|Day 1||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Guided tour of Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Embarkation Ushuaia||Flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and Beagle Channel cruise|
|Day 3||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
||Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands||Antarctic Peninsula outer Islands|
|Days 10-11||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
|Day 12||Ushuaia||Disembark. If joining the group flight transfer to airport for flight 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.
Launching in 2020, the National Geographic Endurance is a next-generation expedition ship, purpose built for polar navigation. The Category A vessel is a fully stabilized, highly strengthened ship designed to navigate polar-passages and uncharted waters all year round. Designed to provide an extremely smooth ride in even the most adverse of conditions, reduced spray on deck and wave-splicing action making for superior observation.
Made for exploration, the National Geographic Endurance is outfitted with kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing crafts, underwater cameras, video microscopes to explain elements of the surrounding environments, a hydrophone to listen to the vocalisations of marine mammals, an open bridge to constantly talk to your captain and expedition crew along with snorkeling gear and wet suits for underwater excursions.
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.
The morning’s charter 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 across the Drake Passage. Lying south between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake holds a unique place in maritime lore, sometimes rough, misty and grey, other times calm and clear – the crossing is unpredictable and constantly changing but the legendary Drake Passage is unforgettable. You’ll spend this time getting to know your shipmates, while your polar experts will provide insights into what excitement lies ahead. When you cross the Antarctic Convergence you will notice a distinct drop in temperature as you enter the waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
With long hours of daylight, the most will be made of the time spent around the Antarctic Peninsula, while maintaining a flexible schedule to take advantage of the unexpected – perhaps watching a huge whale surface off the bow. You will take Zodiac excursions from the ship to explore bays, channels and landing sites each day. One day you may make a foray among towering bergs under a bright sun, walk along the shoreline amid a huge penguin colony, hike to a summit for a breathtaking view, or kayak along a cliff-side rookery in search of blue-eyed shags. And the next you’ll have the thrill of watching the ship crunch through the pack ice, or step ashore to the cries of thousands of gentoo penguins. You’ll learn from the on-board naturalists how to identify penguins and get photo tips from a National Geographic photographer while watching those same penguins. Back aboard, the team’s undersea specialist may present a video from that day’s dive – rare images taken up to 300 metres below the surface using the ship’s ROV (remotely operated vehicle). Your expert staff will craft an expedition where you will learn more, see more and experience more.
As you leave the continent and sail back to Ushuaia, an albatross or two may join the escort of seabirds that cross the ship’s bow, and your spotters will keep an eye out for marine life. There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy a wellness treatment, log some time in the gym, or catch up on the book you haven’t had a minute to read. Final presentations from the expedition staff will reflect on all you have seen and learned.
In the early morning, arrive back in Ushuaia. After breakfast, it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers. 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.