|Day 1||Punta Arenas||Fly from Punta Arenas Chile to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands|
|Day 2-3||At Sea||Sea birds, onboard lectures|
|Day 4-5||King George Island and Antarctic Peninsula||Penguin Island, Turret Point, adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Southern giant petrels, kelp gulls, Antarctic turns|
|Day 6-8||Antarctic Circle and Gerlache Strait||
Sail south of the Arctic Circle into Crystal Sound. Winter Island, Pleneau Island
|Day 9-10||Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands||Lemaire Channel, Paradise Harbour, Neko Harbour, Deception Island, Half Moon Island|
|Day 11||King George Island||Disembark at King George Island. Short flight to Punta Arenas, Chile|
|Day 12||Punta Arenas, Chile||After breakfast the itinerary ends|
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, transferring from the central meeting point to the airport and flying on the scheduled service to Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands (this short 90-minute flight is included in the price of your voyage). Here in the Falkland Islands, you will encounter a relatively warm climate where a range of unusual wildlife thrives. Sixty species of migratory birds and the rare rockhopper penguin inhabit the archipelago. Stanley is currently home to less than 3,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is a charming place with brightly coloured houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980s, acts as a sobering reminder of recent history.
On arrival in Stanley you will be met on arrival and transferred to the pier. There is time to explore the town before you make your way to your expedition ship, Akademik Sergey Vavilov, for embarkation. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, familiarising yourself with your ‘home’ for the coming days, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica – and the adventure of a lifetime.
Please note that while it is the intention to adhere to the arrangements described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary or desirable to make alterations. On the first day aboard, the Expedition Leader will give you an expedition overview.
The ship charts a southerly course for Antarctica. Your days at sea are never dull – much of your time will be spent on the bridge or outer decks, scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its biodiversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as you make your way south. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill and your resident photographic guide will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s Captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of your modern research vessel. Throughout the day your onboard polar experts will educate you on the wonders of the South Atlantic Ocean and Antarctic eco-systems with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history and the locations it is hoped to visit in the coming days.
If sailing conditions crossing to Antarctica are good, it may be possible to include a visit to the historic location of Elephant Island, a place central to the Shackleton story. It is from here that Shackleton and five of his companions set off on their epic ocean crossing to South Georgia 100 years ago. However shore landings at Point Wild are notoriously tricky due to a surging swell onto the rocky beach. But this is nevertheless a thrilling place to visit.
This morning you are in position at King George Island, the largest island in the South Shetlands group. There are two landing sites here and a visit depends on the prevailing weather conditions – Penguin Island and nearby Turret Point offer good opportunities for shore landings to view Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Southern giant petrels, kelp gulls and Antarctic terns are also known to nest here.
This afternoon continue your journey south, navigating into the broad expanse of the Bransfield Straight and making your way ever closer to the Antarctic coastline. This is an important migration corridor for wildlife and you should keep a lookout for whales in the waters surrounding the ship. Large icebergs will be present from this point onwards and make for striking photographs in the evening light. By morning, the towering mountain peaks of the Antarctic continent loom into view and you should make landfall around Wilhelmina Bay. This is truly an ‘A-list’ location and a place where you will often encounter sizeable pods of humpback whales. The ship cruises under the towering cliffs of Spigot Peak and into the Errera Channel, hoping for a shore landing at Cuverville Island, home to a rookery of gentoo penguins. It’s a fantastic location for a Zodiac cruise or a paddle in the sea kayaks.
You are encouraged to spend time on the outer decks soaking up the scenery as you navigate south. The ship passes through the ice-strewn waters making its way towards the ultimate objective, the Antarctic Circle. Given favourable ice conditions, the first goal will be to sail south of the Antarctic Circle and into Crystal Sound where a favoured landing site is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut from the 1950s.
This vicinity marks the turnaround point and from now on you will return in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is hoped to visit a working scientific base to learn something of the important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to stretch your legs and explore a historic British Antarctic Survey hut. If the conditions are right, the overnight camping program will be offered to all adventurers somewhere in this area – with all the gear aboard and an experienced team, this will be a night to remember!
Petermann Island is home to an Adélie penguin rookery. Adélies, the smallest of the Antarctic penguins, nest here and share the location with Gentoo penguins and Imperial cormorants. The view to the north of Mt Shackleton and Mt Scott is impressive; these towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the nearby Lemaire Channel. Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, massive icebergs run around in the shallows. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you can possibly imagine. For many, a Zodiac cruise here may well be a highlight of the voyage.
The aim is to transit the Lemaire Channel on the way north towards Paradise Harbour, which may be the first opportunity for you to set foot on the ‘White Continent’ of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbour offers another continental landing. Both locations offer excellent hiking opportunities up to panoramic lookouts providing stunning 360° degree views. Zodiac cruising among the ice is a memorable activity and the sea kayakers may range several kilometres from the ship. Your photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling, image composition and the peculiar light found in Antarctica. Expect to be in full sensory overload by this time in the voyage.
By morning you will arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and, if the weather conditions allow, the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around as you explore the old whaling station, with its rusted boilers and dilapidated wooden structures. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar; this is where the Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins, made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is an outstanding hike here, high up onto the rim of the crater.
On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, and the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbour where you often see Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is a great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. Charting a course for King George Island in early evening light, tonight you will celebrate the conclusion of your Polar expedition at a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning you are anchored off King George Island. It is time to say farewell to your crew and transfer ashore by Zodiac and, time permitting, you can explore the surrounding area. There are several important scientific bases here including Chile’s Frei Station and Bellingshausen Station. You are transferred to the airstrip for the 2-hour flight to Punta Arenas airport in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). It is recommended that you spend a night in Punta Arenas in the event of any delays returning from Antarctica today. On arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the evening is at your leisure. Punta Arenas is an interesting city – and also the gateway to the magnificent region of Patagonia. There are many cozy restaurants, cafe’s and bars for you to try.
After a leisurely breakfast check out of your hotel. This is where your trip ends. Either make your way to the airport or extend your stay in Punta Arenas.