Explore the Antarctica Peninsula and South Shetland Islands

Experience an adventure tour of Antarctica and explore the unique conditions at the end of the Earth. Embark from Ushuaia, travelling through the Drake Passage to the South Shetland Islands to see the incredible landscapes created by the Antarctic climate. See multiple species of playful penguins, the imposing and graceful frames of Antarctica's whales and a frenzy of feeding birdlife. Benefit from the navigational expertise and local knowledge of a professional crew and make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience to Antarctica to see the exotic, alien nature of this frozen world for yourself.


Start
Ushuaia, Argentina
Finish
Ushuaia, Argentina
Countries
Antarctica, Argentina
Style
Comfort
Theme
Polar, Sailing, Wildlife
Code
GQMZ
Physical rating
Ages
Min 8
Group size
Min 1, Max 189

Why we love this trip

  • Whether you're on land or at sea, you'll see an abundance of wildlife on this trip. Scan the seas for whales and seals, spot rare birds while passing through the Beagle Channel and witness diverse species of penguins on daily boat trips

  • The spectacular terrain of Antarctica is like nowhere else on Earth. Set foot on the plains, mountains and beaches of the White Continent and watch icebergs calve into the sea

  • Experience a polar plunge in Antarctic waters - one of the most invigorating dips you're ever likely to take

  • Optional activities such as sea kayaking or polar ice camping on selected voyages can take your adventure to the next level. Book early, as these sell out fast

Is this trip right for you?

  • Although our ice strengthened ships are big and sturdy, Antarctic waters can be unpredictable and rough. Some people may experience seasickness, especially through the Drake Passage and other open water crossings. Please be prepared with medications to combat this. There is also a doctor on-board should you need further assistance.

  • As you’d expect, temperatures in the Antarctic are freezing. A warm parka will be provided along with waterproof boots and unlimited hot drinks, but you should also bring base layers and lots of warm clothing. Please see the trip notes for further important information about what to bring.

  • Weather depending, you will be making regular excursions in a Zodiac boat to explore the local area and look for wildlife. It can get very cold and wet on the Zodiac, so make sure you are dressed appropriately and that you keep your camera safe and dry. Sturdy sea legs are needed as you make wet and dry landings from the boat, and on steep terrain, snow and other uneven surfaces. Some ships have a lot of stairs, so please hold on to the handrails if seas are rough.

  • The weather plays a pivotal part in this adventure and although there’s an itinerary in place, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to do everything that is planned for. A level of flexibility and openness to embracing the unexpected are important in expedition travel, especially to such a remote area. There are nearly 200 recognised sites in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetlands; the places mentioned in the itinerary may need to be changed to others (which are equally as interesting). We may also be confined to the ship during rough weather. The on-board library and educational lectures are ideal ways for keeping entertained.

Itinerary

Welcome to Argentina. Begin your Antarctic Explorer adventure with an overnight stay in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Avenida San Martin and the surrounding streets are where you'll find most hotels, shops, restaurants and tourist services. If you arrive into Ushuaia with enough time to spare, you might like to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is located 11 km (seven miles) west of the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you are arriving today, an arrival transfer will be provided to the joining hotel. If arriving earlier, please make your own way to the joining hotel. There will be a pre-departure briefing at around 6pm this evening.
Today, board the ship and cruise out through the Beagle Channel. Named after the British ship the HMS Beagle, this channel is rich with birdlife. Keep an eye for penguins, cormorants, petrels and black-browed albatross from the deck. This is your first taste of life at sea and is a great time to strengthen your sea legs.
Accommodation
  • Cruise ship (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Over the next couple of days prepare for possible rough seas as you enter the Drake Passage. This legendary channel of water separates the bottom of South America from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and was named after the English explorer Sir Frances Drake. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife while up on deck and stay close to the expedition team, as they'll be able to help with possible sightings.
Accommodation
  • Cruise ship (2 nights)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
  • Lunch (2)
  • Dinner (2)
Leaving the Drake Passage behind, your first sight of the White Continent is just ahead. Your days on the Antarctic Peninsula will form the core of your adventure. Unpredictable weather and ice conditions mean that each expedition is different, but your team will make sure you have an unforgettable experience whatever happens. Here are just a few of the things you might find yourself doing:

* Walking on a pebbled beach teeming with thousands of penguins
* Taking a 'polar plunge' in the icy waters of Neko Harbour
* Listening to the boom and crack of a calving glacier near Petermann Island
* Zodiac-cruising among grounded icebergs in Pleneau Bay
* Climbing to the top of a craggy hill for a spectacular view of Port Lockroy

POSSIBLE LANDING SITES

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.
CAMPING – Spend the night under the Antarctic sky with a hardy group of your shipmates. Numbers are limited so book early. The crew will determine the best location and conditions for your overnight adventure. Dress warmly and eat a hearty meal before you head out as no meals are permitted onshore.

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.

Accommodation
  • Cruise ship (4 nights)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (4)
  • Lunch (4)
  • Dinner (4)
Wind down your Antarctic adventure with another trip back across the Drake Passage. Again, this a great opportunity to look out for wildlife from the deck of the ship with the help of your expedition team. Gain some more insight into the region by attending onboard lectures made by polar experts.
Accommodation
  • Cruise ship (2 nights)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
  • Lunch (2)
  • Dinner (2)
Your Antarctic Explorer adventure ends today in Ushuaia. After breakfast aboard the ship, disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight onwards. When booking your flight please remember that the ship may be delayed due to weather conditions, so it's recommended that you don't book a flight out of Ushuaia before midday.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Departure transfers: After disembarkation, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight out of Ushuaia. Please book flights leaving after 12.00pm.
If you are staying on in Ushuaia or flying out later on in the day, you will be transferred to Quark's luggage storage facilities. You can leave your luggage there before making your own way to the airport later on in the day or to your accommodation if you are staying on.

Meals

10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners

Transport

Ship, Zodiac

Accommodation

Cruise ship (9 nights), Hotel (1 night)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

BOOKING CONDITIONS
Arctic and Antarctic bookings have an increased deposit requirement of 20% of the full voyage cost (before any discount).  The balance is due 120 days before departure. 

If a booking is cancelled 120 days or more before departure - the cancellation fee is the full loss of the deposit paid.

If a booking is cancelled between 119 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.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.