|Day 1||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Guided tour of Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Embarkation Ushuaia||Fly to Ushuaia, Catamaran cruise on Beagle Channel|
|Day 3||At Sea||Crossing the Southern Ocean|
|Days 4 & 5||Falkland Islands||Four species of penguins, black-browed albatross, numerous bird species and dramatic Falklands scenery|
|Days 6 & 7||At Sea||Towards South Georgia|
|Days 8 - 12||South Georgia||Millions of penguins, hundreds of thousands seals with a magnificent backdrop of snow-capped mountains|
|Days 13 & 14||At Sea||Albatross, prions, shearwaters and whales on your way to Antarctica|
|Days 15 - 19||Antarctica||gentoo, Adelie & chinstrap penguins, seals and dramatic scenery|
|Days 20 & 21||At Sea – Beagle Channel||Southern Ocean|
|Day 22||Disembark Ushuaia||Farewell your fellow expeditioners and fly back to Buenos Aires|
National Geographic Explorer was completely redesigned and rebuilt prior to being relaunched in 2008. The ship is equipped with an ice-strengthened hull and advanced navigation equipment making it ideal for Antarctic expeditions, and offers a well-appointed interior with vast expanses of glass for an unprecedented connection to the regions explored. The Explorer accommodates guests in 81 spacious outside cabins, most with feature windows and some with balconies. Public areas include a lounge and bar, a spa, fitness centre and sauna, and a choice of dining options that offer regionally inspired cuisine.
The ship is outfitted with the latest equipment for exploration – kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft, as well as hydrophones, HD cameras, and sophisticated video equipment that allows access to the underwater world.
Arrive in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, set on the Rio de la Plata, and check in to your centrally-located hotel for overnight. In the afternoon, enjoy a guided tour that gives you an overview of the city, seeing its Beaux Arts palaces, grand boulevards, and the famous balcony forever associated with Eva Peron.
In the morning fly from Buenos Aires 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.
Awake well into your journey sailing across the Drake Passage toward Antarctica. While at sea you have the chance to spend plenty of time with your on-board polar experts whose presentations will prepare you for the exciting days ahead. You will also start to identify the seabirds that glide alongside the ship.
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.
Sailing south 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.
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.
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.
To make the most of your time in South America we can tailor a holiday to Patagonia to suit your voyage dates. If you have a bit more time we can create a tailor-made itinerary to some of the highlights of South America. Take a look at the Patagonia sample itineraries below and contact us to begin creating your perfect holiday.