalks, observing local life, and perhaps stopping for a chat with the locals.
Continue your journey north, leaving the fjords and entering the Pacific Ocean. You will sometimes encounter migrating whales that use the Humboldt current as an oceanic conveyor belt. The program of presentations and discussions continues today, or you may choose to take a break, perhaps writing up your trip journal, or enjoying a good book in one of the comfortable lounges or on the sun deck.
This morning you are in position close to the town of Castro—the provincial capital of the island of Chiloé. The town was founded in 1567 and is the third oldest city in Chile. It flourished when the early Jesuits chose to base their mission here. Make your way ashore, where you are immediately struck by the colorful houses built on stilts around the harbor. Known as ‘palafitos’, they are simple homes built by local fisherman. The local markets are a highlight and showcase some of the most impressive crafts and textiles in the country. Re-boarding the ship in the afternoon you will hug the coastline, hoping to see the snow-capped summits of the numerous volcanoes that characterize this region.
Located 22 miles off the coast of mainland Chile, the remote outcrop of Mocha Island is an important historic site. Inhabited for centuries by the indigenous Mapuche tribe, Europeans first discovered it in the mid-15th century. The island was frequented by pirates, as well as Sir Francis Drake, and legend has it that more than 100 shipwrecks lie in the surrounding waters. Weather conditions permitting, we head ashore where there are several hiking options. Hope to spot the resident sea lions and possibly encounter whales. The rare pink-footed shearwater can be also found on the island, nesting in burrows on the forested slopes.
As you make your way towards the historic port of Valparaiso, the educational presentations continue and you can enjoy an entertaining voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join the photography expert in the multimedia room, where you can download and/ or back up your precious images. Or spend time outside on the observation decks, in our spacious lounges or on the bridge. It’s a fitting time to reflect on a wonderful expedition. This evening enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning you will arrive at Valparaiso, the principal deep water port for Santiago, around 62 miles inland from the coast. After breakfast it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers as you disembark RCGS Resolute. A transfer to downtown Santiago, via Santiago Airport, is provided for all guests, however Valparaiso is well worth a day or two of exploration if your schedule allows. Ride the historic funicular railways that still operate around the city and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere. Or spend some time exploring the celebrated Casablanca wine region located nearby.
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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Transfers from a central meeting point in Ushuaia on Day 1 and from Valparaiso to Santiago airport (or a downtown location) at the end of the voyage on Day 14; 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; complimentary 1-hour massage/spa experience; 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.