Journey to the end of the civilised world and your embarkation point at Ushuaia. South Georgia Island is incredibly rich in rare wildlife and history. See over 30 species of birds, including four penguin species, and visit the grave of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Encounter whales, seals and penguins on regular Zodiac excursions along the plunging coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. On-board lectures by polar experts provide great insight into the unique history, geology and wildlife of the region
If you desire to ‘do it all’ on your Antarctic adventure, then this is the voyage for you. Not only will you cross the Antarctic Circle and travel further south than traditional Antarctic cruises, you’ll also visit the wildlife playgrounds of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. This journey is for anyone who appreciates a wide variety of landscapes, unprecedented wildlife viewing opportunities and a decent mix of historic landing sites.
You will begin your journey in Ushuaia, a small but bustling port town at the tip
of South America. This Argentine town is an ideal gateway for you to explore
the southern extent of Patagonia while preparing for your adventure ahead.
Get active in the mountains or enjoy handcrafted chocolate at a café in town.
Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
As the ship sets sail in the late afternoon, you will begin your Antarctic journey, passing through the Beagle Channel. The channel opens up to the vastness of the Southern Ocean, where your next land sighting will be along the Antarctic Peninsula. Named after the famed ship on which Charles Darwin voyaged, the channel presents great photo opportunities to capture seabirds hovering overhead.
There are many activities to keep you engaged while at sea. Take advantage of the library of books available on the ship, become acquainted with fellow travellers at the bar and enjoy spectacular views from the deck. Thick parkas will be provided to keep you warm. The expedition team will conduct a series of presentations on polar wildlife and history and to prepare you for the Zodiac cruises and shore landings ahead.
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
Explore the two main islands, East and West, of the rugged Falkland archipelago on Zodiac excursions and daily landings. Visit the capital of Stanley, a remote and peaceful outpost with a British country charm. There are plenty of churches and museums to explore, and the locals are often happy to chat over a drink at the pub. Wildlife sightings around the Falkland Islands should include at least three species of penguin and two endemic bird species - Cobb’s wren and the flightless steamer duck. The expedition team will educate you on the local flora and fauna so you will know what you’re looking for. Other potential landing sites include West Point Island, Saunder’s Island, Sea Lion Island and Bleaker Island.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES IN THE FALKLAND ISLANDS
The 5 mile (8 km) island northwest of West Falkland is owned by Rob and Lorraine McGill. It is a picturesque island, where songbirds nest amongst the luxuriant growth that covers the gently rolling landscape. The island is named for a Royal Navy ship, HMS Carcass, which arrived in 1766.
The most southwesterly island in the archipelago is about 8 miles (13 km) long and half a mile (800 m) wide. The western side of the island is a cliff 600 feet (183 m) high, while the eastern side slopes to the sea. The ownership of the island is held by Tony Chater and Ian Strange. Both men have turned their portion of the island into nature reserves.
The deep-water harbor of Stanley was the economic mainstay of the community since the Port’s completion in 1845. Sailing ships damaged while rounding Cape Horn called in for expensive repairs. Stanley is as lively as it gets in the Falklands (Malvinas) and the future of the port may be bright if hydrocarbon deposits off the coast prove to be abundant.
WEST POINT ISLAND
The Napier family has owned the island since the 1860s. Black-browed albatrosses nest in colonies on cliffs along the water’s edge on the western side of the island. Rockhopper penguins share the cliffs, while Commerson’s dolphins are often seen in the water surrounding the island.
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.
En route to South Georgia Island, cross the invisible biological boundary of the Antarctic Convergence. Unique to Antarctica, this meeting of oceans creates an abundance of krill and marine life. With the help of the expedition team, keep an eye out for large cetaceans, including humpback whales. Learn more about Antarctic conservation as well as the fascinating history of the area, as your on-board presentations continue.
South Georgia is sometimes referred to as the ‘Galapagos of the Poles’ due to the diversity and abundance of its wildlife. Visit rookeries teeming with hundreds of thousands of king and macaroni penguins. Encounter huge elephant seals or smaller fur seals, as well as shags, prions and albatrosses. You’ll also have the chance to see the grave of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, at the settlement of Grytviken. Other potential landing sites in South Georgia include Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbour, Fortuna Bay, Grytviken, St. Andrew’s Bay and Cooper Bay. Excursions are determined by weather conditions, but your expedition team will ensure that each landing offers something unique.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES IN SOUTH GEORGIA
This is a photogenic and dramatic fjord, with sharp and jagged peaks rising out of the sea. Glaciation never reached the peaks of this fjord, giving it a unique landscape.
The backdrop to this harbor is the hanging Bertrab Glacier. King and gentoo penguins call this home, as do rowdy elephant and fur seals.
Only a handful of people live, albeit temporarily, on South Georgia, a United Kingdom overseas territory. Two of them are curators of the South Georgia Museum, located in the former whaling station manager’s villa. The church was built for the whaling community and is the only building in Grytviken that is still used for its original purpose.
Robert Cushman Murphy named this island for the species of petrels seen on the island. Birders will be pleased to know that wandering albatross are also known to nest on the island.
One of the largest king penguin rookeries on the island is located on Salisbury Plain. The Murphy and Lucas Glaciers flank the plain, creating a perfect backdrop for photographers.
ST. ANDREW’S BAY
Thousands of breeding pairs of king penguin nest at St. Andrew’s Bay. It is the largest king penguin rookery on South Georgia and is a wildlife spectacle to behold. Reindeer introduced by Norwegian whalers are known to feed on the grass in the area.
This abandoned whaling station was in full operation the day that Ernest Shackleton and his companions staggered in after a 36-hour trek across the island. There is a small cemetery here, with the graves of 14 whalers.
Spend your days at sea enjoying the view from the deck and attending educational presentations made by on-board experts about the history, geology and wildlife of the region. Hot drinks are available around the clock, so relax with a cup of tea or coffee. If weather conditions are good, a visit to the South Orkney Islands may mark your official landing on Antarctica.
South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula
Enter another world as you sail past icebergs, glaciers and snow-covered mountains along the Antarctic Peninsula. From the ship, watch whales feed in the waters of the South Shetland Islands and enjoy the comical antics of penguins playing among the ice floes. Dependent on the weather, you’ll make several excursions over the next few days. Hike to see glaciers, visit research bases and search for fur and elephant seals on a Zodiac cruise.
Some landings may be as simple as sitting on a beach and taking photographs of curious gentoo penguins, while others may include hiking up a hill to enjoy panoramic views of the Peninsula. You may also like to awaken your senses with a polar plunge into the sea, or take part in the sea kayaking adventure option (reserve in advance when booking your trip).
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES IN ANTARCTICA
A gentoo penguin rookery is situated on the north end of the island on a rocky beach. Depending on the time of season you arrive, you may see them building nests or attending to their chicks. Giant petrels and kelp gulls breed on the island.
If you are lucky enough to mail a postcard in Antarctica, you’ll likely pass through Damoy Point, the northern entrance to the harbor on which Port Lockroy is located.
This small island, one mile (1.6 km) in length, is easy to explore and home to gentoo penguins. You can visit the marker of a former British Antarctic Survey hut and watch for a variety of seabirds such as snowy sheathbills, kelp gulls and blue-eyed shags.
Located in Wilhelmina Bay, the island was used by whalers. A Zodiac cruise around the island passes a wrecked whaling ship.
This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula; you’ll see that this is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast, especially during sunrise and sunset. The 6.8 mile-long (11 km) Channel may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway, so we’ll hope for clear waters
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.
Little evidence remains that this bay was once used by the floating whale factory ship Neko. You might see some whale vertebrae used by resident gentoo penguins as shelter from the wind. There is 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. The dome of the island rises 650 feet (200 meters) above the sea, offering a challenging hike for panoramic views. Adélie penguins, shags and south polar skuas also inhabit the island.
A ‘fun’ destination of sorts, we always strive to journey to Port Lockroy if weather permits. The harbour is on the west side of Wiencke Island. A secret base was built on the harbour during the Second World War as part of Operation Tabarin. It is now designated as a historic site, where Port Lockroy is a museum and post office. Proceeds from your purchases here support the preservation of historic sites from the Heroic Age of Exploration.
Of historic interest, you may venture to this unique point, which at low tide is connected to the Antarctic mainland. Zodiacs are used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behavior lived in a water boat on the Point from 1921-22. The remains of their camp have been designated an Antarctic historic site.
A possible exposed volcano, Brown Bluff towers 2,225 feet (678 meters) over the home of Adélie and gentoo penguin rookeries, which number in the thousands. These penguins will create a symphony of background noise while you explore the bluff.
Located in the northwestern Weddell Sea, the island is home to a large Adélie penguin rookery. With a volcanic cone 1,158 feet (353 m) high, Paulet Island reminds you that this was once a very active landscape. In addition to penguins, you may be interested in visiting a historic hut built by members of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1901-04. A cross marks the grave site of Ole Wennersgaard, a member of that team who died on the island.
THE ANTARCTIC CIRCLE
While not a typical landing, the crossing of the Antarctic Circle is a moment to remember. The event will usually happen while at sea, so be sure to head up to the bridge and snap your photo of the GPS reading 66° 33’ S.
This is a group of small islands, some still unnamed, situated in the northern entrance of English Strait. You can often spot a great mix of wildlife here, with gentoo and chinstrap penguins having established rookeries. 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 that dominates the 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 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 January 10 onwards.
Hot geothermal waters are found along the shoreline of this cove, named for 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 be happy to point out that it is here where the most recent evidence of volcanic eruption on Deception Island can be seen.
Chinstrap and Adélie penguin rookeries are found on this point, situated on the south coast of King George Island. The beaches here are often crowded with southern elephant, fur, and Weddell seals hauled-out on the rocks.
To reach Whaler’s Bay it is necessary to sail through a narrow passage called Neptune’s Bellows. The bay was used by whalers from 1906 to 1931 and is part of a protected harbor created by a circular flooded caldera, known as Deception Island. Along with waddling penguins and lounging seals, you’ll see rusting remains of whaling operations on the beach. Watch for steam that may rise from geothermally heated water springs along the shoreline.
Gentoo penguins have established a rookery on this harbour, situated on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. Here you can see an abandoned Argentine refuge hut and a large glacier that stretches along the east and north sides of the bay. An abandoned sealing try pot is all that remains of the activity that brought men thousands of miles in tall ships to seek their fortune.
Crossing the Antarctic Circle
Few people can say they’ve crossed the Antarctic Circle. Toast to your adventure and the first explorers to venture this far south with a glass of champagne. This region has the densest concentration of wildlife in Antarctica, and is home to the midnight sun and otherworldly ice-sculptures. While not a typical landing, the crossing of the Antarctic Circle is a moment to remember. The event will usually happen while at sea, so be sure to head up to the bridge and snap your photo of the GPS reading 66° 33’ S.
Northbound along the Antarctic Peninsula
Travel north along the western Antarctic Peninsula and continue to journey onto land by Zodiac twice a day, weather depending. By now you should have gained enough knowledge to be able to tell the difference between various species of penguins, seabirds, whales and seals. Your expedition team will always be on the lookout for new species of wildlife.
Crossing the Drake Passage
The journey homeward begins as you cross the famous Drake Passage, named after the British navigator, Sir Francis Drake. Sail past icebergs and keep on the look out for any wildlife in the water or in the air. On your last night onboard the ship, reflect on your adventures over dinner with your fellow explorers.
Disembark in Ushuaia
Arrive into Ushuaia in the morning after breakfast. Time to say farewell to your expedition team and fellow travellers before starting the journey home.