This is our most far-reaching polar expedition, taking in three different locations including one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth.
The wild and remote environments of the sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and the island of South Georgia are home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife. There are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds, the beaches are covered in fur seals and elephant seals, while seabirds, including many of the albatross species, nest and raise their young. The islands have a fascinating human history as well which we will explore with our onboard experts. After exploring these sub-Antarctic islands we will continue to push south to the frozen continent itself, Antarctica. Icebergs in all shapes and sizes fill the waters, and yet more unique wildlife can be found living in sizable colonies. The waters are full of life and we frequently encounter whales including humpback, minke and orca.
Day 1: Ushuaia, Argentina — Our exploration of the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica commences in Ushuaia. Excitement is in the air as we board the ship, enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Day 2: Southern Ocean — Sailing northeast towards the Falkland Islands we are joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history of the Southern Ocean and the locations we plan to visit.
Days 3-4: Falkland Islands — Having arrived in the Falkland’s overnight, we plan to explore several locations in the West Falkland archipelago. These remote islands are home to a proliferation of seabirds and migratory birds including the stunning black-browed albatross. We see our first penguins of the trip on these islands, which could include West Point with its bustling rookeries of rockhoppers. On Carcass Island, we observe nesting Magellanic penguins as well as oystercatchers, geese and the striated caracara – a bird of prey. The following morning we arrive in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands Islands. Wandering through the quiet streets we learn how Stanley was a major port in the 19th century for the tall clipper ships rounding Cape Horn.
Days 5-6: Southern Ocean — We chart a south-easterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds once again join us in the Southern Ocean. Our educational presentations continue. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Sir Earnest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expeditions is central to any trip to South Georgia.
Days 7-10: South Georgia — The island of South Georgia has often been called the ‘Serengeti of the Southern Ocean’ – and as we approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop you begin to see why. Launching the Zodiacs we begin our exploration of the island in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal line the beaches. Living in the tussock grass, king penguins and their chicks may number up to 100,000 birds in some locations, including Salisbury Plains, St Andrews Bay and Gold Harbor. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross and they fill the skies above. South Georgia is a thrilling location for history buffs as the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around us. A highlight is a visit to Grytviken – the largest of the former whaling stations on the island, and where we visit the gravesite of Shackleton, buried here in 1921. On our 18 night expeditions we spend a day less in South Georgia.
Days 11-13: Scotia Sea and Elephant Island — After several busy days our exploration of South Georgia is complete and our attention now turns south, towards Antarctica. It takes several days to cross the Scotia Sea in the comfort of our modern expedition ship. Large tabular icebergs announce our arrival in Antarctic waters. The dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear and it is this location that ‘bookends’ the Shackleton story for many. Here Shackleton and his men were camped for many months, having lost HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice, far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. If conditions allow we attempt a landing here.
Days 14-17: South Shetland Island and Elephant Island — Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland lies the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites might include King George Island, Half Moon Island, Yankee Harbour or Hannah Point. Weather conditions permitting we sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. After so much anticipation, we enter the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbour or Cierva Cove. Snow covered mountains soar from the dark waters. Along the shoreline in the bays and harbors of the peninsula live an incredible abundance of wildlife. We explore by Zodiac boat and ashore where a range of wonderful activities awaits. Locations we hope to visit include Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbour, Cuverville Island and the Errera Channel. Join the photographic guide and take close up photos of the penguins, or of the impossibly blue ice. Or enjoy a hike to the top of a snowy mountain saddle with one of our adventure guides. If the opportunity presents itself, visit a science base or old historic hut. Each, you have a range of great choices.
Days 18-19: Southern Ocean — After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, it’s time to return to South America. The educational presentations continue and we enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by our Expedition Leader. If conditions allow we hope to make a rounding of the fabled landmark of Cape Horn.
Day 20: Ushuaia, Argentina — In the early morning, we arrive into Ushuaia. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. *Note: on a 19 night voyage, you will spend an additional day along South Georgia.
Please note: Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions, the planned itinerary will be updated at the time of final preparations as well as throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favourable conditions.