ANTARCTICA

SOUTH GEORGIA,  FALKLANDS

and Tierra del Fuego

 

"Thanks for the trip report of our Antarctic expedition. It gave fresh precision to some already vivid memories."......  Mr and Mrs F, London, May 2009

 

For those lucky enough to have joined a cruise to Antarctica it is often considered to have been the trip of a lifetime. It is rated by many visitors as their best ever tour; an unforgettable wildlife experience. Although fewer people follow in Shackleton’s footsteps and visit South Georgia, this island differs in many ways and is just as spectacular as the White Continent. The Falkland Islands have dolphins and several endemic birds, quite fearless of our presence and allowing fantastic photographic opportunities. A cruise which takes in all three wonderful places constitutes perhaps the ultimate Antarctic experience.

After three days in Argentina, visiting marshes, grasslands and forest we will set sail for the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, home to nesting Wandering, Grey-headed, Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses. Thousands of King Penguins breed along with hundreds of burrowing Magellanic Penguins. The Southern Rockhopper can also be found here. Endemic birds include the Falkland Steamer Duck and South Georgia Pipit.

Antarctica teems with life in the summer due to the seasonal abundance of krill. Millions of birds and animals concentrate to breed along the Antarctic Peninsula, regarded as the most beautiful part of the continent. Mountains, glaciers and immense icebergs form a backdrop to huge colonies of penguins. By making frequent landings, we are able to experience the stark beauty that lured the early explorers here, without enduring the same hardship that saw few return. Some historic buildings and whaling stations still remain as a reminder of their courage. 

Most people only visit Antarctica once and for the ultimate experience this should include the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. This is no longer just the realm of the Amundsens, Scotts and Attenboroughs of this world, it is ours.

ITINERARY

BUENOS AIRES

When cruising to Antarctica, it is crucial to build in some time before hand. Ships do not wait for delayed flights or luggage. We will break our journey with two nights in Buenos Aires and a night in Ushuaia. This also gives us the chance to see a selection of Argentinean birds. We will visit wetlands with a superb mix of species. These include Black-necked Swan, White-faced Ibis, three species of coot, Long-winged Harrier, Guira Cuckoo, Golden-bellied Woodpecker, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Spectacled Tyrant, Black-and-rufous Warbling-finch and Masked Yellowthroat, with a chance of scarcer species such as Giant Wood-rail and Southern Screamer.

TIERRA DEL FUEGO

Our second full day takes us on a flight to the toe of the Andes. The town of Ushuaia is a convenient place to see many of the birds that the ‘Land of Fire’ has to offer. We will check the coast for both Flying and Flightless Steamer Ducks, Chilean Skua, South American Tern, Upland Goose, Dark-bellied Cinclodes and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. The next day, we will go in search of Thorn-tailed Rayadito and White-throated Treerunner in the lichen-draped forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park. Lakes are home to Great Grebe and Kelp Goose, but the star birds here are Andean Condor and Magellanic Woodpecker. In the evening we will board our ship, the Plancius, for the wildlife cruise of a lifetime….

FALKLAND ISLANDS

This is one trip where travelling becomes a joy rather than a chore. The attendant seabirds are close, photogenic and extraordinarily numerous. Most enjoy following ships and provide excellent views. Prions, Antarctic Fulmars, Black-bellied Storm-petrels, Pintado and Blue Petrels, and Southern and Northern Giant Petrels all play second fiddle to the six species of albatross we expect to find.

After a day at sea we arrive at the Falkland Islands where we will get the chance to search for endemic land birds as well as numerous waders, wildfowl and seabirds. We usually visit New and Carcass Islands. Our first penguins should include Magellanic and Rockhopper, both defending their young from marauding Sub-Antarctic Skuas. Magellanic and Black Oystercatchers feed alongside Kelp and Upland Geese. Tussock Birds scurry through the long grass and endemic Cobb’s Wrens should be found. The following day we visit Port Stanley, the capital of the islands where there is chance to savour the Victorian charm of the town or seek out Falkland Steamer Ducks and Commerson’s Dolphins. After two days around the Falkland Islands we will head for South Georgia, watching for seabirds and whales en route.

SOUTH GEORGIA

As we approach South Georgia on the first of four days in the area, we are joined by the world’s largest flying bird, the Wandering Albatross. As well as enjoying their majestic flight at close range, we plan to visit their nesting grounds to see the youngsters and displaying adults. We will also seek out the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, perhaps the prettiest of all tubenoses. Thousands of King Penguins gather at Salisbury Plain, one of the planet’s most awesome wildlife spectacles. An incredible sight at Salisbury is the duelling Elephant Seals. Macaroni Penguins, complete with golden crests, occupy tussock-covered hillsides. Whilst on South Georgia, we will have the opportunity to visit Grytviken and Shackleton´s grave. The endemic pintail, pipit and cormorant should all be found.

ANTARCTICA

Two more days at sea, accompanied by shearwaters, albatrosses and petrels, will bring us in sight of our first icebergs, some the size of an English shire! Crossing the Antarctic Convergence, seabird species change as we enter colder Antarctic waters. Reaching the South Shetland Islands our ship will head south along the Antarctic Peninsula. Expedition staff will decide where we should visit, based on their experience, wildlife knowledge and ice-conditions.

Deception Island is a favourite. A ring-shaped island, it was once a huge volcano, the crater of which opens into the sea, creating a natural harbour for the ship. Pintado Petrels are a highlight, along with many Kelp Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Terns. Wilson’s Storm-petrels nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay. Further south lie the Orne Islands, with large colonies of Chinstrap Penguins and a beautiful view across the Gerlache Strait.

The various islands are home to numerous penguins, giving us further opportunities to see Chinstraps and Adelies. Leopard Seals patrol their colonies. Brown Skuas and Blue-eyed Shags add variety. There is a good chance of coming across Humpback, Minke and Fin Whale, and rarer species are possible too. We may sail through Paradise Bay, with its myriad icebergs and deep-cut fjords. We will have opportunities for zodiac cruising where ghostly Snow Petrels search for food.

Finally, we cross Drake’s Passage where we can look for the Royal Albatross, equal in size to the Wandering, and savour our last pelagic birds as we return to Ushuaia. After disembarking we fly to Buenos Aires, breaking the journey with an overnight stop and visit to Costanera Sur Reserve, on the banks of the Rio Plata, before continuing to London.

PACE

Excursions are made using zodiacs, as sea conditions allow. Walks will be at a sensible pace on uneven ground (or rarely snow). Only basic fitness is required but there is some optional uphill walking. Daytime temperatures at this time average +4°C in Antarctica, and warmer further north.

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Full-board accommodation is provided with three nights in Buenos Aires and one night in Ushuaia, and eighteen nights on board the Plancius. The ship takes 112 passengers, so you will not have the landing problems and queues associated with the larger ships. This ship is a recently refitted former Dutch Navy research vessel owned by Oceanwide, a Dutch company. All cabins have an en-suite bathroom and two single or one double bed (no upper bunks). Atmosphere on board is relaxed and you are not expected to dress for dinner!

PRICE INCLUDES …..

Full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 5th, ending with lunch on 26th), soft drinks at meal times, all excursions with expedition staff, local guides and Bird Holidays leader, transport, internal flight (Buenos Aires to Ushuaia), return flights to London and airport taxes.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry, tips.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flights from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires, (via Madrid), using the scheduled services of Iberia Airlines. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back early evening. Connecting shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from other regional airports. However, due to the flight times it may be necessary to stay overnight at Heathrow. Please call for details.

A cruise only price is available. Please phone.

 

23 nights including one overnight flight:

Principal leader: 

Maximum group size: 

Cost with discount (if you book before 21st September 2010):

Full Cost: 

Single supplement:

Discount for triple sharing:

Superior cabin:

Deposit:

 

                                                                  4th to 27th January 2011

 Phil Palmer

15 clients with one leader, plus local guides in Argentina and expedition staff on board ship

£11450 per person sharing

£11600 per person sharing

please phone

                                                                                   £930 per person

£1715 supplement per person

£1500

 

 

Even more photos on a special photo page - click here

 

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