Experience vast penguin rookeries and seal colonies on this awe-inspiring voyage to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. This 21-day voyage illuminates Ernest Shackleton’s legend and recounts his courageous exploration of Antarctica. You’ll visit historical sites of past explorers, as well as Shackleton’s final resting place – the wildlife-rich island of South Georgia. Antarctica is beyond comprehension and sure to amaze any traveller seeking a true adventure to the world’s most remote wilderness.
Day 1 Arrive Ushuaia
Arrive into Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, at any time. An arrival transfer to your hotel is included.
Sitting on the shores of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia actually means 'the bay facing westward' in the language of the original Yamna inhabitants. Once a penal colony (the presidio was disbanded in the 1940s) for political prisoners as well as hardened criminals, Ushuaia is now a major tourist attraction, particularly for people such as ourselves cruising to Antarctica. The town of 40,000 is also a major ski resort area for both alpine and cross-country skiers and offers magnificent hiking in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the only coastal national park in Argentina.
Day 2 Ushuaia
Today we will embark on the M/S Expedition. Group embarkation is set for 4:00 pm. The morning is free to do any last minute shopping or an optional excursion to the Terra Del Fuego National park or a good hike up to the Marshall Glacier. The evening is spent on board the ship watching the sunset over the Beagle Channel.
Please note while it is our intention to adhere to the itinerary described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. On the first day on board, your Expedition Leader will give you an expedition overview.
Day 3 At Sea
As we make the passage east you have time to become acquainted with the ship and frequent the common areas that include the lounge, dining hall, library and lecture hall where we meet our guides, ship’s crew and lecturers. We also begin the lecture and information sessions to learn the extraordinary human and natural history of the Antarctic region.
Day 4-5 The Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands provide a rare opportunity to witness the biological diversity and extraordinary scenery of the southern islands. Nesting Albatross penguins, and elephant seals are abundant. Here we hope to catch our first glimpses of penguins, including the Magellanic, rockhopper, gentoo, and king penguins. With a little luck we may also see the elephant seals, sea lions, king cormorants, black-browed albatross, skuas, night herons, giant petrels, striated caracaras and of course sheep. Port Stanley provides an opportunity to meet the hardy local inhabitants whose colourful houses provide contrast to the long dark winters.
Day 6-7 The Great Southern Ocean
Sailing east now we’ll set course for South Georgia Island. Our days at sea will be filled with lectures to prepare us for South Georgia and we will have plenty of time on deck to identify the abundant sea birds of the south ocean. We keep our eye peeled for the whales that inhabit these waters.
Day 8-11 South Georgia
South Georgia Island is home to many marvels including Shackleton’s grave, former whaling stations, incredible scenery and prolific wildlife. Weather permitting we will have 3 full days to explore this island. A huge colony of king penguins is the highlight of this part of the journey. On nearby islands we’ll hope to spot wandering albatross in their nesting grounds.
Known for its brutal whaling and exploratory history, this 170 km long and 40 km wide island is considered the first gateway to Antarctica and was the centre of the huge Southern Ocean whaling industry from 1904 to 1966. The famous captain James Cook was the first to land on South Georgia on January 17, 1775 and named the island after King George III. During the 62 years of whaling activities, any number between 183 whales the first year and the record 7825 whales in 1925-26 season were killed annually for their oil. Whales weren’t the only animals hunted for their oil at that time. A total of 498,870 seals - mostly giant elephant seals - were also slaughtered. Since the end of whaling activities 40 years ago, wildlife has slowly returned to the island.
Today the Island’s wildlife is extraordinary, not only in its variety, but also for its sheer abundance. South Georgia is home to roughly 300,000 elephant seals, 3 million fur seals, and 25 species of breeding birds, including wandering albatrosses. The gravel beach at St. Andrews Bay has a king penguin rookery of 100,000. The British explorer Sir Ernest H Shackleton landed at King Haakon Bay on the southwest coast after the 800-mile journey in a 20-foot open boat from Elephant Island. They proceeded to hike the ice covered mountainous terrain, arriving to Stromness whaling station on May 20, 1916. Shackleton returned to South Georgia in 1922 for one last assault on Antarctica but passed away after suffering a major heart attack while in his cabin. He was buried at the whaler’s cemetery at Grytviken station at the request of his wife.
Day 12-13 The Scotia Sea
Plotting a southwesterly course we make way towards legendary Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands. The waters are rich with nutrients and the long summer days provide the ingredient that is missing most of the year. The result is a complex food chain topped by several species of whales, seals, and seabirds.
Day 14-18 Antarctica & the South Shetland Islands
This is what we've all been waiting for - a chance to step foot on the Great White Continent! Over the next 4 days we will navigate southwards making stops in the South Shetland Islands then through the Bransfield Strait and to the Antarctic Peninsula. Our goal is to attempt two excursions per day while we navigate through the area but our itinerary and daily schedule will be based on the local weather and ice conditions that we encounter.
The Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands abound with wildlife activity. Penguins gather with their fast-growing chicks, whales are seen in great numbers, seals haul out onto ice floes and beaches, and numerous seabirds trail in our wake. We may visit scientists working in modern research bases, and there is plenty of time to enjoy the sheer beauty and the breathtaking scenery of ice-choked waterways, blue and white icebergs, impressive glaciers and rugged snow-capped mountains. The Peninsula also has a remarkable history and, during the voyage, we will learn about some of the most important and dramatic expeditions to this remote corner of the world. Keeping a lookout from the Bridge or the deck of the ship, as we thread our way along the continent, you'll feel the same sense of excitement as many of those early explorers.
Day 19-20 At Sea
Heading north across the Drake Passage, spend two days enjoying the beauty of the sea as we sail for Ushuaia.In between bird watching and whale watching and enjoying some final lectures by our expedition staff, this is a chance to relax and review the adventures of the past week before returning to Ushuaia. Remember, the best way to experience the wildlife of the Drake Passage is to be on deck keeping a look out for Albatross, Prions, and Whales!
Day 21 Depart Ushuaia
Our adventure comes to a close. Have a final breakfast on the expedition ship before saying our goodbyes as we disembark in Ushuaia in the morning. You are free to fly out of Ushuaia anytime from noon onwards.