After your overnight flight from London, spend two days enjoying the vivacious nightlife, theatres, sightseeing and restaurants of the ‘Paris of South America’.
After a night in Ushuaia board the Hebridean Sky – a sleek polar cruiser with panoramic observation deck, elegant restaurant and spacious suites and penthouses featuring en suite bathrooms and huge windows.
Stay: 18 nights in a luxurious suite aboard the newly refurbished Hebridean Sky.
Today your adventure begins in earnest. Like Shackleton, you’ll cruise across the mighty Southern Ocean but you’ll have the company of your expedition team on the deck pointing out albatross, prions and petrels soaring above – and watching out for whales and dolphins breaching the ocean waves.
Antarctica – South Shetland Islands
You’ll cruise past notorious Elephant Island, taking a Zodiac trip – weather permitting – to visit the spot where Shackleton’s party beached after his ship Endurance sank in the Weddell Sea. You’ll be able to imagine the plight of the 22 men Shackleton left behind as he set off to fetch help – and their absolute joy when he returned on the Yelcho to rescue them.
Special guest Seb Coulthard will be on hand to tell you about the Epic team’s recreation of Shackleton’s voyage. Weather and ice conditions will dictate the extent of your voyage, but you may well be able to visit penguin rookeries, seal wallows, bird colonies and whale feeding areas. Neko Harbour and Paradise Harbour are of scientific interest whilst you should see humpbacks at Wilhelmina Bay, plus Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins, Weddell seals and crabeater seals, leopard and fur seals, minke and orca whales during your voyage. You may also be able to visit working Polish and Ukrainian scientific stations.
Now the bow of the Hebridean Sky swings north and you’ll enjoy wildlife presentations by expert naturalists, in between spotting the mighty icebergs that are beginning to become more and more frequent as you head towards the pole.
Day 14: Gold Harbour – Cooper bay
Make sure your camera is fully charged. Today you’ll be sailing into Gold Harbour past the spectacular Bertrab Glacier. King and gentoo penguins, elephant seals and southern giant petrels will also attract your lens. In the afternoon, Cooper Bay presents you with a very rare opportunity to approach a macaroni penguin colony by boat, as well as viewing chinstrap penguins and numerous fur seals.
Day 15: St Andrew’s Bay – Grytviken
King penguins await at St Andrew’s Bay, but perhaps the region’s biggest attraction (literally) are the southern elephant seal cows; up to 6000 of them breed on the local beach. Over at Gryviken you’ll have the poignant experience of visiting the final resting place of Ernest Shackleton with special guest Angie Butler. Angie was instrumental in having the ashes of Shackleton’s right hand man, Frank Wild, buried alongside Shackleton’s grave. You’ll also visit the remains of Gryviken’s whaling station and its absorbing museum, Norwegian Church and post office.
Day 16: Fortuna Bay – Stromness
Fortuna Bay is home to large colonies of elephant seals and king penguins, but it also offers you the chance to literally walk in Shackleton’s footsteps; recreating the final leg of his epic journey. At Stromness you’ll find a natural setting for all manner of wildlife, great scenery and historic buildings. Not to mention the picturesque Shackleton Waterfall, cascading into the end of a pretty valley.
Day 17: Salisbury Plain – Prion Island
As many as 60,000 breeding pairs of king penguins will welcome you to their Salisbury Plain colony; a fascinating sight and an unrivalled photographic opportunity. On Prion Island you’ll encounter wandering albatross – one of the few places in the world where you can observe them nesting – and the South Georgia pipit.
Day 18: King Haakon Bay
This is where Shackleton began his treacherous journey across a then uncharted, mountainous island. walk around the scenic bay, or take a trip in a Zodiac to see fur and elephant seals, king penguins and burrowing petrels and pipits.
The next stage of your adventure takes you across the Antarctic Convergence and into the waters of the Antarctic.
Capital of the East Falklands and a sheltered harbour, you’ll be able to go ashore to discover the shops, post office issuing First Day Covers and pubs on one of Great Britain’s most remote outposts. From the town you may also see sea lions and dolphins.
Presentations on Antarctica and wildlife spotting from the towering observation deck accompany your voyage across the famous Southern Ocean as you head back towards Ushuaia. Time to reflect on the beauty of Antarctica and the fragility of its future.
After disembarking the Hebridean Sky you can connect with your flight back home, or decide to stay longer and enjoy the sights and activities available in Ushuaia.
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