Christmas in Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands
Experience the most magical white Christmas in Antarctica, a beautiful and busy time on the Peninsula and 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. A two-hour flight takes you from South America to Antarctica to board our ship and begin your Antarctic Peninsula exploration.
Following the route taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his astounding journey from Elephant Island across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia, we arrive at the remote southeastern tip of South Georgia and make our way 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 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||Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island||Depart Punta Arenas for the short flight to King George Island, Antarctica|
|Day 2-4||Gerlache Straight and Antarctic Peninsula||Penguins, seals, icebergs, Zodiac cruising|
|Day 5||Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea||Fur seals, adelie penguin rockeries, tabular icebergs|
|Day 6||Elephant Island, Antarctica||Wild Point|
|Day 7-8||Scotia Sea||Albatross and giant petrels|
|Day 9-12||South Georgia||King Penguins, Seals, Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay, Salisbury Plain|
|Day 13-15||Sailing towards the Falkland Islands||Seabirds, on board presentations|
|Day 16||Falkland Islands||Sea Lion Island, penguins, Bleaker Island, Stanley|
|Day 17||Stanley to Punta Arenas, Chile||Flight to Punta Arenas|
Begin your expedition in the morning in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas at our meeting point for a transfer to the airport and the two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica (this flight is included in the price of your voyage).
Upon arrival at King George Island, we board our ship via Zodiac. After settling in to our cabins and exploring our new surroundings, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and our first meal. No doubt, everyone on board will be looking forward to the incredible adventure ahead.
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.
Now on towards the Antarctic Sound and the icy Weddell Sea. Weather permitting, we will sail into the midst of the volcanic caldera of Deception Island. The dramatic setting of this spot offers a contrast to the white and blue Antarctic we have seen so far with black sand and the towering dark crater rim. Remains of the whaling era litter the beaches with rusted ruins and ramshackle wooden remains of buildings now used as shelter by fur seals. Amongst these ruins is the aircraft hangar used by Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins who in 1928 made the first flight in Antarctica. For outstanding views, make the hike up to Neptune’s Window, a spot high on the crater rim.
From here we marvel at the skill of our captain and crew as they aim to navigate us through the channel between the Antarctic continent and Joinville Island, home to some very large Adelie penguin rookeries, and the route to the ice-filled Weddell Sea. An awe inspiring time to be on deck as huge tabular icebergs surround us.
For those with a love of polar history our next site – Elephant Island – will be a thrill. Point Wild, an exposed windswept spot on the north coast was where Sir Ernest Shackleton and the men of the HMS Endurance expedition sheltered under their unturned boats a century ago and hoped to survive. This is a wild place with big surf and gales and shore landings here can be very difficult.
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 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.
We 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 we make our way to the airport for our return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage).
You can then connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile or, if you are staying in Punta Arenas, a transfer will be provided to several downtown locations.
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.