STYLE: Small Ship Expedition Cruise
Trip Code: ACOWKAE
DIFFICULTY RATING: 2 (light adventure)
This complete Antarctica journey is perfect for scenery and wildlife-lovers alike. Explore one of the last untamed places on Earth on this transformative 22 day experience to one of the most isolated and serene sites in Earth. Experience incredible flexibility and authenticity of a true expedition adventure as you encounter unique wildlife such as penguins, fur and elephant seal just a few feet away. Zodiac cruise to secluded coves and bays or simply glide along the water as a pod of whales artistically breach the surface. An incredible adventure awaits.
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
The following day will be spent at sea. Several species of albatross follow the vessel into the westerlies, along with storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
The Falkland (Malvinas) Islands offer an abundance of wildlife that is easily approachable, though caution is always advised. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of a 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of bird live here, but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters. During this segment of the voyage, you may visit the following sites:
West Point Island – This beautiful island hosts a bounty of birdlife, from shore birds near the landing site to black-browed albatrosses on the nest. Among them is a rookery of rockhopper penguins who have to undertake an incredible climb from the sea to get to their nests among the albatrosses.
Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here.
The capital of the Falklands and centre of its culture, Port Stanley has some Victorian-era charm: colourful houses, well-tended gardens, and English-style pubs are all to be found here. You can also see several century-old clipper ships nearby, silent witnesses to the hardships of 19th century sailors. The small but interesting museum is also worth a visit, covering the early days of settlement up to the Falklands War. Approximately 2,100 people live in Port Stanley. Feel free to wander at will, though be aware that admission fees to local attractions are not included in the voyage.
En route to South Georgia, you now cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within the space of a few hours, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.
Today you arrive at the first South Georgia activity site. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program. Over the next several days, you have a chance to visit the following sites:
Prion Island – This location is closed during the early part of the wandering albatross breeding season (November 20 – January 7). From January on, the breeding adults have found their partners and are sitting on eggs or nursing their chicks. Enjoy witnessing the gentle nature of these animals, which possess the largest wingspan of any birds in the world.
Fortuna Bay – Near beaches inhabited by various penguins and seals, you have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall, and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for Antarctic fur seals. Literarily millions breed on South Georgia during December and January. By February the young fur seals are curious and playful and fill the surf with life and fun and large elephant seals come to the beaches to molt.
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
The following day will be spent at sea. There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.
Depending on the conditions, you might visit Orcadas Base, an Argentine scientific station on Laurie Island in the South Orkney archipelago. The personnel here will happily show you their facility, where you can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding glaciers. If a visit isn’t possible, you may instead land in Signy Island’s Shingle Cove.
You‘ve now completed roughly the same route (albeit in the opposite direction) as Sir Ernest Shackleton did using only a small life boat, the James Caird, in spring of 1916. Watching Elephant Island materialize on the horizon after crossing all that water, it’s hard not to marvel at how he and his five-man crew accomplished that feat. The purpose of Shackleton’s crossing was to rescue 22 shipwrecked members of his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Endurance Expedition, who were stranded on Elephant Island. For four and a half months, Shackleton undertook this legendary rescue. Conditions on Elephant Island are severe. The coastline is mostly made up of vertical rock and ice cliffs highly exposed to the elements. If possible you will take the Zodiacs to Point Wild, where the marooned members of Shackleton’s expedition miraculously managed to survive.
If ice permits, you sail into the Antarctic Sound at the north-western edge of the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern edges of the Antarctic Peninsula. Brown Bluff is a potential location for a landing, where you may get the chance to set foot on the continent.
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist, but they do offer subtle pleasures: There’s a wide variety of flora (mosses, lichens, flowering grasses) and no small amount of fauna (gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels).
In Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows and into the flooded caldera. Here you find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels – along with kelp gulls, brown and south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns. A good hike is a possibility in this fascinating and desolate volcanic landscape
Gray stone peaks sketched with snow, towers of broken blue-white ice, and unique polar wildlife below and above welcome you into the otherworldly expanse of Antarctica. You enter the area around Gerlache Strait, venturing into one of the most beautiful settings Antarctica has to offer. Sites you may visit here include:
Neko Harbour – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow, Neko Harbour offers opportunities for a Zodiac cruise and landing that afford the closest views of the surrounding alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay – You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, iceflecked waters, where there’s a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales.
Pléneau & Petermann Islands – If the ice allows it, you could sail through the Lemaire Channel in search of Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags. There is also a possibility you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales here, as well as leopard seals.
The aim is then to cut south, reaching Crystal Sound and the Antarctic Circle. You may make a landing at Detaille Island and visit an abandoned British research station, taking in the limitless landscape. Afterward you venture back into the area around Lemaire Channel and the Gerlache Strait. As with all our Antarctic trips, conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Hondius will be the first vessel to be built to class “LR PC6”, meeting the latest and highest demands of Lloyd’s Register for “Polar Class 6” vessels, the highest Polar Class notation for ice-strengthened vessels. The vessel will also fully comply with the mandatory requirements of the Polar code, adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for safe ship operation and the protection of the Polar environment. Hondius will be the strongest ice-strengthened vessel in the Polar Regions and will be equipped with stabilizers, and very suitable for advanced, innovative exploratory quality voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions.
Hondius will be the first vessel to be built to class “LR PC6”, meeting the latest and highest demands of Lloyd’s Register for “Polar Class 6” vessels, the highest Polar Class notation for ice-strengthened vessels. The vessel will also fully comply with the mandatory requirements of the Polar code, adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for safe ship operation and the protection of the Polar environment.
Hondius will be the strongest ice-strengthened vessel in the Polar Regions and will be equipped with stabilizers, and very suitable for advanced, innovative exploratory quality voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions.
Length: 107.6 meters
Breadth: 17.6 metersMax
Speed: 15 knots
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We believe that appropriate accommodation should add to the authentic travel experience, as well as providing utmost enjoyment. For that reason our accommodation is scrutinised by our staff on the ground frequently, ensuring the properties adhere to our high standards. This key will help you understand the levels of accommodation available on this tour.
Comfortable properties with dependable facilities and service.
Comfortable properties with dependable facilities and service.
Luxurious properties with impeccable facilities and service.
|Falklands, South Georgia, Elephant Island & Antarctic Circle | Hondius from USD 16,700|
|20 Feb 2024||13 Mar 2024||23|
Available upon request. Contact us for more details.
Please note this itinerary is subject to change depending on weather and ice conditions.
Departure date, seasonality and availability.