South Georgia - the subantarctic pearl
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South Georgia - the subantarctic pearl

South Georgia has rightly been called ‘the most staggering wildlife show on earth’. After this in depth exploration, we are certain you will agree. This subantarctic island, located in the middle of the Southern Ocean, welcomes with nearly 3000meter high mountain peaks, mighty glaciers and beaches with hundreds of thousands of curious king penguins. At the height of the breeding season, the rookeries are believed to have more wildlife per square metre than any other place on the planet. Huge elephant seals lounge on sandy beaches and this time of the year we may see the dramatic fights for a position as the king of a harem. The lush coastline is also home to fur seals, albatrosses and several species of penguin such as chinstrap, gentoo and macaroni. With seven days on this paradise island there will be lots of time for unforgettable wildlife encounters.

Accommodation: Hotel in Punta Arenas, cabin on board Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Transport: Airplane, expedition ship, Zodiac. Ship: Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Passengers: 92 passengers. Languages: English. Length: 16 days, 14 nights on ship. Price: From USD 9 995.

Itinerary

Day 1: Punta Arenas, Chile

Our expedition starts in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, where we stay at a centrally located hotel.

Day 2: Punta Arenas, Chile – Stanley, the Falkland Islands

We transfer to the airport and board our flight to the Falkland Islands. After a short 90-minute flight we arrive in Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. Before embarking the ship there will be time to explore this charming, rural town with brightly coloured houses, pretty flower-filled gardens and a quaint cathedral. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980’s, is a sobering reminder of recent history. After settling into our cabins we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers and set sail towards South Georgia.

Day 3 – 4: At sea towards South Georgia

This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its bio-diversity and showcases an abundance of astonishing wildlife. As we make our way to South Georgia we will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including giant petrels, smaller cape petrels and the graceful wandering albatross. Throughout the day our on board experts will educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Shackleton is central to our journey.

Day 5 – 6: King Haakon Bay & the Northwest Coast

Majestic snow-covered mountains greet us on arrival in South Georgia. We are here in the beginning of summer when there are few ships in the vicinity and our plan is to spend seven days exploring this gem. We hope to navigate the ship into the very historic location of King Haakon Bay. It was here that Shackleton and his men made landfall in their small lifeboat after completing the perilous ocean crossing from Elephant Island, 100 years ago. This is a very dramatic place, visited by just a handful of ships each season. From here, we make our way around to the protected waters of the Northeastern coast. At Elsehul Bay we might release the Zodiacs to enjoy some great Zodiac cruising. One of the most spectacular sites in South Georgia is Salisbury Plain. The black sand beaches and tussock covered dunes are home to up to 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins, and this is just one of several such king penguin rookeries in South Georgia. The majestic king penguins are not the only wildlife here. Fur seals can be seen poking their heads above the water, huge elephant seals lounge on the beaches or fight for their harems, while skuas and giant petrels fill the sky above.

Day 7 – 8: Fortuna Bay, Stromness, Grytviken & the Central North Coast

Fortuna Bay is a majestic three-mile long and one-mile wide fjord, where we can expect to see king penguins and elephant seals. From 1912 until the 1930’s, Stromness operated as a whaling station. It was here that Shackleton and his companions arrived after their epic crossing from King Haakon Bay in 1916, after having completed their 800-mile journey by a small boat from Elephant Island. Weather permitting we hope to be able to hike the last few miles from Fortuna Bay to Stromness, in the footsteps of Shackleton and his men. Our next stop is Grytviken – the largest of the old whaling stations in South Georgia. A highlight here is a visit to the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Day 9 – 10: St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour & the Eastern Coast

The following days will take us to St Andrews Bay and Gold Harbour – places that are teeming with wildlife including fur seals, elephant seals and massive colonies of the colourful king penguins. Gold Harbour is so called because the sun’s rays make the cliffs yellow with their light in the morning and evening. As with all landings we will take every possible opportunity to explore on foot together with our experienced guides. Another place we hope to visit is Drygalski Fjord with its icebergs and beautiful glacier fronts. This fjord is known as one of the most spectacular sites in South Georgia.

Day 11: Godthul, Prion Island & the Eastern Coast

Today we plan to visit the old whaling shore depot at Godthul, from where we can enjoy a great hike up to a beautiful lake. We also hope to make a landing at Prion Island, situated in the breathtaking Bay of Isles. Prion Island has been designated as a ‘Specially Protected Area’ by the South Georgia Government, because of the breeding wandering albatross colonies. Boasting the largest wingspan of any living bird, typically ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 m (8ft to 11ft), the wandering albatross spends most of its life in flight, landing only to breed and feed. It is rare to experience them up close and on land. Due to the massive concentration of fur seals on the beaches, this site is closed to visiting ships between November and mid January. Later today, it is time to say goodbye to South Georgia and set course towards the Falkland Islands.

Day 12 – 14: At sea towards the Falkland Islands

Our final days are spent catching up on journal entries, reviewing photos and listen to interesting presentations. A particular highlight of our return journey will be frequent sightings of the majestic albatross, petrels and other seabirds as they soar above the ship on the winds of the Southern Ocean.

Day 15: Sea Lion Island, the Falkland Islands

Approaching Sea Lion Island, we first note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather. Here we find an incredible diversity of wildlife. Gentoo, Magellanic and rockhopper penguins, as well as Southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. It is also home to many bird species such as king cormorants and striated caracaras.

Day 16: Stanley, the Falkland Islands - Punta Arenas, Chile

In the early morning, we arrive to the harbour of Stanley, embark the ship and transfer to the airport for our return flight to Punta Arenas.

Please note: Our exact route will depend on weather and ice conditions. The planned itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favourable conditions. Flexibility is the key to a successful expedition!

Photo: Dierk Ronneberger

ON BOARD PHOTOGRAPHIC SYMPOSIUM

An additional highlight will be the shipboard photography symposium open to all travellers. This program runs alongside the regular series of presentations. With a varied and diverse itinerary and flexible plans, we aim to make the most out of the beautiful light, even if outside conventional shore landing time.

SEA KAYAKING

For those of you who have previous experience of sea kayaking it will be possible to enjoy South Georgia in a unique way. Pre-booking is necessary, for a price of USD 795 per person. Maximum 16 participants. Please note: This activity is subject to weather and ice conditions.

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The ship Akademik Sergey Vavilov

  • Adeline Heymann
  • One Ocean Expeditions
  • One Ocean

Akademik Sergey Vavilov is a comfortable and ice strengthened expedition vessel, perfectly suited for polar expeditions. She was built in Finland in 1988, to serve as a polar research vessel, taking a maximum of 92 passengers in 45 cabins. A separate lounge and bar with panoramic views, as well as a library provide ideal places to sit and relax or catch up on some reading. There is also a presentation room, seating all passengers. Here, our polar experts will entertain and educate us with lectures on the area’s flora, fauna, geology and history. Other facilities on board include a gift-shop, a small fitness room and a sauna. In the ship’s dining room, seating all passengers in one single seating, we are treated to delicious meals between the excursions. Passengers are welcome on the bridge around the clock and there is always something to see or search for from the spacious observation decks. From the ship’s top deck we can enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. Travelling with this small expedition ship offers an entirely different experience and perspective than you would get on a more conventional cruise ship.

The triple cabins and the superior cabins have portholes, while all other cabins have windows. In all cabins you will find a desk, a chair and storage space for clothes and equipment. The triple cabins have bunk beds, a sink in the cabin and a shared bathroom in the corridor. The semi-private cabins have two lower berths and semi-private facilities (one bathroom between two cabins). The superior cabins have two lower berths and private facilities. The Shackleton suites have a sofa bed, a separate sleeping area with a double bed and private facilities. The One Ocean suite have a sofa bed, a separate sleeping area with a double bed and private facilities with both a bathtub and a shower.

Cabins & prices

Cabin category Price per person
Triple (Bunk beds, shared facilities in the corridor) USD 9 995
Twin Semi Private (2 lower beds, 1 bathroom between 2 cabins) USD 11 995
Twin Private (2 lower beds) USD 13 195
Superior (2 lower beds) USD 13 995
Shackleton Suite (Separate sleeping area with double bed) USD 15 795
One Ocean Suite (Separate sleeping area with double bed) USD 17 495

Price includes: 1 night in hotel in Punta Arenas, Chile, 14 nights on board Akademik Sergey Vavilov, flights Punta Arenas – Stanley – Punta Arenas, transfer from the hotel to the airport in Punta Arenas and between the airport and the ship in Stanley, all meals, coffee and tea, an experienced expedition leader and knowledgeable guides/lecturers (2 from PolarQuest), loan of waterproof jacket, trousers and rubber boots, lectures, all excursions and activities by Zodiac, landing fees and port taxes, comprehensive pre-departure material, a detailed post-expedition logbook.

Not included: Airfare to and from Punta Arenas, Chile, arrival and departure transfers in Punta Arenas, airport taxes, travel and cancellation insurance, the customary gratuity to the ship’s crew, beverages, bar and shop charges.

Departures & booking

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or wish to make a reservation.

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Departure Return
20 October 2017 4 November 2017