Summary : Retrace the route of Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle on this expedition cruise through the Fuegian Archipelago. Your adventurous itinerary includes legendary Cape Horn and historic Wulaia Bay, as well as Glacier Alley, the penguins of Tucker Islets and Magdalena Island, and the spectacular fjords where Pia Glacier and Águila Glaciers await. Along the way you'll also encounter Patagonia's massive ice fields, lush sub-polar forests and secluded beaches.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$999,999,999 to $0
Board the ship in the evening. After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for one of the most remote corners of planet Earth. During the night, traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as the ship turns into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.
In the early morning, cross Nassau Bay and enter the remote archipelago that comprises Cape Horn National Park. Weather and sea conditions permitting, go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition, and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland, Cape Horn is 1,394 feet tall with a sheer rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the "End of the Earth." The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument.
Wulaia Bay is one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for its mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography.
After a visit to the museum in the old radio station, which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area, passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooded mountain behind the bay. On all of these you stroll through an enchanted Magellanic forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, and ferns to reach panoramic viewpoints overlooking the bay. Before leaving Wulaia Bay, drop something into the wooden mail barrel inside the museum – letters or postcards meant to be hand delivered by future travelers – an ancient mariner tradition.
After nightfall enter the Beagle Channel and sail westward along the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego into a watery wonderland protected within the confines of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Rounding the Brecknock Peninsula as the western extreme of Tierra del Fuego, Stella Australis is briefly exposed to the open Pacific. Navigate a zigzag route through the Cockburn Channel, Magdalena Channel and Keats Fjord to reach scenic De Agostini Sound.
Named after an Italian Salesian priest who worked among the region's indigenous people during the first half of the 20th century, De Agostini Sound is flanked by numerous glaciers and sheer saw-toothed peaks reminiscent of Torres del Paine. Head out on a shore excursion this morning to Aguila ("Eagle") Glacier, which hovers above a placid glacial lagoon surrounded by primeval forest. After a Zodiac landing on the beach, passengers hike around the edge of the lagoon to a spot near the base of the frozen facade. Condors can sometimes be seen soaring high above, and there is abundant bird life around the lagoon. This landing provides the perfect opportunity to experience the beauty of Patagonia’s sub-Antarctic rainforest and to see how the power of nature has molded the spectacular landscape.
After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, anchor off Magdalena Island, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins. At the break of dawn, weather permitting, go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. Many other bird species are also found on the island.
NOTE: In September and April, when the penguins dwell elsewhere, this excursion is replaced by a ride aboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions.
After a short cruise south along the strait, disembark at Punta Arenas around noon. You are free to explore Punta Arenas, there's plenty to keep you busy in the city.
Board the ship around 6 p.m., and welcome aboard the new passengers with a toast and introduction of captain and crew for the second half of the journey. During the night, the lights of Punta Arenas fade into the distance as you cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.
After leaving Punta Arenas and crossing the Strait of Magellan, sail up Admiralty Sound between the snow-capped peaks of Karukinka and the fjords of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Go ashore at Ainsworth Bay with its copious bird life and elephant seals. Two guided hikes are available, both with excellent views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains.
Leaving Ainsworth Bay, sail west to the Tucker Islets for a close-up encounter with the 4,000 Magellan penguins who nest there. Many other bird species also frequent the tiny landfalls.
In September and April -- when the penguins live elsewhere -- this excursion is replaced by a beach walk to a glacier at Brookes Bay.
Sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial, Magdalena and Cockburn channels. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Stella Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning enter Pia Fjord and board the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea or a longer much more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier. No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its name, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.
Back onboard continue east along the Beagle Channel through an area called Glacier Alley. Living up to its name, the passage features a number of impressive tidewater glaciers flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet on the north shore. Most of them named after European countries -- Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.
Once again, enter the maze of islands at the bottom end of south America for another visit to Wulaia Bay and Cape Horn. Your itinerary day repeats the shore landings and other activities from Day 2. However, second landings at some of the more iconic spots along the route can sometimes be more rewarding than the first time around and give you more time to explore each place in depth. At Wulaia Bay, explore the small museum in much more depth, strike out on a longer walk than last time or birdwatch along the shore. Before leaving Wulaia Bay, drop something into the wooden mail barrel inside the museum – letters or postcards meant to be hand delivered by future travelers – an ancient mariner tradition.
At Cape Horn you have a second chance to visit the Stella Maris Chapel, chat with the lighthouse keeper and his family, or photograph the unusual sub-polar flora that covers the heights. This second approach also increases your chances of landing on Cape Horn Island.
Disembark in the morning after breakfast.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
This trip is a combination of two shorter trips. Therefore you may have passengers who will embark/disembark part-way through the trip.
Shipboard accommodation; all meals onboard the ship; whiskey and hot cocoa on excursions; most wine, beverages, and liquors onboard the ship. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as internet; gratuities to ship’s crew; port tax, migration fee, National Park fee; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Australis