This is a very special itinerary because not only covers the Antarctic Peninsula but it also goes over the African coasts, navigating the Atlantic Ocean. The crossing starts in Ushuaia in our first navigation strecht, like the vast majority of the trips to the white continent: the Drake Passage. The beginning of this antarctic route will take us to go through the Antarctic Convergence watching a sky full of petrels and albatrosses. We visit the Antarctic Peninsula.
Then we continue the trip to go to South Georgia Island. On the south coast we will go to the famous whaling station of Grytviken, being able to visit the tomb of Ernest Shakleton, who achieved the most important feat of all mankind and never surpassed by another person, crossing the South Georgia Island in 36 hours. North to south direction. Again we went through the geographic limit of the Antarctic Convergence, to begin our adventure in the Atlantic Ocean. Our first destination is the Isle of Gough, where you can observe a masterful landscape surrounded by a wildlife few views in other parts of the world. Arriving here is a privilege that few can give. The Isle of Gough is more commonly known as Gonçalo Alvares. Then in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago we try to land on Nightingale Island, which is the largest island of the archipelago, surrounded by an innumerable number of seabirds, especially watching a bird in real danger of extinction, the albatross fine beak.
In the last days of our navigation route, we will disembark in Santa Elena Islands, where we will be able to know its culture and watch different endemic plants and native birds. Here was where Napoleon Bonaparte lived his exile. Here we can dive or do snorkel, apart from surfing practise in shallow water..
Second stage of the trip (optional): We will continue navigating to our final objective: the Ascension Island. We will embark in Zodiac boats to visit the Birds´Island. Our journey ends. Those who prefere, can fly with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, the other passagers can go on to Cape Verde. For passengers disembarking in Praia, rooms will be reserved in the local hotel, to store luggage until the time of going to the airport or to stay if they are going to spend more days in Cape Verde.
34 days- 33 nights
Day 1 - Ushuaia
We left in the afternoon from the port of Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), the southernmost city in the world, located on the banks of the Beagle Channel. The cruise will slowly move away from the coast, showing the picturesque bay and its urban landscape. The navigation runs calm throughout the night, in the direction of the Drake Passage.
Day 2 to 3 - Drake Passage
Throughout 2 days, the ship moves through the Drake Passage, the shortest and most agitated sea route between the American continent and the Antarctic Peninsula. When we approach the Antarctic convergence, a natural barrier where the warm currents of the north are mixed with the cold waters coming from the south determining a wide biological diversity, we will be able to observe numerous sub-antarctic species.
In this area it is very likely to spot the magnificent wandering albatross, the largest bird that overflies these seas and can measure up to 3.5 meters long, the gray-headed albatross, the light-mantled dark albatross and the black-browed albatross, wilson petrels, blue petrels and antarctic petrels in addition to the southern fulmar or silver petrel. We can not fail to mention the Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. Very close to the South Shetland Islands, you can see the first icebergs that indicate arrival in Antarctica. On the afternoon of the third day you can see the South Shetland Islands, punished by the wind and usually covered by the fog itself. We can observe a great variety of flora, such as mosses, lichens and herbs with flowers.
Day 4 to 7 - Entering Antarctica
The cruise heads directly to the "Upper Antarctic", leaving behind the Melchior Islands and the Schollaert channel, between the Brabant and Anvers islands. In the small and steep Cuverville Island, sheltered by the mountainous chain of the Antarctic Peninsula and on Danco Island, there is a populated colony of Papua penguins with pairs of brown skuas that choose this territory to breed. If you disembark on the coast of Danco, you can see Chinstrap penguins as well as crabeater seals and Weddell seals.
Puerto Neko is the right place to set foot on the white continent, admiring the spectacular setting of incredible glaciers that rise at sea level. A zodiac ride invites you to be fascinated by the beauty of the landscape surrounded by snowy mountains. Paradise Bay, another of the amazing corners of the mainland, abound with beautiful icebergs and deep fjords, which thanks to the Zodiac boats can surround you and observe up close and even surprised with the curious presence of the Humpback and Minke whales that frequent the area. The itinerary continues along the Lemaire Channel, a wonderful step that takes us to the Pleneau and Peterman Islands, where the Adélie penguins and blue-eyed cormorants live. They are also marine environments frequented by the Humpback and Minke whales.
Some of the places you can visit include:
- Guillermina Bay & Guvernøren Arriving to Guillermina Bay has a specific goal: The encounter with humpback whales. We sailed with the Zodiac boats to reach the place where the sinking of the Guvernøren occurred, a whaling ship that caught fire in the early twentieth century in 1915. We see more marine life in the vicinity of the Melchior Islands, in a landscape full of icebergs, to spot whales, leopard seals and crabeater seals.
- Cuverville Island Also called Cavelier de Cuverville, this steep and dark island on the Errera Channel is surrounded by the mountains of the Arctowski Peninsula and Rongé Island, on the west coast of the Graham Land. It is habitat for a large colony of Papua penguins and antarctic skuas. At the end of the 19th century, a Belgian navigator Adrien de Gerlache discovered it and his name is due to a french soldier.
- Danco Island On this island we can see the Papua penguins that nest in this area, but they are not alone, we also see Weddell seals and crabeater seals that inhabit the island.
- Port Neko The landscape captivates us, it's really epic, like the fantastic big glaciers, which are covered with snow and look like wind sculpted sculptures. In Port Neko you can land with Zodiac boats near the alpine mountains.
- Paradise Bay In this bay we can sail in the Zodiac boats and have good chances of seeing humpback whales and minke whales.
- Pléneau & Peterman Islands - Puerto Charcot If the Lemaire channel is free of ice, depending on the weather conditions we will navigate through this channel to witness Adélie penguins, blue-eyed cormorants and leopard seals. As in Bahía Paraíso, in these islands you can see humpback whales and minke. You can get to visit Puerto Charcot on Booth Island, also called Wandel, on the Wilhelm archipelago, it is an island with high mountains, like Mount Wandel, almost 1,000 meters high. Puerto Charcot or rather Ensenada Charcot is a bay on the island mentioned above. In spite of being a bay protected by a mountain, it receives the strong winds and the swell of the sea and the iceberg. In this place lives a colony of gentoo penguins, Chinstrap penguins and cormorants, with the presence of Wedell seals and marine seals.
- Melchior Islands These islands that are in the homonymous archipelago are part of the Dallman Bay, they owe their name to a french admiral. They offer a fabulous landscape full of icebergs because they are low and covered with ice, very close is the Port Andersen. We can see leopard seals, crabeater seals, and whales, being a suitable place for kayaking and diving.
Day 8 to 9 - Sailing back to Ushuaia
While the ship is heading for the passage of Drake on the way back to the American continent, different species of birds such as petrels and albatrosses, seagulls and cormorants fly over the sea and accompany the march.
Day 10 - Arrival to the port of Ushuaia
The ship reaches the port of Ushuaia early in the morning, to disembark and terminate the expedition to Antarctica. Those who continue the expedition to South Georgia Island and then to the Atlantic Ocean to the Island of St. Helena, will remain on the ship.
Note: All the itineraries described are referential. The programs can be changed depending on the weather conditions and the ice in the area, as well as the accessibility to make the landings and the opportunity to observe the local wildlife. The final route will be determined by the captain of the expedition. Flexibility is the fundamental principle to enjoy the trip to Antarctica.
Day 11 to 14 - By the sea crossing the Antarctic Convergence towards South Georgia Island
We continue our navigation route to the west, crossing the antartic convergence, watching lots of antartic and sub-antartic sea birds. The antartic convergence is also called frontal polar area in the Antartic, it is a line which defines a natural limit and it is not imposed by man, it separates the cold waters of the Antartica from the mild waters in the sub-antartic region. It divides two areas with different climates and also sea life. We hope to be lucky to be able to navigate north towards the Atlantic Ocean. On both sides of the Antarctic Convergence, we observe many species and a large number of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic seabirds.
Day 15 to 17 - South Georgia Island, Salisbury Plain: King Penguin & Wandering Albatross
These days we begin our visit to South Georgia Island. We go in search of the main colonies of king penguins of Antarctica. The end of the season is a perfect time to see the king penguins with their newborn pups. The movement of the colonies is just at this time of year, something that is noted by the great movement from the beach to the sea. The Salisbury Plain is the right point to observe this unique natural setting. The great colony of king penguins is accompanied by sea elephants and a host of young wolves of hair that surf in the waves.
On Prion Island, closed to tourism during mating season that is from late November to early January we can see wandering albatross offspring. We are also going to make time to get to know the old whaling settlement in Grytviken, where its inhabitants are currently the penguins that roam the streets. In Grytviken today we find a small museum and it is the place where the tomb of Sir Ernest Shackleton is found that is buried here with his trusted friend and companion Frank Wild. We also seek to disembark in Puerto del Oro and St Andrews Bay whose fantastic landscapes leave us perplexed and the high density of Antarctic fauna is unimaginable, although as the name of the king penguins are truly masters of the place. Finally we cannot leave the Georgias while contemplating that perfect natural work, such as the Dryglaski fjord.
The weather conditions determine which areas we visit in South Georgia and where we can carry out activities. The destinations to visit can be:
- Salisbury Plain, St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbor These areas not only house the three largest colonies of king penguins in South Georgia, but also three of the largest breeding beaches of Antarctic fur seals in the world. In the true sense of the word, millions of seals from Antarctica breed in southern Georgia in December and January. Only in the mid-season they reach their peak in the reproductive cycle. Watch as large wolves constantly monitor (and occasionally fight) areas where dozens of women have just given birth or are about to give birth. Watch your steps and stay cool as you walk the beaches during this time.
- Prion Island This site is closed during the beginning of the reproductive period of the wandering albatrosses. As of January, the reproductive adults have already reunited with their partners and are incubating the eggs or taking care of their chicks. Enjoy observing the gentle nature of these animals that have the greatest wingspan of any other bird in the world.
- Grytviken At this abandoned whaling station, King penguins roam its streets and the elephant seals inhabit their surroundings as if they were the owners of the place - basically because they are. Here it is possible to visit the South Georgia museum and Shackleton's tomb.
- Cooper Bay It is a small bush-covered island located southeast of San Pedro Island, in the south of the South Georgia Island, just 3 km long, north of the entrance to the Drygalski Fjord. The Cooper Channel is navigable and separates the island of the same name from San Pedro Island. A rodent-free area has been selected as a special protection area by a wide variety of seabirds such as the giant petrel, albatross, piquidorados ducks, Gentoo penguins and especially, the presence of an important colony of macaroni penguins. It is a favorable area for sailing in Zodiac boats.
Day 18 to 22 - At sea
Now, in the sea, we will enter into sub-tropical waters surrounded by sea birds and dolphins.
Day 23 - Gough Island & Quest Bay
We will try to get to Gough Island so we can go along if we have good weather conditions. Some years ago, we circunnavigated everything, except for 4 miles of a circunference of 33 miles of the island in the ship, watching an exceptional landscape and lots of wild life. We will feel really privileged for being the few visitors who can have the experience to be in the Gough Island and, particularly, for seing it so close and in really good conditions. We will expect to be lucky and repeat this unique experience with you. It is also known as Gonçalo Alvares, the origin of this islands is volcanic and its higher peak is the Edinburgh Peak which is close to the 1000 metres of altitude.
Day 24 to 27 - Tristán da Cunha
In the Tristán da Cunha archipelago we get to a settlement which is located in the west area of the main island. We will also try to disembark in Nightingale Island with millions of sea birds, in which the albatrosses thin beak, an endangered species, stresses here. We will be covered with this days just in case it is a bad weather and we can have one day to take advantage. This archipelago is a british sovereignty and it is formed by several isles, the bigger one is Tristán da Cunha, another important island is Nightingale and the rest are directly inaccessible and they are uninhabitated.
Note: We consider taking a reservation day in case of bad weather. Keep in mind that we will try to disembark, however, due to weather conditions it is not always possible. Since we started this Atlantic Odyssey Expedition in 1998 we could not land 30% of the trips in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, due to the unfavorable weather.
Day 28 to 31 - In the sea by subtropical waters
Now we enter subtropical waters surrounded by seabirds and dolphins.
Day 32 to 34 - St. Elena Island
We are going to Santa Elena Island because it is possible to anchor and it is an ideal place to stop. We are going to have many opportunities to enjoy the local culture in this island, we expect to have very good weather conditions, surrounded by endemic plants and authoctone birds. We are going to visit the place where Napoleon lived in exile. There will be many opportunities to explore the island by ourselves and we will be able to dive if we wish, doing snorkel, apart from surf. It is a place where we can find a great quantity of fishes.
Santa Elena belongs to the same territory as Ascensión Island and the Tristán da Cunha archipelago, all the volcanic islands slope steepy, where the higher peak is the Queen´s Mary with over 2.000 metres in Tristán da Cunha. The weather conditions in Santa Elena is tropical - mild thanks to the sea influence, unlike Tristán da Cunha which is less mild. In the afternoon, the cruise leaves for the second stage of the trip: Ascension Island and Praia in Cape Verde, where you can also disembark. Those who do not continue the trip disembark to take the flight back to Europe.
First stage of the trip: This trip can be hired until day 34 arriving at St. Helena Island. Those who complete the trip will be transferred to the new St. Helena airport to take the flight to Europe. The rest of the passengers continue their journey to Ascension Island.
Map of Route
- The trip on board the ship mentioned as indicated in the itinerary.
- All meals during the trip on board the ship including snacks, coffee and tea.
- All excursions and activities in Zodiac boats during the trip.
- Conference program dictated by naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition team.
- Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes.
- Transfer of luggage from the hotel to the ship on boarding day, in Ushuaia.
- All service and port taxes during the program.
- Informative reading material before embarking.
Services not included:
- Regular or charter air flights.
- Procedures before or after the start of the trip.
- Passport and visa expenses.
- Government arrival and departure taxes.
- Meals not included in the trip.
- Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (highly recommended).
- Excess baggage charges and all personal items such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunications charges.
- The tip at the end of the trip for the waiters and other on-board service personnel (guidelines will be provided).