Join award winning wildlife photographers Nick Garbutt and Alex Hyde on an exceptional journey to South Georgia on board the ice strengthened Vavilov, visiting the most spectacular landing sites.
Our Festival of Wildlife Photography promises to be very special as it offers an extended exploration of South Georgia. The trip is timed to coincide with the arrival of spring, when the island’s beaches are covered with elephant seals with huge males battling to control harems, together with vast gatherings of king penguins. There will also be several species of majestic albatross, both nesting and flying effortlessly above the waves. The voyage is sure to provide an unsurpassed depth and variety of experiences that will not only be unforgettable, but will also provide a constant stream of peerless photographic opportunities.
Our base, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, is a comfortable, ice strengthened polar research vessel, accompanied by a symposium of five professional photographers on board, ready to assist with your photography skills, in addition to your exclusive tuition with Nick Garbutt and Alex Hyde. Wildlife Worldwide founder Chris Breen will also be on board the trip.
The day-to-day itinerary is influenced by the prevailing weather, but the intention is to stop at all the major wildlife and historical sites on South Georgia. We begin along the southern coastline at King Haakon Bay, before sailing around to the more protected waters of the north east coast, where we can indulge in an in-depth exploration of the bays and harbours that run the entire length of the island, including iconic sites such as The Bay of Isles, Salisbury Plain, Fortuna Bay, Stromness, Grytviken, St Andrews Bay and Gold Harbour.
Arrive in Santiago, onward flight to Punta Arenas and transfer to our hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel Cabo de Hornos, 1-night
Day3: Punta Arenas to Stanley, Falkland Islands
After a short flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands, there will be some time to explore the town before boarding our ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. After settling in to our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet the expedition team and fellow passengers.
Days4-5: At sea towards South Georgia
We chart a southeasterly course for South Georgia. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in biodiversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. We should see numerous small petrels and prions skim the sea, lifting and falling in unison with the waves as if held above the surface by some invisible force field. Much larger giant petrels, black-browed albatross and even wandering albatross circle and wield around in equally acrobatic and effortless fashion.
Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck takes patience and practice and this is something we are sure to spend time improving and perfecting to achieve the best results. Various on-board experts offer daily presentations about the environment, wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit in the coming days.
Days6-9: King Haakon Bay, Salisbury Plain, Stromness & Grytviken
We begin our exploration of South Georgia along the island’s southern coastline. We hope to visit historic King Haakon Bay, where Shackleton and his men made landfall in their small lifeboat, after completing the perilous ocean crossing from Elephant Island. King Haakon Bay is a very dramatic spot, visited by just a handful of ships each season.
On Salisbury Plain, the black sand beaches and tussock covered dunes are home to a staggering abundance of king penguins and their young. This rookery, one of several such king penguin colonies on South Georgia, is estimated to number up to 100,000 birds, and at the peak of breeding season the rookeries are believed to contain more wildlife per square metre than any other place on earth. In addition, fur seals patrol the waters off the beach, elephant seals gather lazing on favoured parts of the beach, while opportunistic skuas and giant petrels circle the skies above, ready to pick off the unwary.
We also visit Prion Island, designated as a ‘Specially Protected Area’ by the South Georgia Government, due to its breeding wandering albatross colonies.
Our next adventure takes us to Fortuna Glacier and then Fortuna Bay, a majestic fjord and a hot spot for king penguins, elephant seals and possibly light-mantled sooty albatross, which are known to nest in the area.
Further to the southeast, we enter the broad expanse of Cumberland Bay. At the head of the bay lies Grytviken – the largest of the old whaling stations on South Georgia. Here we can visit the graves of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild.
Days10-12: St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour & Southeast Coast
The next few days of the voyage will take you to St Andrew’s Bay and Gold Harbour – both of which are teeming with wildlife, from leopard and elephant seals to huge colonies of colourful king penguins. As with all of our landings, we will exercise every opportunity possible to explore on foot, to get the most from the variety of photographic possibilities.
Our final intended landing site is Drygalski Fjord at the far eastern extremity of the island, which is yet another stunningly spectacular site. When conditions are calm it is possible to hear the glacier calving large chunks of ice.
Days13-15: At sea, returning to the Falkland Islands
The return journey can once again be spent enjoying the constant attention of passing sea birds, especially species of majestic albatross. There will be time to review photos and go through digital workflow and techniques for processing. In addition there will be further presentations by experts from the expedition team.
Day16: Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands
We arrive at Sea Lion Island, one of the outlying Falkland Islands that became a National Nature Reserve in 2009. Here we experience yet more of the wonderful diversity of the South Atlantic. The island is home to colonies of gentoo, Magellanic and rockhopper penguins, as well as southern elephant seals, king cormorants and striated caracaras.
Day17: Disembark Stanley, fly to Punta Arenas
In the early morning we arrive back at Stanley, disembark and head off to the airport for the return flight to Punta Arenas in Chile.
Accommodation: Hotel Cabo de Hornos, 1-night
Day18: Fly to Santiago & depart
Day19: Arrive UK
You should note: With ever-changing weather conditions, polar and sub-polar exploration can be unpredictable and unscheduled alterations to the planned itinerary are highly possible. The itinerary above forms the basis of our plans, however the specific sites visited will depend on prevailing weather and ice conditions at the time of sailing. Hence this itinerary should be treated as provisional and subject to change.
Duration and price excluding international flights: 17 daysfrom £9,395 pp
Group size: 30
Included in the price/package:
Return flights between Punta Arenas & Falkland Islands
Accommodation aboard Akademik Sergey Vavilov on a full board basis
Services of the expedition team
Exclusive photography tuition and workshops
Windproof and waterproof outer weather gear and expedition gumboots
NOT INCLUDED: International flights UK-Santiago-Punta Arenas-Santiago-London; accommodation, meals & transfers in Punta Arenas
An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.
Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.
Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.
Often working with moving creatures smaller than a grain of rice, Alex has established himself as an expert in macro photography.
By understanding the behaviour of his subjects, he is able to capture intimate portraits of spiders, insects and other invertebrates in their natural habitats. Although his photography takes him all around the world, the Austrian Alps are a particularly special place for Alex and he returns annually to these favoured haunts to photograph the incredible insect and plant life.
An experienced tutor, Alex regularly delivers workshops and seminars on macro photography and has taught at venues such as the University of Nottingham and the Wild Photo photography festival in London. Alex supplies major international agencies and his photographs appear worldwide in newspapers, books and magazines including The Times, The Daily Telegraph, BBC Wildlife and New Scientist.
South Georgia is a remote, rugged and hauntingly beautiful sub-Antarctic island. Its scenery ranges from impressive mountains and mighty glaciers to deep fjords and low-lying grassland. Renowned as an excellent birdwatching destination, it has more wildlife than virtually anywhere else on the planet.
Ideal for viewing: wandering albatross, elephant seal, king penguin, macaroni penguin, sperm whale
Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Wildlife festivals, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Penguin watching, Birdwatching
The islands’ capital is located on East Falkland around a picturesque harbour, and is a lively small, historic town, with a distinctly British feel. It’s a pleasant place to relax or perhaps visit nearby sites such as Volunteer Point, with its large colonies of king, Magellanic and gentoo penguins.
Where: East Falkland
Excellent for: City stopover
The most southerly inhabited island, featured in many prize-winning photos, is quite small, so easy to explore. Much is covered with tussock grass, creating a perfect habitat for colonies of elephant seal and sealions. The sandy beaches, cliffs, freshwater ponds and heathland are home to 47 bird species.
Where: East Falkland
Ideal for viewing: elephant seal, leopard seal, orca, South American sealion, sooty shearwater
Excellent for: Wildlife photography
This itinerary is available on the following
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!