Head to Antarctica on an adventure to explore the frozen continent

Launch into the ice-strewn wilds of Antarctica on this express adventure that will have you ploughing through the Drake Passage and taking the easy (air) route back. Cruise through the Beagle Channel before watching the mainland disappear and entering the wind-ripped waters of the Drake Passage - home to humpbacks, minkes and an impressive array of seabirds. Learn about the incredible richness of this spectacular environment, and the stories of the early explorers, through a series of on-board lectures. Spend time in the company of penguins and seals and be generally awed by the vast solitude of this immense region. With an included flight back to the mainland, this trip balances adventure and ease in one of the world’s most amazing natural environments.

Start
Ushuaia, Argentina
Finish
Punta Arenas, Chile
Countries
Antarctica,
Argentina,
Chile
Themes
Polar, Sailing, Wildlife
Code
GQMB
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 8
Group size
Min 1 Max 117
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Journey through the historic Beagle Channel, looking out for rare birdlife from deck with the help of your expedition team
  • A diversity of possible landing sites and activities allows you to see the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula from multiple perspectives
  • Few people ever get the opportunity to set foot on the Great White Continent, but you'll be one of them
  • Get up close to an incredible range of wildlife, such as minke, humpback and orca whales or gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguins, as well as seals and other seabirds
  • A polar plunge in the Antarctic sea is the most invigorating swim you're ever likely to take. Other optional activities such as sea kayaking can take your adventure to the next level, but book early, as these sell out fast
  • Flying over the famous Drake Passage from King George Island is the fastest, most direct way to travel back to the mainland

Itinerary

Welcome to Ushuaia and the beginning of your Antarctic adventure. This quaint city at the southernmost tip of South America is your gateway to the White Continent. Ushuaia features a range of museums, shops and restaurants to explore before your voyage. If you arrive with plenty of time to spare, Tierra del Fuego National Park outside of town offers ample hiking and adventure opportunities.
Today board the ship for embarkation in the afternoon. Leave Ushuaia behind and journey through the Beagle Channel, named after the HMS Beagle which once carried Charles Darwin through the area. The waterway is home to a wide variety of seabirds and seals, and rainbows are common here too, so be on the lookout from the deck. Enjoy a hot drink and relax into your first day on the water.
Sail across the famous Drake Passage. Known for high winds and rolling seas, this part of the trip will strengthen your sea legs. While we hope for calm conditions, please be prepared for possible rough waters. Spend your days on deck looking out for wildlife, poking around in the on-board library or getting to know your shipmates. The expedition team will begin a series of presentations to prepare you for your upcoming Zodiac and land excursions. You officially enter Antarctica when the ship crosses the Antarctic Convergence, a biological boundary that fluctuates around 60° south.
Your first glimpse of Antarctica comes in the form of huge floating icebergs. Look out for Adelie penguins waddling across ice floes or for minke or humpback whales swimming in the waters below. As soon as it's feasible, the Zodiacs will be readied for your first landing in the South Shetland Islands or on the Antarctic Peninsula. Your expedition team will monitor the ice and weather conditions to determine which landing sites can be visited over the next four days.

With many sites to choose from, each expedition presents new opportunities for exploration and wildlife sightings. A typical day might include visiting a penguin rookery, listening to glaciers calve at Petermann Island or climbing a hill for panoramic views of the continent. A 'polar plunge' in the icy waters of Neko Harbour is sure to really wake you up.

POSSIBLE LANDINGS AND WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS

CUVERVILLE ISLAND
A gentoo penguin rookery is situated on the north end of the island on a rocky beach. Depending on the time of season you visit, you may see them building nests or attending to their chicks. Giant petrels and kelp gulls also breed on the island.

DAMOY POINT
If you're lucky enough to mail a postcard in Antarctica, you’ll likely pass through Damoy Point. This is the northern entrance to the harbour on which Port Lockroy is located.

DANCO ISLAND
This small island, 1.6 km (one mile) in length, is easy to explore and home to gentoo penguins. Visit the marker of a former British Antarctic Survey hut and watch out for a variety of seabirds such as snowy sheathbills, kelp gulls and blue-eyed shags.

ENTERPRISE ISLAND
Located in Wilhelmina Bay, this island was once used by whalers. A Zodiac cruise around the island passes by a wrecked whaling ship.

LEMAIRE CHANNEL
This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, and is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast, especially during sunrise and sunset. The 11 km (6.8 mile) channel may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway, so we’ll hope for clear waters.

MELCHIOR ISLANDS
This is a group of low islands in Dallmann Bay, on which you may see male fur seals haul-out at the end of the breeding season to recuperate from their battles for supremacy.

NEKO HARBOUR
This bay was once used by the floating whale factory ship Neko. You may see some whale vertebrae used by resident gentoo penguins as shelter from the wind. There's an unmanned refuge hut here, erected by Argentina. Climb past the hut and up a steep slope for spectacular views of the glacier-rimmed harbour.

PETERMANN ISLAND
Here, near the Lemaire Channel, you can stand ashore and see the southernmost breeding colony of gentoo penguins. Adelie penguins, shags and south polar skuas also inhabit the island. The dome of the island rises 200 meters (650 feet) above the sea, offering a challenging hike for panoramic views.

PORT LOCKROY
Journey to Port Lockroy if weather permits. The harbour is on the west side of Wiencke Island. A secret base was built here during the Second World War as part of Operation Tabarin. It's now designated as a historic site, featuring a museum and the world's southernmost post office. Proceeds from your purchases here support the preservation of historic sites from the Heroic Age of Exploration.

WATERBOAT POINT
At low tide this historic point is connected to the Antarctic mainland. Zodiacs can be used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behaviour lived in a water boat on the point from 1921-22. The remains of their camp have been designated as an Antarctic historic site.

AITCHO ISLANDS
This is a group of small islands, some still unnamed, situated in the northern entrance of the English Strait. You can often spot a great mix of wildlife here, including at the established rookeries of gentoo and chinstrap penguins. Southern elephant and fur seals are frequently hauled-out here too.

BAILY HEAD
Also known as Rancho Point, this area is a rocky headland on the southeastern shore of Deception Island. Chinstrap penguins build nests on slopes leading to a high ridge, which dominates a natural amphitheater and provides a superb setting for landscape photography.

HALF MOON ISLAND
This crescent-shaped island was known to sealers as early as 1821. Unlike the sealers who liked to keep their best locations secret, we’re happy to bring you ashore on this impressive island. Many Antarctic birds breed here, including chinstrap penguins, shags, Wilson’s storm-petrels, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic terns and skua.

HANNAH POINT
Macaroni, chinstrap and gentoo penguin rookeries are located on the point, which is on the south coast of Livingston Island. Due to the rather congested area available to the nesting penguins, you can only visit here from 10 January onwards.

PENDULUM COVE
Hot geothermal waters are found along the shoreline of this cove, which was named after observations made in 1829 by a British expedition. You may see yellow algae and boiled krill floating on the surface because of the scalding hot water.

PENGUIN ISLAND
Antarctica has two flowering plants, both of which you can find on Penguin Island: Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis. Chinstrap penguins, fur seals and southern elephant seals use the island for breeding purposes.

ROBERT POINT
A nice spot for Zodiac cruising, this point was known to sealers as early as 1820. Chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls and pintado breed here, and whales may be seen in the surrounding waters.

TELEFON BAY
Your expedition team will point out where the most recent evidence of volcanic eruption on Deception Island can be seen.

TURRET POINT
Chinstrap and Adelie penguin rookeries are found on this point, which is situated on the south coast of King George Island. The beaches are often crowded with southern elephant, fur, and Weddell seals hauled-out on the rocks.

WHALER'S BAY
To reach Whaler’s Bay, sail through the narrow passage of Neptune’s Bellows. The bay was used by whalers from 1906 to 1931 and is part of a protected harbour created by a circular flooded caldera, known as Deception Island. Along with waddling penguins and lounging seals, you’ll see the rusty remains of whaling operations on the beach. Watch for steam rising from geothermally-heated springs along the shoreline.

YANKEE HARBOUR
Gentoo penguins have established a rookery on this harbour, which is situated on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. You can also see an abandoned Argentine refuge hut and a huge glacier stretching along the east and north sides of the bay. An abandoned try-pot is all that remains of the sealing activity that brought men thousands of miles to seek their fortune.

The following Optional Activities are available to participate in, on some or all of the departures of this itinerary. These must be booked in advance (additional costs apply) and space is limited.

KAYAKING – Our kayaking adventures are the best way to feel at one with the sea. Taken in small groups of maximum 16 people, multiple times per voyage, kayaking adventures are only conducted during calm weather conditions. Kayaking is open to all levels of experience, however kayaking in the polar waters is not suitable for novice kayakers. Beginners interested in kayaking should first take an introductory course prior to the voyage which includes how to do a wet exit. In addition regardless of your experience, we recommend you take part in some kayaking practise prior to the voyage to ensure that you are comfortable on the water in the icy conditions.

INCLUDED OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES
SNOWSHOEING - A novel way to experience the beauty of the polar landscape, and discover remote alcoves and hidden valleys. The rewards of walking atop the snow are well worth the effort, as we’ll be able to visit new places that may be inaccessible on foot. This traditional means of transport across the snow comes from the indigenous people of North America. While you can appreciate a connection with the past, the snowshoes we use today are much lighter and more forgiving than the old wood-weave snowshoes used during the days of the North American fur trade.

Today, say goodbye to the expedition team and disembark the ship at King George Island. Take a three-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Punta Arenas, retracing your original journey with a bird’s-eye-view. On arrival you’ll be transferred from the airport to the hotel, where you can enjoy a final group dinner and reflect on your adventures.
After breakfast, your Antarctic adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
9 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners
Transport
Expedition Cruise Ship, Zodiac, Plane
Accommodation
2 nights hotel, 7 nights ship

Dates

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Important notes

BOOKING CONDITIONS
Arctic and Antarctic bookings have an increased deposit requirement of A$2000pp ($6000pp on Icebreaker voyages. Different amounts apply in other currencies). The balance is due 90 days before departure.
If a booking is cancelled 90 days or more before departure - the cancellation fee is the full loss of the deposit paid.
If a booking is cancelled between 89 days and departure - the cancellation fee is 100% of the total price of the voyage.
Other fees may apply for air tickets and other arrangements booked in conjunction with a Polar voyage.

ADVENTURE OPTIONS
Kayaking is available to book on all Antarctic voyages. Some voyages also offer other activities such as camping, stand up paddle boarding, cross country skiing and mountaineering. All of these activities must be booked prior to departure and incur an additional cost. Spaces are limited so please enquire at time of booking. For kayaking, previous, recent experience is essential and a good level of fitness is required for cross country skiing and mountaineering. See the itinerary for Adventure options available on this voyage.

Your voyage is operated by our sister company, Quark Expeditions. All accommodation and transfer arrangements as listed in the itinerary are also operated by Quark Expeditions or their local representatives.

Strict luggage limits apply. Please see Trip Notes (What to Take) for more information.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes