Classic Falklands, South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula
This most complete and varied Antarctic journey allows you to experience all the attractions of the Antarctic Peninsula area offered on our shorter trips, along with the wonderful attractions of two amazing and very different sub-Antarctic island groups. It provides those with the additional time a unique opportunity to experience some of the world’s most amazing wildlife and scenery.
The expedition commences with a visit to the Falkland Islands, a little over a day’s sailing from Ushuaia. The Falklands are a far-flung group of islands lying in the south Atlantic, most of them small, barren, and uninhabited, which boast an abundance of wildlife (some of it not found further south), a fascinating history - both ancient and recent, and wild and wonderful wilderness vistas. Lying north of the Antarctic Convergence, these islands have a relatively warmer climate than that of our other destinations. This in turn enables these islands to sustain moorland vegetation of ferns and grasses sufficient to support not only a varied marine and bird population, but also herds of sheep and cattle. A thousand rocks and islands, most of them uninhabited, make for an impressive wilderness.
Sixty species of bird arrive here seasonally to breed, of which two-thirds feed on land. Among these migratory visitors, the Wandering albatross and its smaller relatives such as the Black-Browed albatross are perhaps the most enigmatic, and we also hope see the rare Rockhopper penguin, and the beautifully colored King penguin.
We then sail southeast, crossing the Antarctic Convergence to the remote, rugged and hauntingly beautiful island of South Georgia, the first of the true sub-Antarctic islands. Here, too, a remarkable history is unveiled, with the names such as Cook and Shackleton to the fore. However, it is the soaring snow-clad mountains and massive glaciers, and the huge King penguin rookeries and the thousands of sub-Antarctic fur seals, which provide a scenic and wildlife experience perhaps unequalled on the face of this planet. Here, too, we expect to see the comical Macaroni penguin, and perhaps the introduced reindeer.
We then set course to the southwest for the off-shore Islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic Peninsula itself offers an abundance of marine mammals and spectacular bird life. Home to six species of seal including the Southern Elephant seal and Antarctic fur seal, the region also boasts massive penguin rookeries - with Gentoos, Adelies and Chinstraps the most prominent. There are a number of whale species often sighted and a wide variety of seabirds including albatross, petrels, shearwaters and skuas. The landscape is spectacular. There are large icebergs (some of which contain natural caves shrouded in an eerie translucent light) eroded and carved into stunning sizes, shapes and color. There are chunks of broken pack-ice dotting the water, and a sweeping ice-cap rising above the shore line which masks mountains and fills trenches, binding together a continent which is, in total, about the same size as Africa. One can but marvel at the resolve of the early explorers in their quest to conquer this inhospitable land.
In the afternoon we will board the Ushuaia. A welcome drink and then an introduction to the crew and expedition staff will follow, and we will have time to get to know our new shipmates. The ship will then set sail towards the Western Falkland Islands (Malvinas), known for their rugged beauty and wealth of seabirds and waterfowl.
The open bridge policy on the Ushuaia allows us to join the officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for marine life, and enjoy the views of the open ocean. These waters are also home to an interesting group of seabirds, which often ride the currents created in the wake of the ship, such as albatrosses and petrels. Join the expedition staff and naturalists on deck whilst we are at sea as we search for seabirds and other local wildlife, such as orcas and dolphins. An interesting selection of lectures will help us to prepare for our first excursions in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
On the western coast we might visit the following islands:
West Point Island
West Point Island lies off the most north-westerly point of mainland West Falkland (Malvinas). The attractive settlement sits on the edge of a small harbor on the eastern side of the Island, in the lee of Black Bog Hill and Michael ́s Mount. The valley between these two peaks rolls over the center of the island to the dramatic Devil ́s Nose, one of the Island ́s main attractions. From here visitors are treated to splendid views of Cliff Mountain, the Island ́s highest point at 1,250 ft (381 m), and the highest cliffs in the Falklands. This is where we will encounter a vast colony of Rockhopper Penguins and Black-browed Albatrosses, nesting together in close vicinity.
Carcass Island lies to the north-west of the Falkland archipelago (Malvinas). A mature tussac plantation covers much of the lower ground below Jason Hill to the east. The availability of abundant cover and the absence of cats, rats and mice throughout the island have made for a spectacularly large population of small birds, which is one of Carcass Island ́s most delightful features. Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins do also nest here. Peale ́s and Commerson ́s dolphins come frequently close to the shoreline to get a glimpse of the visitors as well. At the settlement with its beautiful gardens, we are invited to enjoy tea and cookies with the locals.
Overnight we will sail around the northern islands of the archipelago in easterly direction to reach the capital, Stanley, the following morning.
In the morning hours we will have time to explore the quaint little town of Stanley and its wonderful Museum, souvenir shops and pubs. The town was established in the early 1840 ́s. Isolation and the weather conditions made life hard, but progress was gradual and punctuated by the extremely eventful times of involvement in two world wars. For those who are more interested in the outstanding wildlife the Islands have to offer, you do not even have to leave town to enjoy it. Southern Giant Petrels often fly close to the shoreline. The endemic Falkland Steamer Ducks abound on the shorelines while Kelp Gulls can often be seen flying together with Dolphin Gulls. The less obvious but frequent visitors to Stanley area are Black-crowned Night Herons, Red-backed Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. Turkey Vultures are regularly seen on top of any prominent building. Many pairs of Upland Geese frequent the park and it might be nice to take a stroll around the gardens of town to see some of the singing birds as well. In the early afternoon it is time to set sail, heading for South Georgia.
An extensive lecture program will be offered during the days at sea. Expert naturalists share their knowledge of the wildlife and unique ecosystems we will encounter throughout our voyage. South Georgia is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on earth with more wildlife than virtually anywhere else on the planet.
South Georgia will come in sight! Though extremely isolated, it has amazing scenery ranging from high mountains and mighty glaciers to deep fjords and low-lying grassland.
Our exact itinerary will depend on local land and sea conditions but the following destinations are among those that we would like to explore:
Sometimes called the “Serengeti of the South”, Salisbury Plain is a wildlife site without parallel. Several large glaciers provide a dramatic backdrop for the tens of thousands of King Penguins that nest in the tussac grass of this remarkable ecosystem. The wide beach makes for excellent walking as we visit the colony, where we are literally surrounded and delightfully outnumbered by throngs of curious, gentle penguins. Elephant and fur seals also abound, as well as Southern Giant Petrels and the occasional wandering Gentoo Penguin. Prepare for an awe-inspiring experience, as the elephant seals are giving birth on the beaches.
Prion Island is a beautiful tussac-grass covered islet. If we are lucky we will get the opportunity to see a breeding colony of Wandering Albatross on top of it. We will climb to the summit on a wooden boardwalk, which takes us close to their nests and offers comfortable viewing platforms.
Grytviken lies within King Edward Cove, a sheltered harbor tucked between Hope Point and Hobart Rock on the western shore of Cumberland East Bay. The rusting ruins of the Grytviken whaling station are situated on a level plain at the head of the cove, backed by steep hills and mountains. Now the site of the South Georgia Museum, the station remains a focal point of interest for many visitors, as does Sir Ernest Shackleton ́s grave in the nearby whaler ́s cemetery and his memorial cross on Hope Point.
The scenery in this area is exceptionally beautiful even by South Georgia standards: the glaciers and snow covered peaks of the Allardyce Range – Mt. Sugartop, Mt. Paget, Mt. Roots, Nordenskjöld Peak, Mt. Kling and Mt. Brooker – form a magnificent backdrop to the cove, and the views from King Edward Point in particular, must be among the finest on earth.
Situated 9km east of Cumberland East Bay on the eastern shores of Barff Peninsula, Godthul is a 3km long inlet that lies between Cape George and Long Point. Gentoo Penguins are abundant on the tussac plateau and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses echo off the natural cliff amphitheater that encircles the harbor. A floating factory ship serviced by two whale catchers was stationed here each summer between 1908 and 1929. A small shore depot supporting the whaling operations was established close by the stream in the southeast corner of the harbor, and the rusting barrels, wooden shed and boats are fascinating relics of the whaling era, as is the impressive collection of whale and elephant seal bones scattered along the beach.
St Andrews Bay
The surf beaten coastline at St. Andrews Bay runs north-south in a 1.86 mile (3 km) long uninterrupted sweep of fine dark sand, covered in penguins and seals and bounded in the interior by the Cook, Buxton and Heaney Glaciers. The bay hosts the biggest colony of King Penguins on South Georgia. Early in the season, the beach is also carpeted with fur and elephant seals. Such a large assemblage of wildlife attracts an entourage of persistent and voracious scavengers. Sheathbills dart in and around the penguin colony.
Cape Petrels nest in a small number on the cliffs north of St. Andrews Bay. Leopard seals patrol the rocks at this end of the beach too, hunting for penguins along the edge of kelp beds. A few White-chinned Petrels and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses nest on the tussac slopes. Brown Skuas and Antarctic Terns breed on the outwash plain and scree slopes at the north end of the beach, defending their nest sites with their characteristic noise and vigor.
Cooper Bay is found at the southeast extremity of South Georgia. There is a wealth of wildlife at this site, in a spectacular setting. Chinstrap, Gentoo and maybe one or two Macaroni Penguins dot the tussac slopes and there are plenty of fur seals on the beaches.
Fascinating volcanic rocks tower over small fjords, giving a stunning invitation for a thrilling zodiac cruise to watch wildlife from the waterfront.
Drygalski Fjord is also located in the far south east of the island. The glaciers found in this dramatic fjord have retreated significantly in recent decades, but they still remain one of the most striking features of this coastline, particularly the Risting and Jenkins Glaciers. With a little luck, we might see the glaciers calve and witness the birth of a new iceberg from on board the ship.
We spend the next two days crossing the Scotia Sea towards the Antarctic Peninsula offering opportunities to be out on deck, catch up on some reading, check through and edit our photos, or simply reflect on the magical experiences of the last days on South Georgia. Lectures and other activities will be offered throughout these days.
We hope to have a chance to visit the enigmatic Elephant Island. Sir Ernest Shackleton fans will need no introduction to this historic windswept island. In 1916 Shackleton was forced to leave 22 of his men stranded on these shores, while he and five others embarked on an unbelievable last-ditch rescue attempt. What followed is one of the greatest rescue stories of all time. Every passenger will return with a greater knowledge of this gripping tale of adventure in a truly remarkable part of the world.
Our expedition team will prepare you for our experience in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.
In the area of the Antarctic Sound, we will try to visit the following sites:
Argentine Antarctic Station Esperanza
We will try to sail the passage to the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which traverses the Antarctic Sound and runs northwest-to-southeast. Hope Bay and the Argentine Station Esperanza are located on the western side of the Sound.
Brown Bluff, a promontory on the Tabarin Peninsula, is located south of Hope Bay. Both of them might be possible landing sites. The Weddell Sea represents the center of the Peninsula ́s Adélie Penguin population.
Paulet and the already mentioned sites, might give us ample proof of this. The numbers of penguins are breathtaking. The region also teems with vibrant exploration history. The most bizarre of these tales involves the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-03 under the command of geologist Otto Nordenskjöld. Four visitor sites have links to this expedition: Hope Bay, Paulet Island, Snow Hill Island, and Cape Well-Met on Vega Island. Our expedition staff will be pleased to share their exciting story with you.
Nordenskjöld ́s expedition was the first to overwinter in the Peninsula. His ship the Antarctic, under the command of the famous Norwegian whaling captain Carl Anton Larsen, was trapped in the ice and sank, but the men survived on different locations and even managed to carry out significant scientific research in the area. Our plan is to sail through the Gerlache Strait into the Northwest Antarctic Peninsula area.
This region of broad straits, mountainous islands, protected bays, and narrow channels offer moments of solitude. A profusion of tall peaks humans have never climbed and vast glaciers flowing inexorably seaward are the physical features here.
We might visit Hydrurga Rocks, a small group of islets, which lie east of Two Hummock Island in the Palmer Archipelago, at the northern entrance of the Gerlache Strait. Chinstrap Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags and Kelp Gulls are confirmed breeders here.
We might also go to Cuverville Island, which lies in the scenic Errera Channel, in the center of the Gerlache Strait. A well-defined raised beach forms a nesting site for many Gentoo Penguins here. On our way north we plan to explore the South Shetland Islands.
Deception is the largest of three recent volcanic centers in the South Shetlands. Sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island is truly amazing. Once inside, the rising slope of the black, cinder-covered volcanic rim can be walked uphill to a rather spectacular vantage point.
Half Moon Island
This crescent-shaped island, in the entrance of Moon Bay between Greenwich and Livingston Islands, is home to Chinstrap Penguins in breathtaking surroundings.
We arrive at the port of Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the Ushuaia after breakfast.
* Itinerary may be subject to change
|Per Person USD|
Standard Plus Triple
Standard Plus Twin
Note: All expedition rates are per person in US dollars, based on shared occupancy. Standard twin cabins are available for single occupancy at 1.5 times the share price. Please ask about our request share program. Suites may be reserved at 2 times the twin rate charge. The third berth in two of the suites may be occupied at 50% of the published twin share rate.
A child (under 16 years) accompanied by two adults will be free of charge in a triple Superior cabin or triple Suite.
Airfare is not included in the price of this voyage. There may be a fuel surcharge on all bookings.
USHUAIA DECK PLAN