AT A GLANCE
Bird & Wildlife Cruise: birds, whales and dolphins, scenery, remote islands & photography
Ushuaia (Argentina) – South Georgia – Gough & Tristan da Cunha – St Helena – Ascension (and extend to) – Cape Verde.
Polar, temperate and tropical seabirds galore, penguins, albatross, petrels including Northern Rockhopper Penguin, Tristan & Sooty Albatross’s, Atlantic & Spectacled Petrels (40 species of tubenose possible), island endemics eg Wirebird, Tristan Thrush etc. Well over 20 species of whale and dolphin possible (17 seen in 2014) plus up to 8 species of seal.
Polar cold via temperate to tropical.
100+ passenger very comfortable expedition cruise ship. All cabins with private facilities.
Antarctica to the Tropics - the Islands of the South Atlantic
2018 is the last planned sailing of this voyage!!!
Tierra del Fuego, South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha, St. Helena and Ascension Island - a roll call of some of the most remote and romantic places in the world. Add Gough Island and the chance to land on legendary Nightingale & Inaccessible Islands and you have one of the ultimate pelagics, pioneered by WildWings in 1998. Better still, you can stay on the ship to the Cape Verdes, yielding yet more seabirds and cetaceans. For 2018, you may also join the West African Pelagic, and sail from Cape Verde all the way back to Holland.
Most of these South Atlantic islands have enormous populations of seabirds and some have endemic landbirds. The huge sea areas between them are home for much of the year to a great variety of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and prions, not to mention whales and dolphins. Among the many many highlights should be Spectacled Petrels (with a chance of Lesser Snow and Antarctic Petrels), Northern Rockhopper Penguins and thousands of King Penguins in South Georgia. The ultimate ocean travellers – Wandering Albatrosses – pass close to the ship and we may even get a chance to see the greeting ceremony of these massive seabirds on their nesting grounds. The many previous cetacean highlights have included Humpback Whales and Orcas next to the ship in the ice, the almost mythical Southern Right Whale Dolphin (2005,2008 and 2009) plus Spectacled Porpoise, Southern Bottlenose Whale, Southern Right Whale, Strap-toothed Whale, Arnoux’s Beaked Whale, two Blue Whales, and dolphins galore including Hourglass, Rough-toothed and Clymene. 2010 added both Shepherd’s and True’s Beaked Whales. The 2013 voyage logged 17 species of whale and dolphin! 2010 seabird surprises included multiple Trinidade Petrels and a single Juan Fernandez Petrel, plus a few Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrels on the final leg to Cape Verdes. The 2011 summary and species lists are on our website and Salvin’s Albatross plus Franklin’s Gull were the seabird surprises. 2012 – 2016 voyage reports can also be found on this website, 2017 will be posted soon.MacGillvray’s Prion is a recent addition to the expected species plus Burmeister’s Porpoise’s are now being seen in the Beagle Channel.
These are remote islands with colourful histories that few people get an opportunity to enjoy. In the last nine years we have visited and Zodiac-cruised Gough Island, seeing its two endemic land birds, the moorhen and the bunting, but even this has been eclipsed by landing on Inaccessible Island in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011 (very heavy swells often prevent landings here), yielding amazing views of the delightful and diminutive flightless Inaccessible Island Rail. The bunting on this island has now been split into a full species. Between 40-50 species of ‘tubenose’ have been logged on every one of the past Odysseys. On some previous voyages Emperor Penguins have also been seen on sea ice at close range, there is always a chance this can happen again! Successful landings have also been made in some past years (including 2016) on Nightingale Island in the Tristan group, where the endemic Tristan Thrush (which has been seen on Tristan itself in the last few years), Nightingale Bunting and the endangered Wilkin’s (Grosbeak Bunting) are to be found.
The opportunity to do all this is thanks to the annual repositioning cruise of the very comfortable, ice-strengthened Plancius (114 passengers). In the spring she travels north from her expedition cruising in the Antarctic to her summer cruising in the Arctic. You will start this trip with parkas and boots and finish in shorts and T-shirts - from the freezer to the oven in just one month. ThePlancius is a specially converted expedition ship and all her cabins have private facilities with a porthole or window. Suitable rubber boots for the many wet landings on this trip will be provided for your use onboard too. The vessel has outside deck space at all levels, and facing in all directions and is therefore ideal for this expedition voyage. The opportunities for photography are excellent throughout this trip.
Now acknowledged as one of the pelagics which seabird enthusiasts cannot afford to miss, in March the vessel will again be departing from Tierra del Fuego for this epic Atlantic journey, finally ending in the Cape Verde Islands. You may disembark in Ascension, after a journey of nearly 6000 nautical miles (9600 kilometres), and fly home to the UK with the RAF to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. For a supplement, you may stay on the vessel to the Cape Verde Islands which should yield most of the special seabirds of this archipelago too. Flights from the Cape Verdes are via Lisbon back to the UK.
We have been advised that 2018 is the last planned sailing of this unique voyage, this is one ship you cannot afford to miss!
NB: You may also extend this final, epic expedition all the way back to Europe, on The West African Pelagic, from Cape Verde via The Canary, Salvage and Desertas Islands, through the Bay of Biscay and then disembark in Holland. 30th April – 12th May 2018, from £1775 per person.
Day 1: In the afternoon, we embark in Ushuaia and sail down the Beagle Channel where we hope to see Magellanic Penguin and Magellanic Diving Petrel. The expedition begins at the southern tip of Argentina and sails towards South Georgia.
Days 2-5: At sea in the Drake Passage, an excellent selection of seabirds can be looked for including Kerguelen, Blue, Soft-plumaged and White-chinned Petrels, Wandering, Black-browed, Grey-headed and the elegant Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses; Cape Petrels, Antarctic Fulmars plus Slender-billed and Antarctic Prions, to name but a few. These southern waters will be the best chance for true Antarctic specialities such as Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins, perhaps Antarctic Petrel and on occasion we have even seen Emperor Penguin. It will be worth maximising your time out on deck sea-watching. A good number of cetaceans are also likely in these wild oceans.
Days 6-8: In South Georgia we plan visits to the abandoned whaling settlement at Grytviken, the King Penguin colony on Salisbury Plain, and the breeding Wandering Albatrosses on Prion Island in the Bay of Isles. We plan to Zodiac cruise Macaroni Penguin colonies, land at Cooper Bay and Gold Harbour and cruise into Drygalski Fjord, all with stunning snow-capped peaks above them. Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguin can be seen too. Some Southern Elephant Seals should still be present whilst Antarctic Fur Seals will have cute young pups here. We have three wonderful days on this beautiful sub-Antarctic island where the endemic South Georgia Pintail and South Georgia Pipit can be expected too.
Days 9-13: In the westerlies we should have a good tailwind, and on both sides of the Antarctic Convergence we will observe many species and great numbers of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic seabirds. Many of the seabirds previously seen will be encountered plus Fairy Prions, Grey-backed, Black-bellied and White-bellied Storm-Petrels, Atlantic, Grey and Great-winged Petrels, Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Common and South Georgian Diving Petrels, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels plus up to eight forms of albatross (Wandering, Tristan, Grey-headed, Black-browed, Sooty, Light-mantled Sooty, Shy and Atlantic Yellow-nosed). Our first of the handsome, but seriously endangered Spectacled Petrels should be encountered, along with Subantarctic Little Shearwaters.
Day 14: We will head for Gough Island, a World Heritage Site, remote and spectacular home to millions of breeding seabirds. Landing is not permitted, but subject to weather conditions, we plan to Zodiac cruise close to the shore and look for the endemic Gough Moorhen and Gough Bunting plus Northern Rockhopper Penguins and the distinctive local form of Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal.
Days 15-17: In the Tristan da Cunha archipelago we plan to call at the settlement of Edinburgh at the north-western corner of the main island. We allow a reserve day for bad weather, which is very common here. Known as the remotest inhabited island in the world, Tristan has hardly any birds of its own left now, thanks to rats and cats, so we also plan to visit nearby Nightingale Island (weather and landing conditions permitting) where Great Shearwaters nest in their thousands, criss-crossing the island and emerging from the eight-foot high tussock grass.
Tristan Thrushes and Tristan Buntings should be hopping around our feet and the much scarcer Grosbeak Bunting may be seen. We will also encounter Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Sooty Albatrosses plus more Northern Rockhoppers. We hope to gain permission again to visit Inaccessible Island (weather and landing conditions permitting) with its amazing mouse-like Flightless Rail and endemic bunting.
NB: The actual weather and local sea conditions in the last few years mean the chance of landing in the Tristan archipelago is currently less than 50%. Landings cannot even be attempted on Nightingale or Inaccessible until you have been ashore at the settlement first, due to local laws.
Days 18-21: At sea again, we now enter sub-tropical waters with their own brand of seabirds and dolphins, and with many of the participants (birds and passengers) changing from winter to summer plumage on this sector! We will leave many seabird friends behind now, most sadly the last of the albatrosses amongst them. Spectacled Petrels stay with us the longest usually. New species should include Madeiran Storm-Petrel and the bat-like Bulwer’s Petrel, whilst flying fish definitely add a tropical edge. Expect calmer seas and balmy days.
Days 22-24: St. Helena has a good anchorage at Jamestown. This is another island with few birds owing to man’s activities. Just 11 land bird species breed here, nine of which have been introduced. The most important is the Wirebird, a small thin-legged plover breeding in fields in the centre of the island, where we will find them holding territories in the local pastures. White Terns nest all along the coast and in town in the trees. Red-billed Tropicbirds and noddies fly around our vessel at anchor, whilst Pantropical Spotted Dolphins can often be seen in the distance, occasionally leaping several metres into the air, hanging motionless for a few seconds and then spinning back into the water. The WildWings group normally also enjoy a cruise in a local boat for the dolphins and breeding seabirds with a chance of a Whale Shark too, as well as undertaking an optional full-day tour, including some of the Napoleon sites. Optional dinners ashore in local restaurants are highly recommended. For the 2018 voyage, you can now choose to disembark here. The island’s new airport opens in 2016.
Days 25-26: At sea, the infamous ‘doldrums’, with more lazy balmy days. Cory’s Shearwaters and Sooty Terns should start to appear. We often encounter Sperm Whales on this leg.
Days 27-28: Ascension Island is a dry volcanic island with a moist and richly vegetated top known as Green Mountain. The Sooty Tern (Wide-awake) colony can hold up to one million breeding pairs when the birds are present. We plan to Zodiac cruise Boatswain Bird Island, an offshore stack where the endemic Ascension Frigatebirds hang in the air in squadrons of thousands, and Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies and the beautiful White-tailed Tropicbirds also compete for space to breed. Some seabirds are now nesting on the adjacent main island again. In the evening we hope to witness egg-laying Atlantic Green Turtles coming ashore.
Day 28: RAF scheduled flight departs Ascension to Brize Norton in the evening, to arrive next morning (Day 29). Please note that the date this service will operate is subject to final confirmation for 2016. The service can also be subject to operational delays, so passengers should be flexible at the end of the voyage. Full confirmation is normally expected in January for April of the same year. If the RAF changes their operational dates, passengers will have to stay on Ascension until the next flight. We would be able to arrange accommodation for you at your own expense or stay onboard the ship:
Days: 29-33: At sea (crossing the Equator with King Neptune!). Seabirds to look out for now include Boyd’s (Audubon) and Cape Verde Shearwater, Fea’s Petrel, White-faced Storm-Petrels plus tropical dolphins and the smaller whales eg Melon-headed and False Killer.
Days: 34: Cape Verdes. Voyage terminates at Praia. Included land birding for Cape Verde Warbler, Iago Sparrow and Alexander’s Swift plus more.
NB: As applies to all expedition cruises, the exact sea itinerary and landings will be subject to weather, local conditions and government permissions.
You may further extend your voyage all the way back to Europe by joining the West African Pelagic.
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.
Leader: TBC plus the rest of the ship’s Expedition Team
Dates: 28th March – 24nd April (Ushuaia – Ascension),
All cabins with private facilities
£4665 Quad berths (upper and lower) - porthole
£5199 Triple berths (upper and lower)-porthole
£5789 Twin share – (lower berths) - porthole
£6039 Twin share – (lower berths) - window
£6335 Twin share deluxe (lower berths) - window
£6749 Double share superior (double bed) - window
24th – 30th April (Ascension – Praia, Cape Verdes)
£709 Quad berths (upper and lower) - porthole
£789 Triple berths (upper and lower)-porthole
£875 Twin share – (lower berths) - porthole
£959 Twin share – (lower berths) - window
£999 Twin share deluxe (lower berths) - window
£1085 Double share superior (double bed) – window
Single cabins x 1.7 of twin share price
All prices per person.
Based on £1 = Euros 1.2
NB: Please also see the West African Pelagic 2018, an extension of this voyage from Cape Verde to Holland via the Canary, Salvage and Desertas Islands.
Price includes: Voyage with accommodation as booked, including all meals, infinite tea and coffee, Zodiac cruises and landings, port taxes and landing fees, specified shore excursions, lectures and services of expedition team, daily sea watching sessions and evening log (at sea), services of WildWings leader (Ushuaia – Cape Verdes), pre-tour information pack and day by day bird and mammal checklist.
Price excludes: Flights (2016 prices - UK – Ushuaia from £849, St Helena – UK from £TBC, Ascension – UK from £545, Praia – UK from £479), vessel fuel surcharges if applicable, Ushuaia hotel for two nights from £69 per person per night b & b, gratuities (suggested US$10 a day on board ship), transfers, travel insurance, optional birding excursion in Ushuaia (The Tierra del Fuego National Park on the day prior to sailing, approx £139) and Praia, other drinks and items of a personal nature.
Previous trip reports and species lists can be found on our website or are available from us.
28th March – 24th April 2018 (Ushuaia – Ascension)
24th – 30th April 2018 (Ascension – Praia, Cape Verdes)
The opportunity to do all this is thanks to the annual repositioning cruise of the very comfortable, ice-strengthened Plancius (114 passengers). In the spring she travels north from her expedition cruising in the Antarctic to her summer cruising in the Arctic. You will start this trip with parkas and boots and finish in shorts and T-shirts - from the freezer to the oven in just one month. The Plancius is a specially converted expedition ship and all her cabins have private facilities with a porthole or window. Suitable rubber boots for the many wet landings on this trip will be provided for your use onboard too. The vessel has outside deck space at all levels, and facing in all directions and is therefore ideal for this expedition voyage.