Antarctica, South Georgia, Gough, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Ascension Island
"Thank you once again for a most memorable 'holiday of a lifetime'."...... Mr and Mrs A, Ilkley, April 2009
For Photos of our previous tours click here
If your image of watching seabirds is seeing distant dots on the horizon from a windblown UK headland, then think again. In this seabird spectacular you can see the twinkle in the eye of nature’s largest flying bird, the Wandering Albatross, alongside petrels, shearwaters, prions, skuas, terns and more. In fact, we hope to see ALL the Atlantic seabirds south of the equator, as well as northern migrants and some Pacific visitors too.
Having spent three days in Argentina, where we can see a mixture of tropical birds and Patagonian specialities, we will cross the Drakes Passage to Antarctica where penguins and whales feed among awesome icebergs. Heading north to South Georgia, we will see thousands of King Penguins, nesting albatrosses and visit historically important sites. We then head to Gough, the jewel in the southern seas, packed with nesting shearwaters and petrels. Tristan da Cunha is our next stop where endemic land birds cling to existence alongside the people who live in the world’s most remote settlement. This is the home of the amazing Spectacled Petrel and Great Shearwater. Tristan Albatross is endemic and breeding Yellow-nosed and Sooty Albatrosses are also here. Few birdwatchers have been privileged to visit this remote spot.
Next we will visit St Helena, home of the Wirebird, and cruise through warmer waters containing turtles and whale sharks, before finally landing at Ascension Island.
Our tours to the White Continent have been rated by many as their best ever destination. Those who joined us on our epic Cape to Cape voyage in 2009 have incredible tales to tell. Why not join us on our next exciting voyage?
BUENOS AIRES AND USHUAIA
We will arrive in Buenos Aires in the evening and transfer straight to our hotel for two nights. The next day we will visit wetlands, not far from the city, where birds can 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. The next day we will fly to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, spending one night in a hotel there.
Whilst birdwatching on Ushuaia, we will check the coast for both steamer ducks, Great Grebes and Chilean Skuas. The next day will be spent in the southern tip of the Andes, in Tierra del Fuego National Park. On all our previous visits we have seen Andean Condors soaring over the hillsides. We will depart in the evening on our ship, the Prof Molchanov, to cruise the Beagle Channel, spotting our first Dolphin Gulls, Imperial Cormorants and Magellanic Penguins.
This is one trip where travelling becomes a joy rather than a chore. The attendant seabirds are close, photogenic and extraordinarily numerous. Many will follow our ship and provide excellent views. Prions, Antarctic Fulmars, Black-bellied Storm-petrels, and Pintado and Blue Petrels are all eclipsed by the much larger Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, and Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatrosses.
Crossing the Antarctic Convergence, seabird species change as we enter colder Antarctic waters. Soon we will see our first icebergs, some the size of an English shire. Reaching the Antarctic Peninsula we will land on sheltered islands to visit penguin colonies in our search for Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. Cruising through ice, we are joined by beautiful Snow Petrels, and Weddell and Leopard Seals. Among them, Blue-eyed Shag and Southern Giant Petrels are harassed by Brown and South Polar Skuas. Emperor Penguins have recently been found breeding here and are sometimes seen among the ice floes.
We then journey north past the South Orkneys to South Georgia, home to nesting Wandering, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses. South Georgia is home to thousands of King Penguins and duelling Southern Elephant Seals. Several landings over three days will allow us to see them at very close range, including on the streets of Grytviken or by Shackleton’s Grave! Macaroni Penguins breed among the tussocks, South Georgia Shags nest on long-abandoned whaling ships and carnivorous South Georgia Pintails can be found. Our walk past colonies of Antarctic Fur Seals will allow us to reach the breeding grounds of the Wandering Albatross, where South Georgia Pipits also nest. The 12 foot wingspan of the world’s largest flying bird has to be seen to be believed. To sit among them is a real privilege.
Black-browed, Grey-headed and the gorgeous Light-mantled Sooty Albatross all nest on the cliffs. Antarctic Terns roost on the rocks and Wilson’s Storm-petrels fly up to their nest sites among jagged peaks above awesome glaciers. Gatherings of seabirds can give an indication of where whales are feeding. Prions of four species seek the company of Humpbacks and Minkes. We regularly see many other cetaceans, including Orcas, Hourglass Dolphins and the mighty Blue Whale.
Our time at sea is well spent, picking out Grey-backed among the more numerous Black-bellied and White-bellied Storm-petrels. Kerguelan or White-headed Petrel is more likely as we approach Gough and White-chinned Petrels should accompany us for much of the voyage.
GOUGH ISLAND AND TRISTAN DA CUNHA
On cruise-day 17 we reach Gough Island, on the first of four days in the archipelago. A zodiac cruise along the coast of Gough may allow us to circumnavigate the island providing a chance to see the rare Tristan Albatross. The endemic Gough Moorhen can be seen feeding along the shore, whilst Gough Buntings pick parasites from Sub-tropical Fur Seals.
We hope to land on Tristan da Cunha, Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands, but weather dictates our final programme. Here we will find seabirds from the eastern side of the Atlantic, providing us with a complete change from those near Antarctica. New albatrosses include nesting Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Sooty. Potentially our ninth penguin species is the Northern Rockhopper. Most of the world’s Great Shearwaters nest here, alongside Great-winged, Soft-plumaged, Atlantic, Grey and the incredible Spectacled Petrel.
ST. HELENA AND ASCENSION
Arriving where warmer African waters mix with the cold Benguela current, a new selection of species will be found. We can balance our time watching wildlife with time for sunbathing! Everything from giant turtles to Hammerhead Sharks have been sighted. Arctic, Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas should swell our trip list to six species of ‘pirates’. A Southern Royal Albatross could make nine species of albatross. There are Atlantic Petrels, White-faced Storm-petrels and Little Shearwaters, and Red-billed Tropicbirds. Landing at St Helena allows us time to see the Wirebird, a threatened shorebird that only occurs here. Reaching Ascension, we should see the Ascension Frigatebird as it harasses Fairy and Sooty Terns.
Finally, we will fly back to the UK from Ascension, but there is an option to stay aboard to Cape Verde for those still drawn by the sea.
The expedition leader will decide where we should visit based on his experience, wildlife knowledge, weather and ice conditions. Landings are made using zodiacs, as conditions allow. Various paced walks are available to suit all abilities. Only basic fitness is required Daytime temperatures at this time average +2°C in Antarctica to very hot in Ascension.
Full-board accommodation is provided with two nights at the Hotel Lafayette in Buenos Aires, one night at Ushuaia, 30 nights on board the Prof Molchanov and one night on Ascension Island. The ship takes about 50 passengers, so you will not have the landing problems and queues associated with larger ships. The ship is part of a fleet of Finnish-built research vessels owned by Oceanwide, a Dutch company. Cabins are twins or triples. Both have upper and lower berths. There is a supplement for en suite cabins.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All excursions with expedition staff and Bird Holidays leader, full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 21st ending with lunch on 23rd), soft drinks at meal times, transport, internal flight (Buenos Aires to Ushuaia), international flights and airport taxes.
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry, tips to the crew.
Outbound flight from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires, via Madrid, using the scheduled services of Iberia Airlines. Inbound flight from Ascension to Brize Norton using the RAF. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back early morning. Shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from Manchester and 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.
35 nights including
one overnight flight:
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
5th December 2009):
Discount for triple
20th March to 24th April 2010
15 clients with one leader, plus local guides in Argentina and expedition staff
£7820 per person sharing
£7970 per person sharing
For Photos click here
To see Phil's review of the 'Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife' on Birdguides website click here
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