Setting foot on the 7th continent for many is the ultimate trip of a lifetime – it is an experience that is impossible to put into words. Wildlife is in abundance – your guests are sure to see thousands of penguins on beaches, seals hauling out on ice-floes & possibility of seeing humpback whales breeching.
- Spring season (November – mid December) to witness penguins collecting pebbles to build their nests & see Antarctica in its pristine white glory (shimmering icebergs, white snowy mountain peaks etc)
- Summer - Late December – January for penguin chicks & seal pups, with long daylight hours & (marginally) warmer temperatures.
- Both January and February are considered the “peak” months, with lots of penguin activity and increased whale sightings
- March is very popular with photographers capturing sunsets & for whale enthusiasts.
As a generalisation, there are 4 main itineraries which most guests are interested in:
The typical outline of the itinerary would include 2 days crossing the Drake Passage, with usually 4 / 5 days in the Antarctic peninsula, then 2 days returning across the Drake. Voyage is usually around 11 / 12 days total, with many operators including a pre-stay in Ushuaia or Buenos Aires (with hotel stays in Buenos Aires & overnight flights, you are looking at around 14 nights / 15 days total).
Antarctica Fly-Cruise (Antarctica Express)
Designed for those short on time, or who are overly nervous about sailing the Drake Passage – guests usually fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands where they pick up the expedition ship. Antarctica 21 are a specialist operator who offer this (and have some luxurious ships, such as the Magellan Explorer & Hebridean Sky), as well as Aurora on the Greg Mortimer and Quark Expeditions. Itineraries are typically 7 – 10 days.
I would recommend clients sail from South America wherever possible, as it’s really part of the experience – keeping watch for whales and seeing the albatross swoop past you on the Drake Passage is a fantastic experience. Weather can really influence the flight departures to Antarctica, so sailing is also usually more guaranteed.
Crossing the Circle
Similar to the ‘classic’ itinerary but with extended duration in Antarctica (typically 7 days, compared to 4/5). These voyages aim to travel deeper South, aiming to the cross the Antarctic Circle. Voyages are usually in Jan / February time, when the sea ice conditions allow ships to travel further south. Overall trips are around 14 days, plus pre & post hotel packages / overnight flights. The extra days are also useful in-case of weather impacting landings, providing extra flexibility.
South Georgia / the Falklands
The ultimate voyage in Antarctica – South Georgia is the mecca for marine wildlife in the Southern Ocean. Your guests will witness hundreds of thousands of kind penguins on a beach, see vast colonies of elephant seals, 250,000 albatrosses, millions of fur seal to name just a few species. Voyages tend to be around 20 - 23 days in length (and typically include 2 days in the Falklands, 4 days in South Georgia and 4 – 6 days in the Antarctic Peninsula). All polar operators offer itineraries to South Georgia, usually a few times in a season – hugely popular, they get booked up well in advance.
Further Antarctic Exploration
Other less common options including venturing into the seldom explored Ross Sea or Snow Hill in the Weddell Sea – of tabular iceberg and Emperor penguin fame. These voyages tend to utilise helicopters on the ships, for deeper discover of the interior continent. Oceanwide are one of the main operators offering this on the m/v Ortelius – simple in décor, the operator offers full-on expedition and a real trip of a lifetime.
We offer over 500 different itineraries to the polar regions from over 20 different operators, so the above is really just a small overview of the type of trips & itineraries on offer (we can also offer expeditions to the Norwegian Fjords, Franz Josef Land, Iceland, the Northeast Passage, the Sub-Antarctic islands from New Zealand, as an for example). Feel free to call us anytime you have an enquiry and we would be delighted to offer lots of advice and find the perfect cruise & itinerary for your client.