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Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Islands

Rates & Dates:

Trip Length: 24 Days/ 23 Nights

Prices from: $19,940 pp/do*

Single Price: $26,720 pp

Ships: National Geographic Explorer

Notes: Optional Extension: Easter Island, Post-voyage. 4 Days
*Per Person/Double Occupancy. Special Single Rates apply where listed.

Inquire on this Itinerary

Or call us: 1-800-578-1479

Antarctica Penguins

Expedition to the White Continent. Terra Incognita. This place at the edge of the world has fascinated people since its discovery in the early 1800s. It’s the largest remaining wilderness on earth, and one of the most remote. Few people make the journey to see it. But those who do are rewarded with ethereal landscapes, luminous icebergs and seas and shores teeming with wildlife.

Exotic. Awe-inspiring. Surreal. Antarctica is waiting to be explored. Visit the historic whaling stations and islands where Ernest Shackleton set foot during his famous Antarctic expeditions. “Swim” in a volcanic caldera at the End of the World. Enjoy tea and cakes with a Falkland Islands couple who live alone on their remote island at the fringe of civilization. We’re sure you’ll come home inspired by the magic of this amazing place.

Your voyage to the White Continent will be further enhanced by our signature Enrichment Programs. Our carefully planned itineraries and included shore excursions are designed to give you a more authentic understanding of your destination. And when you return to the ship, your “destination experience” continues with ongoing presentations and dialog by occasional guest speakers and our resident Expedition Leaders. These professionals  delight in giving you one-on-one personal attention to satisfy your curiosity.

Note: As with all voyages to this region, the itinerary is subject to change depending on wildlife, weather, sea and ice conditions. Your sense of adventure and flexibility towards changes will help you get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. For many destinations on this cruise, small motorized excursion craft are the only way to get ashore. Travelers should have confident balance and mobility to participate. Wheelchairs cannot be accommodated for most destinations and excursions ashore present a variety of physical environments. Please contact your Travel Professional to determine if your physical limitations will restrict activities and events for you.

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Rates & Dates:

Cruise Length: 4 Days/ 3 Nights

Prices from: $2,690 pp/do*

Ships: Contact for details

Notes: Due to airline schedules, on select departures the extension spends an additional night in Santiago. Additional costs will apply. Ask for details.
*Per Person/Double Occupancy. Special Single Rates apply where listed.

Inquire on this Itinerary

Or call us: 1-800-578-1479

Adds 4 days/4 nights to the voyage. SEE THE 100-TON STONE STATUES & CEREMONIAL SITE SET ON A VOLCANIC CRATER. VISIT THE RESEARCH CENTER WITH ARCHAEOLOGIST EDMUNDO EDWARDS. SHARE IN POLYNESIAN TRADITIONS AT DINNER AT A PRIVATE HOME.

DAY 1: USHUAIA/DISEMBARK/SANTIAGO

Today we disembark National Geographic Explorer in Ushuaia and fly to Santiago, where we check in to the Grand Hyatt Santiago Hotel.

DAY 2: SANTIAGO, CHILE
This morning you may explore Chile’s sophisticated capital before we fly to Easter Island and check in to the fine Antiplanico Hotel, our base for the next three nights.

DAY 3-4: EASTER ISLAND

Visit the Tahai archaeological complex and museum to learn about the prehistory of the island, and the Rano Kau ceremonial site of Orongo, sited magnificently at the very edge of a volcanic crater. Explore Ahu Te Pito Kura, Punapau red stone quarry and Ahu Akivi, one of the latest constructions on the island, with seven moai 14 feet tall. See Rano Raraku, where most of the stone statues were carved. Visit Ahu Tongariki, the largest ceremonial altar in Polynesia.

DAY 5: EASTER ISLAND/SANTIAGO
We have the morning to continue our explorations of Easter Island before our flight to Santiago, connecting to home-bound flights.

DAY 6: ARRIVE U.S.

 

Antarctica Cruise Map

Day 1 – Arrive Buenos Aires, Argentina
Arrive in Buenos Aires and check in at the Palacio Duhua — Park Hyatt Buenos Aires Hotel. This afternoon you’ll enjoy a half-day tour of Buenos Aires, stopping to explore many of the city’s most famous sights. Stroll through the majestic mausoleums of Recoleta Cemetery where many of Buenos Aires’ most beloved people are buried including Eva Peron and many of the nation’s presidents. In La Boca, you’ll discover one of Buenos Aires’ most colorful districts — literally. This working class Italian neighborhood was Buenos Aires’ first port, and they say the immigrants used whatever paint was left over on the docks. As a result, the sheet metal-roofed buildings are painted every color of the rainbow. The area is home to a variety of shops as well as tango artists who sometimes perform impromptu dances on the streets.

You’ll return to your hotel in time to relax and attend an evening Welcome Cocktail Reception.

Day 2 – Buenos Aires/Ushuaia
Transfer to the airport for a morning charter flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. After a brief site tour you’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and have free time to explore on your own. You might visit the old prison (Ushuaia was once a penal colony) or one of the interesting museums before boarding the Corinthian II, where every stateroom offers ocean views and a full range of amenities.

In the afternoon we’ll sail through the Beagle Channel, named for Charles Darwin’s ship, the H.M.S. Beagle. Stay on deck to take in views that are much the same as when he sailed these waters in 1832 — countless islands, snow-covered peaks and majestic glaciers. BLD
Day 3 – At Sea
Spend a leisurely day at sea enjoying the dramatic scenery and prolific bird life as well as our informative Enrichment Programs. BLD
Day 4 – Falkland Islands
Port calls at West Point Island and Saunders Island take you to Magellanic and rockhopper penguin colonies, a small king penguin colony and black-browed albatross and king cormorant nesting sites. The owners of West Point Island will serve you a traditional Falkland Islands tea with delicious homemade cakes.

You’ll enjoy lunch on the ship as we make our way to Saunders Island. This island was home to the first British settlement in the Falklands in 1765 and has been an active sheep farm since the late 1800s.

We’ll hike quietly around the gentoo colonies and groups of Magellanic penguins to the northeast side of The Neck. This is a real treat for penguin lovers — a small colony of statuesque king penguins. A more energetic hike takes us to the black-browed albatross, rockhopper and king cormorant colonies on the north side of Mount Richards before we head back to the Zodiacs and the ship. BLD
Day 5 –  Falkland Islands
We arrive in Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands, which some say is even more English than England, complete with red phone boxes, a double-decker bus and English pubs. Before the Panama Canal was built, Stanley had a booming business repairing ships traveling through the Straits of Magellan and around Cape Horn. Later on, it became a base for whaling and sealing, then a coaling station for the Royal Navy. In 1982, Stanley was occupied by Argentine troops for about ten weeks before being ousted by British forces.

Take your pick of two excursions here—a City Tour or a Falklands Nature Trek. The City Tour covers many highlights of the city. Learn about Stanley’s tumultuous history as you view the 1982 Liberation Monument, which pays tribute to the 255 British soldiers who lost their lives in the Falklands War, and the 1914 Battle Memorial, honoring the brave men who helped sink five German warships during the Battle of the Falklands. The Britannia House Museum encapsulates even more local history in its displays.

Government House, with its tidy gardens, has been home to the Falkland Islands’ London-appointed governors since the middle of the 19th century. This was also the temporary home of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton during his famous Antarctic expedition. If you like, you can visit the Christ Church Cathedral on your own after the excursion. It’s hard to miss, with its towering whalebone arch made from the jawbones of two huge blue whales.

Visitors who opt for the Falklands Nature Trek will be taken by minibus to nearby Hadassa Bay where a 3.5-mile hike gives you excellent opportunities to view Falkland Islands birds and fauna. This is a popular area for spotting Magellanic penguins, Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins, black-crowned night herons, rock cormorants, Falkland thrushes, the Falkland flightless steamer duck, long-tailed meadowlarks and an occasion sea lion, as well as many other species. BLD
Day 6 – At Sea
We leave the Falklands and head out to sea bound for South Georgia Island. Spend some time at the ship’s rail admiring the scenery, relax in the lounge or library, soak in the Jacuzzi and take in the informative lectures offered by our Enrichment Programs. BLD

Day 7 –  At Sea
Another laid-back day at sea. Watch for whales and other marine life and learn more about the wildlife and history of this area with our Enrichment Programs. BLD
Days 8 thru 10 South Georgia, the Orkneys and Antarctica
Note: The following is a sample itinerary for South Georgia, the Orkneys and Antarctica. As with all voyages to this region, the itinerary is subject to change depending on wildlife, weather, sea and ice conditions. Your sense of adventure and flexibility towards changes will help you get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. BLD

South Georgia
From its discovery over 300 years ago to the present, South Georgia has been a magnet for explorers, whalers and governments. The beauty here is astounding, with up to three quarters of the land covered in glaciers and snowfields during the austral summer (November to January). Discovered by Antoine de la Roche in 1675 when his ship was blown off course, it was left to Captain Cook to make the first actual landing in 1775. He probably found much the same views and wildlife as you will discover today—a plethora of land and sea birds, seals, king penguins and reindeer.

Grytviken – We’ll make a brief port call at Grytviken to attain clearance. As you’re ferried ashore you may encounter fur seal mothers and their pups on the beach, and perhaps an elephant seal or penguin.

You’re once again following in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who stayed a month here before making the final leg of his December 1914 journey to the Weddell Sea. Sir Ernest Shackleton has another connection to this place as well. When he died from a heart attack on board the Quest during his final expedition on May 6,1922, his widow chose Grytviken as his final resting place.

Walking up from the beach, we’ll pause at his grave to pay him the customary toast. A walk along the shore takes us past the ruins of the whaling station established here in 1904. The Whalers’ Church where Shackleton’s funeral was held, built in 1913, still stands, and you can look inside to see the sparse interior, bare wooden pews and simple altar. At the South Georgia Museum you can learn about whaling history and get a literally hands-on sense of the natural history of the area by petting a king penguin or fur seal pelt.

Bay of Isles – Depending on conditions, we’ll head for either the Salisbury Plain or Prion Island.

The Salisbury Plain on the north coast of South Georgia is best known as the breeding site of over 200,000 king penguins. The sheer number of penguins is overwhelming. They blanket the beach like five o’clock shadow and they’re spread thickly up the surrounding hills for as far as you can see.

King penguins are currently being used as a bioindicator to help study the effects of climate change. They’re particularly good candidates for this because they forage in a relatively large area of the Southern Oceans and dive to great depths. By fitting kings with heart rate monitors, scientists can tell if the penguins are having to expend more energy to meet their nutritional needs.

When we go ashore at Prion Island you’ll probably see many fur seals and their pups crowding the shore, along with the by now familiar gentoo penguins. Prion is one of the few rat-free islands so it’s an especially sensitive and valuable ecosystem. To help protect the tussac grass environment, there’s a brand new wooden boardwalk snaking up from the beach to the main highlight of the island—a breeding site for wandering albatrosses, the largest seabird in the world. About 60 pair breed here, but since they only breed every other year we may see half that number.

Albatrosses can live to be 85 years old and they mate for life. Once they leave the nest, they may not touch land again until they return from the island where they were born to nest—seven to 10 years later. Wandering albatross are the largest of the albatrosses, with a wingspan of 11 feet and a weight of up to 18 pounds. To see these great animals up close is quite a sight. When you see them flying overhead they appear mostly white, but up close you can make out the narrow black wavy lines on the breast, neck and upper back.

We may also see the South Georgia Pipit, the only endemic songbird on South Georgia. This sparrow-sized bird is classified as Near Threatened and only breeds on rat-free, tussac grass islands like Prion.

Stromness was once a bustling whaling station and repair facility for whaling ships. Now the buildings are slowly being reclaimed by nature, as is the small whaler’s cemetery.

King and gentoo penguins, fur seals and elephant seals make their home here, but the most famous visitor was once again Sir Ernest Shackleton, who arrived here in 1916 on an arduous rescue mission following the sinking of the Endurance.

He and a small crew abandoned the relative safety of Elephant Island and made their way in a 22-foot lifeboat to the southern coast of South Georgia. From here, he and two crewmembers set out on a 22-mile journey across the island—one that had never been mapped—with feet numb from frostbite. The only equipment they carried with them was 90 feet of rope, a carpenter’s adze, a compass and enough food for three days. In a 36-hour marathon they trekked across the mountains and glaciers and arrived at the Stromness administration center, which Shackleton promptly dubbed the “Villa at Stromness” because it represented relative luxury compared to its harsh surroundings.

After a morning at Stromness we’ll spend the afternoon at Fortuna Bay. The waters of the bay are an exceptional color—a pale milky green—due to glacial sediment. There are about 8,000 king penguins here, as well as numerous fur seals, gentoo penguins, light-mantled sooty albatross, white-chinned petrel, snowy sheathbill, brown skua, Antarctic terns and elephant seals. You may also spot reindeer. They were introduced by whalers in 1906 as a source of food, and are well adapted to the sub-Antarctic environment.

St. Andrews Bay is home to a colony of some 100,000 king penguins. It’s hard to comprehend how the adults and chicks can keep track of each other in a crowd of this magnitude, but they do, somehow picking out individual voices from the rock concert din. Penguin colonies can create a noise level of 70 decibels, but the chicks brains have the capacity to filter out irrelevant background noise—a trait they share with humans that is known as the “cocktail party effect.”

St. Andrews is also home to the largest population of elephant seals in South Georgia, magnificent beasts that can weigh up to 4.5 tons. It’s an amazing sight to see the huge bulls with their great layers of fat rippling like waves when they move. Occasionally a bull may chastise an errant female from his harem who tries to depart, or will bellow and threaten to battle with another bull eager to encroach on his territory.

After taking time to enjoy St. Andrews Bay we’ll make our way to Drygalski Fjord, often paired with Lemaire Channel (“Kodak Gap”) in listings of the two most breathtaking places in Antarctica. This narrow fjord was once used by whalers as a moorage during stormy weather. Now it’s mostly a haven for a colony of Weddell’s seals—animals normally only found in Antarctica. This 8-mile-long fjord ends at the jagged face of Risting Glacier, its translucent colors seeming to change with each refraction of the light.

Day 11 –  Cruising the Scotia Sea
Return to the tale of Shackleton and the wreck of the Endurance as we cross the Scotia Sea. Shackleton and four of his brave crew crossed this frigid sea in 1916 in the 22-foot open lifeboat James Caird on a rescue mission to save those left behind on Elephant Island. Shackleton and his men arrived on South Georgia after crossing 800 miles of sea over two long weeks. BLD
Day 12 –   South Orkney Islands
These are the least visited islands in the Antarctic Peninsula. Once visited by sealers and whalers, they’re now home to wildlife and a seasonal British weather station. Keep your eyes open as we cruise these waters—they’re known for producing large, beautiful icebergs.

If weather conditions are favorable we’ll attempt to go ashore at Coronation Island, known for its colorful orange and green lichens and mosses. It’s also the site of a large rookery of Adelie penguins, named after the wife of the great French explorer, Dumont d’Urville, and nesting populations of storm and cape petrels.

Adelie penguins breed further south than any other penguin. Or bird, for that matter. Scientists today use the Adelie as an indicator species to monitor the abundance of krill, so important to the web of Antarctic life. BLD
Days 13 thru 16 – Antarctic Peninsula & Islands
We’ll spend four days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula with stops that may vary depending on local ice and wind conditions. The cruising alone here is spectacular. You’re likely to spot crabeater and Weddell seals, or even leopard seals hauled out onto ice flows along the way, and whales may surface as they hunt for penguins and other prey. Many of the shorelines are decorated with fractured glaciers, and snow-covered peaks loom in the distance. Here are some of the places we may visit depending on conditions. BLD

Elephant Island – Elephant Island lies at the outer limits of the South Shetlands. The island’s most significant claim to fame is as the refuge of Shackleton’s crew after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed in pack ice. The men originally came ashore at Cape Valentine, then set up camp, such as it was, six miles west at Point Wild. Their “home” was a shelter made of two upturned lifeboats and some old tents. Four months after Shackleton had left the island in his brave rescue attempt, he finally managed to borrow a tugboat from Chile and return for the 22 men he’d left behind. Frank Wild, Shackleton’s second-in-command who had been left in charge of the men, wrote that he “felt jolly near blubbing for a bit and cound not speak for several minutes” upon seeing Shackelton and the ship.

The island is visited by migratory gentoo penguins and seals, and chinstrap penguins nest here in season. The chinstrap colony sprawls along a great swathe of the coast, and on the extreme eastern end there’s a small pocket of macaroni penguins—a species that’s more common in the sub-Antarctic. These comical-looking birds are named for the bright golden feathers gracing each side of their heads.

On the colorful western tip of the island, at Cape Lookout, we may have the opportunity to watch the magnificent elephant seals as the swim, preen and squabble over territorial rights. On the cliffs above, black and white cape petrels nest.

Petermann Island – Petermann Island, part of the South Shetlands, lies at the southern end of the Lemaire Channel, a particularly scenic spot. Manmade structures on the island are few—a cairn remembering the French Antarctic Expedition of 1908-10, which wintered over here, and a refuge hut build by Argentina in 1955. There’s also a cross commemorating the three British Antarctic Survey members who perished in a 1982 attempt to cross the sea ice from Faraday station. Other than that though, the island is left to the penguins and birds.

Petermann is home to the world’s southernmost colony of gentoo penguins and also has a large colony of Adelies. Blue-eyed shag colonies populate the edges of the island.

Paradise Bay – Also known as Paradise Harbor, this place is aptly named as it’s one of the best places in Antarctica to photograph the surrounding glaciers. It’s also one of only two places where it’s relatively easy to get ashore and set foot on the actual mainland of Antarctica (as opposed to part of the archipelago).

There are two research stations in the harbor. One, operated by Chile, is largely unused and inhabited by a large rookery of gentoo and chinstrap penguins. The other is operated by Argentina and is occupied seasonally. There are both chinstrap and gentoo penguin colonies in the area as well.

Deception Island – Part of the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island is actually the rim of a drowned—but still active—volcano. We’ll enter the caldera through a narrow strait dubbed “Neptune’s Bellows” and sail into the relatively calm waters of Port Foster. Because of the volcanically heated water, few marine animals venture inside the caldera.

The inside of the caldera is known as Whaler’s Bay, and the remnants of a Norwegian whaling station can still be seen. The island was a favored refuge for early 19th century sealers and whalers when storms were brewing. It eventually became a whaling station processing whale oil, which it did until whale oil prices dropped during the Great Depression. The station was abandoned in 1931. The station’s cemetery, final resting place of 45 men, was buried in a 1969 eruption, and the only remaining signs are the rusting boilers and tanks. There’s also an old aircraft hanger and the ruins of a British scientific station house that was also destroyed in the 1969 eruption. Chilean and Argentine research stations remain.

The island is home to several colonies of chinstrap penguins as well as thousands of Pintado petrels, cape pigeons, gulls, skuas and Antarctic terns. But one of the main attractions is the geothermally heated pools at Pendulum Cove, named for experiments with magnetism and pendulums that the British carried out here during the 19th century. If weather permits, we can dip in one of the shallow pools and you can say you swam in Antarctica!

King George Island – King George is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, and more than 90% of it is covered by a huge ice cap. Like many of these islands, this one was once frequented by seal hunters and whalers. Whale bones can still be found on many beaches. But unlike most other parts of the Antarctic, this island still has a lively human population, with research stations belonging to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, South Korea, Peru, Poland, Russia and Uruguay. Most are permanently manned.

This island is unusual for other reasons as well. First, it’s home to the southernmost church in the world—a Russian Orthodox church built of wood in 2004. Second, the island hosts the southernmost marathon in the world—a 26.2-mile race across ice, rock, snow and mud held each February. Over 180 people completed the marathon in 2008.

Along the shores of King George you’re likely to see elephant, Weddell and leopard seals as well as chinstrap and gentoo penguins.
Days 17 thru 18 – At Sea
Two final days at sea carry us through the Antarctic Convergence, also known as the Polar Front—an area where the cold Antarctic waters mix with the relatively warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic. With the long daylight hours of the austral summer, this creates the perfect breeding ground for phytoplankton, which in turn provides nourishment for a booming population of Antarctic krill, the key to the Antarctic food chain.

As we cross the Antarctic Convergence and Drake Passage, we may see whales or any number of birds including wandering albatross, grey headed albatross, black-browed albatross, light-mantled sooty albatross, cape pigeons, southern Fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels and Antarctic petrels. BLD

Day 19 – Disembark/Ushuaia/Buenos Aires/Flights home
Upon your arrival in Ushuaia, you’ll transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires and home. BL

 

Photo Credit: Lindblad Expeditions