Summary : The Falkland Islands and South Georgia are the jewels of the South Atlantic Ocean. These incredibly remote and wild islands are home to an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. The Falklands have a rich and storied history, while South Georgia has rightfully been called 'the most staggering wildlife show on earth.' Enjoy in-depth exploration of this seldom-visited corner of the planet, a place your guides know intimately and look forward to visiting every season. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than a hundred journeys south, cherish every visit to South Georgia. Experience a full seven days for exploration of South Georgia, compared to the traditional three or four. Complete your remarkable voyage with a visit to Sea Lion Island, a wildlife haven in the southern archipelago of the Falkland Islands. Your voyage coincides with the height of the polar summer, when days are long, wildlife is relaxed, penguin chicks are playful and the fur seal pups are especially curious. The snowmelt allows for epic hiking opportunities ashore, the rustic historic buildings contrast the brilliant green tussock grass, and the dark mountains with capped with snowy white peaks create awe inspiring landscapes.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at the airport and fly on the scheduled service to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. After a short 90-minute flight, arrive in Stanley where you are met on arrival and transferred to the pier, embarking your expedition ship, Akademik Sergey Vavilov. 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 – and the adventure of a lifetime.
Chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The days at sea are never dull. Much time is spent on the bridge or outer decks scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. A profusion of seabirds delight you as they wheel and spin above the ship. Spend plenty of time with your onboard polar experts who will share their passion and information on the wonders of the South Atlantic Ocean and Sub-Antarctic eco-systems. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Shackleton is central to your journey. Perhaps you will pick up some valuable tips from your onboard photographic guide, learning about image composition, the subtle polar light and all the basics of good camera craft. You will also learn about Polar conservation—a theme particularly close to the hearts of your expedition guides and crew.
These next several days will be unlike anything you have ever imagined. Majestic snow-covered mountains greet you on arrival in South Georgia. Begin by cruising the protected waters of the northeastern coast looking for suitable landing spots such as Elsehul Bay and Salisbury Plain. The highlight of both of these areas is the staggering abundance of king penguin adults and their young that live in these locations by the hundreds of thousands, covering every inch of the shore.
At the height of breeding season this area is believed to have more wildlife per square foot than any other place on the planet. You have to experience to believe it. The majestic ‘Kings’ are not the only wildlife on display. 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 swoop and weave in the skies above. Meanwhile, the albatross—your constant companion on this journey—is never far away.
Continue your journey deeper into the heart of South Georgia where your next expected stop is Prion Island, in the beautiful Bay of Isles. This island has been designated as a ‘Specially 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 8ft to 11ft (2.5 to 3.5 m), they 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 traveling 6000 km in just twelve days. It is rare to experience them up close and personal and on land. If exceptionally lucky, you may be able to attempt a landing here. The site is closed to visiting ships between November and mid-January, due to the massive concentration of fur seals on the beaches during this time.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. Here at Fortuna Bay you can expect to see king penguins and elephant seals.
History comes into sharp focus as you continue west to Stromness and Grytviken. From 1912 until the 1930’s, Stromness (and nearby Leith and Husvik), operated as whaling stations and the rusted and ghostly remnants of the old stations seem out of place in such a pristine environment. This area is key to the Shackleton story as 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. This is after having completed their 800-mile journey by small boat from Elephant Island. If the weather co-operates, you may be able to hike the last few miles across the saddle, which separates Fortuna Bay from neighboring Stromness, walking in the footsteps of Shackleton and his men.
As you journey further to the southeast, 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 at his home in South Africa. Your voyage falls exactly three years following the transport of Wild’s ashes to South Georgia aboard your ship, and some 94 years after his last voyage with Shackleton in 1921. The next few days 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. As with all of your landings, you will exercise every opportunity possible to explore on foot, as much or as little as you like. 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 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 into the steely blue waters. This place seems a fitting end note to your adventure in South Georgia and, reflecting on your epic days of exploration, chart a return course to the Falkland Islands.
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 a busy week of exploration. The wonderful lounge and bar on your ship provide fantastic panoramas and are great places to sit with a book and a hot cappuccino.
The educational presentations continue and you 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.
We wake to the sight of landfall in the Falklands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, we first note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. We 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 we expect to see. Weather permitting, we may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island - another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands - equally rich in wildlife. As we cruise along the coast of the Falklands, bound for Stanley, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain.
In the early morning, we navigate through the narrows and into the harbor of Port Stanley. A transfer will take us to the airport for our 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. Otherwise enjoy a night in this delightful city, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
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.
Sea Kayaking Option: $795 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 16 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 PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Enhanced Photography Program: No additional supplement
Select departures host an enhanced photography program, where in addition to the photographer in residence, a professional photographer will serve as one of the expedition guides. This expands the opportunities and bandwidth for those passengers looking to learn more and get more out of their images. 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.
Hiking Excursions: No additional supplement
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.
Camping Option: No additional supplement. (Possibly available on select departures. Contact ExpeditionTrips for details)
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear, such as bivy sacs and sleeping bags, will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable outhouse tent is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards.
Photography: No additional supplement.
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.
Accommodation aboard the ship; return flights Punta Arenas / Stanley / Punta Arenas; all meals during the voyage prepared by onboard professional chefs; afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; all Zodiac excursions; extensive program of relevant educational presentations; advice from experienced team of naturalists; foul weather gear set (pants/jacket/wellington boots OR waterproof backpack/waterproof binoculars/wellington boots); use of multimedia station; welcome reception; welcome dinner; farewell dinner hosted by Captain; 'Memory Book' (log book chronicling your trip, includes photos); onboard medical officer; pre-departure information; hairdryers available on request at no charge; group transfers to and from airport in Port Stanley.
All airfare (except where explicitly stated above); visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise meals, transfers, and hotel accommodation; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; fee for optional programs.
PHOTOS: © Ira Meyer; © Adam Riley; © David Schultz; © Claudio Suter