In search of the Emperor Penguin
in Snow Hill
M/V Ortelius

One of the most requested trips because we are looking for the Emperor Penguin in Snow Hill. It is a very interesting trip due to the large amount of marine fauna that we observe during the trip to the Weddell Sea. There are few departures and it is recommended to book in advance because the demand is high and the cabins are sold out immediately, especially the cheapest ones. There is a plan B in case the road to Isla Nevado Hill is free of ice, this possibility has a probability of less than 50%. Thanks to the complement of the helicopters, you can join the emperor penguin colonies. Helicopters consume one day, since each flight lasts 15 minutes and can accommodate up to 6 passengers. After landing, you have to walk 45 minutes to reach the surroundings of the colony. We are at the mercy of the weather, so it is essential to understand and respect the safety rules.

In Search Of The Emperor Penguin in Snow Hill in the M/V Ortelius

In Search Of The Emperor Penguin in Snow Hill in the M/V Ortelius

An extraordinary journey in the footsteps of one of the most beautiful endemic species in Antarctica: the emperor penguin. It is the largest species of penguin. His head and neck has a black tone by the back, below the neck is white and orange.

The objective of the program is to find and observe this unique seabird, which generally lives in the south of Snow Hill Island, among other colonies that are scattered throughout the continent and in the region of the island. The captain of the ship will approach this island as much as possible while passengers prepare for a short helicopter flight that will quickly take them to the location of the colony of this majestic species of seabirds. If the operation is successful, travelers will experience a unique and surprising experience. The program includes 3 exclusive days to meet and observe the emperor penguin in its natural habitat. With the help of helicopters, if the objective is reached within the first two days, it is possible to organize an alternative landing in the Weddell Sea for the third day and explore the island of Paulet and its important colony of Adelia penguins. More than 1 million pairs of breeding.


The ship will be prepared with a minimum of two helicopters. The sighting of the emperor penguin in helicopters has a primary objective: to reach inaccessible places that, otherwise, we could not access. We always depend on the climatic conditions to be able to operate with the helicopters, therefore, the safety of the crew and the passengers are not put into play in adverse weather situations, this means that this sighting can never be guaranteed by this means of transport.

11 days - 10 nights

Day 1 - Starting our Trip to the Antarctic

In the afternoon we embark on the M / V Ortelius in the port of Ushuaia, on the Big Island of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. During the night we navigate the Beagle Channel, scenic waterway of our first day of expedition to the white continent.

Day 2 to 3 - Crossing the Drake Passage

During these two days we will sail through the Drake Sea. When we cross the Antarctic Convergence, we reach the circumpolar Antarctic zone. In this region we can observe the wandering albatross, gray-headed albatrosses, Black-browed albatrosses, dark-mantled albatrosses, Cape petrels, South fulmares, Wilson petrels, blue petrels and Antarctic petrels. During the crossing of the Drake Passage, we will take the opportunity to learn the biology, habitat and behavior of the Emperor Penguin.

Day 4 to 7 - Weddell Sea towards Brown Bluff - Flying over Snow Hill

The tour continues along the Weddell Sea, which extends east of the Antarctic Peninsula and south of South Georgia Island, marking the eastern boundary of the area known as Western Antarctica. If the Antarctic Strait, the portion that separates the peninsula from the Joinville, Dundee and d'Urville islands that are to the north, is accessible and the ice allows you to go further, you can see the immense tabular icebergs that announce the arrival to the East coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The place chosen to set foot on the Antarctic continent is Brown Bluff, a very steep rock formation of dark brown color, where colonies of Papuan and chinstrap penguins develop.

But our most important objective is: The Emperor Penguin. Thanks to the use of helicopters, which provide a great advantage for short and fast transfers, the population of the emperor penguin is reached. If the conditions are favorable (the odds are 50%), the idea is to spend two days in the roquerío where they reproduce and breed this species. The helicopter operation is full-time as it is transported to 6 passengers at a time and the flight takes approximately 15 minutes. A carefully chosen landing point is reached to ensure that the colony is not disturbed or the animals are not disturbed by helicopter noise.

The forty-five minute journey remaining to the observation points is done on foot. After a quiet walk, travelers finally experience one of the most incredible moments of their lives when they encounter the magnificent emperor penguins. However, it is enough to remember that you are in one of the most untamed places on the planet, and there are no guarantees even to make short-term air transfers. Conditions can change quickly, interrupting the operation of the helicopter and since safety is the maximum commitment and concern of the staff, passengers must accept and understand this situation.

If in the previous days the weather was a good ally of the expedition and everyone was ecstatic with the proximity of the emperor penguins, it is possible to advance on the route discovering other interesting places to spot the Emperor Penguin such as Diablo Island, Vega Island or Hope Bay. On the other hand, if there was no success in finding the emperor penguin colony on days 6 and 7, the bridge between the ship and the coast of Snow Hill Island will be tried again through the helicopters.

Depending on the ice conditions: We depend on good weather, wind and ice to move towards the island Snow Hill (Snow Hill) since it must be free of sea ice for several years. It was possible to move forward in 2013 and 2015, but not in 2012 and 2014. The chances of reaching Cerro Nevado are 50%. The use of helicopters is essential to achieve our goal of reaching the Emperor penguin colony but the trip is subject to the forces of nature, ice and weather conditions. If the conditions are favorable we can move forward, but the conditions can change rapidly, affecting the helicopter operation, and passengers must be prepared to accept the rules imposed by the weather. Safety is key for the crew and the orders that lead us to preserve life must be followed.

Helicopter flights make a difference on this cruise to Antarctica and may include:

  • Antarctic Strait The western slopes of the Antarctica Strait can be seen from the air thanks to the use of the helicopter, a large amount of sandstone layers, fluid movements of lava, glaciers, icebergs and sea ice we can observe from the height. The presence of the Emperor penguin and the Adelia penguin on the icebergs, sharing the space with cook seagulls and different petrels. The very steep mountains cross the snow cover and large moles of ice we see as the main stage.
  • Duse Bay Thanks to the helicopter flight, we can approach an old shelter overlooking the bay. Snow and ice still remain intact at this time of year, although we trek on firm ground as it is rocky and there is a cover of multicolored lichens and different sizes. This bay is 17,000 meters long and 25,000 meters wide and is located south of the Trinidad peninsula and was discovered by the Swedish navigator Gunnar Andersson in the early twentieth century. The refuge belongs to the Argentine army and is called Christ the Redeemer, operated in 1955.
  • Seymour Island Precisely on this island, the swedish expedition led by Andersson between 1901 and 04 spent the winter in very extreme conditions. Its soil is rocky, sedimentary, covered with fossils and the views of this place are magnificent. This island is also known as Marambio Island and is part of the 16 islands that surround the Trinidad peninsula, integrating James Ross Island. Its location is to the west of the Antarctic peninsula, to the north of the Isla Nevado hill and to the east of James Ross Island, separated from it by the Admiralty Passage.

If conditions are favorable in the Weddell Sea, departures in Zodiac boats may include:

  • Devil's Island Devil's Island is a tiny island located in the center of the homonymous bay, on the north coast of Vega Island. It is one of the many islands that make up the James Ross Island group, located east of the Trinidad peninsula. The advantage on this island is that it is free of ice on its surface of 128 ha, ideal for hiking. There are low mountains with a height that does not exceed 190 meters, in the middle separates a valley and on the north side there are cliffs that protect a beach full of Adelia penguins. We can see reefs on the north coast where ice floes are on the beach.
  • Farallón Brown It is the most scenic place in the northern end of Antarctica, with steep mountainous walls, irregular stones, volcanic sculptures covered with ice and the habitat suitable for the Adelia penguin that shares territory with the Papua penguin and petrels that reproduce in this area.
  • Gourdin Island It is the largest island in the area with 124 hectares in size. It was discovered by the french captain Jules Dumont d'Urville between 1837-1840 and is named after an ensign (Jean Gourdin) of the Astrolabe expeditionary ship. We found colonies of chinstrap penguins, Papua and Adelia.
  • Base Esperanza This argentine scientific base, operates continuously 360 days a year and is one of the places where there are more permanent civilians in Antarctica. The station consists of 44 buildings with a covered area of ​​374,000 m2, where about 1,000 tourists who visit it during the summer are housed per year. In the winter there are about 100 people including teachers and it has a laboratory of the Argentine Antarctic Institute and a meteorological station that serves as the basis for the study of scientific research related to marine biology, seismology and glaciology.

Day 8 - Deception Island

In the morning it is planned to visit Deception Island, which is also part of the South Shetland group and is located northwest of the Antarctic peninsula. After crossing the narrow stretch known as the Neptune Trench, you enter the bay of what is actually the crater of a submerged volcano. The Zodiac boats will reach Caleta Pendulum, one of the corners of the island that shows the past of the old whaling companies and the current Argentine and Chilean temporary bases.

Day 9 to 10 - Back through the Drake Pass, sighting different bird species

Undertaking the return along the same route that crosses the passage of Drake, it is time to practice sighting of the bird species that fly over the ship, completing this exercise with the latest talks that biologists and guides offer in the auditorium.

Day 11 - We arrive at the port of Ushuaia

From the early morning you can see the coast of Ushuaia. The ship prepares to anchor at the international port while passengers enjoy the last breakfast on board.

Alternative program for days 5 and 6: The detailed itinerary only serves as a reference because the program can be modified according to the environmental conditions of the sea and the prevailing ice. Taking these considerations into account and in order to take advantage of the landing and wildlife observation opportunities, the expedition leader will determine the final itinerary. Flexibility is the maximum parameter in this type of expedition cruises. There is a plan B in the event that the route to Isla Cerro Nevado is free of ice, this possibility has a probability of less than 50%. Thanks to the complement of the helicopters you can reach the colonies of the emperor penguins but the rules govern the nature in Antarctica. If the weather is good the first two days we will observe the penguin colony. Helicopter operations consume a full day because each flight lasts 15 minutes and takes up to a maximum of 6 crew. After landing there is a walk of approximately 45 minutes to access of the colony. We are at the mercy of time, so it is essential to understand and respect safety regulations.

Map of Route

 In Search Of The Emperor Penguin in Snow Hill in the M/V Ortelius


Services included:
  • 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.
  • Group transfer with prior notice from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarking).
  • Helicopter transfers from the ship to the coast (without a specific flight time guaranteed).
  • 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).

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