Antarctica, The Falklands and South Georgia
AT A GLANCE
Bird & Wildlife Cruise:
birds, whales & dolphins, mammals, scenery, historical sites & photography
Ushuaia (Argentina) – South Atlantic - Falkland Islands – Scotia Sea - South Georgia – Antarctic Peninsula & Islands – Drake Passage – Ushuaia
Penguins including King & Macaroni, albatrosses including Wandering, Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty, other tubenoses eg petrels, prions, diving-petrels, storm-petrels and shearwaters etc, various shags, geese, duck including steamer-ducks, waders, skuas, gulls and terns plus Falkland & S Georgian endemics. Potential marine mammals include Southern Elephant, Leopard, Weddell, Crab-eater and other seals, Humpback, Orca, Fin, Antarctic Minke and other whales. Dolphins could include Peale’s, Commerson’s and Hourglass.
90 - 100+ passenger comfortable expedition ships. Cabins with, and without private facilities
The ‘ultimate’ bird and wildlife itinerary
Antarctica is truly like nowhere else on Earth, a continent of dramatic ice-covered mountains, never-ending snowfields, innumerable glaciers and colossal icebergs fractured into fantastic shapes. Captivated and spellbound by the incredible and ever changing beauty of our surroundings, you will thrill to the unique wildlife spectacles that unfold daily on these trips.
Throughout these voyages, landings are made at the best areas for wildlife. Sturdy Zodiac inflatables allow you to go ashore at the remotest of places with ease and comfort. The days spent at sea on these trips are a major highlight for wildlife observation too.
Most of these voyages sail from and to Ushuaia, in Southern Argentina and some excellent birding is available pre or post voyage too. Hotspots include the Tierra del Fuego National Park, with local specialities including Magellanic Woodpecker, White-throated Caracara, Andean Condor plus birds such as White-bellied Seedsnipe can be seen close by. A local boat trip down the Beagle Channel is also recommended, whilst your ship will also sail down this channel this sector can often be under darkness. A full day or overnight trip from the city can also yield the unique Magellanic Plover too.
WildWings have been sending people to Antarctica for over 20 years now and we have learnt that the best bird and wildlife experience needs the right itinerary, on the right ships and on the right dates. The main bird and wildlife season starts in November, and runs to early February. From mid-February onwards, the penguin colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula are almost empty again. We offer carefully chosen ships, which we know personally.
Our unique partnership with one of our preferred operators, also allows us to offer this ‘ultimate itinerary’ featuring Dick Filby, one of the UK’s most experienced Antarctic tour leaders. Dick (and artist Bruce Pearson) will be joining their larger than average expedition team on-board the 30th November 2017 voyage (see below and see separate text, click here) They will both work closely with the expedition leaders to totally maximise your bird and wildlife experience. There may also be an opportunity on all our special voyages to spend a night, ‘camping’ ashore, for those that wish, a wonderful additional wilderness experience (subject to local conditions on the day).
These voyages offer all the expected birds and mammals of the Antarctic Peninsula including the crossings of the Drake Passage. Chinstrap, Adelie and Gentoo Penguins, Wandering, Royals, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, both Giant Petrels, Southern Fulmar, Cape, (Lesser) Snow, Soft-plumaged, Blue and White-chinned Petrels, Antarctic and Slender-billed Prions, Wilson’s and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, Common Diving Petrel, Antarctic Shags, Snowy Sheathbill, Chilean, Brown and South Polar Skuas, Dolphin and Kelp Gulls plus Antarctic Terns being the expected birds species. If you are lucky in the Drake Passage other species may include Great-winged, Atlantic, Kerguelan and/or Grey Petrels and down around the ice, Antarctic Petrels can appear at any time. The expected cetaceans on these voyages would be Humpback, Antarctic Minke and Killer Whales plus Peale’s and Hourglass Dolphins but many more species are possible and seen such as Blue, Fin and Southern Right Whales. Other marine mammals should include Weddell, Crabeater, Antarctic Fur and Leopard Seals. In addition to the spectacular wildlife you will also wonder at the ice, its shapes, colours and hues and soak in some of the most amazing scenery on earth in the ever changing light. Photographic (still and video) opportunities are superb throughout.
There is no doubt amongst those that have travelled to the Antarctic region on voyages that have included South Georgia - be they birders, naturalists or the general tourist - that they rate this unique island as awesome as the Antarctic itself. The scenery is incredible; the penguin rookeries immense - how King Penguins are usually everybody’s favourite penguin. The beaches filled wall-to-wall with Fur Seals have to be seen to be believed. Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses are the most haunting of all the albatross, and that the sea crossing, filled with birds and often whales, is a major highlight in itself. Preceded with the splendours of the Falklands, and followed with the best of the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetlands, this is truly the ultimate Antarctic trip.
As these voyages all include the Falklands and South Georgia they therefore offer additional species such as King, Macaroni and Magellanic Penguins, albatross colony visits (Black-browed and Wandering), Gray-backed Storm-Petrel, Georgian Diving Petrel, South Georgia Shag, Sub-Antarctic Skua plus ‘land’ endemics such as Falklands Flightless Steamer Ducks, South Georgia Pintail and Pipit, Striated Caracara etc. Most vessels will sail through the northern Weddell Sea on their way down to Antarctica, and may pass some of the larger tabular bergs, which sometimes contain resting flocks of thousands of Antarctic and Snow Petrels (as were seen in Feb 2010). This area is also the best for a chance of an Emperor Penguin in the sea, or on ice, whose closest colony is deep in the Weddell Sea. Additional marine mammals should include Commerson’s Dolphins, South American Sea Lions and Southern Elephant Seals. Burmeister’s Porpoise is also now being seen in the Beagle Channel on a regular basis.
Our vessels for these expedition cruises are a carefully chosen selection, The M/V Plancius, The M/V Ortelius and the Akademik Ioffe currently. With a maximum passenger capacity of between 90 and 110, you can expect to make two landings and/or Zodiac cruises each day. These vessels offers a number of advantages over the 50 or so only passenger ships, not least their larger size meaning greater stability on the open ocean, very important for maximising sea watching on the crossings of the Drake Passage and Scotia Sea. They are stable and a ‘scope and tripod can often be used on deck, whilst at sea! Originally built for scientific polar exploration, they have lots of open deck space in all directions, ideal for sea-watching and photography and are very quiet too, allowing for closer encounters with cetaceans. These ships have a high ice-class rating, and their experienced staff and crew are dedicated to ensuring that you have a successful, comfortable, safe and enjoyable trip and that you see as much of the wildlife as possible. The Zodiac drivers will take you safely ashore, and also on more leisurely cruises as well, so you should gain an even more intimate and unique perspective of the seabirds and marine mammals in this stunning wilderness. There will be one or two naturalists amongst the ship’s expedition staff, however, do not expect them to be out on deck on the ‘at sea’ days. They are usually around for landings and briefings etc. If you wish to have a world-class bird guide & wildlife guide with you at all times, you should choose our special departures with Dick Filby onboard.
The atmosphere on board is relaxing and informal and meals are taken at a single open sitting in the spacious dining room/s. Western chefs produce an international choice of great food throughout the voyage. The cabins are all comfortable and all have an outside view (porthole or window), desk and chair plus storage space and power points. The majority have private facilities and lower berths. Other on board facilities include a ‘fitness’ room, lounge/bar, presentation room, gift shop and library. Some vessels have mud-rooms allowing boots and outdoor coats to be kept by the Zodiac gangways. The bridges are usually open for those who wish to learn about navigation, see the ship's charts, or simply sea watch in comfort (except M/V Plancius). There is no dress code at any time, life onboard is informal.
‘Non-birding’ partner’s invariably enjoy these cruises too, the ships are comfortable, stable, the food good, plenty of new interesting friends to make and experiences to share and the most stunning scenery in the world.
If you want to experience the most incredible place on earth, don't miss this chance to join the best ships, on the best dates, on the ultimate Antarctic wildlife itinerary……
Sample Itinerary (18 nights)
Day 1: Board vessel and sail down the Beagle Channel late afternoon. (Ushuaia or Puerto Madryn)
Day 2: At sea.
Days 3 - 4: The Falkland Islands (planned landings may include Carcass and West Point Islands plus Port Stanley)
Days 5 - 6: At sea, cross the Antarctic Convergence which can be a wildlife hotspot (see 2010 trip report).
Days 7 - 9: South Georgia (planned landings may include Salisbury Plain, Prion Island for nesting Wandering Albatross, Grytviken, King Haakon Bay, Peggotty Bluff, Cooper, Royal and Hercules Bays plus Zodiac cruises)
Days 10 – 12: At sea via the South Orkneys and northern Weddell Sea.
Days 13 - 16: The Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands (planned landings may include Elephant Island, King George, Half Moon, Aicho, Livingstone and Deception Islands, Paradise Harbour or Hope Bay on the continent itself plus Zodiac cruises).
Days 17-18: At sea, crossing the Drake Passage.
Day 19: Disembark Ushuaia after breakfast.
NB: The exact voyage itineraries are subject to ice, weather and local conditions at the time.
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.
9-29 Nov 17
29 Nov-18 Dec 17
30 Nov-18 Dec 17*
16 Dec 17-3 Jan 18
19 Jan-7 Feb 18
2-20 Feb 18
Single cabins: Ioffe - 1.5 twin share price, Plancius and Ortelius – 1.7 twin share price.
Prices based on £1 = Euros 1.15 / US$ 1.2. Price guarantee if paid in full at time of booking.
Price includes: Accommodation and all meals aboard ship (with free tea and coffee 24 hours), port taxes, Zodiac landings, services of the ship’s expedition staff including lecture and film programmes at sea, WildWings pre-voyage information pack and day-by-day checklist of mammals and birds, group transfers in Ushuaia to and from ship, souvenir voyage DVD/USB-stick log plus free onboard rubber boot loan. (Also free waterproofs loan onboard Ioffe.)
Price excludes: Flights UK – Ushuaia (available from £1199 including pre-paid taxes and security/fuel surcharges), pre and or post cruise hotel nights in Ushuaia and/or Buenos Aires if required, other drinks, laundry and items of a personal nature onboard, crew gratuities (we suggest $10-15 per passenger per day aboard ship), passport fees, travel insurance.
Previous voyage reports and species lists available on this website.
See prices/dates tab for details