Explore the wildlife sanctuaries of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas and South Georgia on this brand new sub-Antarctic sailing adventure, including exclusive photography workshops.
Day 1: Flight from Santiago (or Punta Arenas) to Stanley and embark - If you travel to the Falkland Islands today with the rest of the group, you will be transferred from the airport to Polar Pioneer with a tour of Stanley included. If you wish to see more of the Falkland Islands you may book your flight to arrive one week early to explore this very British outpost. If you do so you will make your own way to the pier to board the ship.
After a tour of Stanley you will be taken to Polar Pioneer where our staff and crew will welcome you aboard in the afternoon. Your luggage should already be in your cabins. After a little time to settle in and explore the ship, we will get together for introductions and our required safety briefing. But it’ll be everyone on deck as we depart Stanley harbor and begin our adventure. As we round the Falkland Islands on our way to our second stop, we will settle into shipboard life and enjoy our first meal on board.
Day 2: Falkland Islands/Malvinas - Steeple Jason all day – contingency landing: Saunders, Westpoint or Carcass Islands.
Steeple Jason Island is a rarely visited jewel and the most remote of all West Falklands islands. It rises sharply from the sea and is one of the most dramatic islands on the archipelago. Its remoteness and rugged coast make it difficult to visit but it is home to the world’s largest black-browed albatross colony and the area has significant importance to conservationists. Its rare beauty and its huge albatross colony make it an important goal for us. We will do our best to visit Steeple Jason, but if conditions are too harsh, we have other exciting islands to choose from.
Second largest off-shore island in the archipelago and is a working sheep farm. Saunders is rich in wildlife and history, the island boasts four species of penguins and a spectacular black-browed albatross colony on its northern cliffs. The combination of wildlife and natural, scenic beauty afford some of the best photography opportunities in the World.
Named after the HMS Carcass which surveyed the island in 1766, Carcass island is cat and rat free. That makes it a haven for small birds including endemic Cobb’s Wren, dark ground tyrants, tussac birds, and striated caracaras abound. It also boasts 3 species of penguins and a black-browed albatross colony with spectacular access to within meters of their nests.
West Point Island
Home to numerous species of plants, birds and marine mammals, spectacular cliffs are a feature along the coastline. Rich wildlife, a picturesque settlement and small harbor often teeming with Commerson’s dolphins make this island well worth a visit.
Days 3 - 4: At Sea bound for South Georgia - Sailing towards South Georgia gives us time to catch our breath and slow to the rhythm of the sea. Between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia we will prepare you for your expedition with a schedule of informative talks on wildlife and history. There will be plenty of time to simply relax and be entranced by the many seabirds we’ll encounter on our way. You may decide to join the avid whale watchers hoping to get a glimpse of leviathan, or simply contemplate the vastness of the sea. Instead you may prefer to relax and read a favorite book or socialize with shipmates.
The mood on board is definitely casual. A favorite pastime is to stand on the stern deck to watch and photograph albatrosses, giant petrels and other seabirds following in our wake. It’s mesmerizing to watch as they skillfully ride the wind back and forth behind the ship. Our chefs will prepare delicious meals that, accompanied by good conversation, will become a focal point of shipboard life.
If time and weather conditions permit, we may pass close to Shag Rocks, a fascinating group of rocky islets that attract seabirds and sea mammals in the thousands. Feeling transformed, we approach South Georgia, receptive and open.
Days 5 - 12 : South Georgia - Before our first landing you will be given guidelines for our behavior around the wildlife and talk about the implications of the Antarctic Treaty. Importantly, we will take care of our biosecurity procedures to ensure that South Georgia remains protected from introduced organisms and as pristine as possible. South Georgia is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The island is just a speck in the vastness of the South Atlantic Ocean, one of the most remote parts of our planet. A 10,000 ft (3,000 m) mountain range forms the spine of this long, narrow island. Between the mountains, shattered glaciers carve their way through tussock grass to the deeply indented coastline. Geographically speaking, the island lies in the subantarctic, as do Macquarie Island and Heard Island, but it lies wholly within the Antarctic Convergence so it has a climate more in keeping with Antarctica. Despite being such a small outpost in the vastness of the south Atlantic, the sea around South Georgia is one of the most productive areas on Earth. The abundant marine life supports millions of seals, whales, penguins and other seabirds.
Politically speaking South Georgia also lies north of 60° South latitude so is not part of the Antarctic treaty. It is a wholly British possession, claimed and named for King George III on 16 January 1775 by Captain James Cook.
Cook recorded in his journal:
"The wild rocks raised their lofty summits till they were lost in the clouds and the valleys lay buried in ever lasting snow. Not a tree or a shrub was to be seen, no, not even big enough to make a toothpick. I landed in three different places, displayed our colors and took possession of the country in His Majesty's name under a discharge of small arms."
On 20 May 1916—just over 100 years ago—Sir Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley stumbled into the busy whaling station at Stromness; hungry, exhausted and covered in grime. They had just made the first ever crossing of the mountains of South Georgia, from King Haakon Bay, to find help for their three exhausted companions left at Cave Cove and to rescue the men they had left on Elephant Island. They had sailed in the James Caird for 16 days under horrendous conditions and finally found safety in the tiny entrance of Cave Cove. This epic story of survival began with the sinking of his ship, the Endurance, in the Weddell Sea, six months earlier. As we explore South Georgia, we will have the opportunity to reflect on Shackleton’s epic journey.
Some of the destinations we plan to visit in South Georgia are:
Often our first landfall when coming from Stanley, at this time of year the fur seal pups will be getting ready to strike out on their own so the beaches will give us enough room to visit without worrying about fur seal numbers. Elsehul is best experienced from the Zodiacs. It will be a magnificent introduction to the abundance and diversity on South Georgia. Several species of albatross nest on the slopes above the bay. Macaroni penguins climb insanely steep paths to reach their precarious colonies above the water while close to shore it will be “seal soup” from all the fur seals swimming off the breeding beaches.
Bay of Isles—Salisbury Plain and Prion Island
Prion Island is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to visit wandering albatross sitting on their nest—and if we are lucky, witness the magnificent courting rituals of the younger birds forming life-long pairings. We must take great care with the albatross on the island and remain on a boardwalk. Despite these restrictions, the photographic opportunities are excellent. Prion Island is also one of the best places to find the unique endemic, the South Georgia Pipit.
On to shore from Prion Island is Salisbury Plain with one of the largest king penguin colonies on South Georgia. With about 100,000 pairs, the shore and beach are simply covered with penguins. Along the beach you will also find fur seals and elephant seals mixed in. There is a tremendous scope for walking and exploring on your own at this site so enjoy your time amongst the kings.
Originally a Norwegian sealing and whaling station, it was finally closed in 1965. Now it is the administrative centre and a hub of activity in South Georgia. The former whaling station stands as a solemn testament of the whaling days, but the museum offers much more than a whaling past. It has many of the local animals on display as well as the history of exploration in the area. As we wander around the site skirting the ruins of factory buildings, peering into the past, we must be careful to avoid stepping on sleeping elephant seals or disturbing small groups of king penguins as we imagine what it was like when whale processing was in full swing. Abandoned ships lie sunken alongside hundred-year-old wharves, while pitted concrete walls remind us of the more recent Falkland's War, which started here.
Sir Ernest Shackleton died from a heart attack during his final expedition on board the Quest on 6 May 1922. His body was laid to rest at Grytviken. We can pay our respects at his grave and possibly visit the cross his men erected in his memory looking out across beautiful Cumberland Bay.
St Andrews Bay
The long black sandy beach fronts a broad valley that stretches well back from the sea. This valley shelters the largest king penguin colony on South Georgia. Toward the landing beach on the north end of the bay, the beach is a resting place for hundreds of elephant seals that haul out on the shore to molt. Behind the beach and as you move along to the south, the sight and sound—and smell—of over 200,000 pairs of king penguins at different stages of their breeding cycle will be overwhelming. Eventually the colony is so dense that the penguins prevent even the seals from using the beach! The glacial river that runs into the sea here will be alive with penguin chicks and elephant seal pups testing their skills. If we lift our gaze from the wildlife for a moment, we will glimpse the snow-capped peaks of some of the world's most spectacular mountains.
A deep bay along the coast, Fortuna often gives shelter when some other bays do not. Surrounded by high mountains with glaciers dropping out of the high country to terminate in the open valley. Fortuna Bay is also home to a small king penguin colony that will draw our interest. It is also the where Shackleton, Crean and Worsley came down off the treacherous glaciers of the interior on their way to Stromness whaling station. If conditions allow we can walk in the footsteps of Shackleton and follow their track over the last mountain pass. It’s a moderately difficult 4 mi (6 km) walk over a 1,000 ft (300 m) pass so not everyone will be able or willing, but it’s well worth the experience. The Polar Pioneer can meet us as we stagger into Stromness Bay just as Shackleton did 100 years ago.
Other stunning wildlife destinations we may visit include:
Right Whale Bay, Godthul, Royal Harbor, Moltke Harbor, Gold Harbor, Cooper Bay, Drygalski Fjord, Larsen Harbor, King Haakon Bay.
Days 13 - 14: At Sea returning to the Falkland Islands - We begin cruising back toward the Falkland Islands and our departure. Usually we are traveling into the prevailing weather on this stage of the voyage so it is difficult to predict what conditions we may experience. The lecture program will continue, and the parade of seabirds around the ship will continue for these days. Almost as important, it is a time to review and reflect on the experiences of the voyage—and sorting through all those photos that want captions.
Day 15: Falkland islands/Malvinas - On our last day of the voyage, we will cruise into Stanley Harbor first thing in the morning. You have the choice of extending your stay in this very British outpost or continuing directly on the afternoon flight to Punta Arenas and on to Santiago. Our local guide will take care of everyone heading to Mount Pleasant airport.
Please note that all of our itineraries are at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. Our itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.
|Dates & Rates||Cabins (all Prices in US$ Dollar)|
|Code||Date||Triple shared||Twin shared||Twin private||Mini Suite private||Suite private||Kayaking surcharge.|
|Start Mar 24, 2018
End Apr 07, 2018