South Georgia is rich in history and wildlife. Stand upon beaches teeming with thousands of king penguins in some of the largest rookeries in the world. Visit abandoned whaling stations and the resting place of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. See abundant species of whales, seabirds, seals and penguins on regular Zodiac excursions along the plunging coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. Learn about Antarctic history, geology and wildlife from on-board lectures made by polar specialists
Antarctica is considered by many to be the final frontier. Home to an equal number of stories of glory and tragedy, you can experience this incredible spot for yourself and find out what drew so many to explore this rugged and unforgiving land. Watch penguins at play, spot minke whales in the icy waters as you navigate south from Buenos Aires, keeping an eye out for other animals, including leopard seals, blue whales, orcas, birds and fur seals. Spend some time learning about South Georgia as you go ashore to discover old whaling stations and linger a while at Sir Ernest Shackleton’s remote grave and the nearby whaling station.
Breakfast Included: 15 Lunches Included: 13 Dinner Included: 14
Welcome to Buenos Aires, where your Antarctic adventure begins. Arrive into the city any time today, and independently transfer to the group hotel (accommodation for the night is included). There’s plenty to see and do if you arrive early into Buenos Aires. The city features an eclectic mix of European, Latin and cosmopolitan influences, with a thriving cultural and nightlife scene. Comb the antique markets and cobbled streets of San Telmo, see the presidential palace of the Casa Rosada in the Plaza de Mayo or pay your respects to Eva Peron at the famous Recoleta Cemetery.
Embarkation in Ushuaia
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport and board a private charter flight to Ushuaia (approximately 3-4 hours). On arrival, enjoy free time to explore this quaint port town before heading to the pier. Embarkation will occur in the late afternoon. The ship makes its way into the historic Beagle Channel, which transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The channel takes its name from the HMS Beagle, which transported Charles Darwin through the region on his around-the-world voyage in 1833. Keep an eye out for various species of bird from the deck.
Your first days at sea will include plenty of time to relax, get to know your fellow shipmates and learn about the shore landings and Zodiac excursions that await you. Your expedition team will begin their educational lecture programme, teaching you about seabirds, penguins and the history of South Georgia. These few days also offer an opportunity to get comfortable with the motion of the sea.
On approaching South Georgia, have your camera ready to capture shags, prions and albatross in the water around you. Make your first potential landing in a protected bay of the island, which is one of the most fertile breeding grounds in the world for sub-Antarctic wildlife. The island’s king penguin rookeries are the world’s largest, with populations sometimes numbering into the hundreds of thousands. South Georgia is scattered with abandoned relics and evidence of human activity from centuries past. Visit old whaling stations, including the settlement of Grytviken, which is home to the remains of the famous Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Please note that each landing is determined by weather conditions.
POSSIBLE LANDINGS AND WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS – 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 harbour is the hanging Bertrab Glacier. King and gentoo penguins call this place home, as do rowdy elephant and fur seals.
Only a handful of people live 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. A 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 here. Wandering albatross are also known to nest on the island.
One of the largest king penguin rookeries in South Georgia 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 penguins nest at St. Andrew’s Bay. It is the largest king penguin rookery on South Georgia and quite a 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.
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.
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.
Antarctica awaits you. While at sea, enjoy free time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Attend presentations by experts on the history and geology of the continent, and learn tips on how to identify different species of wildlife.
Enter another world as your ship approaches the mainland of the white continent. Weather permitting, make several excursions and Zodiak landings over the next few days. These could include glacier hikes, visits to research bases or opportunities to encounter seals and penguins. You may be lucky enough to catch sight of a leopard seal during its hunt for food, or meet a curious minke whale while out on a Zodiac cruise. You may also like to take part in the sea kayaking adventure option (reserve in advance when booking your trip) or awaken your senses with a polar plunge into the sea.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES:
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.
Today your journey homeward begins as you head back across the famous Drake Passage, named after the British navigator, Sir Francis Drake. Sail past icebergs and as always, stay on the look out for new species of wildlife. Weather conditions through the Drake can be temperamental, but your days at sea have been good preparation for any rough waters, should they occur.
Disembark and fly to Buenos Aires
Arrive into Ushuaia in the morning after breakfast. After disembarkation the group will tour Tierra del Fuego National Park for a little taste of Patagonia, before transferring to the airport for the group charter flight back to Buenos Aires. On landing, there are no more activities planned for today and you’re free to leave at anytime.