See many different penguin species during this comprehensive Antarctic expedition. Combine the major Antarctic highlights in one voyage. Visit the wildlife-rich Falkland islands (Carcass and Saunders) with their populations of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatross along with majestic South Georgia, famed for its elephant seals, king penguins and breeding grounds of the wandering albatross. The expedition will also aim for a landing on the continent of Antarctica as well as extra time to cross the polar circle.
Day 1: Ushuaia
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.
Day 2: Scotia Sea
Several species of albatross follow the vessel into the westerlies,
along with storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
Day 3: Falkland Islands archipelago
The Falkland 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:
Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence
bounteous with birdlife. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins
and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s
wrens and tussock-birds) live here.
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.
Day 4: Port Stanley, Falklands
The capital of the Falklands and center of its culture, Port Stanley
has some Victorian-era charm: colorful 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.
Day 5 – 6: Once more to the sea
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.
Day 7 – 10: South Georgia exploration
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:
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.
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 southern elephant seals. Only during this time of year do
they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the four-ton bulls keep a
constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens
of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. You can also
see a substantial number of Antarctic fur seals here during the
breeding season (December – January).
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.
Day 11: Southward bound
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.
Day 12: South Orkney Islands
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
Day 13: Legendary Elephant Island
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.
Day 14: Northeastern Antarctic Peninsula
If ice permits, you sail into the Antarctic Sound at the northwestern
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.
Day 15: South Shetland Islands
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
Day 16 – 20: Onward into Antarctica
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:
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.
You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling,
ice-flecked 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 of our Antarctic trips,
conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Day 21 – 22: Drake Passage
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.
Day 23: Ushuaia
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.
All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary
depending on local ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. The
on-board expedition leader will determine the final itinerary.
Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. Average cruising
speed of m/v Hondius is 10.5 knots.