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Epic Antarctica: South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia & the Peninsula

Example 32 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Endurance
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This extraordinary new voyage is like a blockbuster film—the star is the seventh continent. We plan to travel further south than we’ve gone before, and to make our way well into the Bellingshausen Sea to Peter I island. We will encounter multitudes of seals and millions of penguins on the western peninsula and on the islands of the South Orkneys and South Shetlands, including huge colonies of chinstrap and macaroni penguins. This is wildness and wildlife at its finest. Following in the footsteps of Charcot, Gerlache, Bellngshausen, and Shackleton, as we explore some of the most incredible highlights of the Southern Ocean.
UshuaiaNights in UshuaiaThe town of Ushuaia.Shores of UshuaiaBeautiful UshuaiaMountain!
Highlights
  • Discover four stunningly beautiful wilderness regions
  • Cross the Antarctic Circle to explore the Deep South of the continent
  • Witness the amazing sight of chinstrap penguins
  • Paddle a kayak in pristine bays, and Zodiac cruise amid the bergs
Trip Type:
  • Small Ship
Activity Level: Relaxed
0

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Ushuaia, Argentina | Embark

Arrive in Ushuaia.

Day 2: At Sea | Drake Passage

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Settle into shipboard life, listening to informal discussions from our naturalist staff to prepare for the wildness ahead. While crossing the legendary Drake Passage, spot albatross and other seabirds that glide alongside the ship.

Day 3: Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula & the South Shetlands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Antarctic Peninsula stretches over 800 miles from north to south, a spine of craggy peaks cut by dozens of deep fjords. It’s an enormous region with many different faces and ever-changing weather, which is what makes Lindblad Expeditions’ long experience here so important. Over five decades of exploration have given us an unparalleled knowledge of the region, allowing us to respond to changing conditions, turn on a dime and select the optimal activity for each day

Day 4-5: Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Ice! It’s probably the very first thing most people think about when the topic of Antarctica comes up, and once you’re here it never disappoints. From icebergs the size of islands to the fragile, nearly invisible layers glistening on the surface where the sea has just begun to freeze. See near-vertical glaciers pouring down the slopes of every mountain to the endless landscapes of sea ice, and frozen ocean stretching to the horizon in every direction, ice defines the Antarctic. You’ll get to know it up close and personal, hiking, kayaking and cruising in the Zodiacs through this frozen world.

With 24 hours of daylight, we have ample opportunity to explore the Antarctic Peninsula and the surrounding islands. In keeping with the nature of an expedition, the schedule throughout is flexible so that we can take advantage of the unexpected —watching whales at play off the bow, taking an after-dinner Zodiac cruise, or heading out on an unplanned excursion. We will focus on the west side of the Peninsula, moving further and further south into the Bellingshausen Sea. Throughout our voyage, we anticipate offering opportunities each day to walk on ice pans or kayak among the ice floes and experience close encounters with wildlife. You may have the thrill of watching our powerful ship crunch through the pack ice, or step ashore to thousands of Adélie and gentoo penguins. You’ll learn how climate change affects the penguin populations, and how best to capture images of penguins. Back aboard, our undersea specialist may present video from that day’s dive or show rare images taken up to 1,000 feet below the surface using our ROV. Our expert staff will craft an expedition where you will learn, see, and experience more than you anticipated.

Day 6-10: Exploring the Deep South

  • Ship
  • 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners
Cross the Antarctic Circle and enter Crystal Sound. Explore Detaille Island and ice conditions permitting, transit the narrow passageway called The Gullet to continue south into Marguerite Bay. This part of the planet is big and bold and full of adventure and magnificent scenery. The new National Geographic Endurance will be in full expedition mode, granting thrilling opportunities to crunch through thick ice and explore places few have seen. Rely on the planet’s best ice team as you probe the ice’s edge for wildlife, including numerous seabirds and whales. Activities throughout our journey are always weather and ice dependent. Go ever deeper south and cross the Bellingshausen Sea to Peter I Island, named by explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen in 1821 for Peter I of Russia. If conditions allow, we will visit 200 years to the day from its discovery and naming. Continue back toward the Peninsula and the southern shores of ice-locked Alexander Island. Ice conditions permitting, explore further south, perhaps even cross latitude 71 or 72°S as you enter Ronne Entrance.

Day 11: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
We begin our transit back north, along the western edge of the Antarctic Peninsula. We learn about the fascinating history of Antarctic exploration, as well as the flora, fauna, and geology of the region.

Day 12: Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Some ships that visit Antarctica just cruise by and have a look, but we have a very different way of experiencing this remarkable region. By taking full advantage of all the capabilities of our world-class expedition ship, we can offer a very intimate connection with this wildest of places, immersing ourselves in the polar world and filling all our senses with the beauty and excitement of the Antarctic. In the spirit of a genuine expedition, we always keep our schedule flexible so that we can take best advantage of every opportunity the White Continent offers us. We plan to be out daily, exploring in our Zodiacs, hiking at penguin colonies, discovering remote bays, photographing wildlife, and learning fascinating details from the naturalists and other experts who accompany us on every excursion.

Day 13-15: Exploring the Weddell Sea

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
As we enter the northern end of the Weddell Sea, we pass through the ever-stunning Antarctic Sound. A place renowned for enormous tabular icebergs, we will gather on deck to marvel at the light and seascape. The impossibly gorgeous blue in the heart of an iceberg, a penguin tenderly feeding its tiny chick, or a glorious sunset over frozen ocean—shots like these surround us every day. Everywhere we go in the Antarctic we’re surrounded by opportunities to capture uniquely beautiful images with our cameras. Whether we are cruising past spectacular glaciers in the ship, getting close to seals in the Zodiacs, or hiking around the penguin colonies, we are always in the company of a Lindblad photo instructor who shares what they see and helps us to perfect both the art and the technique of our own photography.

Throughout our journey, we will encounter numerous penguin species busily nesting and raising chicks, and the Weddell Sea is no exception. Penguins, without any doubt, are the most popular residents of Antarctica, and we’ll have many chances to get to know them well. Their colonies are almost always close to the beach, so it’s very easy to get great photos. In the short Antarctic summer these amazing birds are always busy with the many tasks of breeding and raising their chicks, so every month brings something new. In January the chicks are tucked in under their parents, peeping out at the world. Adults are working hard to provide food and are moving back and forth between the nesting sites and the ocean, for sustenance.

Our sturdy Zodiac landing craft are really the heart and soul of our explorations in the Antarctic. These small, tough, and stable motorized boats maneuver easily through ice-choked waters, getting us ashore safely in even the most remote and challenging locations. And simply cruising in the Zodiacs is just as much fun. What’s around the next corner? A leopard seal relaxing on an ice floe or a chance to photograph an exquisite arched iceberg that no one has ever seen before? We never know until we get there, but it’s always a thrill.

Day 16: South Orkney Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Setting out from the South Shetland Islands to South Sandwich Islands, we cross waters that are home to a large and growing population of whales, including fin whales, southern right whales and even blue whales, the largest animal on Earth. We will plan to stop at Laurie Island and Coronation Island for chinstrap penguins, petrels, Antarctic fur seals, and perhaps even a leopard seal or two. If conditions permit a landing, we will go ashore here or one of the other rugged and infrequently visited islands for a vigorous hike and some incredibly dramatic scenery.

Day 17: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Days at sea are not simply transits from one place to another; they are in their own right a very important part of this epic journey. The crossing from the South Orkneys to the South Sandwich arc gives us a chance to stop and breathe, to explore the amenities of the ship and to spend a little time contemplating all our new memories. Life-changing experiences tend to pile up on one another in the Antarctic, so slow down a bit and let it all settle in. This is a great time to catch up with your journal, enjoy a rejuvenating massage, or download and review all those hundreds (or thousands!) of photos. Get some rest too, when we get to South Georgia it’s going to be go, go, go!

Day 18-20: South Sandwich Islands

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
Zavodovski Island is the northernmost in the South Sandwich chain, sitting roughly 220 miles south of South Georgia Island. An incredibly active island volcanically, its most recent eruption came just in September of 2020. With a rugged coastline and open ocean all around, we will not be making a landing here, but instead hope to experience the wonders of this place via Zodiac and from the deck of our ship. Home to several hundred thousand macaroni penguins and nearly 1 million pairs of breeding chinstrap penguins, there will be plenty to capture our attention and to photograph. We plan to explore the entire South Sandwich Islands group. The chain is made up of 11 seldom visited and ruggedly beautiful islands.

Day 21-25: South Georgia Island

  • Ship
  • 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners
Simply put, there is nowhere else in the world like South Georgia. Ninety miles long, dominated by a spine of jagged peaks and home to wildlife spectacles that are honestly hard to believe, it is one of the wildest and most beautiful places on the planet. Our days here will give us plenty of time to explore many facets of this unique sub-Antarctic island, including its storied history, rich ecology (you’ll probably be surprised by the green slopes of tussock grass below the glaciers) and the stunning scenery that surrounds us at every landing.

For many, South Georgia evokes, more than anything, the epic adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton. From Peggotty Bluff, where he began the arduous crossing of the glaciated spine of the island, to his quiet grave near the Grytviken whaling station, Shackleton’s spirit seems to be everywhere around the island. In very good conditions we may even be able to make a long hike up to the spot where he first heard the noon whistle from the Stromness Station and knew that rescue was close at hand at last. We will take advantage of having extra time at this special place to visit the west side of the island, where this incredible land journey began. If conditions allow, we will visit King Haakon Bay, the site of their first landing on the shores of South Georgia, in their open lifeboat.

King penguins, the second largest species in the world, are unquestionably the most iconic wildlife of South Georgia. Exact numbers are not known, but the largest single colony on the island may have as many as 500,000 of these amazing birds. Half a million birds! Nesting together on a single two-mile-long beach! It’s a sight that is genuinely inconceivable until you have experienced it in person. At the other end of the scale, king penguins are great birds to get to know as individuals. Strutting purposefully past our cameras on the beaches or coming and going in and out of the surf, they seem to regard us with a wonderful mixture of curiosity and disdain.

In the not-too-distant past, South Georgia was an important site for both whaling and sealing, but today things are very different. The contrast between watching from the ship while southern right whales feed below the blue face of a huge iceberg, and then hiking through the rusting remains of a whaling station later the same day, can be a powerfully moving experience and one that emphasizes the very positive changes that the island has seen in the last few decades.

Every minute at South Georgia is another opportunity for truly life-changing experiences: landing before dawn to see the pink light of sunrise touch the mountains over a king penguin colony, quietly watching albatross with their incredible wingspans, or capturing incredible images of three-ton bull elephant seals jousting on a lonely beach. South Georgia is sometimes called “the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean,” but that doesn’t really even come close—this lonely island is unique in the world, so rich and so beautiful that it defies any comparison. 

Day 26-27: At Sea toward the Falkland Islands

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Our first day at sea on the way to the Falkland Islands is another opportunity to think back over the adventures of the past few days and make preparations for those soon to come. Spend some time chatting about your latest images with the certified photo instructor and learn to make them look their best in the digital darkroom. Put the finishing touches on your watercolor of that amazing iceberg or try to capture an albatross’s flight in a poem. Everyone needs to exhale a bit after a visit to South Georgia, so take a little time to explore the details of your own memories and share them with your shipmates. The waters close to the Falkland Islands are rich with marine wildlife, so this is a great time to hang out with the naturalists and keep a watch for rare dolphins or another beautiful species of albatross. All new sightings go up on the white board for the day’s record!

Day 28-29: Exploring West Falklands

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Everything we love about expedition travel seems to come together in the western Falkland Islands. Where else can you land on a beach tucked into a rocky cove, hike out across a rolling green pasture and suddenly find yourself at the crest of a sea cliff looking out over the South Atlantic surf? Just a few steps further and you’re standing at the edge of a massive breeding colony of black-browed albatross, so close that you can hear the wind on their wings as they swoop into land beside you.

Day 30: At Sea to Ushuaia, Argentina

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The final day of our expedition takes us across the shallow waters of the Falklands Shelf, back to our starting point in Ushuaia. Attend presentations from the expedition staff on topics that help to sum up all the wonderful details of our experiences in the far south and spend some time on deck enjoying the seabirds and dolphins that make these seas their home. This is a day for contemplation as well. A time to think back over our adventures, reflect on what the Antarctic means to you, how it has changed you, and what thoughts and feelings you’ll take back to share with those at home. The Antarctic stays with you. Sometime soon, at a moment in the midst of a stressful day, you’ll remember the feeling of the polar wind, the sight of waves crashing against the blue wall of an iceberg, and the sound of the penguins calling to their chicks. It’s a little bit of peace that you’ll carry with you always.

Day 31-32: Ushuaia, Argentina | Disembark | Miami, U.S.

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning we disembark in Ushuaia. Fly by private charter flight to Miami, where we overnight at the Airport Hilton Blue Lagoon. The following day, connect with your flight home.

Ship/Hotel

National Geographic Endurance

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Dining Room
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Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$49,990
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Category 1
Located on the Fore Deck. 183 square ft room with two large windows, Alcove seating, Relax chair, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category 2
Located on the Fore Deck. 205 square ft. room with two large windows, Alcove seating, Relax chair, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers.
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Category 3
Located on the Main Deck. 205 square ft. suite with balcony, sofa, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category 4
Located on the Lounge Deck. 205 square ft. suite with balcony, sofa, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category 5
Located on the Bridge Deck. 205 square ft. suite with balcony, sofa, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category 6
Located on the Bridge Deck. 344 square ft suite with large balcony, sofa bed, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category 7
Located on the Bridge Deck. 430 square ft. suite with large balcony, sofa bed, bathtub, walk-in closet, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category A Solo
Located on the Main Deck. 140 square ft. suite with balcony, sofa, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers
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Category B Solo
Located on the Lounge Deck. 140 square ft. suite with balcony, sofa, private bathroom, tv, Wi-Fi and hair dryers

Notes

Cost Includes:
  • All accommodations
  •  meals indicated
  •  alcoholic beverages (except premium brands)
  •  excursions
  •  services of Lindblad Expeditions’ Leader, Naturalist staff and expert guides
  •  use of kayaks
  •  entrance fees
  •  all port charges and service taxes
  • Your bar tab and all crew gratuities are included in the voyage price on all National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Endurance, National Geographic Resolution, and National Geographic Orion voyages. Please call for details.

Cost Not Included:
  • All air transportation (international and internal)
  • Air transportation: including charter flights Buenos Aires/Ushuaia (from $550 per person), Stanley/Santiago (from $710 per person). Miami/Ushuaia/Miami (Economy: $1660 per person). Flight rates subject to change.
  •  immigration/passport fees; personal items such as emails, laundry, voyage DVD, etc.

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When to Go

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Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.

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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!
Justin Chappelle

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