Day 1: Ushuaia, Argentina (hotel night)
Welcome to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city and starting point of our expedition. Upon your arrival at the airport we provide a transfer to your hotel, which has been arranged by us and is included in the price of the voyage. For the rest of the day you are free to explore the city. Take advantage of souvenir shopping and a variety of dining options in the city center.
Day 2: Embarkation in Ushuaia
In the afternoon we provide a group transfer to the pier and welcome you aboard the luxury expedition ship M/V Sea Spirit. Explore the ship and get comfortable in your home away from home for the extraordinary adventure to come. Savor the anticipation of your Antarctic dreams coming true as we slip our moorings and sail toward a true wilderness where wildlife abounds. The scenery as we sail through the Beagle Channel on our first evening is wonderful and there is already the possibility of marine mammal encounters.
Day 3: South Atlantic Ocean
After transiting the Beagle Channel and passing the islands of Tierra del Fuego, we head northeast toward the Falkland Islands. We keep a lookout for dolphins and whales. The ship’s stabilizing fins provide comfort in the event of rough seas. Presentations by our experts prepare you for our arrival in the Falkland Islands.
Day 4-6: Falkland Islands
The remote and sparsely-populated Falkland Islands are a birders’ paradise. We anticipate spending two days in the remote outer islands where large colonies of penguins and albatross are easily accessible. The Falklands are also a great place to observe marine mammals. Fur seals and elephant seals can be found on sandy beaches while the waters around the archipelago are home to cetaceans such as Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins. Our exact route and exploration opportunities are dependent on weather among these isolated and windswept islands.
We also intend to visit the port of Stanley, the charmingly British capital of the Falkland Islands. Attractions within pleasant walking distance along the waterfront promenade include the Falkland Islands Museum, the governor’s house, a cathedral with impressive whalebone arch outside, a war memorial, quality gift shops, pubs, and views of shipwrecks in the harbor.
Day 7-8: Southern Ocean
From the Falkland Islands we head east toward South Georgia, passing the remote, seabird-covered pinnacles known as Shag Rocks on the way. We also cross the Antarctic Convergence, the biological boundary of the Southern Ocean. Briefings, bio-security procedures, and lectures from our experts prepare you for our arrival in South Georgia.
Day 9-13: South Georgia Island
This is expedition cruising at its most authentic. Our route and exploration opportunities in South Georgia are heavily dependent on the weather conditions we encounter. Our experienced captain and expedition leader decide the itinerary and continually adjust plans as conditions and opportunities warrant. You can be sure that the best possible advantage will be taken of the circumstances presented to us by nature in this wild and remote corner of the world. We take every safe opportunity to go ashore in this amazing place.
South Georgia is a scenic wilderness and an unrivaled paradise for subantarctic wildlife viewing. The islands are said to host upwards of 100 million seabirds, including numerous species of albatross, penguins, prions, petrels and terns. On beaches such as those at Salisbury Plain and St. Andrews Bay, over 100,000 elephant seals and three million fur seals jostle for space among innumerable penguins including stately king penguins and sprightly macaroni penguins. The recently completed rat eradication program is sure to make this wilderness even more pristine and rich with birdlife.
The bountiful waters surrounding South Georgia are also inhabited by an increasing number of whales. The historical whaling station of Grytviken is now home to the excellent South Georgia Museum managed by the South Georgia Heritage Trust. Grytviken is also the final resting place of Ernest Shackleton, the legendary polar explorer.
Our days in South Georgia are filled with memorable excursions, sumptuous meals, presentations by our experts, and enough incredible scenery and wildlife to fill your camera and overwhelm your emotions.
Day 14-15: Total Solar Eclipse in the Scotia Sea
As the time of the eclipse nears, we leave South Georgia and proceed southwest across the Scotia Sea toward Antarctica. The goal now is to get into perfect position for observing a total solar eclipse. To accomplish this remarkable feat, the captain will navigate the ship precisely onto the narrow path of totality—the relatively small area from which one can see the sun’s light become totally obscured by the moon—at the precise time of the predicted eclipse.
Essentially, we will try to meet the center of the moon’s shadow as it moves swiftly across the Scotia Sea during its rare and brief appearance in Antarctica. This may well bring us within sight of the Weddell Sea pack ice, adding a great polar ambiance to this amazing celestial event. With the advantage of sophisticated ice charts and meteorological forecasts—and a little luck—we will gather on deck in the early morning of Friday, December 4th, under clear skies to observe a total eclipse of the Antarctic sun in the most pristine wilderness on Earth.
Day 16-17: Southern Ocean
After the mesmerizing spectacle of the solar eclipse, we continue west toward the Antarctic Peninsula. Pelagic seabirds including the majestic albatross are common in these waters and can readily be viewed from panoramic open decks or from exterior stateroom windows and balconies. We may also encounter enormous tabular icebergs drifting north from the Weddell Sea.
Day 18-20: South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula
The Antarctic Peninsula region contains some of the world’s most impressive scenery and some of Antarctica’s best wildlife viewing opportunities. Protected bays and narrow channels are surrounded by towering mountain peaks covered in permanent snow and immense glaciers. Icebergs of every size and description complete an image of incomparable beauty. Waters rich with krill are home to a variety of whale and seal species. The whole area is alive with penguins foraging at sea and forming large nesting colonies at special places on land. The area is also home to Antarctic research stations of various nationalities, some with a gift shop and post office.
The South Shetland Islands are the northernmost islands in Antarctica and will likely be our first sighting of land. This wild and beautiful island chain contains numerous landing sites with abundant wildlife and historical significance. Among them is Elephant Island, where men from Shackleton’s famous Endurance expedition spent the winter.
Farther south, on the Antarctic Peninsula, the gorgeous Gerlache Strait area contains sheltered bays, accessible wildlife, and stunning scenery. Places with names like Paradise Bay are the epitome of everything Antarctic: glaciated mountains, towering icebergs, feeding whales, seals on ice floes, and bustling penguin colonies. At the southern end of Gerlache Strait is the famous Lemaire Channel, also known as “Kodak Gap” because of the photogenic way the mountainous sides of the narrow channel are reflected in calm waters strewn with icebergs.
The wilderness of Antarctica is subject to unpredictable weather and ever-changing ice conditions, which dictate our route and exploration opportunities. This is a real expedition. We exploit every opportunity to experience excellent wildlife viewing, amazing scenery and excursions via Zodiac.
Day 21-22: Drake Passage
From Antarctica we head north through the Drake Passage toward South America. Presentations and workshops by our expert staff, as well as our range of onboard recreation facilities, ensure that these days at sea are not idly spent. This is also the time for our End of Voyage ceremonies including slideshow and farewell dinner.
Day 23: Disembarkation in Ushuaia, Argentina
After breakfast we say farewell in the city of Ushuaia, where we started. We provide a group transfer to the airport or to the town center if you wish to spend more time here. As you look back on your wonderful experience in Antarctica, you may already be looking forward to your next incredible adventure to the ice!