Follow in the path of historic explorers as you cross the legendary Drake Passage. Weather permitting, squeeze through the photogenic Lemaire Channel between the mountains of Booth Island and the Antarctic continent. See an incredible range of wildlife, such as minke, humpback and orca whales and gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguins. Zodiac cruises allow you to get right up close – if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a leopard seal. Few people ever get the opportunity to set foot on the Great White Continent or venture as deep into Antarctica as the Antarctic Circle, but you’ll be one of them. A diversity of possible landing sites and activities allows you to see the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula from multiple perspectives
Cast off from Ushuaia, Argentina, to embark on an adventure to one of the most beautiful and remote locations on the planet. Sail across the notorious Drake Passage bound for the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Explore a world covered in ice and snow; marvel at the odd shapes and spectacular hues of drifting icebergs; spot albatross, cormorants, seals, penguins and whales; and discover the land of the midnight sun – the blues and whites of Antarctica are truly breathtaking.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 11 Dinner Included: 12
Bienvenidos. Welcome to Argentina. Your Antarctic Explorer adventure begins with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires. Meet your leader and shipmates for a welcome meeting this evening at the hotel. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. If you have time during the day, explore the leafy boulevards, hip galleries and European architecture of Buenos Aires. In the evening, perhaps head out for a steak dinner with your new travel companions.
Note: A transfer from Buenos Aires airport to the hotel is not included.
Buenos Aires to Ushuaia
Take a charter flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia today. The port of Ushuaia is known as the town at 'the end of the world'. Enjoy a little bit of free time to explore before boarding the ship and cruising out through the Beagle Channel this afternoon. The channel transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America. Named after the British ship the HMS Beagle, this passage of water is rich with birdlife, so keep an eye out for penguins, cormorants, petrels, and Black-browed Albatross from the deck.
Head into the legendary Drake Passage, named after the English explorer, Sir Francis Drake. Conditions through the passage can be unpredictable, so hope for smooth sailing but be prepared for the possibility of rough seas. Take some time getting to know your shipmates and keep watch for seabirds, whales and dolphins. On-board experts will make presentations about the history and wildlife of Antarctica, as well as preparing you for the activities ahead.
Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands
With the Drake Passage behind you, have your camera ready as you approach the Antarctic coastline. Watch the ocean surface for curious whales breaching before your eyes. Over the next few days you'll make several expeditions via Zodiac to explore the Antarctic Peninsula. Perhaps visit Neko Harbour, Orne Harbour or Paradise Bay. Watch penguins waddling on a beach, listen to the crack of a calving glacier near Petermann Island or explore the historic Port Lockroy. You may like to take a polar plunge in the icy waters or kayak among whales (subject to availability). While weather dictates which landing sites you can visit, your expedition team will ensure that each one presents exciting new wildlife opportunities and natural attractions.
POSSIBLE LANDINGS AND WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS
A gentoo penguin rookery is situated on the north end of the island on a rocky beach. Depending on the time of season you visit, you may see them building nests or attending to their chicks. Giant petrels and kelp gulls also breed on the island.
If you're lucky enough to mail a postcard in Antarctica, you’ll likely pass through Damoy Point. This is the northern entrance to the harbour on which Port Lockroy is located.
This small island, 1.6 km (one mile) in length, is easy to explore and home to gentoo penguins. Visit the marker of a former British Antarctic Survey hut and watch out for a variety of seabirds such as snowy sheathbills, kelp gulls and blue-eyed shags.
Located in Wilhelmina Bay, this island was once used by whalers. A Zodiac cruise around the island passes by a wrecked whaling ship.
This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, and is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast, especially during sunrise and sunset. The 11 km (6.8 mile) channel may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway, so we’ll hope for clear waters.
This is a group of low islands in Dallmann Bay, on which you may see male fur seals haul-out at the end of the breeding season to recuperate from their battles for supremacy.
This bay was once used by the floating whale factory ship Neko. You may see some whale vertebrae used by resident gentoo penguins as shelter from the wind. There's an unmanned refuge hut here, erected by Argentina. Climb past the hut and up a steep slope for spectacular views of the glacier-rimmed harbour.
Here, near the Lemaire Channel, you can stand ashore and see the southernmost breeding colony of gentoo penguins. Adelie penguins, shags and south polar skuas also inhabit the island. The dome of the island rises 200 meters (650 feet) above the sea, offering a challenging hike for panoramic views.
Journey to Port Lockroy if weather permits. The harbour is on the west side of Wiencke Island. A secret base was built here during the Second World War as part of Operation Tabarin. It's now designated as a historic site, featuring a museum and the world's southernmost post office. Proceeds from your purchases here support the preservation of historic sites from the Heroic Age of Exploration.
At low tide this historic point is connected to the Antarctic mainland. Zodiacs can be used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behaviour lived in a water boat on the point from 1921-22. The remains of their camp have been designated as an Antarctic historic site.
This is a group of small islands, some still unnamed, situated in the northern entrance of the English Strait. You can often spot a great mix of wildlife here, including at the established rookeries of gentoo and chinstrap penguins. Southern elephant and fur seals are frequently hauled-out here too.
Also known as Rancho Point, this area is a rocky headland on the southeastern shore of Deception Island. Chinstrap penguins build nests on slopes leading to a high ridge, which dominates a natural amphitheater and provides a superb setting for landscape photography.
HALF MOON ISLAND
This crescent-shaped island was known to sealers as early as 1821. Unlike the sealers who liked to keep their best locations secret, we’re happy to bring you ashore on this impressive island. Many Antarctic birds breed here, including chinstrap penguins, shags, Wilson’s storm-petrels, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic terns and skua.
Macaroni, chinstrap and gentoo penguin rookeries are located on the point, which is on the south coast of Livingston Island. Due to the rather congested area available to the nesting penguins, you can only visit here from 10 January onwards.
Hot geothermal waters are found along the shoreline of this cove, which was named after observations made in 1829 by a British expedition. You may see yellow algae and boiled krill floating on the surface because of the scalding hot water.
Antarctica has two flowering plants, both of which you can find on Penguin Island: Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis. Chinstrap penguins, fur seals and southern elephant seals use the island for breeding purposes.
A nice spot for Zodiac cruising, this point was known to sealers as early as 1820. Chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls and pintado breed here, and whales may be seen in the surrounding waters.
Your expedition team will point out where the most recent evidence of volcanic eruption on Deception Island can be seen.
Chinstrap and Adelie penguin rookeries are found on this point, which is situated on the south coast of King George Island. The beaches are often crowded with southern elephant, fur, and Weddell seals hauled-out on the rocks.
To reach Whaler’s Bay, sail through the narrow passage of Neptune’s Bellows. The bay was used by whalers from 1906 to 1931 and is part of a protected harbour created by a circular flooded caldera, known as Deception Island. Along with waddling penguins and lounging seals, you’ll see the rusty remains of whaling operations on the beach. Watch for steam rising from geothermally-heated springs along the shoreline.
Gentoo penguins have established a rookery on this harbour, which is situated on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. You can also see an abandoned Argentine refuge hut and a huge glacier stretching along the east and north sides of the bay. An abandoned try-pot is all that remains of the sealing activity that brought men thousands of miles to seek their fortune.
The following Optional Activities are available to participate in, on some or all of the departures of this itinerary. These must be booked in advance (additional costs apply) and space is limited.
KAYAKING – Our kayaking adventures are the best way to feel at one with the sea. Taken in small groups of maximum 16 people, multiple times per voyage, kayaking adventures are only conducted during calm weather conditions. Kayaking is open to all levels of experience, however kayaking in the polar waters is not suitable for novice kayakers. Beginners interested in kayaking should first take an introductory course prior to the voyage which includes how to do a wet exit. In addition regardless of your experience, we recommend you take part in some kayaking practise prior to the voyage to ensure that you are comfortable on the water in the icy conditions.
CAMPING – Spend the night under the Antarctic sky with a hardy group of your shipmates. Numbers are limited so book early. The crew will determine the best location and conditions for your overnight adventure. Dress warmly and eat a hearty meal before you head out as no meals are permitted onshore.
STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDING - Combining surfing with kayaking or canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding will give you a very personal and unique perspective on Antarctica. This activity is taken in small groups in good weather conditions on calm bays and harbours, with a Zodiac following for your safety.
INCLUDED OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES
PHOTOGRAPHY - Antarctica is one of the most abundantly photogenic destinations in the world. Penguins amble across pebbled beaches, whales spy-hop from the crystal blue sea and sparkling icebergs tower in this serene, yet dramatic environment. Whether you own a serious SLR or a simple point-and-shoot, our on-board photography expert provides you with hands-on instruction and technical tips to ensure that you capture the best of your Antarctica experience.
Few people can say they’ve crossed the Antarctic Circle, but you'll be one of them. Celebrate in style by sharing a glass of champagne with your shipmates. This part of the world is home to Weddell seals, the midnight sun and some of the most spectacular ice formations you'll see in Antarctica. While not a typical landing, the crossing of the Antarctic Circle is a moment to remember. The event usually happens while at sea, so be sure to head up to the bridge and snap a photo of the GPS reading 66° 33’ S.
Spend the next two days travelling north along the western Antarctic Peninsula and back towards the Drake Passage. Weather permitting, continue to journey out in the Zodiac and make landings twice a day. As always, your expedition team will be on the lookout for any species of penguins, seals or whales that you may have missed on the journey south.
Leave Antarctica behind and head back through Drake Passage. The expedition team will round up their series of lectures, perhaps with a slideshow of some of the great landing sites and wildlife you’ve seen over the course of the voyage.
Ushuaia to Buenos Aires
After a shipboard breakfast this morning, the group will disembark in Ushuaia and make a short excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Afterwards, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires, where your Antarctic adventure comes to an end.