Experience pristine landscapes in Antarctica and the incredible wildlife on the islands of South Georgia and the Falkland’s. The daylight hours are long, wildlife are out and about, bird colonies are busy nesting and opportunities to land are many as the sea ice breaks up. Following the route taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his astounding journey from Elephant Island across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia, arrive at the remote southeastern tip of South Georgia and sail along the northern coastline. This is a wildlife wonderland – massive king penguin colonies, nesting albatross, fur seals and the very impressive elephant seals. The human history of this place is apparent in the ghostly rusting remnants of whaling days which rest against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty, green tussocks and snow covered peaks. Celebrate Christmas in South Georgia then onto the Falkland Islands and a final day discovering Sea Lion Island and nearby Bleaker Island. The ship then berths in Stanley and we fly back to South America. As with all expeditions, safety is our top priority and weather, ice or other conditions may mean we change our itinerary and shore excursions as we go. This is half the fun of polar exploring and makes for a unique and very special experience.
|Day 1||Punta Arenas, Chile||Embark on your voyage|
|Day 2-3||Drake Passage||Sail towards Antarctica, whales, seabirds|
|Day 4-6||South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula||Penguins, seals, icebergs, Zodiac cruising|
|Day 7-8||Antarctic Sound and Weddell Sea||Fur seals, adelie penguin rockeries, tabular icebergs|
|Day 6||Elephant Island, Antarctica||Wild Point|
|Day 9-11||Scotia Sea||Albatross and giant petrels|
|Day 12-14||South Georgia||King Penguins, Seals, Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay, Salisbury Plain|
|Day 15-17||Sailing towards the Falkland Islands||Seabirds, on board presentations|
|Day 18||Falkland Islands||Sea Lion Island, penguins, Bleaker Island, Stanley|
|Day 19||Stanley to Santiago||Flight to Santiago, Chile|
Your journey commences in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. Gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the wharf where you will embark on your expedition ship. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, meet the expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner. The captain will chart a course through the Straits of Magellan and you on our way, bound for Antarctica – and what promises to be an incredible adventure.
The Drake Passage is rich in bio-diversity and showcases a great 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 takes patience and skill and the 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 the modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day your onboard experts will educate guests with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history of the locations you may visit in the coming days. As the ship approaches the coastline of Antarctica, you will encounter more icebergs and anticipate your first whale sightings.
Excitement is in the air as the magnificent snowy peaks of the South Shetland Islands are laid out before you. Depending on ice and weather conditions, enter the South Shetlands via the McFarlane Strait, and head towards Half Moon Island, or nearby Yankee Harbour. Arriving on shore, a sizeable rookery of chinstrap penguins act as a very noisy welcoming committee and you may see your first substantial elephant seal colony here. There are some good hiking options along the rocky beach to a high point. Otherwise observe the chinstraps at close proximity as they establish their nests.
Overnight you will cross the Bransfield Strait to the coastline of continental Antarctica. Your itinerary is deliberately flexible to account for ice conditions, and to take advantage of optimal snow conditions at several landing sites. Your exploration starts in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbour and neighbouring Cierva Cove – both beautiful locations and the perfect introduction to Antarctica. Both spots provide excellent Zodiac cruising and it is fascinating to observe the very beginning of the penguin breeding cycle and the courtship rituals that take place. Keep your eyes out for the powerful leopard seal, which you may find hauled out on the icefloes around here.
Continue your journey to Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Depending on the seasonal ice conditions, you may visit a number of outstanding locations on the way into the Weddell. The plan is to sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins, made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater. The Aitcho Islands provide some great hiking routes showcasing the colourful mosses and lichens found on the island. Gentoo and chinstrap penguins nest here and on the beaches, and seals are usually coming and going from the surrounding waters. Fort Point situated on Greenwich Island is another possible location for a visit.
The expedition teams next objective is to enter the icy Weddell Sea, through the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. At first, you will be awe-struck by the sheer size of the tabular icebergs in this area and their presence always makes for exciting navigation on the ship. This region is also home to some of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries found in Antarctica. After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetlands and Antarctic Sound, head for Elephant Island – a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats more than a century ago – pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are often notoriously tricky due to strong winds and pounding surf on the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
Departing Elephant Island marvel at Shackleton and four of his men who went on to attempt to sail the 800 nautical miles across the turbulent Scotia Sea and on to South Georgia in a 30 foot converted lifeboat. You will make the journey in comfort, kept busy with presentations by your onboard history and wildlife experts, and enjoying the company of seabirds. There is nothing like the majesty of albatross and giant petrels soaring above the South Atlantic Ocean. Prepare for the next stage of your journey as the peaks of South Georgia appear.
Spend the next three days exploring the coastline of South Georgia. Dark sand beaches, tussock covered hinterland and a backdrop of towering peaks and glaciers are a feast for all the senses. South Georgia has often been called the greatest wildlife show on Earth. Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies and living in rookeries of immense sizes are the majestic king penguins. The aim is to visit a number of these vast colonies – where naturalists estimate that more than 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins live in close proximity. Locations could include Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain.
Dotted along the coastline are the rusting relics of the early whaling era. The largest of these locations is Grytviken. Here we find a fascinating museum and a beautifully restored Norwegian Lutheran Church. Adjacent to the old whaling station lies a small cemetery. This is the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton – who was laid to rest here in 1922. For many onboard, being in the presence of the great polar explorer is a highlight of the trip. Continue your journey along the coastline, hoping to visit Stromness – another former whaling station – and the final destination of Shackleton and companions Frank Worsley and Tom Crean, having made the near impossible traverse across the interior of South Georgia against all odds.
By now we are in sensory overload, our cameras full of images and we begin our sea crossing towards the Falkland Islands. Hours can be spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals and spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species are our constant companions soaring above the ship. Photographing these stunning birds in flight takes great patience and skill and our resident photography expert on board will help you with the best techniques. Our informative onboard program continues and our experts recap our remarkable journey to date. These days are great for catching up on journal writing and our multimedia room is set up to help you sort through your images. Many also enjoy the time to rest after a busy two weeks.
After several days, Sea Lion Island is the mark of our arrival at the Falkland Islands. This windswept spot on the southern archipelago gives us one last day of activity. Head ashore on the Zodiacs to view several species of penguins including Gentoo, magellenic and rockhopper. Southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled up on the beaches. Once ashore we also look for King cormorants and striated caracaras. Depending on the weather, we may have time to visit neighbouring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed south-eastern coast of the Falklands. Then, setting off on a northerly course towards Stanley, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain and reflect on our remarkable expedition.
This morning you will pass through the narrows and navigate into the port of Stanley, the capital of the Falklands. With just over 2,000 residents Stanley is charming, with brightly coloured houses, flower-filled gardens, a picturesque cathedral and several pubs. Enjoy time to explore the town, before making your way to the airport for your charter flight to Santiago, Chile. If you are staying in Santiago a transfer is provided to a downtown location.