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Cape Horn Biosphere

Darwin's Route from Punta Arenas

Example 9 Day Cruise aboard MV Ventus Australis
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The outer edge of the world awaits on an adventurous 9-day journey along the same waterways that inspired Charles Darwin. This itinerary retraces much of the route the renowned British naturalist took through the Fuegian Archipelago aboard HMS Beagle in the 1830s, a voyage that inspired him to write The Origin of Species and formulate the theory of evolution. Departing from Punta Arenas, cross the Strait of Magellan to visit the Tuckers Islet penguin colony and wildlife-rich Ainsworth Bay before cruising down the Beagle Channel to visit Pía Glacier and sail through Glacier Alley. On either side of a half-day port call in Ushuaia, the ship stops at historic Wulaia Bay and fabled Cape Horn before returning to the Strait of Magellan with a shore excursion at Magdalena Island with its rowdy penguin colony.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Punta Arenas | Embark
Day 2 : Ainsworth Bay | Tuckers Islets
Day 3 : Pia Glacier | Glacier Alley
Day 4 : Cape Horn | Wulaia Bay
Day 5 : Ushuaia
Day 6 : Cape Horn | Wulaia Bay
Day 7 : Pía Glacier | Garibaldi Glacier
Day 8 : Agostini Sound | Águila Glacier | Cóndor Glacier
Day 9 : Magdalena Island | Punta Arenas

Highlights

  • Explore an enchanted Magellan forest of lengas at beautiful Wulaia Bay
  • Visit Ushuaia and learn about the indigenous Yámana & European cultures
  • Hike through the spectacular forest at Garibaldi Glacier
  • Admire the Condor Glacier via Zodiac and hopefully see some Andean condors

Ship

MV Ventus Australis

Places Visited

Activities

Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level

Relaxed

Trip Snapshots

Cape Horn Biosphere Ushuaia Beauty Sea Lions on Isla Marta Wulaia Bay Aguila Glacier

Day 1 Punta Arenas | Embark

Check in at the pier at 1385 O’Higgins Street (Arturo Prat Port) in Punta Arenas between 13:00 and 17:00 (1-5 PM) on the day of your cruise departure. Board the MV Ventus Australis at 18:00 (6 PM).

After a welcoming cocktail with the captain and crew the ship departs for one of the most remote corners of planet Earth. During the night cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the labyrinth of channels that define the southern extreme of Patagonian. The twinkling lights of Punta Arenas gradually fade into the distance as the ship enters the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.

Day 2 Ainsworth Bay | Tuckers Islets

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
By dawn sail up to Admiralty Sound between the snowcapped peaks of Karukinka and the fjords of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Go ashore at Ainsworth Bay with its copious bird life and elephant seals. Two guided hikes are available, both with excellent views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains. Leaving Ainsworth Bay, sail west to the Tuckers Islets for a close-up encounter with the 4,000 Magellan penguins who nest there. Many other bird species also frequent the tiny landfalls. In September and April, when the penguins live elsewhere, this excursion is replaced by a beach walk to a glacier at Brookes Bay.

Day 3 Pia Glacier | Glacier Alley

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Overnight sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial, Magdalena, and Cockburn channels. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Ventus Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning enter Pia Fjord and board the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea, or a longer, much more difficult, walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier. No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.

Back onboard Ventus Australis, continue east along the Beagle Channel through an area called Glacier Alley. Living up to its name, the passage features a number of impressive tidewater glaciers flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet on the north shore. Most of them are named after European countries -- Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.

Day 4 Cape Horn | Wulaia Bay

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Wulaia Bay is one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography.

After a visit to the small Australis-sponsored museum in the old radio station, which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area, passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooden mountain behind the bay. On all of these you stroll through an enchanted Magellan forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, Ñirres ferns, and other endemic fauna to reach a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the bay. Before leaving Wulaia Bay, drop something into the wooden mail barrel inside the museum, letters or postcards meant to be hand delivered by future travelers, an ancient mariner tradition revived by Australis. 

In the afternoon cruise across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago that includes Cape Horn National Park. Weather and sea conditions permitting, go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition, and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland, Cape Horn is a sheer 425-meter- (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the "End of the Earth." The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument.

Day 5 Ushuaia

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The following morning sail into Argentine waters and dock in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. Disembarkation is scheduled at 8 AM. You have almost a full day to explore Ushuaia, which was founded in 1884 and was one of the original points of contact between the indigenous Yámana and European cultures. The city's name derives from the Yámana word for ‘penetrating bay.’ With around 65,000 inhabitants, Ushuaia is the second largest city in Tierra del Fuego (after Rio Grande) and is surrounded by the Southernmost Andes peaks. Among its highlights is the Prison at the End of the World, a former penitentiary that is now a maritime museum that features an Antarctic collection and memorial to those once incarcerated there. The city is also good for shopping (especially locally made chocolate) or hanging out in its many cafes.

Passengers are required to reboard Ventus Australis at 17:30 (5:30 PM). After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew to new passengers joining the cruise, the ship departs for more adventures in Tierra del Fuego. During the night traverse the Beagle Channel, cross back into Chilean territorial waters, and turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.

Day 6 Cape Horn | Wulaia Bay

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
By early morning, Ventus Australis is once again cruising across Nassau Bay to Cape Horn. This itinerary repeats the shore landings and other activities from Day 4. However, second landings at some of the more iconic spots along the route can sometimes be more rewarding than the first time around and give you more time to explore each place in depth. At Cape Horn you have a second chance to visit the Stella Maris Chapel, chat with the lighthouse keeper and his family, or photograph the unusual sub-polar flora that covers the heights. 

At Wulaia Bay, explore the museum n much more depth, strike out on a longer walk than last time, bird watch along the shore, or sort through the mail barrel to see if a past visitor lives close to your own home. This second approach also increases your chances of landing on Cape Horn Island.

Day 7 Pía Glacier | Garibaldi Glacier

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After nightfall reenter the Beagle Channel and sail westward along the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego into a watery wonderland protected within the confines of Alberto de Agostini National Park. By morning enter Pia Fjord again and have another chance to hike beside its famous glacier. 

Making your way further west along the Beagle Channel, enter another long fjord and drop anchor near Garibaldi Glacier for another shore excursion. Garibaldi is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia gaining mass rather than staying the same or slowly shrinking. This time hike through virgin Magellanic forest to a glacial waterfall, a towering wall of ferns and moss, and spectacular viewpoints looking down on the glacier and fjord. The walk is demanding, with very steep, negligible trail and rough footing, and is not for everyone. For those who choose to stay on-board, the captain points the bow towards the beautiful sky-blue Garibaldi Glacier so everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks.

Day 8 Agostini Sound | Águila Glacier | Cóndor Glacier

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Early in the morning sail through Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound, where it's possible to see glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range, some of them reaching the water. Disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon formed by the melting of the Águila Glacier, eventually reaching a spot right in front of that glacier with stunning views. In the afternoon, approach the Condor Glacier via Zodiac, and hopefully see some of the abundant Andean condors in the area.

Day 9 Magdalena Island | Punta Arenas

  • 1 Breakfast
After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, anchor off Magdalena Island, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins. At the break of dawn, weather permitting, go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. Many other bird species are also found on the island. 

In September and April, when the penguins dwell elsewhere, this excursion is replaced by a ride aboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions. After a short cruise south along the strait, disembarkation at Punta Arenas is scheduled for around 11:30 AM.

MV Ventus Australis

Deals

Save $400
Early Booking Discount - Book before July 31, 2019 and save $400 per person on select departures. Booking must be paid in full by July 31, 2019. Contact us for details.
Valid on all September 2019 through December 2019 departures

Per person starting at
$2,817
Ventus Australis
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Category B
Magallanes Deck, 16.5 m2/177 sq.ft. One double or two twin beds.
Ventus Australis
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Category A
Magallanes Deck, 16.5 m2/177 sq.ft. One double or two twin beds.
Ventus Australis
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Category AA
Tierra del Fuego Deck, 16.5 m2/177 sq.ft. One double or two twin beds.
Ventus Australis
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Category AAA
Cabo de Hornos Deck, 16.5 m2/177 sq.ft. One double or two twin beds.
Ventus Australis
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Category AA Superior
Tierra del Fuego Deck. One double or two twin beds.
Ventus Australis
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Category AAA Superior
Cabo de Hornos Deck. One double or two twin beds.

Notes

- Port Charge and Park Fees are not included in cruise fare.
- Single occupancy of twin cabins is available at 1.5 times the double occupancy rate. Superior cabins are not available for single occupancy.

*The arrival time is estimated, the vessel may be delayed due to climate conditions. 

Please note: The excursions described in the itineraries can usually be carried out without any problems. Nevertheless, the shipowner holds the right to alter, change or skip certain portions of the itinerary without prior notice, whether motivated by the passengers’ well-being and safety, by the appropriate protection of the environment, or in case of any extraordinary event, unforeseeable circumstance or force majeure. For this reason, departures or arrival may be subject to change. Furthermore, sighting of birds and other species cannot be guaranteed as their exact location is variable by nature.


Trekking or hiking shoes are required for all passengers.

Rates Include:
  • Accommodation
  • Sea transportation
  • All meals
  • Open bar when on duty (without additional cost for wines, beverages, and liquors)
  • Shore excursions
  • Onboard entertainment
Rates Exclude:
  • Optional tours and transportation
  • Port tax
  • Migration fee
  • National park fee
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
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