Expedition cruising in Antarctica is by its very nature an exploratory experience. Ice and weather conditions often dictate our planned route. Along with this, we are always opportunistic, stopping when we encounter a pod of whales, or when a gigantic tabular iceberg looms into view. This exciting itinerary includes two extra days of exploration down in Antarctica compared to a classic 10-night voyage. This allows us to visit additional landing sites, or to linger a little longer at some of our favorite locations. In practical terms, you will spend 25% more time down among the ice, when compared to a traditional 10-night itinerary. This equals more time on shore, more time in the Zodiacs and more time spent in the company of our expert guides. What’s not to like about that?
As with all of our voyages, a comprehensive range of activities will be offered covering all interests. These include short and longer walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, Zodiac cruising amongst icebergs looking for seals and whales, photographic excursions, exploring historic sites and possibly a working science station. For the more adventurous, sea kayaking is a wonderful way to discover Antarctica and, if weather conditions permit, why not spend the night camping on shore? Back on board the ship, you will enjoy informative presentations and lively discussions, great company and a relaxing atmosphere. If you relish the concept of true ‘exploratory cruising’ and appreciate the idea of a few extra days of discovery – this could be the ideal Antarctic voyage.
Length of Travel: 13 Days
Itinerary in Brief
- Day 1: Embarkation in Ushuaia, Argentina.
- Days 2-3: At sea, Drake Passage
- Days 4-9: In-Depth Exploration of Antarctic Peninsula Coastline
- Day 10: South Shetland Islands
- Days 11-12: Drake Passage – Return to South America
- Day 13: Arrive Ushuaia, Argentina – Voyage Concludes
Day 1: Embarkation in Ushuaia
Our journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. We gather at our central meeting point and transfer to the pier and embark our expedition ship. After settling in to our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
Days 2-3: Drake Passage
We chart a southerly course for Antarctica. The Drake Passage is rich in bio-diversity and showcases a great abundance of wildlife. We will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as we make our way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and our photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of our modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit in the coming days. As we approach the coastline of Antarctica, we encounter more icebergs and anticipate our first whale sightings.
Days 4-9: In-Depth Exploration of Antarctic Peninsula Coastline
We awaken today and the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica are laid out before us. Even our experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica.
The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets and numerous small islands. The Gerlache coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow.
Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. We frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, usually found hauled out on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on the vast schools of krill. Sightings of orca are not uncommon.
Our activity program is in full swing and we encourage all guests to choose how their adventure unfolds. Every day we plan an exciting range of activities, including guided hikes on shore (both short and long) and visits to wildlife colonies with our expert naturalist guides. The historic huts and science stations located along the peninsula provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice searching for seals and whales is a memorable activity. Meanwhile, our sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship experiencing Antarctica from an entirely different perspective. Our resident photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling and image composition. Maybe what you really want to do is sit on a rock, simply watching the penguins come and go from the water? Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show.
Planned excursions along the Antarctic Peninsula could include Cierva Cove or Mikklesen Harbor, Danco Island, the Melchior Islands and Fournier Bay – or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the gentoo penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where we frequently encounter playful humpback whales. Nearby Paradise Harbor is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route to a viewpoint providing expansive views. Andvord Bay and Neko Harbor provide yet another continental landing opportunity. It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline we plan a night on shore, camping in Antarctica. We have all the right gear and equipment and an expert team to make it happen – all you need is an adventurous spirit! Camping always depends on the weather and we can never guarantee it on any voyage. If the weather is good and site characteristics suit our requirements, rest assured, we will always go for it. Camping is included and you can decide to participate on the day. There is no need to pre-book.
After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, we head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor and we can expect sightings of humpbacks, or the resident pod of Orca that inhabit this stretch of water.
Day 10: South Shetland Islands
By morning we arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, we sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater.
After leaving Deception Island, we cruise along the coast of Livingston Island which on a sunny day is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the South Shetland’s including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where we sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a Zodiac cruise. Hannah Point, with it’s elephant seal colony and nesting Antarctic petrels – is another possibility. In the evening, we navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage.
Days 11-12: Drake Passage – Return to South America
As we make our way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and we enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by our expedition leader. Join our photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, we hope to 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, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
Day 13: Arrive Ushuaia, Argentina – Voyage Concludes
In the early morning, we arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. 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.