An incredible voyage visiting prime wildlife sites along the Antarctic Peninsula and in the nearby South Shetland islands. The perfect introduction to the Antarctic!
Your journey begins and ends in the southern-most town in the world – Ushuaia, in Terra del Fuego – which nestles between the spectacular snow-capped mountains of the Andes and the Beagle Channel. You will travel across the Drake Passage (an experience in itself), accompanied by albatrosses and other seabirds, watching for whales and dolphins along the way.
Your first stop will normally be the Shetland Islands, where you visit enormous penguin rookeries, land on beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals, and observe wallowing elephant seals. The vessel will then move on to the Antarctic Peninsula where you will have plenty of time to experience the special magic of this awe-inspiring wilderness. Visit huge rookeries of Gentoo, chinstrap and adelie penguins, and see blue-eyed shags, kelp gulls and Cape petrels. You are also likely to see Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals, while orcas, humpback ad minke whales are often encountered at close range.
Finally, you will head back north back across the Drake Passage before rounding Cape Horn and making your way back to Ushuaia.
A typical Classic Antarctica itinerary is shown below, however, we offer a choice of itineraries, expedition vessels and cabin types to suit your requirements.
Day1: Embark in Ushuaia, Argentina
Embark in Ushuaia and set sail along the Beagle Channel
Days2-3: Cross the Drake Passage
Over the next two days you sail across the Drake Passage – the crossing offers excellent bird watching from the outer decks or the warmth of the bridge.
Days4-8: South Shetland Islands & Antarctic Peninsula
Your first port of call is the South Shetland Islands, a chain of volcanic islands that's home to huge numbers of penguins. You'll board a Zodiac inflatable to go ashore to see the stunning scenery and have your first experience with Antarctic wildlife – the beaches are ruled by Antarctic fur seals and wallowing elephant seals.
One highlight will be sailing into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island, and perhaps even taking a dip in its geo-thermally heated water. Your on-board team of naturalists and experienced expedition personnel, in coordination with the captain and officers, will attempt an average of two landings each day, though factors such as weather, sea and ice conditions, and not least wildlife behaviour, will influence the programme. They will also keep you entertained with a series of talks and presentations on a range of topics relating to the Antarctic, from its wildlife, to the great explorers, and the future of the Antarctic.
The next item on your agenda is the Antarctic Peninsula - here you'll encounter penguins, seabirds, seals and whales. During the summer months, the peninsula is a playground for birds, a fantastic feeding ground for whales, and a safe haven for seals looking to mate and for penguins to rear their young.
Depending on the conditions e nroute, your voyage may include visits to:
The Antarctic Peninsula is the most accessible part of the great white continent with some of its best wildlife and scenery. Ice-choked waterways, sculpted icebergs, imposing glaciers and rugged mountains provide the backdrop to an area with more whales and dolphins than anywhere else on earth.
The South Shetland Islands are situated north of the Antarctic Peninsula. Most of the land is permanently glaciated yet, despite the harsh conditions, the islands do support a large variety of seals, penguins – including Adelie and chinstrap - and seabirds – including Antarctic terns and giant petrels.
Ideal for viewing: Adélie penguin, elephant seal, chinstrap penguin, gentoo penguin, southern right whale
Paradise Harbour is surrounded by heavily glaciated mountains and ice cliffs, which protect and shield this part of the bay and reflect in the ice-cold waters. Its mind-boggling array of icebergs are a highlight, enhancing the wildlife viewing experience which includes whales and abundant birdlife.
The Lemaire Channel is an 11 kilometre strait off Antarctica leading to a jigsaw of jewel like islands. Filled with icebergs and hemmed in by steep glacial cliffs, the waters are calm and passing through it makes for an unforgettably scenic journey, upon which orca or humpback whales may be seen.
This itinerary is available on the following
Designed originally for polar research, the Akademik Ioffe is modern, comfortable, safe and ice-strengthened. Carrying around 100 passengers, facilities include a fitness room, massage room, sauna and plunge pool. Kayaking, camping, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing are available on most voyages.
The Akademik Sergey Vavilov is an ice-strengthened vessel which started life in Finland as a scientific research vessel, and has since been refitted and refurbished to sail the Polar seas. The ship’s bridge is an excellent place from which to view wildlife, and the on board hot tub is a great addition!
The Greg Mortimer introduces an exciting new generation of ship for cruising in the Polar regions. Purpose-built for expedition cruising with a uniquely designed ice-strengthened hull to provide a more comfortable voyage, this small ship can venture into remote areas that larger vessels cannot reach.
The ice-strengthened Ortelius is an excellent vessel for expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. With the highest ice-class notation, it offers possibilities to travel to remote locations such as the Ross Sea and Franz Josef Land. Flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities.
The Plancius accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in cabins ranging from triple to superior, all with outside view and private facilities. She offers a range of itineraries in Antarctica and the Arctic, and the large open deck spaces offer excellent opportunities to watch wildlife.
Small and manoeuvrable, the Polar Pioneer is an ice-strengthened vessel, capable of venturing into remote corners of the world that many larger ships cannot reach. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and you will be in the company of an experienced team of expedition experts and crew.
Starting life as the first purpose built expedition cruise vessel for the Polar regions, RCGS Resolute continues with her purpose, sailing 146 passengers in comfort, with an excellent on-board crew to educate on the spectacular wildlife to be found in the Antarctic region.
The Ushuaia is an ice-strengthened vessel specially refurbished for Antarctic expedition voyages. She boasts 46 cabins and suites for a total of 88 passengers, and has a fantastic observation lounge designed to maximise wildlife viewing. A fleet of Zodiac inflatables is used for shore landings.