Summary : Rich in history and home to astoundingly diverse and abundant wildlife, South Georgia is often called the Galapagos of the Poles. This epic expedition to remote lands traversed by the legendary explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton gives adventurous travelers the unparalleled opportunity to explore this wildlife paradise and the equally unspoiled and storied Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) in great depth.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Arrive in Ushuaia, a small town at the "end of the world" surrounded by rugged peaks and glaciers, and transfer with your group to your included hotel.
Embarkation will occur in the late afternoon, after which your vessel will sail down the historic Beagle Channel. Named after the famed ship on which Charles Darwin voyaged, the channel presents great photo opportunities to capture seabirds hovering overhead and seals and sea lions lounging on land. Expect an air of anticipation as you depart—the next time you’ll see land, you’ll be in a wildlife wonderland!
There are many activities to keep you engaged while you’re at sea. Learn to identify seabirds gliding alongside the ship, attend dynamic presentations by your Expedition Team, relax in the polar library or simply spend some time out on deck. You will also be prepped on safety procedures for Zodiac cruises and shore landings, so you can make the most of the adventure that awaits.
Upon your arrival in the Falklands (Malvinas), your camera will get its first real workout capturing the abundant wildlife and rugged feel of this sub- Antarctic region. The archipelago contains two main islands—East Falkland and West Falkland—which you will explore during daily Zodiac excursions and landings.
The archipelago is home to thriving Magellanic, gentoo and rockhopper penguin colonies, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot king penguins, too! Your team of specialists will be sure to educate you on the local flora and fauna as well. You can expect to see black-browed albatrosses on West Point Island. Originally known as Albatross Island, West Point has been identified as an Important Bird Area for its several significant bird species, including the endemic Cobb’s wren and Falkland’s flightless steamer duck.
Despite its grim-sounding moniker, Carcass Island (named after HMS Carcass, which surveyed the island in 1766) rewards with spectacular scenery and wildlife, including gentoo and Magellanic penguins. With no predators, the island’s songbird population has flourished, creating an aural experience unlike any other.
Stanley, also known as Port Stanley, is another favored landing site, as the charming town offers a unique British outpost feel. You’ll be free to explore, grab a pint at the local pub or visit numerous churches and museums.
Sailing south to South Georgia, you’ll officially enter Antarctic waters once you cross the Antarctic Convergence, an invisible biological boundary encircling the continent. This meeting of oceans, where the cold Antarctic waters mix and mingle with the warmer waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, is what creates the abundance of krill that attracts whales and seals to this part of the world. Your Expedition Team will notify you when you cross this invisible yet important line, and also look out for the seabirds and marine life that frequent the area.
South Georgia was a popular stop for many historic Antarctic expeditions and was once a haven for hunting whales and elephant and fur seals. Today, wildlife populations have rebounded, but you’ll still find remnants of old whaling stations and other abandoned outposts scattered across the island.
Although South Georgia’s storied history is an important attraction, it is the abundant wildlife that is sure to captivate. Landing sites on the island are varied, largely determined by the weather conditions of your voyage. Whichever landing sites you visit, they’ll provide you with wildlife encounters that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else on earth. South Georgia is one of the most fertile breeding grounds in the world for sub-Antarctic wildlife, with beaches blanketed with penguins—king and macaroni penguins, in particular. The island is also a paradise for bird lovers, who will marvel at the plentiful petrels, albatross and burrowing seabirds. With each landing you make on South Georgia—often referred to as the Galapagos of the Poles—you’ll discover a new wonder.
One day you may see hundreds of thousands of pairs of king penguins waddling on a beach, and the next day you may visit another beach scattered with thousands of fur or elephant seals. The island’s beaches, grasses and mountains all play an important role in the breeding and survival of different species. This fragile, symbiotic relationship is something your Expedition Team will explain while you’re here.
A couple of shore landings that best represent what you can expect in South Georgia are Gold Harbor and Cooper Bay. Perhaps the most picturesque site in all of South Georgia, Gold Harbor provides a dizzying amount of wildlife, all in one location. Here, you’ll be enchanted by the view of the overhanging Bertrab Glacier to the east, a massive king penguin colony in the distance, an abundance of southern elephant seals and fur seals, and nesting albatross high above in the tussock grass.
Cooper Bay will bring you close to macaroni, gentoo or king penguins, and perhaps even Weddell seals, before you set sail for a scenic cruise through the dramatic Drygalski Fjord, where jagged, sharp peaks rise straight out of the sea.
The ship will hopefully be able to visit King Hakkon Bay, a long, narrow inlet in an area that hasn’t yet been fully mapped. This is where the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton made landfall in his lifeboat in 1916, searching for rescue for his Endurance crew, who were marooned on Elephant Island. A favorite location of ours is the beach at Salisbury Plain, where assertive fur seals and thousands of curious king penguins are likely to greet you on shore, practically begging you to take their picture. Flanked by glaciers, it makes for a breathtaking backdrop, and photographers will want to capture the surreal spectacle. Not to be outdone, the beaches at Elsehul, Royal Bay, Right Whale Bay and St. Andrew’s Bay are also sure to delight, teeming with playful king penguins and fur and elephant seals.
One of the most historic sites you will visit on the island is Shackleton’s resting place. You can visit his grave at the settlement of Grytviken, which is also home to one of the first whaling stations established in sub-Antarctic waters. You’ll have time to visit the museum, gift shop, church and small research station before sailing to Godthul (Norwegian for “good hollow”). Linking past and present, one landing attempt during the voyage is on the eastern shore of Fortuna Bay. Landing here, surrounded by soaring mountains, you’ll head out on the “Shackleton hike,” a trek that has you hiking along the final miles of Shackleton’s traverse of South Georgia into the Stromness whaling station, where the explorer finally found rescue for his crew. To reach the abandoned station, you’ll stroll along a pebbled beach with hundreds of fur seals and king and gentoo penguins.
After two weeks of endless wildlife encounters, your journey home begins. Mingle with your fellow shipmates, sharing stories and photos in the lounge. The noisy, busy world awaits your return, so savor the silence of the sea as long as you can, enjoying your final moments on deck, reflecting on all the amazing creatures you’ve met.
Today you’ll say goodbye to your Expedition Team and fellow travelers, disembarking in the morning. A group transfer is included to the airport to catch your homeward flights.
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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers must have a minimum $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
A small group of sea kayakers will plan to go out multiple times per voyage during landings, taking advantage of the best opportunities, as kayaking adventures are only conducted during calm weather conditions. It is recommend that you have some prior kayaking experience, including the capability to do a wet exit.
If you’re interested in kayaking and would like to try something less in-depth than the full kayaking program, you can still enjoy the benefits of adding an on-water experience to your expedition with a paddling excursion. Sign up for a one-time one hour paddle on a sit-on-top kayak, which is stable and unencumbered: perfect for anyone with little to no experience with kayaking. No experience necessary. Space is limited. Must be 16 years of age or older to participate. All sit-on-top kayaks are doubles. Pre-booking required.
Group transfer from the airport to the pre-voyage hotel on Day 1; one night pre-voyage hotel accommodation with breakfast in Ushuaia; group transfer from hotel to ship on embarkation day; group transfer upon disembarkation in Ushuaia from the ship to the local airport; shipboard accommodation with daily housekeeping; meals on board ship; house wine, non-premium domestic beer and soft drinks during dinner aboard ship; photography program; photographic journal; waterproof expedition boots on loan for shore landings; use of walking poles; parka to keep; coffee, tea and cocoa available around the clock; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges; luggage handling aboard ship; gratuities; Emergency Evacuation Insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of USD $500,000 per person*. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore with the exception of breakfast at the host hotel before embarkation; kayaking; alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, except for ones mentioned as included; baggage, cancellation and medical travel insurance; excess baggage charges; laundry, bar, beverage and other personal charges; phone and internet charges; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $500,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only while traveling with the shipping company between the first and last day of the expedition. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition, including pre- and post-packages/hotels/flights, purchased from the shipping company or from suppliers other than the shipping company, are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. We strongly advise all passengers to purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.