Antarctica – ultimate wildlife cruises!
AT A GLANCE
Bird & Wildlife Cruise:
birds, whales & dolphins, mammals, scenery, historical sites & photography
Ushuaia (Argentina) – Beagle Channel - Drake Passage – Antarctic Peninsula & Islands – Drake Passage – Ushuaia
Penguins including Gentoo, Chinstrap & Adelie, albatrosses including Wandering, Royal, Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty, other tubenoses eg petrels, prions, diving-petrels, storm-petrels and shearwaters etc, various shags, skuas, gulls and terns. Potential marine mammals include Leopard, Weddell, Crab-eater and other seals, Humpback, Orca, Fin, Antarctic Minke and other whales. Dolphins could include Peale’s and Hourglass.
90 - 100+ passenger comfortable expedition ships. Cabins with, and without private facilities
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.
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.
Our vessels for these expedition cruises are the M/V Plancius and M/V Ortelius 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 sometimes 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.
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……
A typical itinerary is usually 10 or 11 nights onboard ship. You will embark in Ushuaia late afternoon and sail down the Beagle Channel heading out towards the open ocean. Next morning you will be in the Drake Passage, surrounded by seabirds and keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins. When will the first iceberg be seen? Next day (depending on your ship’s speed) land should be first sighted, often the South Shetland Islands and your visit to the most recently discovered continent has begun. You will spend your days in and around the northern end of the Peninsula and it’s islands, making up to three landings a day. The days are long and you will soon forget all the about the ‘real’ world as you loose track of time and just absorb the incredible landscape, skies and the abundant wildlife which surrounds you. Respect for the early explorers becomes very apparent too. Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins nest in large colonies. Finally the long sea crossing back to Ushuaia, a number of ships swing close by to Cape Horn on their way back in.
Day 1: Board vessel and sail.
Days 2-3: At sea, crossing the Drake Passage
Days 4-8: Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and islands (All our ships plan to land you at a site on the continent itself)
Days 9–10: At sea, back through the Drake Passage.
Day 11: Disembark Ushuaia.
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.
Antarctic Peninsula (and South Shetland Islands)
All prices are person based on sharing a cabin. Superior cabins and suites available on request.
Many people travel on their own, and cabins can be booked on a shared basis. Single cabins are also available, see below for supplements.
3rd – 14th Nov 2019
20th – 30th Nov 2019
5th – 16th Dec 2019
18th – 29th Dec 2019
18th – 29th Dec 2018
29th Dec 19 – 9th Jan 2020
3rd – 13th Jan 2020
Please contact us for full details of your chosen voyage!
Single cabins: Plancius and Ortelius – 1.7 twin share price.
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.
Price excludes: Flights UK – Ushuaia (available from £949 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.
Various November 2019-January 2020 from £4999