Towering snow-capped glaciers, incredible wildlife encounters, enormous icebergs and the flexibility of choosing your favourite activities each and every day make this voyage the perfect introduction to the white continent. Sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula, spend your days off the ship exploring by Zodiac boat, making several shore landings each day in the company of expert guides.
There are special interest groups that you have the option of joining depending on your interests. You may wish to discover Antarctica and its remarkable wildlife through photography, Zodiac excursions, hiking onshore, and for the more adventurous – camping and sea kayaking. Visits to historic huts and the opportunity to visit a working research station add another dimension to the voyage.
|Day 1||Ushuaia||Optional activities in Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Embark.|
|Day 2-3||Drake Passage||Giant Petrels and birdlife, Antarctic Presentations|
|Day 4-7||Gerlache Straight and Antarctic Peninsula||Inflatable Zodiac Boats, Gentoo, Adélie and Chinstrap Penguins, Leopard Seals and Whales|
|Day 8||South Shetland Islands||
Flooded Volcanic Caldera, Livingstone Island, Half Moon Island
|Day 9-10||Drake Passage||Cape Horn, Beagle Channel|
|Day 11||Ushuaia||End of Itinerary|
Akademik Ioffe was built in Rauma, Finland in 1988 and was designed for polar research and is now only 1 of 2 scientific vessels still actively participating in marine science. With extensive upgrades and expansions, the Akademik Ioffe is safe and ice-strengthened, and is now a modern, comfortable and very spacious ship. With a maximum of 96 guests (with room for more) everyone can go ashore at one time.
Akademik Sergey Vavilov was built in Rauma, Finland in 1988 and was designed for polar research. With extensive upgrades and expansions, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov is safe and ice-strengthened, and is now a modern, comfortable and very spacious Expedition style cruise ship. With a maximum of 92 guests (with room for more) everyone can go ashore at one time.
The RCGS Resolute (formerly the MS Hanseatic) is a modern, ice-strengthened Antarctic cruise ship with all en-suite cabins accommodating up to 146 guests. Purpose built for polar waters in Rauma Finland (in the same shipyard as the Akademik Sergey Vavilov and Akademik Ioffe) the Resolute not only has the highest ice class rating (Lloyds 1AS) she also offers unmatched stability and superior speed to get you to your destination and out exploring. The RCGS Resolute combines first class accommodation, excellent cuisine; dinner is a la carte, with a true expedition experience.
Ushuaia is known as the southernmost city in the world (although, with a population of around 60,000, really more of a large town). Set on the shores of the Beagle Channel, ‘Ushuaia’ actually means “the bay facing westward” in the language of the original Yamana inhabitants. Once a penal colony for political prisoners as well as hardened criminals – the Presidio (prison) was closed in the late 1940s – Ushuaia is now a major tourist centre, particularly for people cruising to Antarctica. The town is also a major ski resort area for both alpine and cross-country skiers and offers magnificent hiking in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the only coastal national park in Argentina.
Today is the first day of your adventure. Your morning is at leisure to do any last minute shopping, take an optional excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park, or perhaps make a good hike up to the Martial Glacier. This afternoon board the expedition ship and in the early evening set sail, leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
As you make the crossing south across the Drake Passage, there is much excitement in the air as the ship comes ever closer to the white continent. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross while giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill and our photography expert 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. Guests eagerly soak up the friendly atmosphere aboard as the numerous onboard experts prepare you for your adventures with presentations on everything Antarctic, from wildlife to history. As you cross the Antarctic Convergence you will notice a distinct drop in temperature as you enter the waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
The magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica will come into view and even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica. The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets and numerous small islands. The Gerlache coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. You may encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, usually found hauled out on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on the vast schools of krill. Sightings of orca are not uncommon.
Planned excursions could include Cierva Cove or Mikklesen Harbour, Danco Island, the Melchior Islands and Fournier Bay – or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the gentoo penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favourite location and one where you will frequently encounter playful humpback whales. Nearby Paradise Harbour is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route to a viewpoint providing expansive views. Andvord Bay and Neko Harbour provide yet another continental landing opportunity.
It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline that a night on shore is planned – camping on the White Continent itself. The ship has all the right gear and equipment and there’s an expert team to make it happen – all you need is an adventurous spirit!
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, head for the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and, if the weather is good, the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic location, with history all around you as you explore the old whaling station, with its rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. On a sunny day, cruising along the pristine 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 will often encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is a great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. In the evening, the ship navigates north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage, charting a course for South America.
As you leave this magical place and make your way back, heading again across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage before rounding Cape Horn (conditions permitting), there is no doubt that time will be spent sharing and reflecting on the wonderful experiences of the last few days. Sailing up the Beagle Channel, you will celebrate the conclusion of your Polar expedition at a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
In the early morning, arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise enjoy a night in town or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.