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
Day 1: End of the World, Start of a Journey – Your voyage begins where the world drops off: Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, 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 scenic, mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the rest of the evening.
Day 2: Winged Life of the Westerlies – Several species of albatross follow the vessel into the westerlies, as well as storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
Day 3: Falklands Found – The Falkland (Malvinas) Islands offer an abundance of wildlife, easily approachable – with caution. These islands are largely unknown gems, primarily remembered for the war between the UK and Argentina in 1982. 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 part 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. Anything from breeding Magellanic and gentoo penguins to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wren and the tussock-bird) live here.
Saunders Island – Here 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 gentoo penguins are also found here.
Day 4: Seat of Falklands Culture – The capital of the Falklands, Port Stanley has some South American traits mixed in with a little Victorian charm: colorful houses, well-tended gardens, and English-style pubs. You can see several century-old clipper ships in the surrounding area, silent witnesses to the hardships of 19th century sailors. The small but interesting museum is also worth a visit, covering the early days of the settlement up to the Falkland War. Approximately 2,100 people live in the capital, where you’re free to wander at will – though admission fees to local attractions are not included.
Day 5 – 6: Once More to the Sea – En route to South Georgia, you cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within only 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: several species of albatrosses as well as shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.
Day 7 – 10: South Georgia Journey – You arrive at the first South Georgia activity site on day seven. Weather conditions here can be challenging and largely dictate 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 birds in the world.
Fortuna Bay – Near beaches inhabited by penguins and seals, you have the chance to follow the final section of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This route cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall. The terrain here is partly swampy, so be prepared to cross some small streams along the way.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour – These locations not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the largest breeding beaches for southern elephant seals in the world. Only this time of year do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the four-ton bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over the territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. You can also see a substantial number of Antarctic fur seals here during the breeding season (December – January).
Grytviken – You have the opportunity to check out this abandoned whaling station, where king penguins now walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they just about do. You might also see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
Day 11: Southward Bound – 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.
Day 12: South Orkney Sights – Depending on the weather and ice, you might visit Base Orcadas, 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 here isn’t possible, you might land in Signy Island’s Shingle Cove instead.
Day 13: Last Push to the Antarctic – Huge icebergs and a good chance of fin whales 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: Awe-Inspiring Antarctica – If ice permits, you 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 may get the chance to set foot on the Continent. If conditions aren’t favorable to enter the Weddell Sea from the east, you set course for Elephant Island and head into the Bransfield Strait – between South Shetland Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Here you attempt access to the Antarctic Sound from the northwest. Your last activities before venturing into the Drake Passage are likely to find you around the northern Gerlache Strait. One option is Cierva Cove and the rugged, ice-gripped mountains of the Davis Coast. Mikkelsen Harbour on the south coast of Trinity Island is another alternative. Here you may enjoy a gentoo penguin rookery as well as some fine scenic cruising. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Day 17 – 18: North by Sea – 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.
Day 19: There and Back Again – 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 local ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. The on-board expedition leader will determine the final itinerary. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.