This expedition begins in Patagonia and offers a spectacular introduction to the Argentine Patagonia, with a day trip to one of the world's most dynamic glaciers and superb opportunities for walking to the base of the majestic granite spires of Mt Fitz Roy (3441m) and Mt Torre in Los Glaciares National Park. The Antarctic crusie offers you the ideal introduction to the Great White continent. Albatross and petrels will escort us across the Drake Passage until we spot our first huge icebergs and we eagerly anticipate land. Our planned landing on King George Island will give us our first taste of Antarctica before continuing onto the Peninsula via the Bransfield and Gerlache Straits and Neko Bay. As we head further south the magnificence of the natural beauty of Antarctica is truly breathtaking. Besides the magnificent scenery you can expect to see a wide variety of wildlife including seals, whales and an abundance of penguin and other birdlife. The journey is not only focussed on wildlife; after cruising through the Neumayer Channel, we hope to have a chance to visit Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. Once a British research station, it now houses a fascinating museum and also serves as the world's most southerly post office, certainly a unique place from which to send a postcard! Our journey is rounded off with a dramatic entry via Neptune's Bellows to the bay at Deception Island, a place which has no equal anywhere in the world. The ring-shaped island is in fact the top of a volcano, a caldera. Imagine walking straight into a wildlife documentary and you could well be on Deception Island amongst a teeming colony of hundreds of thousands of Chinstrap Penguins.
Although there is no commitment to extended walking on this journey we nonetheless want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore advise that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect. During our time on land, there is no shortage of advantages of packing as much into your time as possible. Whether this includes climbing to the summit of a small hill or walking along the shorelines, the fitter you are, the more this will enhance your experience.
Depart Sydney on a LATAM flight to Ushuaia (via Santiago and Buenos Aires). We have a forced stopover in Buenos Aires. The group will be met at the airport and transferred to a hotel in Buenos Aires for an overnight stay.
Accommodation: Hotel in Buenos Aires
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After breakfast your group will transfer to the airport for the flight to Calafate. On arrival in Calafate your group will be transferred from the airport to the hotel to check in and relax before taking a group lunch at a local restaurant. The remainder of the day is free to rest after the long flight or your group can take a leisurely walk beside the lake where flamingos can be seen.
Accommodation: Hotel in Calafate
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Depart from the hotel towards the Glacier National Park to arrive at port Bahia Bajo las Sombras (Bay of Shadows) to board a boat and cross the Rico arm of Lake Argentino. The boat ride takes approximately twenty minutes, which extends up to the Southwestern shore of the lake, with views of the south wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier. After disembarking, gain access to a refuge where expert trekking guides will organise groups for a thirty-minute hike across a small dense forest of lengas to arrive at the edge of the ice; here visitor put on crampons and receive instructions for ice trekking. The walk on the glacier, which takes approximately two hours, is particularly interesting for it allows visitor close contact with the millennial ice: its peaks, cracks, the small interior lagoons and the sinks of deep blue colour. It is also remarkable for the excellent view of the lake that you have from the surface of the glacier. After returning to the refuge, there is free time for lunch (boxed lunch is provided). After lunch, cross the lake back for a short walk to the boardwalks located on the east wall of the glacier, to enjoy another view of this impressive river of ice. Head back to the Calafate hotel before transferring by road to El Chaltén. This tour is recommended for people between 10 and 60 years of age (approximately), depending on their physical condition, but it doesn't require any special training. It is advisable to wear appropriate sports clothing (sweat suit, windbreaker and/or rain jacket, sunglasses, sun screen and protective gloves) and sports shoes (hiking boots or shoes with rubber sole).
Accommodation: Hotel in El Chaltén
Limitations: this tour given its effort level is only suitable for people between 10 and 65 years of age. The following criteria cannot partake -weight in kg doubles the height in cm minus 100 cm (e.g. for a height of 1.70 m: 170 minus 100 = 70 x 2 = 140kg); pregnant women; people with any degree or type of physical or mental disability that affects their attention, walk and / or coordination; people suffering central or peripheral cardiovascular diseases, their heart or vessel capabilities are diminished, or use stents, pacemakers or other prostheses; (e.g. anticoagulant medicated varices grade III – which are thick and multiple -, cardiac arrhythmias); people who suffer respiratory disability diseases (COPD, asthma, emphysema, etc.)
We leave behind the center of El Chaltén crossing a bridge over the Fitz Roy River, at the entrance of the village, until arriving at the Offices of the National Park. Here we find the beginning of the path, and we begin the walk. Road to the viewpoints Los Cóndores and Las Águilas After a gradual ascent of about forty minutes, we arrive to a viewpoint whose strategic position allows the sighting of condors flying over the valley of the Vueltas River and the Fitz Roy River. In addition, it is an excellent place from which we appreciate the impressive granite peaks of the group Torre and Fitz Roy, its glaciers and the village El Chaltén. Las Aguilas viewpoint is just another thirty minutes walk along a flat path to appreciate another landscape, the magnificent Viedma Lake and the immensity of the Patagonian steppe.
Accommodation: Lodge in El Chalten
Departure from the hotels of El Chaltén by mountain gravel road to Lago del Desierto (40 km). There you have 2 hours of time to trek to Huemul Lagoon and Huemul Glacier (entrance included). The trek begins on the southern shore of the Desert Lake and follows the path that goes up the left bank of the small stream that is born in the Huemul Lagoon. It is about 2 km of travel through a beautiful forest of lenga (with several panoramic points of the valley of Lake of the Desert to the North, and the massif of the Fitz Roy to the South) until arriving at the Huemul Lagoon. Return to El Chaltén.
Accommodation: Lodge in El Chalten
The drive back to Calafate takes 4 hours, and the road is now paved for most of the journey. Upon arrival in Calafate we check into our hotel. The afternoon is free.
Accommodation: Hotel in Calafate
Following an early breakfast we transfer to the airport for our flight to Ushuaia. Arrive in Ushuaia, transfer to our hotel. Afternoon free to explore.
Accommodation: Hotel in Ushuaia
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This morning the group is free to explore Ushuaia. In the afternoon the group will take a private transfer from the hotel to the port to embark from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. The voyage will depart through the Beagle Channel and sail through this scenic waterway for the rest of the evening.
During these two days we sail across the Drake Passage. When we cross the Antarctic Convergence, we arrive in the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. In this area we may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black- browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. Near the South Shetland Islands, we spot our first icebergs.
We will sail directly to “High Antarctica”, passing the Melchior islands and the Schollaert Channel between Brabant and Anvers Island. On Cuverville Island, a small precipitous island, nestled between the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and Danco Island, we will find a large colony of Gentoo Penguins and breeding pairs of Brown Skuas. If we land on Danco Island we can observe Chinstrap Penguins and possibly Weddell and Crabeater Seals. In Neko Harbour we will have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic Continent in a magnificent landscape of huge glaciers calving at sea level. We enjoy the landscape surrounded by alpine peaks during zodiac cruises. In Paradise Bay again with its myriad icebergs and deep cut fjords, we have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic Continent again. We shall have the opportunity for zodiac cruising between the icebergs in the inner parts of the fjords. In this area we have good chances to see Humpback Whales and Minke Whales. We will sail through the spectacular Lemaire Channel to Pleneau and Petermann Island where we can find Adelie Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags. In this area there are good chances to encounter Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and Fin Whales. A visit to one of the scientific stations in Antarctica will give you an insight into the life of modern Antarcticans working on the White Continent. Sailing north through Neumayer Channel, we hope to get permission to visit the British research station and post office Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. Close to Port Lockroy we may also offer a landing on Jougla Point with Gentoo Penguins and Imperial Shags. On our way North through the Gerlache Strait we finally arrive at the South Shetland Islands. We will sail to Deception Island. Our ship will brave the entrance into the crater through the spectacular Neptune’s Bellow into the ring of Deception Island. Deception is a sub-ducted crater, which opens into the sea, creating a natural harbour for the ship. Here we find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, thousands of Cape Pigeons and many Dominican Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Terns. Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Black-bellied Storm Petrels nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay. We leave from here and sail to Half Moon Island, where we will find a variety of Chinstrap Penguins. Seals often haul out on the beach. These volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often shrouded in mist and fog, but do offer subtle pleasures. There is a nice variety of flora (mosses, lichens and flowering grasses) and fauna such as Gentoo Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins and Southern Giant Petrels. Our voyage continues through a narrow Strait to the open sea heading back to Ushuaia.
Accommodation: Cabins & 1 night camping
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often shrouded in mist, but do offer subtle pleasures. They feature a variety of flora (mosses, lichens and flowering grasses) and fauna, such as Gentoo Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins and Southern Giant Petrels. At Deception Island, which is a caldera (the top of a volcano) our ship enters the harbour through the spectacular Neptune’s Bellows. Here we find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, thousands of Cape Petrels and many Kelp Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Terns. Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Black-bellied Storm Petrels nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay. Alternatively we may try to land at Hannah Point at Livingston Island. The area is closed off to visitors for part of the season as it is a high density wildlife area with species such as Chinstrap penguins, Gentoo penguins, and Southern Elephant seals. Around noon we depart for the Drake Passage.
In the Drake Passage we have again a chance of seeing many seabirds and to take advantage of the knowledge of our lecture team.
We arrive in the morning in Ushuaia and disembark the ship. A private transfer takes us from the port to check into our hotel. followed by a half day walking tour in the Tierra Del Fuego National park which is set on the bay west of Ushuaia. This gives us a chance to walk among the hills and beech forests of the 'end of the earth'. We'll have a picnic lunch before heading back to Ushuaia.
Accommodation: Hotel in Ushuaia
Following an early breakfast, the group will be transferred to the airport for the flight to Sydney (via Buenos Aires and Santiago). Arriving in Santiago in the evening.
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Flight departs Santiago in the early hours of the morning and arrives in Sydney in the morning of 21 DEC, where the adventure concludes.
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