This Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctic Peninsula cruise is an animal-lover’s dream come true. The expedition explores one of the last untamed areas on Earth – a land of ruggedly beautiful landscapes and amazingly varied wildlife.
Day 1: End of the world, start of a journey
Day 2: The winged life of the westerlies
Day 3 – 4: Finding the Falklands
The Falkland Islands offer an abundance of wildlife that is easily approachable, though caution is always advised. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of a 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of bird live here, but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters.
During this segment of the voyage, you may visit the following sites:
Westpoint Island – Thick with black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins.
Grave Cove – Nesting gentoo penguins and excellent hiking opportunities abound here.
New Island, Coffin’s Harbour – This location is a reasonable walk from the landing site at the New Island South Wildlife Reserve, providing views of nesting black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins. A more strenuous hike to Landsend Bluff may also show you some South American fur seals. The site of the only land-based whaling station on the Falkland Islands is south of the landing beach.
New Island North Nature Reserve – Landing here requires a special permit. If received, you can make a farewell visit to the black-browed albatrosses (among other bird species) and South American fur seals that make the Falklands their home.
Carcass Island – Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wrens and tussock-birds) live here.
Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here.
Day 5: The seat of Falklands culture
Day 6 – 7: Once more to the sea
Day 8 – 12: South Georgia Journey
Today you arrive at the first South Georgia activity site. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program.
Over the next several days, you have a chance to visit the following sites:
Prion Island – This location is closed during the early part of the wandering albatross breeding season (November 20 – January 7). From January on, the breeding adults have found their partners and are sitting on eggs or nursing their chicks. Enjoy witnessing the gentle nature of these animals, which possess the largest wingspan of any birds in the world.
Fortuna Bay – A beautiful outwash plain from Fortuna Glacier is home to a large number of king penguins and seals. You may have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall, and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for Antarctic fur seals. Literally millions breed on South Georgia during December and January. Only during the mid-season do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the large bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. Watch your step and stay cool when walking the beaches during this time.
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
Cobblers Cove, Godthul – At Cobblers Cove we aim for Rookery Point to see macaroni penguins. Light-mantled sooty albatrosses nest along the coastline and giant petrels can be observed as well. Godthul (Norwegian for “good cove”) was named by Norwegian whalers and seal-hunters and remains such as bones can still be found along the shore line. Beaches are the home of gentoo penguins.
Cooper Bay – Offers the largest chinstrap penguin population and gentoo and also macaroni penguins are present. Antarctic terns, white-chinned petrels, blue-eyed shags and light-mantled sooty albatrosses can be spotted too.
In the afternoon of day 12 and depending on the conditions, we will start sailing southwards in the direction of the South Orkney Islands.
Day 13: Southward bound
There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.
Day 14: The scenic vistas of South Orkney
Day 15: Last push to the Antarctic
Day 16 – 19: Awe-inspiring Antarctica
If the ice conditions permit, you now sail into the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. You might also visit Brown Bluff, located in the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound, where you could get the chance to set foot on the Antarctic Continent itself.
We sail further in the Antarctic Peninsula. Sites we may visits are:
Wilhelmina Bay – A likely spot to see feeding humpback whales. If conditions allow, you may even embark on a Zodiac cruise to the ghostly wreck of the Guvernøren, a whaling vessel that caught fire here in 1915.
Neko Harbour – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow, Neko Harbour offers opportunities for a Zodiac cruise and landing that afford the closest views of the surrounding alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay – You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters, where there’s a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales.
The breathtaking scenery continues in the Bransfield Straight and, if conditions allow further South in the Gerlache Strait. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.