Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Islands
Next DepartureFeb. 29, 2024
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, 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 Furious 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 16 per person per day)
- Personal expenses (e.g. Albatros Polar Spa services, Albatros Ocean Boutique purchases)
- Anything not mentioned under 'Inclusions'
Albatros Expeditions strives to employ the very best Expedition Team in the whole industry. We travel in some of the planet’s most remote regions, where planning and on-location experience is key. Our routes and itineraries are subject to the prevailing sea, ice and wind conditions, which are closely monitored by the Bridge Team and Expedition Leader. Drawing on their vast experience, they find the best alternatives in the rare instances where our planned itinerary needs to be changed. Each cruise is a completely unique combination of locations, where the highlights can often be the totally unexpected. Most of our cruises provide the opportunity to spot a variety of unique wildlife, although this is subject to the whims of Mother Nature and can of course not be guaranteed. As you will no doubt experience, the joy from our Expedition Team when spotting different species on land or at sea is as genuine as your own.
This means that you as our guest are part of an adventure, a true expedition, where plans change, wildlife is encountered on their terms and your team consists of the very best experts within their fields. We strive to maintain a mix of specialists within relevant polar subjects including marine biology, ornithology, earth science, history and others. Albatros Expeditions boast a large number of Expedition Staff onboard, allowing us to maintain a high quota of staff-to-guests at 1:8, amongst the highest ratios in expedition cruising. Some of our staff have decades of experience on ships or research stations, whilst others may be performing their first season. One thing they all have in common is the wish to make each and every journey a special and memorable experience for our guests. Knowledge, skill, and passion are the trademarks of all Albatros Expedition Staff.
To ensure the safety and quality of experience of our guests, please keep in mind that the itinerary and outdoor activities during each voyage are solely dependent on weather and sea conditions. Your safety is our highest priority. The route and shore landings will be determined by the Captain and Expedition Leader and communicated to guests through regularly scheduled briefings. Albatros Expeditions reserves the right to modify the landings and locations visited during a voyage based on local weather conditions and climate to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all our guests. Our voyages are expeditionary in nature, and thus changes to timings are commonplace due to the environment we operate in, as well as wildlife opportunities and locations.