Our most popular expedition cruise, exploring the wildlife populated coasts of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica. South Georgia the ‘Serengeti of the Southern Ocean’ is one of the Antarctic’s hidden jewels. An adventure offering wildlife photography, zodiac cruising, up to eight species of penguin, while following in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton, leader of the Endurance Expedition.
These Antarctic expeditions utilize a flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands to save almost a day and half at sea – which maximizes the time you can spend exploring incredible Antarctica, and the sub-Antarctic Falkland and South Georgia Islands. We’ll encounter a spectacular proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife on our journey – there are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds, albatrosses, and the beaches are covered in fur seals and elephant seals. Beyond these islands lie Antarctica, where we will experience icebergs of all shapes and sizes and encounters with whales, including humpback, minke and orca.
Day 1: Punta Arenas, Chile – Our journey commences this morning in Punta Arenas, where we board our flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. After a short 90-minute journey we are met on arrival and transferred to the pier. Stanley is home to 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a charming, rural town in coastal Britain, full of brightly colored houses, flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several pubs. There is time to explore the town before embarkation.
Days 2: Falkland Islands – Having cruised down the eastern coastline of the Falkland Islands overnight, we are at the far south-eastern end of the archipelago. Near the barren and windswept Sea Lion Island, we launch the Zodiacs for our first shore excursion. If we enjoy good weather conditions we may be able to visit neighboring Bleaker Island, another settlement on this remote eastern coast of the Falklands. In the evening, we navigate into the Scotia Sea towards South Georgia.
Days 3 – 4: Southern Ocean – The seabirds join us as we leave the Falklands. Stand out on the decks watching the giant albatross and petrels as they duck and weave on the winds of the South Atlantic. Our onboard photographic guide will be able to give you tips about image composition, the subtle polar light, and the basics of good camera craft.
Days 5 – 8: South Georgia – South Georgia has often been called the ‘Serengeti of the Southern Ocean’. We explore the island from our Zodiacs. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal will line the dark sand beaches. Living in the tussock grass, king penguins and their chicks may number up to 100,000 birds in some locations. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross, filling the skies above as they come and go from their nests. South Georgia is a thrilling location for history buffs: we will plan to visit the rusting relics of the early whaling industry, including several old stations, and the gravesite of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Days 9 – 11: Scotia Sea – Weather and ice will dictate our crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica, leading us perhaps to the South Orkney Islands or Elephant Island. As with all of our itinerary planning, our expedition leader and captain will make a decision based on the conditions at the time. As we edge ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce our arrival in Antarctic waters.
Days 12 – 16: South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula – Possible landing sites in the South Shetland Island group could 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. Finally, 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 lives an incredible abundance of wildlife. Large rookeries are home to chinstrap, gentoo and Adelie penguins. Seals live on the ice floes, including the powerful leopard seal that we hope to encounter. Gulls, skuas and cormorants are also found nesting and feeding at many sites along the Antarctic Peninsula. We explore by Zodiac boat and ashore, where a range of wonderful activities await: join the photographic guide and take close up photos of the penguins or the impossibly blue ice; enjoy a hike to the top of a snowy mountain saddle with one of our adventure guides; or perhaps visit a science base or an old historic hut. The sea kayakers may range up to several miles from the ship, for a truly memorable experience. Each day, you will have a range of great choices. In 2017/18 we will spend one day less along the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.
Days 17 – 18: Drake Passage and Cape Horn – After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, it’s time to return to South America. If weather conditions allow, we hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition to some of the most remote corners of the planet.
Days 19: Ushuaia, Argentina – In the early morning, we arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
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.