|1||Santiago, Chile||Guided tour of Santiago|
|2||Embarkation Ushuaia||Fly to Ushuaia, Catamaran cruise on Beagle Channel|
|3||At Sea||The Drake Passage|
|4 - 9||Antarctic Peninsula||Gentoo, Adelie & chinstrap penguins, seals and dramatic scenery|
|10 - 11||At Sea||Southern Ocean|
|12 - 16||South Georgia||Millions of penguins, hundreds of thousands seals with a magnificent backdrop of snow-capped mountains|
|17-18||At Sea||Albatross, prions, shearwaters and whales|
|19 - 20||Falkland Islands||Four species of penguins, black-browed albatross, numerous bird species and dramatic Falklands scenery|
|21||At Sea||Beagle Channel|
|22||Ushuaia, Argentina||Farewell your fellow expeditioners and fly to Santiago|
National Geographic Orion is a modern, elegant ship with an intimate ambiance. The window-lined main lounge and library offer spectacular views while the expedition community are gathered each evening for cocktails and a recap of the day’s activities. High atop the vessel, the cosy observation lounge is ideal for taking in the 270º views, or you might choose to brave the outdoor bar (with ambient heaters) on the same deck. The 53 cabins accommodate 102 guests and all are exterior, with most featuring picture windows that connect you with the Antarctic landscape. Built in Germany in 2003 and engineered for maximum safety and comfort, Orion is ice-strengthened and has the latest technology, including large retractable stabilisers, sonar and radar. Its fleet of 14 Zodiacs ensures quick disembarkation and offers the ideal transport for up-close exploration.
Check in to the fine Hotel Santiago by Mandarin (or similar), centrally located in Santiago, and have the morning to relax. Santiago is nearly completely surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to your afternoon guided tour of this vibrant city. Explore the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and nearby Presidential Palace, enjoying wonderful views from the many hills that dot the city. In the early evening we gather for an informal reception and a drink at the hotel.
In the morning fly from Santiago to Ushuaia. The National Geographic charter flight is at an additional cost. Alternatively you can book a regular domestic flight. Please contact us regarding what your preferred option is.
The morning’s flight offers some rare views as you fly over the starkly rugged terrain of Patagonia to land in Ushuaia, 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.
You will have lunch aboard a catamaran cruise of the scenic Beagle Channel before embarking your ship in the mid-afternoon. As you board the vessel, you cannot help but wonder about the exciting journey ahead. In the early evening set sail, leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel, the historic channel that transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America.
You’ll awake this morning into your journey across the Drake Passage. Lying between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake holds a unique place in maritime lore. The Drake Passage is unforgettable-a milestone in any adventurer’s personal travel history—with time to hear talks preparing you for the exciting days ahead.
With long hours of daylight, the most will be made of the time spent around the Antarctic Peninsula and cruising among the surrounding islands. Dazzling wildlife sightings await you on excursions to some of these islands and the scenery is breathtaking, from the colossal icebergs to the seemingly endless Antarctic ice sheet. The schedule is flexible, allowing the opportunity to take advantage of the unexpected, exploring by Zodiac, kayak and on foot, and using the vessel’s arsenal of tools for exploration. If the ice conditions permit, you might sail through the incomparable Lemaire Channel, and land on the White Continent itself.
Sailing north-east bound for the island of South Georgia, you’ll notice a dramatic drop in temperature as you cross the Antarctic Convergence where the cold Antarctic waters meet and mix with the warmer waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, creating the abundance of krill and marine life that attracts whales and seals to this part of the world. The on-board naturalists will increase your anticipation with presentations on the wildlife of South Georgia, and, of course, the inspiring story of the great polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and his ship ‘Endurance’.
Majestic snow-covered mountains greet you on South Georgia, the most rugged island in this region. This remote outpost was once a haven for hunting whales and elephant and fur seals, and you’ll still see remnants of the whaling stations and other abandoned outposts. In the cemetery of the old settlement of Grytviken you’ll find the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton and it is traditional to raise a toast at his gravesite. However it is the wildlife on South Georgia that you will surely find most captivating, and the ship will cruise the protected waters of the eastern coast looking for suitable landing spots such as Salisbury Plain and St Andrews Bay. One day you may see rookeries with hundreds of thousands of king penguins waddling on the beach; the next day hundreds of Antarctic fur seals and elephant seals are on hand as your Zodiacs make landfall, while skuas and giant petrels swoop in the skies above.
As you voyage south, head up to the bridge to watch for icebergs and take note of the expert navigation at work as your skilled Captain and officers sail these historic waters. There’ll also be time to enjoy a massage in the wellness centre, work out in the gym, or browse through the library’s collection. Each day the naturalists offer talks that add depth to your polar experience.
Arriving in the Falklands overnight, by morning you’ll be excited to make your first shore excursion. The archipelago contains two main islands – East and West Falkland – and in terms of wildlife, they boast the largest black-browed albatross colony in the world and are home to bustling rookeries of Magellanic, gentoo and rockhopper penguins; you may even spot king penguins here! You will make a stop in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands with a very ‘British-outpost’ feel, and will be free to wander the charming streets of brightly painted houses, and visit the Anglican Cathedral, with its organic archway of whalebones, and the Falkland Islands Museum.
As you sail back to Ushuaia, an albatross or two may join the escort of seabirds that cross our bow. There’s time to share photos with the on-board National Geographic photographer and write emails home, saying “don’t want this to end.”
After breakfast, disembark in Ushuaia with some time to explore.
You have the option of booking onto the National Geographic charter flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires on the day of disembarkation at an additional cost. Alternatively you may wish to spend a bit more time exploring this region.
NOTE: It is possible to arrange alternate flights if you want to explore other areas of Argentina or Chile before or after the voyage. Please ask at time of booking.