During this exceptional voyage, journey to Antarctica, cruising past masses of dense ice and thick, tabular icebergs aboard the powerful icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov. You’ll have the rare opportunity to observe one of the most spectacular sights in the wild: the elusive Emperor penguin colony off the coast of Snow Hill Island.
Take a helicopter flight to the vicinity of this astounding rookery, then walking across the sea ice to to a spot where you can see chicks so young they’re huddling with their parents. Watch in awe as these extraordinary creatures toboggan across the ice on their way to the ocean to dive for food. This is truly an experience like no other, you will feel like you are in a wildlife documentary come to life.
|Day 1||Ushuaia, Argentina||Transfer from airport, overnight hotel|
|Day 2||Embarkation Ushuaia||Beagle Channel|
|Days 3-4||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
||Weddell Sea and Snow Hill||Visit the Emperor Penguin Colony|
|Days 12-13||At sea||Drake Passage|
Arrive in Ushuaia anytime today, or take advantage of the complimentary flexible arrival program and arrive up to 24 hours in advance. Despite its small size, the city of Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city, the capital of Tierra del Fuego and the main starting point for many voyages to Antarctica. Explore the trails, take a spa, relax and soak in the surroundings, or head into Ushuaia and browse the Argentinean leather markets. Our optional evening briefing is a great opportunity for you to ask questions and to meet some of your fellow travelers. Enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast in the morning.
This morning, you have time to explore Ushuaia. In the late afternoon, you and your fellow travelers will be transferred to the pier, where you’ll board Kapitan Khlebnikov. This iconic icebreaker should be instantly recognizable at the port, as the shape and bulk are distinctive, especially from a distance.
As Khlebnikov sets sail, you’ll first pass through the historic Beagle Channel, which opens up to the vastness of the Southern Ocean. Named after the famed ship on which Charles Darwin voyaged, the channel presents many great photo opportunities to capture seabirds hovering overhead and possibly seals and sea lions cavorting in the water.
On board, you’ll be greeted by the Expedition Team and the Ship’s Officers and crew. A safety and orientation briefing will be followed a welcome dinner. After dinner, relax and take in the scenery on our early evening sail through the Beagle Channel, past Magellanic Penguin, Rock Cormorant, and Sea Lion colonies.
The Kapitan Khlebnikov combines power and technology with comfort and has 52 en-suite cabins and a maximum of 110 guests. This polar class icebreaker was originally designed for the ice-choked waters of norther Siberia. Its 24,000 horsepower engine and advanced ice-breaking technology allows access to places in Antarctica that no other ship can, like Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. In addition to the fleet of Zodiacs the Kapitan Khlebnikov has two helicopters to take passengers on excursions. It’s these helicopters that transport guests from the ship, ‘parked’ in sea-ice, closer to the Emperor penguin rookery on fast sea-ice close to Snow Hill Island.
For the 2018/19 season the Kapitan Khlebnikov is returning to offer Snow Hill Island Emperor Penguin voyages.
Crossing the legendary Drake Passage by ship is as much a part of the Antarctic experience as penguins and seals are. With calm weather conditions, your passage could be relatively smooth sometimes nicknamed “the Drake Lake”, but be prepared for some rough seas in case the Drake lives up to its reputation and alternate name “The Drake Shake”.
These two days will have an air of anticipation and excitement, as you prepare for your first landing at Snow Hill Emperor penguin rookery. Plenty of activities will be available to keep you busy at sea, including educational and informative presentations by your Expedition Team. You’ll learn about the history of whaling in Antarctica and the Emperor penguins’ biology, unique habitat and adaptive behavior.
You may also want to spend some time on deck, with your binoculars and camera at the ready, looking out for wandering albatross, petrels, whales and dolphins. Crossing the polar front, keep a close watch, as you will see your first of many icebergs.
When approaching Snow Hill Island, please keep in mind that no two polar expeditions are alike, particularly this voyage through the icy Weddell Sea. Since landings and wildlife sightings are determined by weather and ice conditions, as well as the natural cycles of the wildlife the expedition team must remain flexible to adjust the itinerary according to conditions, but this element of the unknown is what makes expedition-style travel so exhilarating and adventurous.
That said, these voyage will all experience wildlife sightings, helicopter sightseeing and ice—truly massive amounts of ice! Having broken away from the ice shelf, large tabular icebergs, so named for their plateau-like flat top and steep sides, will signal your arrival to Antarctica.
Located on sea ice, the Emperor rookery is situated some distance from Snow Hill Island, so the ship’s captain will navigate to a position in the ice that’s within helicopter range of the rookery. As we draw near, keep your eyes peeled for curious penguins that may be attracted to the open water by the ship. Deployed in a rotation of flights, our on-board helicopters will land as close to the penguins as possible, yet still at a safe distance (at least 0.75 nautical miles/1.4 km), to protect the birds. Since you must carry your own gear to the rookery and back across sea ice several feet thick, you’ll want to keep items in your backpack to a minimum. A must-bring, however, should be your camera.
We encourage everyone—photographers and nature lovers alike—to carry a camera during our rookery visits, because any visit could reward with that once-in-a-lifetime shot. On the Expedition Team there is a professional photographer, who will conduct on-board workshops and assist you on-site to help you get the most out of your camera, whether you’re a beginner or a pro!
Though we can’t predict how many excursions will occur during your stay in the vicinity of the rookery, rest assured that your Expedition Leader will take advantage of any good weather and flying conditions, and our intention is to spend as much time as possible in the area, to give you plenty of chances to observe the Emperors in their natural environment.
Since we are visiting early in the rearing season, the Emperor chicks are still young, so you may see a few brooding on their parents’ feet or even several huddling together in large communal groups. You may catch the impressive sight of a constant trail of adults walking or tobogganing in single file from the sea to the rookery to feed the chicks, and then heading back out again to hunt for more food. Listen closely for a parent trumpeting upon its return to the rookery—the call is instantly recognized by the chick, who whistles in response.
To protect the penguins, we’ll remain at least five meters away, but you may have the opportunity to encounter them up close. Curious creatures, Emperors are unafraid of humans, and if you stand still and remain quiet, the birds may actually approach you.
A day at sea can be as busy as any day ashore. Share stories and photos with your fellow travellers in the lounge, relax in the Polar Library or attend dynamic presentations by your Expedition Team, who may even screen documentaries. Lecture topics can range from the Historic Age of Exploration to whales of the Southern Ocean.
Out on deck keep an eye out for the large seabirds that have accompanied mariners through the Southern Ocean since Magellan made his first navigation of the globe. By now, you should be able to recognize albatross and petrels on the wing.
As you enter the Beagle Channel on your way back to Ushuaia, a small vessel will come alongside and a local pilot will board your ship to help navigate this last stretch of water. If the weather is fine, you may want to watch from the deck, enjoying the soft light of the austral summer.
After breakfast, farewell your expedition and disembark the ship. A group transfer to the airport is provided however it is recommended not to book your outward bound flight before midday.