Day 1: Arrival in Ushuaia
Today is set aside as your arrival day in the lovely town of Ushauia. You're welcome to spend the day relaxing at the hotel or explore the town before the Antarctica photo expedition commences the next day.
Day 2: Boarding vessel & Depart
This afternoon you will board the ship and begin the journey eastwards toward the Falkland Islands. As the ship leaves the scenic harbour of the world’s most southern city, it enters the famous Beagle Channel. Forming the boundary between Argentina and Chile, there will be rugged cliffs and islands on either side of the ship and the photographic opportunities will begin in earnest!
Day 3: At sea, Northeast toward Falkland Islands
The photographic focus is on seabirds and marine mammals from various decks on the ship, where albatrosses and giant petrels should be following the ship.
In addition, information-packed, onboard lectures will serve as entertainment during some of the crossings.
Day 4: Falkland Islands: West Point & Carcass Islands
This morning you will wake up in the Falkland Islands! The entire day will be spent 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 close proximity. Entertaining Southern Rockhopper Penguins also nest among the albatrosses.
This afternoon plan is to proceed to Carcass Island. The photographic focus will be on Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins, Rock and Imperial Shags, the lovely Dolphin Gull and the aptly-named Kelp Goose.
Please note that the itinerary can change, with the morning excursion starting at Carcass Island and the afternoon at West Point with the Black-browed Albatross colony.
Day 5: Falkland Islands: Port Stanley
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, the multi-day cruise to dramatic South Georgia begins.
Days 6 to 7: At sea between Falkland Islands and South Georgia
For the seabird photographic enthusiasts, these are some of the most exciting waters in the world. As the ship cruises from the Falklands to South Georgia, it crosses 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 8 to 11: South Georgia: Salisbury Plain; St Andrew’s, Fortuna & Stromness Bays; Gold Harbour; Prion Island & Grytviken
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.
There will be 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, a landing at St Andrew’s Bay, where an even bigger King Penguin colony exists, will be planned for.
On the beaches, one of the special targets of this early season voyage will be to photograph enormous Southern Elephant Seal beachmasters battling for supremacy.
Another area of interest is Grytviken, the whaling station where the largest individual animal known to have lived on earth, a huge Blue Whale specimen, was butchered. Here you will have the opportunity to 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.
The 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 12 to 13: At sea towards Antarctica & possibly Elephant Island
Weather and ice will dictate the crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica, leading the ship 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. The informative onboard lectures will continue to provide breaks from the hours of photographing seabirds, whales, dolphins and icebergs. At some point, the ship will encounter sea-ice, and it is at the ice-edge where our chances of capturing high-Antarctic species, such as Snow Petrel, Chinstrap Penguin and the predatory Leopard Seal increase.
As the ship sails ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce the arrival in Antarctic waters. If weather conditions allow, there is the hope to see the dark cliffs of Elephant Island as they appear on the horizon. If conditions and time allow, a landing will be attempted at Point Wild on Elephant Island.
Days 14 to 17: The Antarctic Sound, Weddell Sea, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula
Welcome to 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. The ship 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 the chances of finding one of these incredible birds resting on the ice.
Our first landing is panned for Paulet Island, a tiny island boasting a huge colony of beautiful Adelie Penguins. Your first steps on the Antarctic continent itself may be at Brown Bluff, where spectacular scenery, colonies of Gentoo and Adelie Penguins can be found. 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, the voyage 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 on the excursions to these islands. Weather conditions permitting, the ship will sail into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. At one or more of these landings, one can find the delicately-patterned Chinstrap Penguin and South Polar Skua.
Later, the ship's course will zigzag back through the Bransfield Strait heading south-westwards towards Mikkelsen Harbour and Cierva Cove. In this area, we will partake on zodiac excursions through the pack ice, marvelling at the myriad of shapes and colours of these ancient formations. There will be plenty of photo opportunities and time to experience the scenery and wildlife of this amazing region, with the ultimate 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 18 to 19: 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 20: Return to Ushuaia and disembarkation
Today the ship makes its way back into the Beagle Channel to 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