December is a beautiful time to experience Antarctica. We enjoy extended daylight hours at this time of the season, the wildlife colonies are busy and as the sea ice continues to break up. The perfect destination to celebrate 'white christmas'.
We fly from South America to Antarctica in a little over two hours where we board our ship and enjoy a thorough exploration of the glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. In the height of the Antarctic summer, our range of landing sites expands even further.
We follow the course taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton whose epic small boat journey, from Elephant Island across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia remains one of the greatest feats of navigation in history. We commence our exploration at the remote southeastern tip of South Georgia and then spend the following days exploring the northern coastline. Here are some of the largest king penguin colonies on earth.
Here are some of the largest king penguin colonies on earth. The shores are covered in wildlife – including nesting albatross, fur seals and elephant seals. Rusting relics from the old whaling era sit silent and provide dramatic contrasts to the green tussock grass, and snowy peaks that surround us. In South Georgia, we celebrate a most memorable Christmas Day. We head for the Falkland Islands and aim to spend one final day exploring the wildlife-rich Sea Lion Island and nearby by Bleaker Island. Our voyage comes to an end in Stanley – the small capital from where we fly back to South America.
Day 1 Punta Arenas, Chile
Our journey commences in Punta Arenas, located in southern Chile, where we board our two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Upon arrival at the King George Island in Antarctica, we embark our ship via Zodiac inflatable crafts.
Days 2 - 4 Antarctic Peninsula
Overnight we navigate through the Gerlache Strait and awake to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent laid out before us. For the next three days we have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. Southerly Petermann Island, is home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adelie and gentoo penguins nest side by side. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline feature heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Our activity program is in full swing by now, and each day we enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with our expert guides providing insight and interpretation. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location where we frequently encounter pods of humpback whales.
Day 5 Weddell Sea
We are now heading north towards Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way we hope to make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, we sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. Our goal is to enter the icy Weddell Sea, through the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. This region is also home to some of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries found in Antarctica.
Day 6 Elephant Island
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and entrance to the Weddell Sea, we head for Elephant Island – a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats – pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are notoriously tricky due to often gale force winds and pounding surf onto the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
Days 7 - 8 Scotia Sea
As we depart Elephant Island we cannot help but ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his four companions – as they attempted the near impossible – navigating 800 nautical miles in a 30 foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. We make a much easier time of the crossing in our state of the art expedition ship. Onboard experts keep us busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussions throughout the day. The great pelagic seabirds are sure to keep us company – and we anticipate excellent sightings of albatross and giant petrels soaring on the winds of the South Atlantic Ocean. Anticipation builds as the mountainous peaks appear on the horizon, marking our arrival at South Georgia.
Days 9 - 12 South Georgia
South Georgia has often been called the most staggering wildlife show on earth and as we approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop you begin to see why. Dark sand beaches, tussock covered hinterland and a backdrop of towering peaks and glaciers are a feast for all the senses. Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies and living in rookeries of immense size, live the majestic king penguins. Our aim is to visit a number of these huge colonies – where naturalists estimate that more than 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins live in close proximity. Locations we hope to visit include Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain. A highlight is a visit to Grytviken – the largest of the former whaling stations on the island, and where we visit the gravesite of Shackleton, buried here in 1921.
Days 13 - 15 Southern Ocean Sailing north towards the Falkland Islands commences.
Much of our time is spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. The spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species are our constant companions as they soar above the ship. Our onboard educational program continues and our experts recap our remarkable journey to date. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images in the multimedia room and catch some rest after a busy two weeks of activity.
Day 16 Falkland Islands
After several days crossing, Sea Lion Island marks our arrival into the Falkland Islands. This windswept location, situated in the southern archipelago provides one further day of activity. We launch our Zodiacs and go ashore to view the remarkable wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguins including Gentoo, magellenic and rockhopper exist in the vicinity. Southern Elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled out on the beaches. Once ashore we also look for King cormorants and striated caracaras. Weather permitting we may have time to visit neighbouring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed south-eastern coast of the Falklands.
Day 17 Stanley, Falkland Islands and Punta Arenas, Chile
This morning we navigate through the narrows and into the port of Stanley. We have time to explore before we make our way to the airport for our return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile.
This voyage includes flights: Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica & from Stanley, Falkland Islands to Punta Arenas, Chile.
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