Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Islands
Next DepartureDec. 23, 2023
See all departures
See the itinerary
, Kayaking, Lectures, Photography, Snowshoe, Wildlife observations, Zodiac
Follow in the wake of legendary explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton on this 19 day voyage to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands onboard Ocean Victory and Ocean Albatros.
Join us onboard our purpose-built, ice-class expedition vessels, Ocean Victory and Ocean Albatros to experience the majesty and wonder of Earth's last frontier up close and personal. Our vessels enable us to get closer to nature, with a fleet of Zodiac landing craft, a team of experienced expert expedition guides, and the Antarctic Peninsula as our spectacular destination.
Departing Argentina's southernmost city of Ushuaia, we cross the mighty Drake Passage en-route to the South Shetland Islands. The unique X-Bow design of our expedition vessels offers exceptional stability at sea, giving you a smoother ride across some of Earth's most challenging waters, while the vessels' speed allows us to maximise our time in Antarctica to offer a superlative exploration experience.
Continuing southward from the South Shetland Islands, we will delve deeper into the inlets and bays of the Antarctic Peninsula, entering the famous Gerlache Strait, where glittering ice cliffs and precipitous peaks rise straight out of the frigid water. Icebergs, glaciers, mountains and rugged snowfields characterise this wildly beautiful alien landscape. We always aim to visit locations which showcase the best of Antarctica, and we are always on the lookout for wildlife; feathered friends and jaw-dropping scenery and landscapes are guaranteed!
Following the route of Shackleton, we sail from Antarctica onwards to the nature paradise of South Georgia. A strip of jagged glacier-clad mountains piercing the brooding sky, South Georgia leaves a mark on every visitor, and it is no mystery why. The shores brim with wildlife, with thousands of King Penguins, elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals. The vast penguin colonies, seal-filled seas and albatross-packed skies have to be seen to be believed.
From South Georgia, we will venture west towards the temperate Falkland Islands (Malvinas). A British Overseas Territory, the Falklands are a unique blend of British culture (expect tea and red phone boxes) and southern wildness, where penguins cavort alongside sheep on former battlefields.
Any voyage in the Southern Ocean is an adventure, but with an average occupancy of 175 guests aboard Ocean Victory and Ocean Albatros, our cruises offer a unique experience for the brave few. Shore landings and Zodiac safaris will occupy our days, while our knowledgeable onboard Expedition Team will offer a selection of specially crafted lectures to inform your matchless expedition experience.
Explore with us!
NB. Trips that depart from November up towards mid-December will have the same itinerary and spend the same amount of days at each location, but the route will be inverted - following this plan: Ushuaia, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctic peninsula. This is to make best use of seasonal weather patterns to ensure the best possible Southern Ocean voyage.
Facts about Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Islands
ARRIVAL AND EMBARKATION IN USHUAIA
Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina - the world’s southernmost city. Explore this vibrant Patagonian city, or stretch your legs in the surrounding forests. Alternatively, consider a day trip off the beaten path into the raw nature of Tierra del Fuego. The island of Tierra del Fuego is a hiker's paradise with rugged snow-capped mountains, glaciers, flower-filled meadows and rich boggy wetlands. In the afternoon, we board our vessel, waiting to welcome us in port.
After our mandatory safety drill, our expedition begins as we navigate through the calm waters of the famous Beagle Channel (named for Charles Darwin's ship). This steep-sided strait divides southern Tierra del Fuego between Chile and Argentina, and has been the jumping-off point for thousands of expeditions into the unknown. Watch out for whales and dolphins as we sail off the edge of the map into the tempestuous Drake Passage.
NB. Trips that depart in November or December will often have the same itinerary and spend the same amount of days at each location, but the route will be inverted - following this plan: Ushuaia, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctic peninsula.
AT SEA - Crossing the Drake Passage Southbound
Sailing onward, we cross the famed Drake Passage - the body of water separating Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The Drake Passage is known for rollicking conditions and strong westerly winds, nicknamed the Roaring Fifties. While this passage may be challenging, you can rest comfortably aboard our expedition vessels, which are purpose-built with stabilizers, powerful engines and manned by a highly-qualified crew. The most spirited sailors consider Drake Passage a lifetime achievement - and you will complete the crossing twice!
Our days in the Drake Passage will be put to good use preparing for our arrival in Antarctica - your Expedition Leader will brief you comprehensively on how to stay safe and minimise your impact on this precious wilderness, as well as briefing you thoroughly on our plans for our time spent exploring, including hints and tips for wildlife watching. Our dedicated Expedition Team will assist you to biosecure your clothing and equipment (a vital process to protect Antarctica's delicate ecology), as well as sharing tailored lectures on Antarctic exploration history, wildlife, geology, glaciology and more!
We will cross into the Antarctic Convergence on the third day of our voyage - watch the mercury plummet as we sail southwards into Antarctic waters, an abrupt cooling that marks the intersection of Antarctic waters with the warmer waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As the sea cools, wildlife multiplies; these are some of the most biologically productive water on Earth, so expect to see petrels, albatrosses and potentially penguins, seals and whales in abundance. Weather permitting, we may be able to make landfall in the South Shetland Islands (a small but spectacular archipelago to the north of the Antarctic Peninsula) on the afternoon of our second day in the Drake Passage, marking the start of our exploration on the Last Continent.
South Shetland Islands, Antarctic peninsula, Antarctic sound,
Over the next days, we will enjoy a safe and exciting Antarctic experience explorers of yesteryear could only dream of.
Our Antarctic adventure begins in the South Shetland Islands, a chain of rugged rocks marking the northernmost point of Antarctica. It is also one of the richest in terms of wildlife, with large Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguin colonies, and an abundance of large seabirds such as predatory Giant Petrels. Landing sites which may be visited in the South Shetland Islands include the black steaming sands and rusting ruins of Deception Island (an active volcanic crater), the bustling penguin colonies of Aitcho and Half Moon Islands, or the old sealers' anchorage of Yankee Harbour.
The following days will be spent exploring further south on the Antarctic Peninsula in the Gerlache Strait region. This region is typically icy, so our exact route will be subject to careful planning by the Expedition Leader and Captain, and explained to our guests through regular evening briefings. However we will aim to visit a range of sites which showcase the best of this staggeringly beautiful region.
Consisting of the 'spine' of the Antarctic Peninsula and a large number of glaciated and mountainous islands, the Gerlache Strait is what comes to mind when most people think of Antarctica. Marvel at the massive icebergs and vast glaciers on a Zodiac cruise in Paradise Bay. Be moved by penguins tenderly caring for their precious eggs, and fiercely defending their nests on Cuverville Island. Watch cataracts of ice tumble into clear blue ocean on a hike over the active glaciers of Neko Harbour. Experience the Antarctica of old at historic huts such as Damoy Point, lovingly restored and open to all. Feel the spray of water from the blow of a humpback whale on a Zodiac safari in Wilhelmina Bay. Wonder at awe-inspiring scenery on a ship cruise through the Lemaire Channel. Wherever we go on the Antarctic Peninsula, endemic wildlife, tantalising history and breathtaking natural beauty abound.
As the vessel heads to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula to head for South Georgia, we may be lucky enough to visit Elephant Island, the mythically grim island where Shackleton's men sheltered for several months while the Boss sought rescue - one of the greatest stories of human survival and endurance ever told.
On Antarctica, all human activity is subject to the whims of Mother Nature. While we will make every possible effort to maximise opportunities for exploration off the vessel, the safety of our guests and crew is our top priority. We therefore ask all our guests to join the expedition spirit and be flexible - harsh weather offers the opportunity to expand your knowledge of Antarctica with lectures from our expert Expedition Team, or to enjoy the superlative comfort of our vessels, be it wine-tasting, relaxing in the hot tubs, or recharging with a relaxing massage in our Polar Spa.
Scotia Sea - en route to South Georgia
From Antarctica, we set out again into the mighty Drake Passage, this time following the furious seas towards South Georgia, mirroring the route of Sir Ernest Shackleton onboard the James Caird. His voyage took an agonizing seventeen days in the tiny wooden lifeboat - still considered one of the greatest ever feats of navigation and seamanship. Your crossing will benefit from our vessels' powerful engines, and the stability provided by the specially-designed X-Bow, making the journey in just two days!
In order to protect the extremely delicate and rich ecosystem of South Georgia, our dedicated Expedition Team will again assist you to biosecure your clothing and equipment, while continuing with their in-depth lecture program, now focussing on the fascinating history, biology and wildlife of South Georgia. Be sure to wrap up warm and join your Expedition Team out on deck - this section of the Scotia Sea (of which the Drake Passage constitutes the western portion) is one of the most biologically productive on Earth, and is a haven for vast quantities of wildlife - from whales and albatross to penguins and seals. Watch the waves carefully - in this region, sub-Antarctic species (such as fur seal) mingle with true polar species (such as Adelie Penguins), creating a fascinating ecological mix.
A strip of jagged mountains pierce the brooding clouds of the Southern Ocean. Icebound peaks loom over storm-washed beaches, while glaciers peek from the head of deep fjords. First believed to have been landed on by legendary explorer Captain James Cook, even to modern explorers, South Georgia presents a forbidding aura. But peer closer, and you will see greenery among the ice; movement on the beaches; wings in the skies above.
While it seems hard to believe today, South Georgia was once one of the most degraded environments on Earth. Hearing of the rich pickings, sealers flocked to the island after Cook, slaughtering wantonly. Once the seals had been almost exterminated, visiting ships sought larger prey, and South Georgia became the world's largest whaling destination, with several settlements built to carry out this industrialised slaughter. Whalers from Norway introduced reindeer as game, which soon destroyed the islands native vegetation, while brown rats (accidentally introduced by Europeans and their boats) feasted upon seabirds and their eggs - a horror against which these naive birds had no defence.
Thankfully, extensive conservation (including a painstaking eradication of reindeer and rats) has restored this magnificent island to its former glory - and glory it truly is. Beaches throng with hundreds of thousands of King Penguins, arguably some of Earth's most elegant animals. They must vie for space with the abundant Antarctic fur seals, all desperately defending territories and competing furiously for mates - and they themselves must avoid the southern elephant seals, Earth's largest seals (weighing up to a staggering four tonnes). Tiny South Georgia Pippits and Pintail Ducks (once almost extinct) are now abundant, and petrels, albatross and shags nest on the steep hillsides and wheel in the air above. In the sea, leopard seals stalk for their next penguin meal, fur seal pups play in the shallows, and offshore, a huge variety of whale species gorge on krill. Nowhere else on Earth can boast such a diversity of wildlife, or in such quantities; South Georgia truly has to be experienced to be believed.
As in Antarctica, our exact itinerary will be dictated by weather and sea conditions, but especially by the wind and swell - nevertheless, our experienced Expedition Team and Captain will work their hardest to maximise opportunities to explore. Options include visiting the vast penguin colonies of Salisbury Plain and St Andrew's Bay, seeing the former whaling stations of Lieth and Stromness, drinking in the scenery and seal colonies of Gold Harbour, or exploring this island's fascinating exploration heritage at Grytviken (where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried). South Georgia is one of those locations which grabs hold of the senses and never lets go; even long after departure, the jewel of the South Atlantic will captivate visitors for years to come.
At sea, en route to the FALKLAND ISLANDS
Leaving the icy peaks of South Georgia behind, we continue onwards towards the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). While South Georgia and the Falklands are separate British Overseas Territories, the two are intimately linked - South Georgia was administered from the Falklands for most of its history, and continues to be supported logistically entirely by the Falklands. Unlike South Georgia (which only hosts visiting government officials and scientists), the Falklands has its own unique system of government, society and culture.
While the indigenous Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego may have visited the islands, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) had no indigenous population when Europeans arrived in the early 16th Century. The islands' sovereignty has been contested ever since, with historical Spanish, French, British and Argentine claims; the islands were established politically as a British colony in 1840. Tensions resulted in a conflict over the islands between Britain and Argentina in 1982. The conflict left a lasting impact on the islands - while it spurred much-needed development assistance from the United Kingdom, the conflict also left much of the islands heavily mined. Since the conflict however, the islands have flourished, selling lucrative fishing rights to their rich waters. The de-mining operation was completed in 2020, celebrated by a football match on the last patch of de-mined ground between the islands' Governer and the Zimbabwean de-mining team who have made the Falklands their home.
The waters between South Georgia and the Falklands are some of the richest in the world, with huge whale, seal and penguin populations feeding where cold Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the South Atlantic, so keep binoculars at the ready as we sail across the Antarctic convergence (especially around Shag Rocks). Otherwise, join your Expedition Team lecturers to hear about these islands' fascinating history, biology and unique 'Kelper' (as the locals call themselves) culture.
STANLEY AND THE FALKLAND ISLANDS
During the morning we approach the Falkland Islands and our vessel will cast anchor in the sheltered natural harbor of Port Stanley in the early afternoon. Utilizing our Zodiacs, we will land in the centre of this small city. Stanley is the only settlement on the islands of any size, with a population of around two thousand people. Behind the colourful buildings in neat rows, look closer and you will notice a very distinctly British feel to Stanley - Victorian houses which could be on any swanky London terrace line the harbourfront; red telephone and post boxes stand by the jetty; whitewashed pubs serve fish and chips alongside foaming pints of ale. The Falkland Islanders are proud of their unique homeland and capital, and Stanley is a great place to explore and soak up the local vibe. Highlights in the city include Christchurch Cathedral, the southernmost Anglican cathedral on Earth, as well as excellent shops selling local products (watch out for high quality woollen good in particular!), cafes and pubs offering a warm welcome, and several excellent museums; visitors are spoiled for choice! A short drive or a pleasant walk from the city are several stunning beaches; formerly heavily mined, these are now open, and locals and foreigners alike often visit to see the abundant penguins and spectacular gold-white sands.
On our second day in the Falklands we will venture to some of the outer islands - 'Camp', as the locals call the area outside Stanley. The outer islands of the Falklands are much wilder and more remote than the mainland, and host the majority of the islands' wildlife. Islands such as West Point, Carcass and Saunders are well known for their spectacular wildlife. Southern Rockhopper Penguins, Black-Browed Albatross and King Cormorants commonly nest together in vast cliffside colonies; penguins nurture their eggs and chicks in clefts between large cylindrical nests where cormorants and albatross nest. Be sure to look out above to see the bast albatross coming in to land (often less than gracefully). The islands are home to a vast number of other bird species such as the endearingly cheeky Striated Caracara (watch all unattended possessions!), and in the water a number of species new to us such as commerson's dolphins and South American sealions can be seen playing.
AT SEA TOWARD SOUTH AMERICA
We are now into the last leg of this adventurous voyage, heading back towards Ushuaia, Argentina.
During our time at sea, a variety of activities will be arranged on board to provide our guests with the chance to reflect on their voyage. Relax with an expertly crafted cocktail in the Nordic Bar in the company of new friends, soak up the knowledge and passion of our Expedition Team during lectures in the Shackleton Lounge, or simply enjoy the flight of the albatross which accompany us westward.
During your last evening onboard, join the Captain and Senior Officers for the Farewell Cocktail Party, followed by a presentation of photos and video by our onboard photographer - the ideal opportunity to re-live your Antarctic adventure. Skål!
Disembarkation in Ushuaia
On the morning of the final day of our voyage, we will arrive back at the pier of Ushuaia, Argentina. Trees, grass and a busy city may seem strange to you after the white wilderness of Antarctica! After a hearty breakfast, it is time to bid a fond farewell to the Crew and Albatros Expedition Team, and descend the gangway back to dry land with memories of the voyage of a lifetime.
- 19-day cruise with accommodation in a shared double stateroom featuring ensuite facilities
- Embarkation shuttle transfer to the vessel from Ushuaia city centre
- Shuttle transfer after disembarkation from the ship to Ushuaia city centre or airport
- All Zodiac landings and excursions, as per itinerary, guided by our Expedition Team
- Expedition parka
- Rubber boots loan scheme
- Briefings and lectures by our Expedition Leader and Team
- English-speaking Expedition Team
- Full board on the ship - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
- Complimentary house wine, beer and soda at dinner (selected labels and brands, served at our a-la-carte dinners)
- Free tea and coffee available 24 hours
- Taxes and landing fees
- Special photo workshops
- Welcome and Farewell Cocktail Parties
- Digital visual journal link distributed after the voyage, including voyage log, gallery, species list and more!
- Extra excursions and activities not mentioned in the itinerary
- Single room supplement and stateroom upgrades
- Meals not on board the ship
- Beverages (other than coffee and tea)
- Tips for the crew (we recommend USD 14 per person per day)
- Personal expenses (e.g. Albatros Polar Spa services, Albatros Ocean Boutique purchases)
- Anything not mentioned under 'Inclusions'
After crossing the Southern Ocean, your vessel will arrive in the Falklands Islands, South Georgia and eventually Antarctica. The goal for the days spent exploring in the Southern Ocean is to offer activities which will allow everyone to explore off the ship as much as possible (weather permitting). Weather dependent, we will try to offer two activities per day, usually either a landing or a Zodiac cruise.
Typically, there will be a morning activity after breakfast and an afternoon activity after lunch. We always try our hardest to meet this expectation, but because weather in the Southern Ocean can be extremely unpredictable, we ask everyone to be mindful of our remote location and thank everyone in advance for their flexibility. Activities we offer include landings, Zodiac cruises and ship cruises. Regulations in Antarctica and South Georgia limit the number of people ashore at any time, so we will usually aim to offer a Zodiac cruise while our first group of guests are ashore, and reverse this for the second group ashore to maximise exploration time. No matter the day’s planned activities, the onboard Expedition Team and Expedition Leader will work as hard as possible in conjunction with the Captain and Crew to maximise exploration opportunities.
A “typical” expedition day may look like this (subject to weather and sea conditions and sailing schedule):
- 06.45: Wake-up call
- 07.00-08.00: Breakfast
- 08.30-11.30: Morning activity - landing and/or Zodiac cruise
- 12.30-13.30: Lunch during vessel repositioning
- 14.30-17.30: Afternoon Activity - landing and/or Zodiac cruise
- 18.30-19.30: Evening Recap and Briefing with the Expedition Team
- 19.30: Dinner
- 21.00: Evening entertainment or presentations with the Expedition Team.
Landings are a great opportunity to stretch your legs and set foot ashore to visit the dense penguin colonies, vast snowfields, and dramatic landscapes of the last continent. Our experienced Expedition and Deck Teams will assist guests to board and disembark the Zodiacs, the only means by which we can access these remote and rugged shores. Our friendly team will always be on shore to help you spot and identify the different species of penguins and other wildlife, guide hikes and other excursions, interpret what you are seeing, as well as keep our guests safe on shore from any potential hazards. Different landing sites exhibit a variety of exploration opportunities - these could include penguin or other wildlife colonies, historical sites, active research stations, or simply locations of exceptional natural beauty. Our knowledgeable Expedition Leader will always try to ensure landing sites are selected with variety of experiences in mind to exhibit the best of the region.
Some sites do not offer landing opportunities, but are locations where exploring on the water offers the best opportunities for sightseeing and photography. These Zodiac cruise sites are often known for their collection of larger icebergs, wildlife densities and even historical landmarks such as shipwrecks, where our fleet of Zodiacs offer the best vantage point. Zodiac cruises are great for observing icebergs, glaciers, whales and other marine wildlife. Your skilled driver will navigate around the area looking for wildlife and beautiful land- and seascapes. By the end of the voyage, Zodiac cruises tend to become a firm favourite among our guests because of the vast diversity of scenery and marine life it is possible to experience.
In the event we encounter bad weather or are in a particularly spectacular location, often our purpose-built expedition vessels are the best viewing platform. The Captain and Expedition Leader will search for locations best accessed with the vessel, seeking out the best wildlife and scenery. We encourage everyone to bundle up and either head onto the outer decks with the Expedition Team or relax in superlative comfort in our specially-designed lounges to experience the majesty of Antarctica and South Georgia from the best vantage point. The unique sloping X-Bow design of our vessels offers unimpeded views from almost all vantage points, as well as hydraulic viewing platforms on Deck 5 for intimate al fresco viewing close to the water. During ship cruises, our Expedition Team specialists will be on hand to answer questions, point out widlife and other sights, and offer hints and tips on photography.
Voyages from October to December typically offer camping options to spend the night on Antarctica, whilst most voyages throughout the season also offer kayaking (both may be booked and paid onboard – weather permitting). Snowshoeing will also typically be available at selected sites during the first half of the Antarctic season, when the Peninsula is mantled in snow (additional fee applies). Other activities onboard include our Albatros Polar Gym, where you can burn some calories on our fitness bicycles or treadmills; most of our ships even have other cardio machines and strength/lifting options - and no gym on Earth has a better view! Our new purpose-built ships include the Albatros Polar Spa, in which guests can enjoy massages, facials, and other relaxing treatments (additional cost applies). The Knud Rasmussen Library is a great place to unwind between outings, with expansive views and a wide selection of Antarctic-related reading material. During your voyage you will also be able to enjoy our Afternoon Tea in the Nordic Lounge, or indulge in some retail therapy in our Albatros Ocean Boutique, which sells personal necessities as well as specially-selected Antarctic souvenirs. To deepen out guests understanding of the region, throughout the voyage our expert Expedition Team will offer skillfully-crafted lectures related to Antarctic wildlife, history, conservation and more!
In between our landings and activities we offer three hearty daily main meals. Albatros Expeditions always have allergy flexible options, healthy selections as well as a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.
Our hardworking galley crew deliver multiple Breakfast options, served in a buffet style, including a cooking station where eggs are made to order. At Lunch we are also met with a smorgasbord of mouthwatering choices. Safe to say you will have the energy for your next outing!
When it is Dinner time, you can choose to eat at the main Beagle Restaurant or book a table at the Antarctic Panorama Specialty Restaurant. Your evening meal is served a la carte, with fresh new options daily and always a selection of fixed items. There is always a vegetarian and pescetarian option available. Albatros Expeditions are known for our delicious menus and a variety of exquisite wine pairings.
Onboard you will also have the option to join Afternoon Tea with sweets, cakes or snacks served each afternoon. Albatros Expeditions have tea and coffee freely available all day throughout the vessel, while specialty coffee, alcoholic beverages and hand-crafted cocktails are available at the ship’s bars.
During October to November visitors to Antarctica can expect to see penguins coming ashore for their annual nesting season. This is the time when these birds build nests, court mates and tend their precious eggs, offering a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these charismatic birds. While still a little early for penguin chicks to have hatched, November offers the potential to see the very first hatchlings. Pristine snowy landscapes, large icebergs and lack of late-season vessel congestion can be experienced in the beginning of the season, offering a radically different experience to the high season. Unbelievable glacial ice formations and huge ice bergs stud the ocean as the last sunsets of the season occur, a majestic spectacle eventually giving way to the Antarctic midnight sun.
In December temperatures approach their warmest, daylight is longer and wildlife is even more active. The continent glows under the midnight sun and the penguin rookeries reach peak activity as the hatching starts in earnest. Whale sightings begin to be more commonplace as migrating whales arrive to feed. Midnight sun with close to 24-hour daylight occurs in this period, lighting up the patches of snow that are still left at sea level. The sea ice is also retreating, potentially allowing access to landing sites further South.
By January/February, we enter what we call ‘peak season’ with long daylight hours and flocks of fluffy penguin chicks. There is more activity in the colonies as parents head off to hunt for food for their ever-hungry young. Towards the latter part of this period, the chicks get more curious and mobile, often hanging around in ‘creche’ groups as their parents head out to sea. The added penguin activity also means that some of our landing sites become muddy and slushy in the height of the Antarctic Summer. Sea ice starts to break up in earnest, which allows vessels to venture further south, enjoying improved opportunities for whale and seal watching. Longer sunsets and shorter evenings return towards the end of February as the brief Antarctic Summer gives way to Autumn.
As we enter March/April the season starts to wind down. Whilst the whales are at their highest number, ferociously feeding to get ready for their long northward migrations, the penguin colonies start to thin out as the adorable chicks shed their bay feathers to begin adult life out in the fury of the Southern Ocean. This attracts leopard seals, which are often seen actively hunting in the clear waters just offshore. Spectacular sunsets and less snow make this a great time for photo opportunities and longer walks onshore. During this time of year the weather begins to get colder and there is an increased risk of storms, but the wild rugged beauty of Antarctica approaching Winter is unparalleled throughout the year.
As springtime arrives on South Georgia, visitors can expect to witness the landscape transform as the snow and ice begin to melt, and the flora and fauna come to life. November is an excellent time for birdwatching, as many seabirds begin to return to the island to begin their nesting season. Keep an eye out for Gentoo, King, and Macaroni Penguins as they make their way ashore to raise the next generation while bulky Antarctic fur seals come ashore to stake out their mating season territories.
As the temperatures continue to rise, the island becomes even more vibrant. December on South Georgia represents the start of the brief Antarctic summer, and offers a terrific time to explore the beaches and experience this island’s extraordinary biodiversity. From a distance you can witness the elephant seals as they begin to mate and give birth, and watch as the king penguins hatch their chicks. Meanwhile, female fur seals come ashore to give birth to their tiny pups; despite being only days old, these adorable creatures must fight daily to ensure their survival in the harsh and crowded environment of South Georgia.
As the peak of summer arrives in January and February, wildlife activity increases even more under almost perpetual daylight. January usually offers the best weather and is a great time to explore the incredible coastline and witness the jaw-dropping mountain scenery of South Georgia. As always when visiting South Georgia, we expect to see a wide range of wildlife, including fur seals, albatross, and vast penguin colonies. Many species are actively raising their young during this time, making for a fascinating spectacle as parents come and go from the sea to feed their growing offspring. The summer weather means that the beaches are generally dry and free of snow, making them somewhat easier to access. As the summer starts to wind down in late February (although the weather is generally still warm and sunny), the island's wildlife remains active and numerous. Summertime is an excellent period to explore the South Georgia’s historic sites, including the former whaling station of Grytviken, the final resting place of legendary polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. The calmer weather of midsummer also often provides better conditions for other activities such as kayaking and Zodiac cruising.
As Autumn sets in during March and April, visitors to South Georgia Island can expect to see the landscape change once again as snow returns to the mountains. Many species are preparing for migration, and beaches burst into frenetic activity as they try to fatten up in preparation for the brutal southern Winter. Other species prepare by coming ashore for their annual moult, while this year’s young shed their baby fur/feathers in preparation for a life at sea. March an excellent time to see whales such as the humpbacks and other whales which pass through the area in pursuit of krill, and offers superior birding as fledglings begin to leave their nests. Visitors can also witness the spectacular colour-changing Autumn foliage and enjoy the cooler weather. As the season winds down, the number of visitors also decreases, making excursions more intimate and allowing preferential access to the most popular sites.
In October and November, the windswept shores of the Falkland Islands begin to come to life as seabirds come ashore for the Spring breeding season after spending the long winter months in the fury of the Southern Ocean. The shoreline crawls with rockhopper penguins emerging from the depths, while albatross circle overhead, hunting for the best spot to construct their cylindrical nests. During this time of year, female elephant seals come ashore to give birth to their wide-eyed pups, which remain ashore for two months or so before heading out to sea. The islands burst into activity on land as well, as geese and other terrestrial birds begin to nest. The Falkland Islanders themselves frequently take advantage of the warmer weather to begin shearing the islands’ sheep, collecting the wool for which the islands are famed.
December represents the start of summer in the Falklands; while the weather can be warm and sunny, frequent windstorms can bring squally weather at any time. By this time of year, the birds of the islands are almost all incubating their eggs, while some early arrivals may already have chicks. Meanwhile, South American sealions are vigorously defending their territories during the busy breeding season, attempting to attract females while fending off other males.
By January and February, most eggs have hatched, and you can expect to see a variety of hatchlings beginning to find their way in the world. Penguin chicks huddle together in creches against predation from skuas, giant petrels and caracaras, while large fluffy albatross chicks sit on top of their cylindrical nests. Bird colonies at this time of year are full of activity, with parents coming and going from the open ocean to feed their chicks, and Magellanic penguins and their chicks begin to emerge from their breeding burrows.
The Falklands’ brief summer comes to an end in March, and much of the island’s wildlife begins to prepare to head out to sea for Winter. Around this time of year, penguins and seals begin their molt, spending a few weeks on land while they grow a new coat of winter-ready feathers. One can also see albatross, cormorant and penguin chicks beginning to shed their downy baby feathers in favour of their adult plumage. Watch out for broad-winged albatross flapping into the wind on their nests as they exercise their flight muscles ready for adult life. Although the weather can be less predictable this time of year, fewer vessels in the region allows us to seek out the most sheltered landing spots.
Whilst the weather in Antarctica is constantly changing, the summer months can be surprisingly mild, and generally have temperatures ranging from -2°C (28°F) to 6°C (46°F). In South Georgia, which lies to the northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures typically range between 0°C (32°F) to 10°C (50°F); sub-zero summer temperatures are very rare. In the more temperate Falkland Islands (which lie outside the Antarctic convergence zone), the weather is milder, with summer days averaging between 11°C (52°F) to 16°C (61°F).
The extended daylight during the summer warms up more sheltered areas and on calm windless days even this far south, and a t-shirt can even be of more use than a parka! Bearing that in mind, the weather can harbor storms, snow fall, rain, or fog, which can occur at a moment’s notice. Bigger storms are rare but can lead to further rapid drops in temperature, and glacially generated katabatic winds can blow out of nowhere.
On South Georgia, ocean swells can roll in from the sea without warning, which can make landing/disembarkation conditions extremely challenging. The Falkland Islands, while warmer, can experience extremes of rain, wind, and sun (often all within the same hour). In other words, we would remind our guests that it is crucial to be ready for any weather conditions! Waterproof layers are essential for any venture off the ship in this part of the world, and we advise guests to dress in several warm layers (including hats, gloves, scarfs, and sun protection) to adjust as the weather dictates. Even in calm warm weather, we advise bringing extra clothing in a backpack, as weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly.
We also highly advise guests to consider sun protection - the lack of ozone over the Antarctic region means direct and reflected sunlight can burn skin very quickly; sunglasses are essential! Albatros Expeditions provide sturdy landing-appropirate waterproof insulated rubber boots for all guests, as well as an expedition parka for Antarctic voyages.