This Antarctic expedition utilises a flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands to save almost a day and half at sea – which maximizes the time you spend exploring incredible Antarctica, and the sub-Antarctic Falkland and South Georgia Islands. Encounter a spectacular proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife on our journey – there are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds, albatrosses, and the beaches are covered in fur seals and elephant seals. Beyond these islands lie Antarctica, where we will experience icebergs of all shapes and sizes and encounters with whales, including humpback, minke and orca.
|Day 1||Punta Arenas||Fly to Port Stanley|
|Day 2||Falkland Islands||West Point and Saunders Island|
|Day 3-4||At Sea towards South Georgia||Lectures onboard, seabirds|
|Day 5-8||Exploration of South Georgia||King Penguins, Shackleton’s grave, Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbour, St Andrews Bay|
|Day 9-11||At Sea towards Antarctica||Icebergs, onboard presentations|
|Day 12-16||Antarctic Peninsula||South Shetland Islands, Deception Island, King George Island, Half Moon Island, penguins, seals|
|Day 17-18||At Sea||The Drake Passage|
|Day 19||Ushuaia||Voyage concludes|
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.
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for your scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute flight you are met on arrival and transferred to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal Britain. It is charming with brightly colored houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. There is time to explore the town before ship embarkation. After settling into your cabins and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement will be in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail, dinner and cast off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Overnight the captain will have navigated across the north of the Falkland Island archipelago and today offers an incredible introduction to the wildlife of the Sub-Antarctic. The plan is to explore the island of West Point and nearby Saunders Island. West Point is known for its rockhopper penguin rookeries and substantial nesting black-browed albatross colony. The opportunity to observe these spectacular birds in close proximity, and on the nest is an immense privilege and an experience not easily forgotten. Repositioning the ship, a visit to the wildlife-rich Saunders Island beckons. Along the white sand beaches and in the surrounding tussock grass you may encounter four penguin species living in close quarters including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper the impressive king penguin, with their colourful orange, gold and grey plumage. You will depart the Falkland Islands tonight bound for South Georgia.
The captain and expedition crew will chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. The seabirds once again join the ship in the Southern Ocean. The educational presentations continue and are always popular. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition is central to any trip to South Georgia. Perhaps you will pick up some valuable tips from the onboard photographic guide, learning about image composition, the subtle polar light and all the basics of good camera craft. You will also learn about Polar conservation – a theme particularly close to the hearts of the guides and crew.
South Georgia has often been called the ‘Serengeti of the Southern Ocean’ – and as you approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. Launching the Zodiacs you begin your exploration of the island, in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal will line the dark sand beaches. Living in the tussock grass, king penguins and their chicks may number up to 100,000 birds in some locations, including Salisbury Plain, St Andrews Bay and Gold Harbour. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross as they fill the skies above, coming and going from the nest.
South Georgia is a thrilling location for history lovers and the rusting relics of the early whaling industry are all around. You may observe several of the old stations at locations including Leith, Husvik and Stromness. A highlight is a visit to Grytviken – the largest of the whaling stations, situated at the head of Cumberland Bay. It is here you visit the grave site of Sir Ernest Shackleton. For many, being in the presence of the great explorer will be a highlight of the trip. An excellent museum at Grytviken, maintained by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the restored church built by the original Norwegian whalers provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Weather and ice will dictate your crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica. As with all itinerary planning, your Expedition Leader and Captain will make a decision based on the sea and ice conditions at the time. The South Orkney Island group represent the peaks of a submarine mountain range called the Scotia Arc, connecting South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands. Often shrouded in fog and surrounded by ice much of the year, a chance to visit these islands doesn’t come often. As the ship edges closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce your arrival in Antarctic waters. If conditions allow, you may see the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon. Shackleton and his men were encamped here for many months, having lost HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice, far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. From the tiny beach at Point Wild, Shackleton and six companions set off on the rescue mission to South Georgia, aboard the tiny lifeboat, James Caird. To this day, the epic ocean crossing is considered one of the greatest in history. If conditions allow, you may make a landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland you find the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites could include King George Island, Half Moon Island or Yankee Harbour. Weather conditions permitting the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. There are some outstanding hikes at these locations and the old whaling station and aircraft hangar at Deception Island beg for further exploration.
After so much anticipation, you will enter the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula in the vicinity of Mikkelson Harbour or Cierva Cove. Snow covered mountains soar from the dark waters. Along the shoreline in the bays and harbors of the Peninsula lives an incredible abundance of wildlife. Large rookeries are home to chinstrap, gentoo and Adelie penguins. Seals live on the ice floes, including the powerful leopard seal that you will hopefully encounter. Gulls, skuas and cormorants are also found nesting and feeding at many sites along the Antarctic Peninsula. Explore by Zodiac boat and on shore where a range of exciting activities await. Locations you may visit include Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbour, Cuverville Island and the Errera Channel. Join the photographic guide taking pictures of stunning icebergs. Or enjoy a hike to the top of a snowy mountain saddle with one of your adventure guides. If the opportunity presents itself, visit a science base or an old historic hut. The sea kayakers may paddle up to several miles from the ship, offering a truly memorable experience.
As you make your way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and you can enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join our photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, you may make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
In the early morning, you will 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.