Days 0 & 1: Arrival in Ushuaia, boarding ship and departure
Our first day in the lovely town of Ushauia is set aside as an arrival day. You're welcome to spend the day relaxing at the hotel or explore the town before our Antarctica photo safari commences the next day.
On Day 1, we will board our ship and begin our journey eastwards toward the Falkland Islands. As we leave the scenic harbour of the world’s most southern city, we enter the famous Beagle Channel. Forming the boundary between Argentina and Chile, we will have rugged cliffs and islands on either side of us and our photography will begin in earnest!
Day 2: At sea, Northeast toward Falkland Islands
Our lenses will focus on seabirds and marine mammals from the bridge and the stern, where albatrosses and giant petrels should be following our ship.
In addition, information-packed, onboard lectures will serve as entertainment during some of the crossings.
Day 3: The Falkland Islands (Malvinas), West Point and Carcass Islands
This morning we wake up in the Falkland Islands! We will spend the entire day on the fascinating western side of the archipelago. The main objective for this morning is to photograph a Black-browed Albatross colony; thousands of Black-browed Albatrosses nesting on a magnificent cliff; pairs in display and a continuous stream of individuals landing and taking off, all at touching distance. Entertaining Southern Rockhopper Penguins also nest among the albatrosses.
This afternoon we plan to proceed to Carcass Island. Our photography here will focus on Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins, Rock and Imperial Shags, the lovely Dolphin Gull and the aptly-named Kelp Goose.
Day 4: Stanley, Falkland Islands
The roughly 2,000 people inhabiting the historic town of Stanley represent about 80% of the population of the entire Falkland Islands. Our visit will give perspective on the history of British settlement of the islands, plus the 1982 Anglo-Argentine War in which Argentinean forces invaded but were subsequently defeated and expelled by the British.
Time will also be available to explore the museums, shipwrecks, historical trails and shops of Stanley. In the afternoon, we begin our multi-day cruise to dramatic South Georgia.
Days 5 to 6: At sea between Falkland Islands and South Georgia
For the seabird photographic enthusiast, these are some of the most exciting waters in the world. As we cruise from the Falklands to South Georgia, we cross the Antarctic Convergence, where the warmer, saline water from the north meets the colder and less salty Antarctic water.
This is a very rich feeding ground for seabirds and marine mammals, attracting large volumes of wildlife from distant breeding islands and waters. Though the Convergence attracts birds from both north and south, we will notice a shift of species and relative numbers between the waters on either side of the Convergence.
Days 7 to 9: South Georgia Islands
South Georgia Islands can support life throughout the year. Vast numbers of birds and pinnipeds live here year-round – over 500,000 pairs of King Penguins call this island home, and walking through, and photographing their packed colonies is without a doubt one of the single greatest wildlife experiences on the planet.
We have three full days to explore this mountainous, glaciated island which is so stark, yet home to such mind-bogglingly abundant and exciting wildlife. All landings will be weather permitting, but we will make every effort to explore the Salisbury Plain. Here lies one of the world’s largest King Penguin colonies. In addition, we plan a landing at St Andrew’s Bay, where an even bigger King Penguin colony exists.
On the beaches, one of our special targets of this early season voyage will be to photograph enormous Southern Elephant Seal beachmasters battling for supremacy.
We also plan to visit Grytviken, the whaling station where the largest individual animal known to have lived on earth, a huge Blue Whale specimen, was butchered. Here we will visit the South Georgia Museum, remnants of the whaling station and the grave of the famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Over 3 million pairs of Macaroni Penguin breed on the island, but are nowhere near as obvious as the Kings.
Our final day features some of the most dazzling scenery yet, especially around the south-east tip of the island; while the stunning Drygalski Fjord is framed by sharp, non-glaciated mountain peaks.
Days 10 to 12: At sea towards Antarctica, possibly Elephant Island
Weather and ice will dictate our crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica, leading us perhaps to Elephant Island.
As we cruise south-west towards Antarctica, we cross increasingly polar waters. True Antarctic species become more prominent, but total numbers and diversity will drop. Our informative onboard lectures will continue to provide breaks from the hours of photographing seabirds, whales, dolphins and icebergs. At some point, we will encounter sea-ice, and it is at the ice-edge where we increase our chances of capturing high-Antarctic species, such as Snow Petrel, Chinstrap Penguin and the predatory Leopard Seal.
As we edge ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce our arrival in Antarctic waters. If conditions allow, we will hope to see the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon. If conditions and time allow, we will attempt a landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island.
Days 13 to 16: The Antarctic Sound, Weddell Sea, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula
Here we will encounter awe-inspiring tabular icebergs, large fragments of the vast Weddell Ice Shelf, and the ice shelves along the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. At this time of year, we stand a very reasonable chance to find the holy grail of Antarctica, the Emperor Penguin. We will head as far south through the Antarctic Sound into the Weddell Sea as ice conditions will allow. Each mile southwards towards the Emperor colony on Snow Hill Island will improve our chances of finding one of these incredible birds resting on the ice.
We may take our first landing at Paulet Island, a tiny island boasting a huge colony of beautiful Adelie Penguins. Our first steps on the Antarctic continent itself may be at Brown Bluff, where we will be treated to spectacular scenery, colonies of Gentoo and Adelie Penguins. Mammals in this region include Leopard Seal and its favourite prey, Weddell and Crabeater Seals, as well as Antarctic Minke Whale and pods of Orca.
Next, we will head north again to the South Shetland Island chain. Possible landing sites could include Half Moon Island or King George Island, and dazzling wildlife sightings await us on our excursions to these islands. Weather conditions permitting, we will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. At one or more of these landings, we can expect to find the delicately-patterned Chinstrap Penguin and South Polar Skua.
Later, we will zigzag back through the Bransfield Strait heading south-westwards towards Mikkelsen Harbour and Cierva Cove. In this area, we will enjoy zodiac excursions through the pack ice, marvelling at the myriad of shapes and colours of these ancient formations. We will have plenty photo opportunities and time to experience the scenery and wildlife of this amazing region. We again plan to make landings on the Antarctic continent. The scenery here, from the colossal icebergs to the seemingly endless Antarctic ice-sheet with distant high mountains, is truly breathtaking.
Later, we sail past or maybe even land on the Orne Islands with its large colonies of Chinstrap Penguin and a beautiful view across the Gerlache Strait to Cuverville Island. Cuverville Island is home to the region’s largest Gentoo Penguin colony and most of the region’s breeding bird species.
Days 17 to 18: At sea in the Drake Passage
Sadly, we will bid farewell to this frozen wonderland and head north through the famous Drake Passage between Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego.
Day 19: Return to Ushuaia and disembarkation
Today we cruise into the Beagle Channel and land at Ushuaia in the early morning. This provides another chance to see sea and land birds of Tierra del Fuego, before bidding farewell to the fellow travellers with whom we have shared this remarkable voyage of a lifetime.