All (sub-)Antarctic highlights in one voyage, with spectacular landing sites on the Falkland Islands and encounters with black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper pinguins. You’ll have the chance to meet at least six different penguin species. You’ll explore the transition from the sub-Antarctic to the Antarctic Polar Region, experiencing how the drop in temperature can make a huge impact on the colours of the surrounding landscapes; from the warmer tones of the sub-Antarctic side to the icy rugged beauty of the true Antarctic. Witness how those few degrees of difference in the transition zone can make the difference between an animal or plant species choosing to live on one side of the Antarctic Convergence (the Polar Front) or the other. This cruise includes also four days on South Georgia, probably the most beautiful place on earth. Be prepared for ten thousands of king penguins and their chicks, sea lions on the beaches, elephant seals, wandering albatrosses and Gentoo penguins and great historical sites including the trails of British Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. We plan a visit to Orcadas station on South Orkney Islands and If the ice permits we will sail into the Weddell Sea through the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound. Huge tabular icebergs will announce our arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Several species of albatross follow the vessel into the westerlies, along with storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
The Falkland Islands offer an abundance of wildlife that is easily approachable, though caution is always advised. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of a 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of bird live here, but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters.
During this segment of the voyage, you may visit the following sites:
Carcass Island – Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife and many endemic species. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wrens and tussock-birds) live here.
Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here.
The capital of the Falklands and center of its culture, Port Stanley has some Victorian-era charm: colorful houses, well-tended gardens, and English-style pubs are all to be found here. You can also see several century-old clipper ships nearby, silent witnesses to the hardships of 19th century sailors. The small but interesting museum is also worth a visit, covering the early days of settlement up to the Falklands War. Approximately 2,100 people live in Port Stanley. Admission to the museum is included.
Day 5 - 6
En route to South Georgia, you now cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within the space of a few hours, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.
Day 7 - 10
Today you arrive at the first South Georgia activity site. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program.
Over the next several days, you have a chance to visit the following sites:
Prion Island – This location is closed during the early part of the wandering albatross breeding season (November 20 – January 7). From January on, the breeding adults have found their partners and are sitting on eggs or nursing their chicks. Enjoy witnessing the gentle nature of these animals, which possess the largest wingspan of any bird in the world.
Fortuna Bay – A beautiful outwash plain from Fortuna Glacier is home to a large number of king penguins and seals. Here you may also have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall, and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for Antarctic fur seals. Literally millions breed on South Georgia during December and January. Only during the mid-season do they peak in their breeding cycle. There will be some young adult Elephant seals as well as this seasons ‘Weaner’s; the young Elephant Seals that have been left to fend for themselves. Watch your step and stay cool when walking the beaches during this time.
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
In the afternoon of day 10 and depending on the conditions, we will start sailing southwards in the direction of the South Orkney Islands.
There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.
Depending on the conditions, you might visit Orcadas Base, an Argentine scientific station on Laurie Island in the South Orkney archipelago. The personnel here will happily show you their facility, where you can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding glaciers. If a visit isn’t possible, you may instead land in Coronation Island’s Shingle Cove.
Enormous icebergs and a fair chance of fin whale sightings ensure there’s never a dull moment on this last sea voyage south. Also, your best chance to spot Antarctic petrels is here.
Day 14 - 16
If the ice conditions permit, you now sail into the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Paulet Island, with its large population of Adélie penguins, is a possible stop. You might also visit Brown Bluff, located in the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound, where you could get the chance to set foot on the Antarctic Continent itself.
If conditions aren’t favorable to enter the Weddell Sea from the east, the ship will set course for Elephant Island and head into the Bransfield Strait, between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Here you can attempt to access the Antarctic Sound from the northwest.
The breathtaking scenery continues in the Bransfield Straight and, if conditions allow further South in the Gerlache Strait. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Day 17 - 18
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Please Note...All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per IAATO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with IAATO prior to the start of the season, but the expedition leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. The average cruising speed of our vessel is 10,5 knots.
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