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. The ship then berths in Stanley and you fly back to South America.
As with all our 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||Ushuaia||Commence voyage to Antarctica|
|Day 2-3||Drake Passage||Lectures, Sea Birds|
|Day 4-7||Gerlache Strait and Antarctic Peninsula||Fur seals, adelie penguin rockeries, tabular icebergs|
|Day 8||Northern Antarctic Peninsula||Deception Island, fur seals|
|Day 9||Elephant Island, Antarctica||Wild Point|
|Day 10-11||Scotia Sea||Albatross and giant petrels|
|Day 12-15||South Georgia||King Penguins, Seals, Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay, Salisbury Plain|
|Day 16-18||Sailing towards the Falkland Islands||Seabirds, on board presentations|
|Day 19||Falkland Islands||Sea Lion Island, Stanley|
|Day 20||Stanley to Punta Arenas, Chile||Flight to Punta Arenas|
Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, Argentina. You will gather with the other guests at a central meeting point and transfer to the pier and embark your expedition ship. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, meet the expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail, dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime
Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov are Sister ships built in Rauma, Finland in 1989 and 1988 respectively, both vessels were designed for polar research and are now the only scientific vessels still actively participating in marine science. With extensive upgrades and expansions, Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov are not only safe and ice-strengthened, they are now modern, comfortable and very spacious. Both vessels transit open water crossings from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula, to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia with ease due to their mass and integrated internal ballast system, resulting in a tremendous reduction from severe rolling in heavy seas. Once along the Antarctic peninsula the technical features of both the Ioffe and Vavilov shine for the advantages they offer to the passenger experience. With bow and stern thrusters, both vessels can spin on their axis and the multiple pitch propellers offer immediate reduction in speed when a wildlife opportunity presents itself.
Sailing south towards Antarctica we will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as we transit the Drake Passage. Photographing these magnificent birds 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 our modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the
environment, wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit in the coming days.
After steering our way through the Gerlache Strait we wake to the breathtakingly beautiful peaks of the Antarctic. The mountains along this stretch of the peninsula permanently glisten with ice and snow. The next three days are spent exploring the Gerlache coastline with flexibility to follow the wildlife and take advantage of the best landing sites. If the sea ice is favourable we will navigate through the beautiful Lemaire Channel and may be able to land at Pleneau Island and visit the Penola Strait. We may see Adelie and gentoo penguins nesting at a large rookery on Southerly Petermann Island, and take a fascinating visit to a working research base examining climate change in Antarctica.
Every day you will be busy enjoying walks along the shoreline with our expert expedition staff, cruising in Zodiacs amongst the ice, spotting wildlife and enjoying every shade of blue offered by floating icebergs. Depending on weather, ice and wildlife we might visit Paradise Harbour, Orne Harbour or Andvord Bay or cruise the Errera Channel to penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island and explore Wilhelmina Bay for pods of humpback whales.
The ship will now navigate north, skirting the coastline of the South Shetland Islands. Along the way you may make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, the crew will sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. 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 an outstanding hike here to a location known as ‘Neptune’s Window’ – high up onto the rim of the crater. If conditions allow, the ship will enter Antarctic Sound – the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. This is the entrance to the Weddell Sea.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, your next stop is 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 – pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are notoriously tricky due to often gale force winds and pounding surf onto the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
Departing Elephant Island we can only 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. We make the journey in comfort, kept busy with presentations by our 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. We prepare for the next stage of our journey as the peaks of South Georgia appear.
The following four days are spent exploring in depth the coastline of the southeastern end of South Georgia. The scenery is some of the most diverse we have seen with dark sandy beaches bound by tussock with a soaring backdrop of glacial peaks.
You will soon realise why South Georgia is known as the best wildlife experience on earth. The beaches are dark with seals, the seabirds fill the air above us and rookeries of magnificent king penguins are huge – it is estimated over 100,000 penguins. We will aim to see Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain.
Along the coastline more remnants of whaling days are visible, including at historic Grytviken where we visit the fascinating museum and charmingly restored Norwegian Lutheran Church. This is where we catch up to Sir Ernest Shackleton at his final resting place in a small cemetery near the old whaling station. The great polar explorer was laid to rest here in 1922. Further along the coastline we plan to visit Stromness, the final destination of Shackleton and his companions Frank Worsley and Tom Crean having made the astounding traverse across South Georgia. It is here we celebrate Christmas! Our team of chefs prepare a wonderful dinner with all the trimmings.
By now your camera is sure to be full of images as you begin the 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 the resident photography expert on board will help you with the best techniques. The informative onboard program continues and our experts recap our remarkable journey to date. These days are great for catching up on journal writing and using the multimedia room which is set up to help you sort through your images. Many also enjoy the time to rest after a busy two weeks.
Sea Lion Island is the mark of your 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 also look for King cormorants and striated caracaras. Then, setting off on a northerly course towards Stanley, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain and reflect on our remarkable expedition.
Navigate into the port of Stanley in the early morning. 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 return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage).
It is possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. If you are staying in Punta Arenas, a transfer will be provided to several downtown locations.