Visit all the sub-Antarctic highlights on this 19-day voyage aboard the M/V Plancius, with spectacular landing sites on the Falkland Islands and encounters with black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins. This voyage also includes four days on beautiful South Georgia. Be prepared for tens of thousands of king penguins and their chicks, sea lions on the beaches, elephant seals, wandering albatrosses and gentoo penguins. In addition, explore great historical sites including the trails of British Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Hike along the shore of Carcass Island & view Magellanic & gentoo penguins
See multitudes of southern seabirds while crossing the Antarctic Convergence
Visit the historic Grytviken where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried
Enjoy wonderful glacier views on the South Orkney Islands
Zodiac cruise through a world of giant icebergs, humpback whales, and seals
The voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
The Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Islands offer an abundance of wildlife that is easily approachable, though caution is always advised. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of the 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of birds live here, but chances are great to see both Peale's dolphins and Commerson's dolphins in the surrounding waters.
During this segment of the voyage, visit the following sites:
Carcass Island - Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb's wrens and tussock-birds) live here.
Saunders Island - On Saunders Island, see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins and gentoos are also found here.
In Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, experience Falkland culture, which has some South American characteristics as well as Victorian charm. In Stanley and the surrounding area you can see quite an important number of stranded clippers from a century ago. All passengers are free to wander around on their own. A visit to the local church and museum is recommended (admission fees not included).
Cross the Antarctic Convergence on the way to South Georgia. Entering Antarctic waters, the temperature may drop significantly in the time span of only a few hours. Near the Convergence see a multitude of southern seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, prions and skuas.
Today, arrive in South Georgia. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program.
Over the next several days, have the chance to visit the following sites:
Prion Island - The location is closed during the early part of the wandering albatross breeding season (November 20- January 7th). From January on, the breeding adults have found their partners and ares sitting on eggs or nursing their chicks. Enjoy witnessing the gentle nature of these animals, which possess the largest wingspan of any birds in the world.
Fortuna Bay - Near beaches inhabited by various penguins and seals, have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton's route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton's Waterfall and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour - These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they're also three of the world's largest breeding beaches for Antarctic fur seals. Literally millions breed on South Georgia during December and January. Only during the mid-season do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the large bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. Watch a step and stay cool when walking the beaches during this time.
Grytviken - In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place because they basically do. Here, have the chance to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton's grave.
Spend the day at sea, where the ship is again followed by a multitude of seabirds. At some point, the ship might encounter sea-ice and it is at the ice-edge where you might have a chance to see some high-Antarctic species.
Depending on the conditions, visit Orcadas Base, an Argentine scientific station on Laurie Island in the South Orkney archipelago. The personnel here will happily show their facility, where visitors can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding glaciers. If a visit isn't possible, land in Coronation Island's Shingle Cove instead.
If the ice conditions permit, sail into the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald the arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Paulet Island, with its large population of Adelie penguins, is a possible stop. Also, visit Brown Bluff, located in the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound, where there's a chance to set foot on the Antarctic Continent itself.
If conditions aren't favorable to enter the Weddell Sea from the east, the ship will set course for Elephant Island and head into the Bransfield Strait, between South Shetland Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Here, attempt to access the Antarctic Soung from the northwest.
The breathtaking scenery continues in the southern Gerlache Strait, and if ice conditions allow, possibly even reach Lemaire Channel. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Everything was amazing! The planning with Adventure Life went smoothly. The actual trip was fantastic! One of the best trips I have experienced. The cruise staff members were knowledgeable and attentive. I will be writing more about this on the blog!