Summary : South Georgia has rightly been called ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth.' After in-depth exploration, you'll understand why. Traditionally, visits to South Georgia last only three or four days and are part of a much longer itinerary en route to Antarctica, but this unique opportunity offers eight full days of exploration in South Georgia with an included round-trip flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Stanley, Falkland Islands. This trip is timed to coincide with the arrival of spring in the Sub-Antarctic region. Early November marks the beginning of wildlife migration and commencement of the breeding cycle for many species. Scenes of male elephant seals battling for control of the beaches (and female harems), the intimate and beautiful courtship rituals of the albatross, and the antics of young penguin chicks will have you believing you are 'on the set' of your very own wildlife documentary. An additional highlight of this departure will be the shipboard photography symposium open to all guests. Members of the photographic team each have a special area of expertise including wildlife photography, landscape, and composition, along with technical elements including gear, equipment, computer-based processing, file management, and storage. With a varied and diverse itinerary and flexible plans, participants will aim to make the most out of the beautiful light, even if it's outside of conventional shore landing times. Regular programs operate throughout this expedition because the photographers are additional staff members.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$10,295 to $18,495
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at a central location and transfer to the airport for your scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute journey, you'll be met on arrival and transferred to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral, and several local pubs. There is time to explore the town before making your way to the ship for embarkation. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, 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 South Georgia.
This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its bio-diversity and showcases an abundance of astonishing wildlife. You are joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as you make your way to South Georgia. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill. Your photography experts will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge to learn about the operations of a modern research vessel. Throughout the day, onboard experts will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of the locations you will visit in the coming days. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Shackleton is central to your journey.
Majestic snow-covered mountains greet you on arrival in South Georgia. Weather permitting, you'll begin your exploration on the southern coastline. The ship will navigate into the historic location of King Haakon Bay. It was here that Shackleton and his men made landfall in their small lifeboat, the James Caird, after completing the perilous ocean crossing from Elephant Island a century ago. This dramatic place is visited by just a handful of ships each season. From here, the ship will make its way to the more protected waters of the northeastern coast.
The expedition can now indulge in an in-depth exploration, navigating into bays and harbors the entire length of the island. Elsehul Bay allows for Zodiac cruising and will be a possible location to launch the kayakers for a paddle. One of the most anticipated sites in South Georgia is Salisbury Plain. The black sand beaches and tussock-covered dunes are home to a staggering abundance of king penguin adults and their young. The rookery is believed to have a population of up to 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins. This is just one of several such king penguin rookeries on South Georgia. At the height of breeding season, the rookeries are believed to have more wildlife per square foot than any other place on the planet. The majestic "Kings" are not the only wildlife on display as you cruise the rugged coastline. Fur seals can be seen poking their heads above the water, elephant seals enjoy lazing about the beach, while skuas and giant petrels fill the skies above. Meanwhile, the albatross—a constant companion on this journey—is never far away.
Fortuna Bay is a majestic three-mile-long fjord. It was named after the ship Fortuna, one of the original vessels of the Norwegian–Argentine whaling expedition which established the first permanent whaling station at Grytviken, further down the coast. History comes into sharp focus as you continue west to Stromness and onto Grytviken. From 1912 until the 1930s, Stromness (and nearby Leith and Husvik), operated as whaling stations. The rusted and ghostly remnants of these old stations seem out of place in such a pristine environment. This area is key to the Shackleton story. It was here in 1916 that Shackleton and his companions, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean, arrived after their epic crossing from King Haakon Bay on the south coast, after completing their 800-mile journey by small boat from Elephant Island. If the weather cooperates you can hike, in Shackleton's footsteps, the saddle separating Fortuna Bay from neighboring Stromness.
Eventually you'll enter the broad expanse of Cumberland Bay, anchoring off Grytviken—the largest of the old whaling stations on South Georgia. A highlight of your landing here is a visit to the grave sites of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his loyal right hand man, Frank Wild. Frank Wild’s lifelong wish was to be buried beside Shackleton. However, his wish never materialized due to the outbreak of WWII, a week after Wild’s passing in South Africa. Wild’s ashes were transported to South Georgia some 72 years after his death in 1939.
Your next few days will take you to St. Andrew’s Bay and Gold Harbor, places teeming with wildlife including fur seals, elephant seals, and massive colonies of colorful king penguins. Exercise every opportunity possible to explore on foot with your experienced guides. Gold Harbor is so called because the sun's rays make the cliffs yellow with their light in the morning and evening. It’s an exhilarating location. Drygalski Fjord at the far eastern extremity of the island has been called one of the most spectacular sites in South Georgia.
The ship will navigate back along the northern coastline with a few special locations targeted for potential visits—including the old whaling depot at Godthul. There is a terrific hike there up to a beautiful lake. Nearing the end of your visit to South Georgia, hopefully you will be able to enjoy a shore landing at Prion Island which many consider to be the jewel in South Georgia's crown. This location has been designated as a ‘Special Protected Area’ by the South Georgia Government due to the breeding wandering albatross colonies at this location.
Boasting the largest wingspan of any living bird, typically ranging from 8-11 ft, albatross spend most of their life in flight, landing only to breed and feed. Distances traveled each year are hard to measure, but one bird was recorded as traveling 3,728 miles in just twelve days. You are exceptionally lucky to be able to attempt a landing here as the site is closed to visiting ships between late November and early January due to the concentration of fur seals on the beaches. The boardwalks provide access to several observation platforms where you will view nesting wandering albatross in close proximity. As you depart South Georgia, pause to reflect on your time in this spectacular location as the captain charts a return course toward the Falkland Islands.
The final days of your journey will be spent catching up on journal entries or perhaps downloading and reviewing photos in the multimedia lab with your photography guides. For some, it's a chance to catch some well-earned rest after busy days of exploration. The lounge and bar provide fantastic panoramas and are great places to sit with a book and a hot drink.
The educational presentations continue; enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. A particular highlight of the return journey will be frequent sightings of albatross, petrels, and other seabirds as they soar above the ship on the winds of the Southern Ocean. Take the time to enjoy a quiet moment on the outer deck and reflect on a truly remarkable journey to the farthest reaches of the planet.
Wake to the sight of landfall in the Falklands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, note the barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. Go ashore via Zodiac to view the incredible diversity of wildlife found at this location. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic, and rockhopper, as well as southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. King cormorants and striated caracaras are just some of the bird species you can expect to see. As you cruise along the coast of the Falklands bound for Stanley, enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s captain.
In the early morning, the ship will navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer will take you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage).
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.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance. The travel insurance must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter), luggage and personal effects, and personal liability. It is strongly recommended that you purchase cancellation and curtailment insurance. 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.
Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed, and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip commences in and returns to Punta Arenas, Chile. It is recommended that you arrive in Punta Arenas at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure as a buffer in the event of any unexpected travel delays between home, voyage embarkation, and departure. From Punta Arenas you will fly to Stanley, Falkland Islands via a special charter flight. Your voyage will conclude in Stanley, where you will fly back to Punta Arenas. For guests staying in Punta Arenas, an arrival transfer is provided from the airport to a central downtown location.
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 boots 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.
Pre-booked option for up to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in participating in this activity, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. All intending kayakers must complete a questionnaire outlining their prior paddling experience. You must also attend several compulsory onboard meetings prior to the first kayak excursion. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Photography Symposium: pre-booking required
On this photography symposium you'll travel with a team of highly experienced professional photographers who offer one-on-one support and personal photographic critique to improve your camera skills. The members of the photographic team each have a special area of expertise including wildlife photography, landscape, and composition along with technical elements including gear, equipment, computer-based processing, file management, and storage. You'll make regular use of the shipboard multimedia studio for breakout sessions and to review and critique your images. The photographic goals on this departure will be formed and led by the light available both onshore and on the water. The program is designed for all skill levels and different camera types, no extra charges apply, and participation is optional. Regular programs operate throughout the trip because the photographers are additional staff members. Limited availability. Pre-register at time of booking. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Round-trip flight between Punta Arenas, Chile, and Port Stanley, Falkland Islands; transfers from central meeting point in Punta Arenas to the airport on Day 1 and from Punta Arenas airport (to a downtown location) on arrival back from Stanley on Day 15; airport/ship transfers in the Falkland Islands; shipboard accommodations; photography symposium; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; 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; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists onboard or ashore; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained physician on every voyage; use of onboard library, sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center; end of voyage video, photos and take-home USB; gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles); all meals onboard the ship; daily housekeeping; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); port fees and permits to access visited areas. Inclusions 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 specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); 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. Fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © David Sinclair, © Ira Meyer, © Renato Granieri