Located in the Patagonian province of Chubut, Puerto Madryn is one of Argentina's fastest growing cities and the gateway to the Peninsula Valdés. Puerto Madryn is a popular resort destination for wildlife excursions: visit a sea lion colony, watch for nesting cormorants and magnificent elephant seals, or experience a walk through a colony of Magellanic penguins and myriad species of native seabirds.
Arriving at the ship in the afternoon, you are greeted by your Expedition Team and ship's officers at a safety and orientation briefing followed by the Captain's welcome dinner. Then, watch the city lights fade in the fresh night air as you sail seaward.
Among the wildlife spotting opportunities as you sail south are the albatrosses, prions, and petrels that frequently follow the ship. Join your Expedition Team out on deck, in search of the whales and dolphins that may also be seen in the area. Onboard experts begin the presentations with informative and entertaining lectures on the wildlife, history, and geology of The Falkland Islands and Southern Ocean. Helpful briefings on environmental regulations and expedition safety are also held in the comfortable lecture hall.
The westernmost settled outposts in the Falklands are remote farms that have been family owned for six and seven generations. The sheep graze alongside albatross colonies and rockhopper, king, and macaroni penguin rookeries while striated caracaras patrol overhead and upland geese graze at the water's edge. A visit to one of these homesteads often includes an invitation for cakes and a cup of tea.
Chosen for its sheltered harbor and access to abundant fresh water and peat for fuel, Stanley is easy to discover on foot as most shops and services are centered on the port. The museum, the post office featuring first day covers, plenty of shops with locally made wool items, and Stanley's lively pubs are available to explore. It is possible to experience the wildlife of the Falklands from the town including sea lions and Peale's and Commerson's dolphins in the harbor.
There is plenty of wildlife spotting as you make your way east across the Antarctic Convergence and officially enter Antarctic waters. Ship board presentations continue, featuring the exciting history and abundant wildlife of South Georgia.
Its unique position inside the Antarctic Convergence yet outside the limit of the yearly sea ice makes this 3,755 square kilometer island home to tens of millions of breeding penguins, seals, seabirds, and even reindeer. Magnificent mountain scenery, glaciers galore, a rugged coastline punctuated with castellate and tabular icebergs, a rich historical tapestry, and an astounding array of wildlife are all available as you travel down South Georgia's leeward coast.
Landing sites feature huge elephant seals, aggressive fur seals, macaroni penguins, albatross, petrels, skuas, and gulls. King penguins, from fuzzy little chicks to fattened adults, can be seen in the hundreds of thousands. Visit the historic Grytviken whaling station, home of the whaling museum, Norwegian seaman's church, the active British Antarctic Survey station, and the tiny graveyard where the great Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried.
Heading farther south, continue your education series as the icebergs become more and more plentiful.
Arrive in the land of superlatives: Antarctica! Your Expedition Leader and Captain create a flexible itinerary based on weather, ice, and opportunity. Approaching the Antarctic Peninsula from the east, cross the northern boundary of the Weddell Sea; this large cold body of water rotates clockwise driving cold water and ice north towards South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands. Large tabular icebergs born in the Weddell drift north into your ship's path while the ocean currents drive nutrients from the deep, feeding countless species of marine animals. Large groups of whales are common, along with scores of seabirds thriving off the bounty the Weddell provides. Your route highlights the most scenic bays and channels of the Peninsula with stops at penguin rookeries, seal wallows, bird colonies and whale feeding areas as well as sites of historic and scientific interest. The trip may include picturesque Neko Harbor, sheltered Paradise Harbor, Wilhelmina Bay (a favorite of humpback whales!), or the majestic Neumayer Channel. You may stop at an active scientific base such as Poland’s Arctowksi or a historic base such as U.K.’s Port Lockroy or Wordie House. Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins abound, and Weddell, crabeater and elephant seals are often found hauled out to rest along with predatory leopard seals and the aggressive Antarctic fur seal. Minke and humpback whales are frequent visitors in the late season and orca sightings are also common.
Continue your lecture series and wildlife spotting as the ship sails back to Ushuaia. Depending on sea conditions, you may have an opportunity to sail past the legendary Cape Horn. Arrive at the pier in Ushuaia in the early hours of Day 21.
Morning disembarkation lets you catch a flight to Buenos Aires or stay in Ushuaia for more sights and adventure.