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Penguins in the Antarctic landscape

Emperors & Explorers

Example 11 Day Tour
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Experience two Antarctic icons in one action-packed adventure. Fly by ski aircraft to the Gould Bay Emperor Penguin Colony on the remote coast of the Weddell Sea. Camp on the same sea ice where thousands of birds come to raise and feed their young. Photograph majestic emperors and their chicks against a spectacular backdrop of ice cliffs, pressure ridges, and icebergs. Fall asleep to a chorus of trumpeting calls and wake to find curious penguins outside your tent. Fly on to the Geographic South Pole, the most remote destination on Earth. In several hours you’ll cover the distance that took early explorers months of hardship to achieve. History comes alive as you stand at 90° South, the ultimate goal of Amundsen and Scott, who crossed this frozen continent more than 100 years ago. Feel the spirit of determination and discovery that has inspired a century of Antarctic exploration and scientific research.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Arrive Punta Arenas
Day 2 : Pre-Departure Day
Day 3 : Fly to Antarctica
Day 4 : Explore Union Glacier
Days 5-6 : Fly to the Colony | Live with the Emperors
Day 7 : Fly to the South Pole | Return to Union Glacier
Days 8-10 : Explore Union Glacier
Day 11 : Return to Chile

Highlights

  • Fly to the Geographic South Pole, the most remote destination on Earth
  • Camp near the Gould Bay Emperor Penguin Colony, where thousands of birds raise their chicks
  • Explore remote areas of Antarctica with activities of your choice
  • Photograph penguins, seals, and seabirds in the untouched wilderness

Places Visited

Activities

Trip Type

  • Small Group

Activity Level

Moderate

Trip Snapshots

Penguins in the Antarctic landscape Posing at the Ceremonial South Pole. Courtesy Adam Ungar, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions Emperor penguins in Antarctica Posing with the silver ball atop the Ceremonial South Pole. Courtesy Carl Alvey, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions Emperor penguin chick in Antarctica Chatting with a guide at Three Glaciers Retreat. Courtesy Leslie Wicks, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions
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Day 1 Arrive Punta Arenas

Upon arrival at Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport (PUQ), meet your representative at the exit of the luggage claim area and transfer to your hotel. A time will be arranged for a clothing and equipment review, as well as the time of the Welcome & Safety Briefing. These events are required and very important steps in preparing you for arrival in Antarctica.

*Please note you are required to arrive in Punta Arenas a minimum of 48 hours prior to your scheduled Antarctica flight to fully prepare for your upcoming experience. These days also allow a buffer in case of flight or luggage delays. Antarctic flights will not be held for delayed passengers or luggage.

Day 2 Pre-Departure Day

This morning, a representative will come to your hotel lobby at your scheduled Luggage Pick-Up time. All luggage will be weighed, but only checked luggage will be collected at this time in order to preload the aircraft.

This evening, you are invited for an important safety briefing. Here, the flight dispatch process will be described and you will be updated on the current weather to prepare you for arrival in Antarctica. Stay to enjoy hors d'oeuvres and pisco sours served over Antarctic ice with your fellow passengers. And don't forget to take your boarding pass and commemorative cocktail glass with you!

Day 3 Fly to Antarctica

You will receive a call at your hotel in the morning to advise you of the current conditions in Antarctica. If the weather is suitable for the flight, you will be picked you up at your hotel within the hour. Please meet in the lobby with hotel bills paid, ready to board the bus. At the Punta Arenas airport, board your chartered jet for the 4¼ hour flight to Antarctica. The route crosses the Drake Passage, then follows the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula and the spine of the Ellsworth Mountains. Land on a naturally occurring blue-ice runway on Union Glacier where you will take your first steps in Antarctica. Climb aboard one of the specially-adapted vans for the 5 mi (8 km) shuttle to the main camp. The friendly staff will provide a welcome tour of the camp and show you to your tent.

Day 4 Explore Union Glacier

Guests usually enjoy a few days at Union Glacier as part of their experience. A typical day at Union Glacier starts with a briefing after breakfast where you’ll meet with your guide to discuss the day’s options and choose an activity tailored to the weather and the group’s interests. Union Glacier excursions can include any of the following destinations:

Elephant’s Head
Ride in one of the wheeled vehicles to this dramatic marble buttress overlooking the blue-ice runway. Geology lovers will be delighted to find this is a hotspot for ichnofossils. Your experienced guides can help you navigate by GPS to known trace fossils or accompany you on a mission to discover new ones. For photographers, beautiful ice pools and moraines offer endless opportunities to capture close-up frozen formations or wide angle glacial landscapes. Hikers can trek up to the base of Elephant’s Head or all the way to the top of Rhodes Bluff for panoramic views of Union Glacier and the Heritage Range.

Buchanan Hills
Board the one-of-a-kind Tucker Bus, a custom designed tracked vehicle, for the scenic drive to the remote Buchanan Hills. You’ll arrive at a high pass that offers expansive views of Union Glacier as it flows into Constellation Inlet. Higgins Nunatak pokes through the ice, like an atoll in a frozen ocean. For the fit and adventurous, there are two easy hiking routes that require no prior experience and grant you the rare opportunity to summit a peak in the heart of Antarctica.

Drake Icefall
Named in the 1960s after geologist Benjamin Drake IV, this impressive icefall tumbles off the polar plateau into Union Glacier. Winds from the South Pole carve huge waves into the blue-ice and polish the surface into a high shine.

Charles Peak Windscoop
Discover the power of wind on ice as you wander through a sparkling turquoise corridor. If you’re truly adventurous, this is a prime place to try ice climbing with one of the experienced guides. For the less vertically inclined, you can rock hunt to your heart’s content. Just remember to leave them in place, as nothing may be removed from Antarctica.

The Beach at Rossman Cove
Another spectacular setting for photography and panoramic views! Take cross-country skis with you or a picnic lunch and enjoy Antarctica’s version of a glacial beach getaway.

If you’d prefer to stay closer to camp, there are a variety of activities for all abilities. You can check out a pair of cross-country skis or a fat-tire bike and take a spin around the groomed 10k loop or you can enjoy a cup of tea, an Antarctic book, or fun game in the camp library. In the evenings, lectures and films tailored to your experience are regularly offered. Before you depart for the colony, review the Emperor Penguin Colony Visitor Guidelines.

Day 5-6 Fly to the Colony | Live with the Emperors

  • Campsite
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
As soon as weather conditions permit, fly to the colony. The flight takes about 4 hours, traveling north-eastward over the Ronne Ice Shelf and Berkner Island where the plane may stop to refuel if necessary. Land on sea ice where the staff has prepared a field camp 1-2 mi (2-3 km) from the colony. The Emperor Field Camp Manager will give you a tour of the camp and review safety procedures for travel to and from the colony. In this unfamiliar environment and remote location, it is vital that you follow the instructions given by experienced staff. Your safety and the protection of wildlife are the top priorities.

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and rhythms of the colony. Walk to the colony with your experienced field guides to photograph penguins, seals, and seabirds. Small sleds and walking poles will be provided to help transport your camera equipment between camp and the colony. The sea ice generally provides a hard surface to walk on.

Every effort is made as to not disturb wildlife and the Emperor Penguin Colony Visitor Guidelines are strictly adhered to. These guidelines include maintaining a precautionary distance of 17 ft (5m) away from all wildlife. The guides are on hand to answer any questions you may have about the wildlife and their unique adaptations to the Antarctic environment.

24-hour daylight allows for adaptations of the schedule to the best weather and lighting for photography. While your guides are happy to accommodate individual requests, keep in mind this is a group activity and 1 to 1 guiding may not always be an option. Please discuss your wishes with the guides in advance so they can tailor the camp schedule to include meals and sleep for everyone.

Day 7 Fly to the South Pole | Return to Union Glacier

Field staff will stay in close contact with Union Glacier Camp to identify the best ‘weather window’ for your return flight. Once weather conditions permit, you will board the ski aircraft and head for the southernmost point on Earth! Your flight is planned to return the same day but staff will bring food and camping equipment in the event weather conditions change and an overnight stay is necessary. The guest services team will assist you in packing your sleeping bag. The flight to the Pole will take between 4-6 hours depending on the aircraft. You’ll fly over the high, polar plateau, viewing wind affected snow called sastrugi, crevasse fields, and an endless expanse of white.

You’ll pass the Thiel Mountains approximately halfway to the Pole and continue to fly over the plateau. As you near 90° South, you will catch sight of the South Pole station, a cluster of buildings surrounded by snow and sky. The aircraft lands on a groomed ski-way and you’ll deplane near the South Pole marker. Here all 360 lines of longitude meet and beneath your feet the ice is almost 10,000 ft (3000 m) thick! You have joined an exclusive group of people who have journeyed this far south on our planet. Congratulations!

Be prepared for extreme cold and the effects of altitude as you deplane. South Pole temperatures range from -31° to -13°F (-35° to -25°C) and even the slightest breeze can quickly freeze exposed skin. Put on warm layers and cover your hands and face completely. The physiological altitude (how high it feels) at the South Pole is roughly 11,000 ft (3300 m). You may feel the effects of altitude, including shortness of breath and mild headache. Take it slow and steady to help your body cope with these unfamiliar conditions.

One of the experienced medics accompanies all South Pole flights and is ready to assist you should you have any issues with the cold or altitude. The United States of America maintains a research station at the South Pole, named Amundsen-Scott Station in memory of those intrepid explorers. In front of the station, you will have plenty of time to take photos at the Ceremonial Pole surrounded by flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations. Then walk a short distance to reach the Geographic Pole at 90° South.

Enjoy this special place and imagine how it must have felt to stand here a century ago with only the sound of the wind and an endless expanse of white stretching northward in all directions. Your visit to the Pole will last approximately 3-4 hours. Given the cold conditions and altitude, we’ve found this to be the perfect amount of time for guests to accomplish their objectives and enjoy the experience.

Day 8-10 Explore Union Glacier

  • Campsite
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
Depending on flights, you may have a few days at the end of your experience to explore more of Union Glacier. You will also enjoy a celebration dinner and receive a certificate to commemorate your Emperors and Explorers Experience in Antarctica.

Day 11 Return to Chile

  • 1 Breakfast
When weather and runway conditions permit, the intercontinental aircraft will arrive at Union Glacier to transport you back to Chile. Staff will meet you at the airport and transfer you back to your hotel.

Due to the potential for weather delays, it is strongly suggested to book your flight home one week after your planned return from Antarctica. If you purchase a full-fare ticket, most airlines will allow you to move your departure date. When it is time for your flight home, you will be provided transportation from your hotel to the Punta Arenas airport.
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Gould Bay Camp

Punta Arenas - Hotels

Union Glacier Camp

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Per person starting at
$75,500

Notes

Select a Date

Included

  • 8 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 8 Dinners, 1 Cocktail Hour
  • 8 Nights Accommodations
  • Arrival Transfer
  • Departure Transfer
  • Optional Excursions
  • Gear Rental - Use of XC Skis, Fat Tire Bikes, and Ice Cleats Sleeping bag for South Pole Camp (if needed)
  • Internal Flights - Round trip flight to Antarctica from Punta Arenas Round trip flight to Gould Bay Emperor Penguin colony from Union Glacier, Antarctica Round trip flight to South Pole from Union Glacier, Antarctica
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Professional, bilingual guide service as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed

Excluded

  • International Flights
  • Insurance coverage - personal, medical, evacuation, or otherwise
  • Meals and accommodation in Punta Arenas
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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This was my first experience with Adventure Life - and I couldn't have been more pleased with the trip. The guides and local staff in both Buenos Aires and Uruguay were terrific - extremely helpful and accommodating. I really enjoyed meeting the friendly staff in Buenos Aires in person (I left my bags with them for the afternoon).
Karen Snider
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When to Go

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Typically not offered during this period because of weather conditions.
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