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South Georgia – In Depth – Air-Cruise

South Georgia Cruise Information

Summary : South Georgia has rightly been called ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth'. After in-depth exploration, you'll understand why. This seldom-visited corner of the planet is a place known intimately by your guides who look forward to visiting every season. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, cherish every visit to South Georgia. Traditionally, visits to South Georgia last only three or four days and are part of a much longer itinerary enroute to Antarctica, but this unique opportunity offers eight full days of exploration in South Georgia. Complete this remarkable voyage with a visit to Sea Lion Island, a wildlife haven in the southern archipelago of the Falklands. Your voyage is timed to coincide with the height of the polar summer; days are long and the wildlife will be relaxed following the breeding frenzy in spring. Penguin chicks are playful, their parents coming and going from the sea with bellies full of krill to feed their young. The fur seal pups are especially curious and the sea birds are always soaring in the skies above—a constant on any voyage to South Georgia. Areas covered in snow during your earlier visits will have melted, allowing for epic hiking opportunities ashore. The rusting historic sites sit silently and the colors of the old buildings contrast brilliantly against the green tussock grass, the dark mountains and white snowy peaks for which South Georgia is renowned. Join an extraordinary small ship expedition unlike anywhere on earth.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise

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Itinerary
Day 1
Punta Arenas, Chile to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Your journey commences in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at a central location and transfer to the airport for your scheduled service to Stanley in the Falkland Islands (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute flight, arrive in Stanley where you are 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. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980s, is a sobering reminder of recent history.

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, dinner and cast off, bound for South Georgia – and the adventure of a lifetime.

Day 2 – 3
At Sea

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 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 a modern research vessel. Throughout the day, onboard experts educate with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history and 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.

Day 4 – 5
King Haakon Bay and the Northwest Coast

These next days will be unlike anything you have ever imagined. Majestic snow-covered mountains greet you on arrival in South Georgia. Begin your exploration on the southern coastline. Navigate the ship into the very 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 100 years ago.

From here, they set off to cross the mountainous spine of South Georgia, a feat never before attempted. This is a very dramatic place, visited by just a handful of ships each season. From here, make your way around to the protected waters of the north-eastern coast. We can now indulge in an in-depth exploration, navigating the ships into the bays and harbors the entire length of the island. Elsehul Bay allows for great zodiac cruising and will be a possible location we will 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 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. You have to experience it to believe it.

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, the elephant seals will enjoy lazing about the beach, while the skuas and giant petrels fill the skies above. Meanwhile, the albatross—a constant companion on this journey—is never far away.

Day 6 – 7
Fortuna Bay, Stromness, Grytviken and Central North Coast

Your adventure takes you next to Fortuna Bay, a majestic three-mile long and one-mile wide 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. In Fortuna Bay, expect to see king penguins and elephant seals.

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 and 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 and it was here, in 1916, that Shackleton and his companions, Worsley and Crean arrived after their epic crossing from King Haakon Bay on the south coast, after having completed their 800-mile journey by small boat from Elephant Island. If the weather cooperates, hike the last few miles across the saddle separating Fortuna Bay from neighboring Stromness, in the footsteps of Shackleton and his men.

Journey further to the southeast and enter the broad expanse of Cumberland Bay. At the head of the bay lies Grytviken—the largest of the old whaling stations on South Georgia. A highlight of your landing here is a visit to the gravesite 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. Your voyage falls exactly four years following the transport of Wild’s ashes to South Georgia aboard your ship, and some 95 years after his last voyage with Shackleton in 1921.

Day 8 – 9
St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour and Eastern Coast

Your next few days will take you to St. Andrew’s Bay and Gold Harbor, places that are teeming with wildlife including fur seals, elephant seals and massive colonies of the 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. If it is calm enough you can hear the glacier calving large chunks of ice, reminders of the epic nature of this spectacular destination.

Day 10
Godthul and Prion Island

Navigate your way back along the northern coastline. There are few special locations targeted for potential visits—including the old whaling depot at Godthul. There is a terrific hike here 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 the jewel in the 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 travelling 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 and chart your return course towards the Falkland Islands.

Day 11 – 13
At Sea

Your final days are spent catching up on journal entries, or perhaps downloading and reviewing photos in the multi-media lab with your photography expert. For some, it's a chance to catch some well-earned rest after busy days of exploration. The wonderful 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 the majestic 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.

Day 14
Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands

Wake to the sight of landfall in the Falklands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. Launch the Zodiacs and go ashore 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. Weather permitting, visit neighboring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands which is equally rich in wildlife. As you cruise along the coast of the Falklands bound for Stanley, enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s captain.

Day 15
Stanley, Falkland Islands, to Punta Arenas, Chile

In the early morning, navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer takes you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.

Notes

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.

Mandatory Insurance:

Passengers must have comprehensive travel insurance. Your own domestic government medical insurance and private health care plans will not cover you in most overseas countries. Your policy must provide coverage for your medical costs in case of hospitalization, emergency travel and repatriation. Cancellation insurance is also recommended. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.

Photography Symposium:
11/3/2018; pre-booking required
On a photography symposium, you travel with a team of highly experienced photographers to improve your camera skills. Five professional photographer mentors with a variety of expertise offer one-on-one support and personal photographic critique. You will focus on ideal light conditions while having access to heightened opportunities on deck and on designated Zodiacs for photographers. The program is designed for all skill levels and different camera types, no extra charges apply and participating in the photography symposium is optional. Regular programs operate through out the photography symposiums because the professional photographers are additional staff members. Limited availability. Pre-register at time of booking. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.

Sea Kayaking:
$795 per person; pre-booking required
Participants will be accompanied by 3 kayak guides. This optional activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex dry suits, kayak-specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and a single or double kayak. Limited to 16 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.

Included:

Round-trip flights between Punta Arenas, Chile, and Port Stanley, Falkland Islands; transfers from the meeting point in Punta Arenas to the airport, from the airport in Port Stanley to the ship, from the ship to the airport in Port Stanley; 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; 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); natural essential oil amenities; 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 (waterproof jacket, water-resistant pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, trekking poles, and a waterproof backpack). Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:

All airfare (except where explicitly stated in inclusions); visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise hotel accommodation; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; meals, accommodations, and transfers in welcome and departure cities (unless otherwise stated in inclusions); trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; binocular rental; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; fee for guided kayak program; fuel surcharge may apply.

PHOTOS: © David Sinclair, Ira Meyer

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