In Ian’s view this is the greatest cruise journey in the world. Spectacular glacial scenery, an almost surreal profusion of wildlife and a real sense of adventure. Using Zodiacs you will go ashore at least twice a day to experience the “ice” and its residents up close. Whilst at sea a series of lectures will inform and inspire.
This extended expedition encompasses the wildlife paradise of South Georgia, the remote Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), as well as the extraordinary beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula. You’ll experience a great diversity of environments and landscapes, which will provide unprecedented wildlife viewing opportunities. Join us for the quintessential Antarctic experience for polar travellers!
Day 1 – Ushuaia: Your gateway for this expedition is Ushuaia, Argentina. Nestled within the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, Ushuaia offers you a small-town feel but has many shops, museums, cafes and restaurants to enjoy before your voyage. If you’re feeling adventurous, the nearby national park and Martial Glacier offer plenty of hiking and outdoor activities.
Day 2 – Ushuaia – Embarkation Day : Embarkation will occur in the late afternoon, after which the vessel will sail down the historic Beagle Channel. This historic channel transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America. Historic visitors who have traversed this channel include Charles Darwin, who journeyed through this region in the famous HMS Beagle. As we continue south, travelers will keep watch on deck for seabirds, seals and dolphins that can approach the vessel.
Day 3 – At Sea: As we sail to the northeast we have the chance to enjoy a series of presentations that include talks on wildlife, ice and polar history, which will undoubtedly create enormous anticipation for our upcoming adventures. On deck the first sightings of albatross and petrels are likely to add to our sense of excitement, whilst our team of experts will be on hand to help us spot whales and identify the various other seabirds.
Day 4-5 – Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) : Upon arrival in this archipelago your cameras will get their first real workout capturing the abundant wildlife and the rugged feel of the Falklands (Malvinas). The archipelago contains two main islands – East and West, which we will explore by Zodiac excursions and daily landings. Port Stanley is often a favored landing site, as the town offers a unique British outpost feel to it, complete with a bit of a ramshackle charm. You’ll be free to explore the town, grab a pint at the local pub, or visit numerous churches and museums. In terms of wildlife, the archipelago is home to Magellanic, gentoo and rockhopper penguins. If lucky, you may even spot king penguins here as well! You can expect to see black-browed albatross and two endemic bird species; Cobb’s wren and the Falkland’s flightless steamer duck.
Your team of lecturers and specialists will be sure to educate you on the local flora and fauna so that you get the most out of your time in the Falklands.
Day 6-7 – At Sea: Leaving the Falklands, our journey continues southeast towards the island of South Georgia. We have a chance to learn more about Antarctic conservation as well as the fascinating history of the area, as our on-board presentations continue. Of course there is ample time to scan the seascape from the top deck in search of marine mammals and seabirds.
Sailing south, you’ll officially enter Antarctic waters by crossing the invisible biological boundary called the Antarctic Convergence. Encircling the continent, cold Antarctic waters meet and mix with the warmer waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, creating the abundance of krill and marine life that attracts whales and seals to this part of the world. Expedition staff will be sure to keep you posted when you cross this invisible, yet important line.
Day 8-11 – South Georgia : This remote outpost was a popular stop for many historic Antarctic expeditions and was once a haven for hunting whales and elephant and fur seals. Today, South Georgia Island wildlife populations have rebounded, but you’ll still see remnants of those old whaling stations and other abandoned outposts. One significant and historic site that will be of interest is the grave of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. You can visit his grave at the settlement of Grytviken, which is also home to an old whaling station, a museum, gift shop, church and a research station of approximately 20 scientists and support personnel.
While South Georgia’s history is an important attraction to the islands, it is the wildlife on South Georgia that you and your shipmates will surely find most captivating. Often referred to as the Galapagos of the Poles, each landing you make on South Georgia will open your eyes to a new wonder of wildlife. One day you may see rookeries with a hundred thousand pairs of king penguins waddling on the beach. The next day you may visit another beach with thousands of fur or elephant seals. The grasses, mountains and beaches of South Georgia all play an important role in the breeding and survival of different species on the island, this fragile and symbiotic relationship is something that your Expedition Team will share with you during your time here.
Day 12-13 – At Sea : Say goodbye to the king penguins, as your next destination is Antarctica! Your days at sea are filled with seminars from your Expedition Team, who will prepare you for the wildlife that will be greeting you upon your arrival. In between presentations, spend time chatting with your shipmates over a drink at the bar. If conditions allow, we may attempt landfall on the South Orkney Islands, which are officially in Antarctica.
Day 14-17 – South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula : The most common reaction to arriving at the white continent is a sense of reverence and awe. The experience is hard to put into words, as few places are as untouched, unique and enduring as Antarctica. You will discover that Antarctica is a land of extremes. At one moment you’ll be overcome with a feeling of complete desolation and silence, at the next moment you’ll be inspired by nature as a calving glacier crashes into the brilliant blue sea or a penguin comes waddling by to inspect your footwear.
Your Expedition Team will take care of you at each landing, whether it is trekking up a glacier, visiting a research station or consorting with penguin colonies. Chinstrap, Adélie and gentoo penguins are found here, along with Weddell, fur, crabeater and leopard seals. Curious whales, such as minkes, are often attracted to Zodiacs as well, giving you a chance to get within reaching distance of these majestic animals. Each day and every landing will present a new collection of creatures to entertain you and keep your camera shutter busy. As exciting as the Zodiac excursions and landings are, perhaps you’ll treat yourself to an extra special Antarctic experience by partaking in an optional (extra cost) kayaking excursion or going for a swim in Antarctic waters!
Day 18-19 – Crossing the Drake Passage : After more than two weeks of endless wildlife encounters, your journey home begins. Crossing the Drake Passage is your unofficial rite of passage, completing your Antarctic adventure.
Enjoy some final moments mingling with your fellow travelers. The noisy, busy, populated world awaits your return, so savor the silence of the sea as long as you can.
Day 20 – Ushuaia : After breakfast aboard the ship we arrive back in Ushuaia, travellers are transferred to the airport for the homeward flight.
NOTE Pricing starts with triple-share cabins from $16,945. Twin cabins from $20,505 per person. There’s a great range of pricing depending on the cruise operator, ship, cabin type and time of year – with November/early December departures often significantly cheaper than Jan/Feb departures.
As this is likely to be a ‘trip of a lifetime’, it’s important we get the right ship and the right itinerary for you, so please contact me now to make an appointment!
Read my journal on Following in Shackleton’s footsteps.