Marine Mammals of Antarctica

Ioffe Cruise Ship
96 Passengers
Adventure Options

March represents an important time for whales in Antarctic waters as they feed on the vast krill swarms to build energy stores for either a long migration to tropical breeding grounds, or to maintain their energy as they struggle to survive in the ice-choked waters that will soon return to the region.

For humpback whales, there is growing evidence that while many migrate north over winter, some remain in areas of Antarctica that stay ice-free due to what scientists believe are warming climates. We survey several of the bays that are the focus of long-term and unique research projects to determine how the abundance of whales changes throughout the course of the Antarctic summer.

Our proprietary ‘GRUVA’ (GoPro Underwater Viewing Apparatus) technology will be in every zodiac and will enhance encounters with the whales and seals beneath the surface. Paired with hydrophones, this ground-breaking technology provides unparalleled underwater viewing to watch live, or back on board the ship.

By March, the short Antarctic summer is drawing to a close and bays and harbors that have been ice choked since winter become free of such impediments. As a result, our access increases dramatically to an even wider range of landing sites. Penguin chicks are almost fully-grown (many now physically larger than their parents) and are quickly shedding their downy coats in preparation to take to the sea before the long winter sets in.

This is also a time of great activity in and under the water and, historically, we encounter a much higher concentration of whales - in particular humpback and minke - during this period. Crabeater, Weddell and leopard seals are also often found in good numbers, resting and storing energy that will sustain them over the cold months ahead. This special expedition brings the marine mammals of Antarctica into even sharper focus and, once again, we are joined by several cetacean and marine mammal specialists for this special 11-day voyage. Did we mention it’s also our favorite time of the year for blistering orange and pink Antarctic sunrises and sunsets?

Dr. Ari Friedlaender will once again be aboard for this special Marine Mammal voyage as a Guide and Research Scientist.

Ari's research focuses on the foraging ecology and effects of climate change of marine mammals. He is involved in several projects tagging marine mammals (including humpback, minke, pilot, and beaked whales) in a range of environments from Antarctica to the tropics to study how their behaviors relate to environmental variables including their prey. He uses a suite of geospatial analysis tools and emerging technology to visualize and analyze the movement patterns and behaviors of these whales underwater.

Day 1 — Ushuaia, Argentina

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, Akademik Sergey Vavilov. 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

Crossing the Drake Passage, we sense the anticipation as we make our way ever closer to the white continent. As we cross these fabled waters, our on board naturalists spend their time on deck looking for whales and in the presentation room leading lively discussions about the marine life of the Antarctic. Crossing the Antarctic Convergence is an exciting event as we scan the waters for marine mammals feeding on the abundance of krill in the frigid waters. Large icebergs will now be a regular feature. The history of early polar exploration is another popular theme. Perhaps you will pick up some valuable tips from our onboard photographic guide, learning about image composition, the subtle and soft polar light and all the basics of good camera craft.

Days 4 to 8 — Antarctic Peninsula

Now that we have arrived in Antarctica, we plan our route primarily based on typical marine mammal migrations and activity for this time of year. With our knowledge of marine mammal feeding grounds we can pick and choose the areas to explore. We will modify our itinerary based on sightings and encounters with the whales.

We find at this time of the season the whales are more social and demonstrative, which leads to incredible viewings from the ship and the zodiacs. We spend as much time as possible off the ship, exploring in our inflatable zodiac boats marveling at the magnificent glaciated mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula.

We may get as far south as Peterman Island, cruise the Lemaire Channel and view the magnificent iceberg ‘graveyard’ at Pleneau Island. Other classic sites include Paradise Harbor, Orne Harbor and the dome shaped Cuverville Island. In all these locations expect to see an abundance of Weddell, crabeater and elephant seals, and birds such as skuas and gulls. Adelie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins all inhabit the region. Wilhelmina Bay is a known whale ‘hotspot’ and a place we are sure to spend some time exploring.

We plan to set foot on the continent in this vicinity and, if the weather allows, some may choose to camp ashore overnight. Other onshore activities could include hikes of up to several miles, visits to historic huts, science stations and places offering incredible views of the coastline and ice-filled bays. Whatever your vantage point, whether it is onboard or onshore, expect to feel transformed as you experience twilight and the rich abundance of wildlife from the very bottom of the planet.

The excitement is not yet over. A final highlight will be a visit to the South Shetland Islands. Weather permitting, we hope to visit Deception Island with its sizable chinstrap penguin rookery at Baily Head. Here, inside the sunken volcanic caldera, is a perfect museum of natural and exploration history with its old buildings and rusting remnants from the whaling era. For those wanting to stretch their legs, a spectacular hike to the crater rim offers a challenge. Other sites we sometimes visit in the South Shetlands include Half Moon Island, Yankee Harbor or Hannah Point.

Days 9 & 10 — At Sea

Our final days returning to South America are spent catching up on journal entries, or perhaps downloading and reviewing photos in the multi-media room with our photography expert. The wonderful lounge and bar on our ship provides fantastic panoramas and is a great place to sit with a book and a cappuccino.

The educational presentations continue and we enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by our Expedition Leader. A particular highlight of our return journey will be frequent sightings of the majestic albatross, petrels and other seabirds as they soar above the ship on the winds of the Drake Passage. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in the soft evening light, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship. It’s a great time to reflect on a special journey to the white continent.

Day 11 — Ushuaia

In the early morning, we arrive into the city of 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.

As with all our expeditions, safety is our top priority. For that reason weather, ice or other conditions may require us to change our itinerary and shore excursions as we go but that is half the fun of Polar exploring. Predictability is a word that has no relevance in this environment.

* Itinerary may be subject to change

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Rates 2015-2016
Main Deck Triple
Twin Semi-Private
Twin Private
Shackleton Suite
One Ocean Suite
Camp, Photography, Kayak, Snowshoe
$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, XC Ski, Photography, Kayak, Snowshoe
$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, Photography, Kayak
Photography Symposium

$750 Discount (Prices in Red)

- Very Limited Availability -
Camp, Photography, Kayak, Snowshoe
$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, Photography, Kayak, Snowshoe
- Full -
Camp, Photography, Kayak
$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, Photography, Kayak
$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, Photography, Kayak
$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, Photography, Kayak
Whale Watching Trip

$750 Discount (Prices in Red)
Camp, Photography, Kayak
- Full -
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Click on the tour dates in the left column to view a trip itinerary. Point MOUSE at Cabin Category to view DETAILED description.

Rates are per person, based on twin-share. Single supplement is 1.5 times the cabin rate except for Suites which are 2 times the cabin rate and is not available in Triple Share Category.

Costs for standard adventure options: Photography - Free of charge, Snowshoeing - Free of charge, Camping - Free of charge, Kayaking (must be pre-booked, maximum 16 participants) – $795

Costs for Off the Beaten Track adventure options (must be pre-booked): Expedition Photography (maximum 18 participants) - $45, Expedition Snowshoeing (maximum 12 participants) - $45, Ski Touring (maximum 12 participants) - $750, Kayaking (maximum 16 participants) – $795, Overnight Kayaking - Additional $300 add-on to regular kayaking program (maximum 6 participants).

Space is subject to availability. Some activities require experience.

Mandatory Emergency Evacuation insurance is required on all trips.

All trips subject to possible fuel surcharge.