Cross latitude 66° 33’ South in the wake of hallowed explorers including the first to do so, Captain James Cook. It’s a moment to celebrate, and we oblige with enthusiasm. In this frozen area of extraordinary beauty, powerful orcas and leopard seals patrol the waters, while ethereal snow petrels grace the skies against a background of bristling mountain ranges and surreal icebergs. Threading our way through an intricate system of icy waterways, we aim for the glorious Crystal Sound at the mouth of The Gullet.
Day 1: Transfer from your hotel in Ushuaia (Argentina) to the boat. Step aboard your home-away-from-home and settle in to your comfortable cabin. There is time to greet fellow passengers, meet the staff and explore the ship before we leave Ushuaia for our evening cruise down the Beagle Channel.
Day 2: We cross the Drake Passage, accompanied by albatross, petrels, fulmars and prions. Our polar experts speak about Antarctica’s unique wildlife and history. Spirits soar as air and water temperatures fall, marking our crossing of the Antarctic Convergence. All eyes are peeled for the first iceberg, the first penguin and the first glimpse of whales.
Day 3: We enter the antarctic world and explore the Peninsula’s west coast, with time to watch the frenzied activities of penguin parents and chicks as the summer days begin to shorten. Watch for imperial cormorant chicks bravely making their first flights from sea cliffs. If conditions allow, we go ashore this afternoon.
Day 4-9: Zodiac cruise amongst icebergs and floes replete with basking Weddell and leopard seals and revel in the unparalleled beauty of the vast, Antarctic landscape. Besides landing on wildlife-rich offshore islands, we make a continental landing, possibly hiking up for spectacular views. As we continue south, ice conditions govern our movements. Whether we cross the Circle via the ‘inner route’ or the Bellingshausen Sea, we celebrate in style. With luck we reach magnificent Crystal Sound, pass through the Gullet and steam on to Marguerite Bay, where relatively few have gone before. Orcas, humpbacks and minkes feed in the channels. We may visit historical Stonington, Pourquoi Pas and Detaille islands before turning north to warmer climes.
Day 10: We arrive at mountainous King George Island. If time and weather permit we explore penguin and seal-rich waters of Fildes Bay and visit the surprising Trinity Church at Bellingshausen Station, before catching our charter flight back to Punta Arenas (Chile), where we transfer to our overnight accommodation.
Day 11: After breakfast bid farewell to fellow expeditioners before flying from King George Island to Punta Arenas (Chile) where you can continue on with your own arrangements.