This unique wildlife expedition sails from Ushuaia to the Falklands and thence to South Georgia. The trip is led by Mark Carwardine, a great friend of Wildlife Worldwide, who has accompanied many trips over the past few years, and lectures regularly at our Festivals of Wildlife.
This special photographic departure visits a wealth of scenic, wildlife-rich and historical locations, to capture the natural wonders of South Georgia, and offers fabulous video and photographic opportunities, with tuition and workshops from experts Mark Carwardine and Joe Cornish. We will visit key sites in the Falkland Islands, before moving on to the remote island of South Georgia, home to a mind-boggling variety of wildlife and wild scenery.
Our base for this wonderful wildlife cruise is the comfortable ice-strengthened Akademik Sergey Vavilov, which we have exclusively chartered for 19 nights. We will spend plenty of time ashore to enjoy the overwhelming scenery in long hours of daylight, mingling with hundreds of thousands of penguins and huge elephant seals along the way. Our wildlife voyage takes us across to the Scotia Sea, meeting researchers, visiting Ernest Shackleton’s grave, and enjoying an outstanding itinerary of entertaining and informative lectures, talks, workshops and seminars by polar and wildlife experts, and professional photographers.
November in this region offers plenty of daylight and the snow is pristine. The wildlife activity is exceptional, with many courting penguins and fur seal pups being born. On South Georgia, this is the only time to see male elephant seals fighting on the beaches and it is also an excellent time for photography; we should encounter a few picturesque snowstorms, as well as a mix of sunny and overcast days.
Day1: Embark in Ushuaia, Argentina & sail
Before boarding the Akademik Sergey Vavilov late this afternoon, there will be time to explore the town of Ushuaia, situated on the shore of the Beagle Channel. After settling into our cabins, the vessel sets sail in the early evening towards the Falklands Islands.
Day2: En route to the Falkland Islands
Today is our first full day at sea, and we spend the time looking for whales, dolphins, petrels, albatrosses and other wildlife. A wealth of seabirds will follow the ship, offering excellent photographic opportunities. A series of workshops and lectures/presentations will take place on board, covering the wildlife of the region, as well as stories of early polar explorers.
Day3: Shore excursions In the Falkland Islands
We should arrive in the Falklands overnight, and by morning will make our first shore landings. Our first stop is at Bleaker Island, home to gentoo, Magellanic and rockhopper penguins, as well as a large colony of imperial cormorants. It is also one of the few places where we can see the rare flying steamer duck. Our next landing will be at Sea Lion Island, known for its large breeding colony of southern elephant seals and resident orcas. Here we should also be able to see Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins. Finally, we stop briefly in colourful Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.
Days4-5: Crossing to South Georgia
Sailing southeast, we head to the remote island of South Georgia, keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife en route, and enjoying more workshops, presentations and lectures.
Days6-10: Exploring South Georgia
We have five full days in South Georgia, plenty of time to explore this small speck in the immense Southern Ocean. South Georgia has an eerie, breathtaking beauty. Home to more than five million seals and 50 million seabirds, it offers some of the greatest concentrations of wildlife on Earth. Animals reside around every corner, from macaroni penguins to southern elephant seals, and albatrosses to South Georgia pipits – all indifferent to our presence; consequently, many simply stand and stare, or may venture towards us for a closer look.
Amongst many highlights, we hope to see writhing groups of Antarctic fur seals at the picturesque bay of Elsehul, pay a visit to Grytviken to see Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave, mingle with over 150,000 pairs of king penguins at St. Andrew’s Bay, and walk amongst the wealth of wildlife at beautiful Gold Harbour. The spectacle of this unforgettable week in South Georgia guarantees a sensory overload at every turn!
Days11-13: Crossing the Scotia Sea
Now we cross the Scotia Sea, heading south-west towards the Antarctic Peninsula, with more wildlife-watching along the way, as well as lectures, workshops and presentations. We cross the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold polar waters sink beneath the warmer waters of the temperate zone, Beyond the Convergence, the world changes as signs of the frozen south arrive - we start to see little blocks of ice, then larger blocks, then proper tabular icebergs.
Days14-17: The South Shetland Islands & Antarctic Peninsula
We explore the beautiful and wildlife-rich South Shetland Islands. Here we visit enormous rookeries of Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins, land on beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals, and observe wallowing southern elephant seals. One highlight is sailing into the flooded caldera of Deception Island - through a narrow entrance that is often patrolled by humpback whales - to see more penguins and Antarctic fur seals.
Then we cross the Bransfield Strait to the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the world’s great, undisturbed wildlife paradises, where we visit enormous penguin rookeries, and see blue-eyed shags, kelp gulls, Cape petrels, snowy sheathbills and many other birds. We cruise in our Zodiac inflatables among other-worldly icebergs or past crabeater, Weddell and leopard seals hauled out on ice floes. And we hope for close encounters with orcas, humpback whales and Antarctic minke whales.
Days18-19: En route back to Ushuaia
It will take us two days to sail west back towards Ushuaia, looking for wildlife en route and enjoying the last of our workshops and presentations.
We leave the magical world of Antarctica and head back across the infamous Drake Passage, watching for whales, dolphins, albatrosses and other wildlife. Rounding Cape Horn, we make a short stop offshore to quietly contemplate this notorious landmark and perhaps observe the Peale’s dolphins and large numbers of seabirds that often gather in this area. Then we make our way back along the Beagle Channel towards Ushuaia.
Day20: Arrive Ushuaia & disembark
After bidding farewell to the crew and expedition staff of the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, we disembark after breakfast in Ushuaia.
You should note: This trip is highly dependent on weather, sea and ice conditions. Although we will stick to the itinerary as closely as possible, this may change to make the most of local conditions. It’s all part of the fun of polar exploration!
Duration and price excluding international flights: 20 daysfrom £12,995 pp: Price based on twin-share cabin (shared facilities)
Group size: 94 (exclusive charter)
Included in the price/package:
Return transfers between Ushuaia airport & ship
19 nights on board Akademik Sergey Vavilov
Shore landings & excursions during voyage
Services of Mark Carwardine
Loan of polar jacket, trousers & boots
Flights to Ushuaia are NOT included (optional flight & hotel package available from £1,995)
Mark is an award-winning writer, magazine columnist, widely published photographer, consultant, broadcaster and lecturer.
With Stephen Fry he co-presented Last Chance to See, a BBC TV series about endangered species which was broadcast in autumn 2009. He also presented the weekly half-hour programme, Nature, on BBC Radio 4 for many years.
Mark has written more than 50 books – including the best-selling field guide to whales, dolphins and porpoises ever published. He has also penned monthly columns in BBC Wildlife and Wanderlust magazines for many years. Mark has an extensive collection of wildlife, nature and environment photographs taken on all seven continents and in more than a hundred countries – which are sold around the world. And for many years Mark was the Chairman of the Judging Panel for the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.
A wildlife and landscape photographer, Joe started his career freelancing for the National Trust in 1988.
Years of close encounters with nature have left him him convinced of the need to reconnect people with the natural world, and travelling to Antarctica with Mark Carwardine in 2013 reignited Joe's passion for wilderness. He has subsequently joined Mark on trips in Svalbard and Baffin Island.
Books are the heart of Joe’s photographic output, and he has written several landscape photography publications, including Scotland's Coast, and the critically acclaimed Scotland's Mountains. His training in fine art and experience assisting commercial photographers have helped Joe bring together these two worlds, and his enthusiasm has made him a popular speaker and workshop leader.
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
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.
This isolated, low-lying island off the south-east coast of East Falkland has wide sandy bays and sheltered coves – it is small and flat, so walking between bird colonies is easy. Of interest is its large colony of rockhopper penguin (over 750 pairs), and its many pools are home to large numbers of waterfowl.
Where: East Falkland
Ideal for viewing: gentoo penguin, king cormorant, magellanic penguin, rockhopper penguin, striated caracara
Excellent for: Penguin watching, Birdwatching
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
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
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!