London / Buenos Aires
Depart London Heathrow on an overnight British Airways flight to Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires / Ushuaia
After collecting your luggage and clearing customs, you will be met and transferred to a local restaurant for lunch.
Transfer to the domestic airport for a domestic flight to Ushuaia, the capital of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego which divides the mountains, glaciers and forests of the island to the north and the waters of the Beagle Channel to the south. You will be met on arrival and transferred to Hotel Las Hayas on the shores of the Beagle Channel, where two nights are spent. Welcome dinner at the hotel.
Full day to relax after your journey and enjoy your surroundings. Lunch under own arrangements. Dinner at the hotel.
Ushuaia - embarkation
Half day sightseeing tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park. When the first Europeans arrived on this legendary island at the tip of Patagonia, it was inhabited by several hunter-gatherer Indian tribes who built large bonfires to protect themselves from the penetrating cold. Those early Spanish navigators saw the fires from their boats and named the island ‘Tierra de Los Fuegos’ – Fire Island.
Lunch under own arrangements. We gather at our central meeting point, transfer to the pier and embark our expedition ship, RGCS Resolute. After settling in to our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet our expedition team and enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off, bound for Antarctica.
12 nights aboard RCGS Resolute with all meals, guided excursions and lectures included
Sailing south towards Antarctica we will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history and the locations we aim to visit in the coming days.
Antarctic Circle & Lower Antarctica
Given favourable ice conditions, our first goal will be to sail south of the Antarctic Circle and into Crystal Sound. A favoured landing site here is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut. ‘Base W’ was established in the 1950’s and is in a remarkable state of preservation providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic visitors. Further exploration this far south is highly dependent on optimal weather and ice conditions. If conditions allow, we may push even further to the south.
This vicinity marks our turnaround point and from now on, we cruise in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are several locations in the Fish and Argentine Island archipelagos which allow for zodiac cruising and potential shore landings. We hope to visit a working scientific base to learn of the important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows us to stretch our legs and explore the old British Antarctic Survey hut.
Petermann Island is home to a sizable Adelie penguin rookery. Adelies – the smallest of the Antarctic penguins nest here and share the location with Gentoo penguins and Imperial cormorants. The view to the north of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott is impressive. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, in the shallow waters of the Penola Strait, massive icebergs run aground. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes. For many, a zodiac cruise here will be a highlight of the voyage.
Gerlache Straight & Antarctica
We aim to transit the Lemaire Channel on our way north towards Paradise Harbour. This may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbour offers another continental landing. Both locations offer terrific hiking opportunities up to panoramic view points.
Orne Harbour is another celebrated location we hope to visit and the hike up to a rocky knoll provides excellent access to a chinstrap penguin rookery. At Cuverville Island, there is a large Gentoo penguin colony which we observe at close quarters. Leopard seals are often sighted cruising the shallows along the landing site. We are now at our most northern point on the Peninsula. Visit Mikkelson Harbour and the nearby Cierva Cove.
For the kayakers, a full circumnavigation of the island is a real thrill. It is in this vicinity we hope to spend a night ashore camping for those interested, if weather conditions permit.
South Shetland Islands
Having crossed the Bransfield Straight overnight, we arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if conditions allow, we aim to sail the ship into the sunken volcanic caldera at Deception Island, or visit nearby Half Moon Island, home to a sizeable colony of rowdy chinstrap penguins that share their territory with fur seals and blue-eyed shags. The MacFarlane Strait is a good place to spot humpback whales. In the early evening, we push into the Drake Passage and chart a course back to South America.
As we make our way back to South America, we approach the entrance to the Beagle Channel before heading again across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage. If weather conditions allow, we hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation.
In the early morning, we will arrive back in Ushuaia. Disembark from the ship and transfer to the airport for a domestic flight back to Buenos Aires. You will be met on arrival and transferred to the Buenos Aires Grand Hotel, situated in the heart of the bustling Recoleta district, where one night is spent. Buenos Aires, affectionately known as the ‘Paris of South America’, is a cosmopolitan city and European in appearance. Its architectural diversity reflects times of grandeur as well as a variety of cultural influences that extend to Spanish, British, Jewish, Arabian and more recently Chinese and Korean. Dinner under own arrangements.
Buenos Aires / London
Transfer to Buenos Aires International Airport for an overnight British Airways flight to London Heathrow.
It was a great experience and now I have dipped my toes in the Ultimate waters I shall be back for more.- JE, October 2014