Buenos Aires, Argentina Bienvenidos. Welcome to Argentina. Your Antarctic Explorer adventure begins with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires. If you have time during the day, explore the leafy boulevards, hip galleries and European architecture of Buenos Aires. In the evening, perhaps head out for a steak dinner with your new travel companions. Note: A transfer from Buenos Aires airport to the hotel is not included, nor are any meals today. If you arrive early into the city or wish to extend your stay and need accommodation, please ask your agent for details and costs.
Ushuaia - Embarkation Day After breakfast at the hotel take a private charter flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. The port of Ushuaia is known as the town at 'the end of the world'. Enjoy a little free time to explore before boarding the ship and cruising out through the Beagle Channel this afternoon. The channel transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America. Named after the British ship the HMS Beagle, this passage of water is rich with birdlife, so keep an eye out for penguins, cormorants, petrels, and Black-browed Albatross from the deck.
Crossing the Drake Passage Head into the legendary Drake Passage, named after the English explorer, Sir Francis Drake. Conditions through the passage can be unpredictable, so hope for smooth sailing but please be prepared for the possibility of rough seas. Take some time getting to know your shipmates and keep watch for seabirds, whales and dolphins. On-board experts will make presentations about the whaling history and wildlife of Antarctica, as well as preparing you for the activities ahead.
South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula
With the Drake Passage behind you, have your camera ready as you approach the Antarctic coastline. Watch the ocean surface for curious whales breaching before your eyes. Over the next few days you'll make several expeditions via Zodiac to explore the Antarctic Peninsula. Perhaps visit Neko Harbour, Orne Harbour or Paradise Bay. Watch penguins waddling on a beach, listen to the crack of a calving glacier near Petermann Island or explore the historic Port Lockroy. You may like to take a polar plunge in the icy waters or kayak among whales (subject to availability). While weather dictates which landing sites you can visit, your expedition team will ensure that each one presents exciting new wildlife opportunities and natural attractions.
Possible Landings and Wildlife Sightings
- CUVERVILLE ISLAND - A gentoo penguin rookery is situated on the north end of the island on a rocky beach. Depending on the time of season you arrive, you may see them building nests or attending to their chicks. Giant petrels and kelp gulls breed on the island.
- DAMOY POINT - If you are lucky enough to mail a postcard in Antarctica, you'll likely pass through Damoy Point, the northern entrance to the harbor on which Port Lockroy is located.
- DANCO ISLAND - This small island, one mile (1.6 km) in length, is easy to explore and home to gentoo penguins. You can visit the marker of a former British Antarctic Survey hut and watch for a variety of seabirds such as snowy sheathbills, kelp gulls and blue-eyed shags.
- ENTERPRISE ISLAND - Located in Wilhelmina Bay, the island was used by whalers. A Zodiac cruise around the island passes a wrecked whaling ship.
- LEMAIRE CHANNEL - This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula; you'll see that this is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast, especially during sunrise and sunset. The 6.8 mile-long (11 km) Channel may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway, so we'll hope for clear waters.
- MELCHIOR ISLANDS - A group of low islands in Dallmann Bay, on which you may see male fur seals haul-out at the end of the breeding season to recuperate from their battles for supremacy.
- NEKO HARBOUR - Little evidence remains that this bay was once used by the floating whale factory ship Neko. You might see some whale vertebrae used by resident gentoo penguins as shelter from the wind. There is an unmanned refuge hut here, erected by Argentina. Climb past the hut and up a steep slope for spectacular views of the glacier-rimmed harbor.
- PETERMANN ISLAND - Here, near the Lemaire Channel, you can stand ashore and see the southernmost breeding colony of gentoo penguins. The dome of the island rises 650 feet (200 meters) above the sea, offering a challenging hike for panoramic views. Adélie penguins, shags and south polar skuas also inhabit the island.
- PORT LOCKROY - A 'fun' destination of sorts, we always strive to journey to Port Lockroy if weather permits. The harbor is on the west side of Wiencke Island. A secret base was built on the harbor during the Second World War as part of Operation Tabarin. It is now designated as a historic site, where Port Lockroy is a museum and post office. Proceeds from your purchases here support the preservation of historic sites from the Heroic Age of Exploration.
- WATERBOAT POINT - Of historic interest, you may venture to this unique point, which at low tide is connected to the Antarctic mainland. Zodiacs are used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behavior lived in a water boat on the Point from 1921-22. The remains of their camp have been designated an Antarctic historic site.
- THE ANTARCTIC CIRCLE - While not a typical landing, the crossing of the Antarctic Circle is a moment to remember. The event will usually happen while at sea, so be sure to head up to the bridge and snap your photo of the GPS reading 66° 33' S.
- AITCHO ISLANDS - This is a group of small islands, some still unnamed, situated in the northern entrance of English Strait. You can often spot a great mix of wildlife here, with gentoo and chinstrap penguins having established rookeries. Southern elephant and fur seals are frequently hauled-out here too.
- BAILY HEAD - Also known as Rancho Point, this area is a rocky headland on the southeastern shore of Deception Island. Chinstrap penguins build nests on slopes leading to a high ridge that dominates the natural amphitheater and provides a superb setting for landscape photography.
- HALF MOON ISLAND - This crescent-shaped island was known to sealers as early as 1821. Unlike sealers who liked to keep their best locations secret, we're happy to bring you ashore on this impressive island. Many Antarctic birds breed here including chinstrap penguins, shags, Wilson's storm-petrels, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic terns and skua.
- HANNAH POINT - Macaroni, chinstrap and gentoo penguin rookeries are located on the point, which is on the south coast of Livingston Island. Due to the rather congested area available to the nesting penguins, you can only visit here from January 10 onwards.
- PENDULUM COVE - Hot geothermal waters are found along the shoreline of this cove, named for observations made in 1829 by a British expedition. You may see yellow algae and boiled krill floating on the surface because of the scalding hot water!
- PENGUIN ISLAND - Antarctica has two flowering plants, both of which you can find on Penguin Island: Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis. Chinstrap penguins, fur seals and southern elephant seals use the island for breeding purposes.
- ROBERT POINT - A nice spot for Zodiac cruising, this point was known to sealers as early as 1820. Chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls and pintado breed here, and whales may be seen in the surrounding waters.
- TELEFON BAY - Your Expedition Team will be happy to point out that it is here where the most recent evidence of volcanic eruption on Deception Island can be seen.
- TURRET POINT - Chinstrap and Adélie penguin rookeries are found on this point, situated on the south coast of King George Island. The beaches here are often crowded with southern elephant, fur, and Weddell seals hauled-out on the rocks.
- WHALER'S BAY - To reach Whaler's Bay it is necessary to sail through a narrow passage called Neptune's Bellows. The bay was used by whalers from 1906 to 1931 and is part of a protected harbor created by a circular flooded caldera, known as Deception Island. Along with waddling penguins and lounging seals, you'll see rusting remains of whaling operations on the beach. Watch for steam that may rise from geothermally heated water springs along the shoreline.
- YANKEE HARBOUR - Gentoo penguins have established a rookery on this harbor, situated on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. Here you can see an abandoned Argentine refuge hut and a large glacier that stretches along the east and north sides of the bay. An abandoned sealing try pot is all that remains of the activity that brought men thousands of miles in tall ships to seek their fortune.
The Antarctic Circle Few people can say they've crossed the Antarctic Circle, but you'll be one of them. Celebrate in style by sharing a glass of champagne with your shipmates. This part of the world is home to Weddell seals, the midnight sun and some of the most spectacular ice formations you'll see in Antarctica. While not a typical landing, the crossing of the Antarctic Circle is a moment to remember. The event usually happens while at sea, so be sure to head up to the bridge and snap a photo of the GPS reading 66° 33' S.
Northbound along the Antarctic Peninsula Spend the next two days travelling north along the western Antarctic Peninsula and back towards the Drake Passage. Weather permitting, continue to journey out in the Zodiac and make landings twice a day. As always, your expedition team will be on the lookout for wildlife. By now, your knowledge of Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins will be matched by your ability to differentiate between a leopard, fur or Weddell seal. Terms like 'bergy bits' and 'pancake ice' will seem normal too.
Drake Passage to Ushuaia Leave Antarctica behind and head back through Drake Passage. The expedition team will round up their series of lectures, perhaps with a slideshow of some of the great landing sites and wildlife you've seen over the course of the voyage.
Disembarkation in Ushuaia and fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina After a shipboard breakfast this morning, the group will disembark in Ushuaia and make a short excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Afterwards, you'll be transferred to the airport for your charter flight back to Buenos Aires, where your Antarctic adventure comes to an end. The flight will arrive into Buenos Aires at approximately 5.00 pm, but we recommend that any onward flights are booked after 8.00 pm in case of delays.