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South Georgia


Easter Island


Antarctica, South Georgia Island, and the Falkland Islands

December 28, 2014 - January 15, 2015

Offering educationally-oriented, comprehensive trips to the Galápagos Islands will always be our focus at GALAPAGOS TRAVEL. At the same time, some of our Galápagos passengers have put mild pressure on us to take them somewhere else - basically, on another great adventure.

Antarctica is truly an awesome place. A vast desert of white, holding 90% of the earth's ice in a permanent ice cap, at times over 2 miles thick. In the southern winter its area doubles in size when sea ice forms around its margin. Antarctica is then at its most formidable - dominating and unpredictable - greater than life, and seemingly devoid of life. But, during our journey, it will be absolutely teeming with life. For we will be there during the peak of the austral summer, when the sun finally emerges from the long winter night, the sea ice melts, and life returns - to breed! With a background of glittering white mountains and blue-green icebergs, we will come face to face with incredibly large colonies of penguins; in all we will see 7-8 penguin species. We will also approach colonies of albatrosses (4 species), petrels, and shags (cormorants). We will walk and cruise among 7 species of pinnipeds, including large colonies of massive Southern elephant seals and roaring Antarctic fur seals. During our cruising time, we will be rewarded with good views of pelagic sea birds gliding nearby and several species of whales.

The history of Antarctic exploration is legendary - names such as Cook, Scott, Amundson, and Shackleton. Each has had incredible, heroic adventures. We will go where they have gone, and we will learn what they accomplished and endured. Even in the relatively mild austral summer, we will occasionally feel the force of Antarctica, just as they did. There are times that it will be our master and control our activities. Our expedition puts us in touch with modern-day explorers as well, members of the global community of scientists working at polar research stations.

We have given it quite a lot of thought and personal travel, and feel that as with the Galápagos, most of the trips that are offered to Antarctica miss out on the best parts. We don't want to do that! If the Antarctic Peninsula (and adjacent islands) is the heart of the voyage, South Georgia is certainly the soul. Not included on most Antarctica itineraries, South Georgia will be a key part of ours.

With the seasonal ice melt expedition vessels are able to visit the Southern Ocean from late-October through early-March. Our visit is planned for mid-season – the weather should be at its best – when the penguin and albatross chicks have hatched, yet early enough that the colonies are booming.

Traditionally we offer this in-depth expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands once every-other year.  To do it right, it becomes a 19-day cruise – 21 days including travel days and an overnight in Ushuaia prior to boarding the ship. We will again be aboard our favorite polar expedition vessel, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov.


Begin in captivating Tierra del Fuego – the Land of Fire – where the southern tip of the Andes range finally meets the sea. The rugged mountains, lakes and views across the Beagle Channel are as breathtaking as the wildlife. We depart from Ushuaia and make our first stop in the Falkland Islands where we will spend 2 days. Here we will find a relatively warm climate where an abundance of unusual wildlife thrives. In addition to colonies of Black-browed Albatross, Rockhopper and Magellanic Penguins, the island diversity includes upwards of sixty species of migratory birds.

Moving south we cross the Antarctic convergence to the pristine island of South Georgia. Towering glacier-covered mountains are the backdrop to thriving colonies of penguins – including hundreds of thousands of Kings on a single beach – seals, and albatross. We plan at least 3 days here. Next on our voyage south will be a day in the South Orkney Islands, where our arrival will be heralded by enormous icebergs.

Finally we will have four days in the South Shetland Archipelago and the Antarctic Peninsula; a land of spectacular ice and snow, with a profusion of wildlife.

At sea the expedition staff is typically the on bridge or out on deck eager to share the latest wildlife sightings. Throughout the voyage they will offer insightful presentations on the region, abundant wildlife and rich history.

Our plan is to fully exploit our time on the expedition - to maximize the viewing and photographic opportunities; there will also be time for exploration and discovery. Weather permitting, we plan to take full advantage of the long daylight hours in the austral summer. That means extended landings, flexible hikes from easy to challenging, and frequent zodiac sightseeing excursions. There will even be a few chances to do some kayaking for those who wish. For those not as adventurous or just feeling tired, the zodiacs are shuttled back and forth between the ship and landing sites.

19-days / 18-nights aboard the ship, plus travel days.

96 participants, plus expedition staff, hotel staff and crew. With fewer than 100 participants we are able to land at the same time, rather than in 2 staggered groups, affording everyone much more time ashore.

Our expedition begins and ends in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.


We will be traveling in a very remote, unforgiving, environment where weather - wind and ice - will determine our every move.  The Expedition Team will work closely with the captain, crew and zodiac drivers to give us the best possible expedition. Flexibility is paramount for all expedition cruising and this itinerary is for guidance only.

December 27: Arrival in Ushuaia
Ushuaia is the capital of (Argentine) Tierra del Fuego and located on the shores of the Beagle Channel, surrounded by the southern tip of the Andes Range. Besides being the South American jumping off point for most tours to Antarctica, the city's primary claim to fame is being the southernmost city in the world. Part ski village, part frontier outpost, this vibrant small town gives you wonderful views of the neighboring mountains and sea, glaciers and forest. We strongly recommend that you arrive in Ushuaia by the evening of December 27. There are several flights daily between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, and we are happy to assist with flight reservations and hotel accommodations for the night. Overnight at a hotel in Ushuaia (hotel not included in the expedition package). Meals on your own.

December 28: Tierra Del Fuego National Park - Embarkation
Following breakfast we will have a special tour of the Tierra Del Fuego National Park for our group. Only 30 minutes from Ushuaia, the route to the park is along the shores of the Beagle Channel, past Ensenada Bay and Lapataia Bay, through the Pipo River Valley and along the slopes of Mt. Susana. In addition to taking in the spectacular views, there are a number of great nature hikes in the park. The Southern Beech forests here are home to wonderful wildlife, with flora and fauna specially adapted for the harsh climate. Possible wildlife includes several species of caracara, geese, ducks, plus ibis and many more. Following lunch we will have a quick bit of free time in Ushuaia.

Boarding the Akademik Sergey Vavilov is scheduled for 4pm. Shortly thereafter the ship will lift anchor and begin the journey down the Beagle Channel to the sea. The passing shoreline is largely uninhabited and almost immediately you may begin to notice wildlife; Kelp Gulls, Dolphin Gulls, Blue-eyed Shags, Chilean Skuas, and even Magellanic Penguins.

December 29: At Sea
In addition to familiarizing yourself with the ship today, there are many activities to keep you engaged while we are at sea. The Expedition Team will offer a series of illustrated presentations to prepare you for the shore landings and zodiac cruises to come. In addition wildlife viewing is already amazing (prime viewing areas include the bridge, view lounge, and stern, and you will often find one or more of the expedition team in these areas). Black-browed Albatross are typically riding our wake, while there are also good chances for Royal Albatross in these waters. Additional species may include Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwaters, Thin-billed Prion, Wilson's Storm-Petrel.

December 30 & 31: Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
Called the Falkland Islands by England, and Islas Malvinas by Argentina, this temperate archipelago is located just over 300 miles east of South America. The diversity of wildlife makes the Falklands a photographer’s and naturalist’s paradise. The islands are home to several species of penguins, including King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and Magellanic. Endemic birds include the Falkland Steamer Duck and Cobb’s Wren. The seas are also rich in wildlife with dolphins, seals and whales often sighted in the waters surrounding the islands. While the nights might be short watch for glorious sunrises and sunsets, even if it means getting up in the middle of the night!

We plan to make the most of our time here with several anticipated landing locations…

West Point Island • The Napier family has owned the island since the 1860s. Black-browed Albatrosses nest in colonies on cliffs along the water’s edge on the western side of the island. Rockhopper Penguins share the cliffs. Commerson’s Dolphins are often seen in the water surrounding the island, often even accompanying our zodiacs ashore.

Carcass Island • The island is named for a Royal Navy ship, HMS Carcass, which arrived in 1766. This picturesque island has a wonderful diversity of songbirds (due to the lack of a rat problem, which plagued many of the other islands) which nest amongst the luxuriant growth that covers the gently rolling landscape. In addition to Magellanic penguins the island is typically home to oystercatchers, geese and the flightless steamer duck.

Stanley • The deep-water harbor of Stanley was the economic mainstay of the archipelago following the port’s completion in 1845. Sailing ships damaged while rounding Cape Horn called in for expensive repairs as did whalers and other the questionable vessels used to carry fortune seekers to the gold fields of California and Australia. The town is remarkably British in feel, with pubs and fish and chips shops vying for attention with the museum and church.

December 19: At Sea
From the Falklands we will head southeast across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia. In this area we will cross the Antarctic Convergence, and officially enter Antarctic waters. The Expedition Team will again prepare us for the activities ahead, including the remarkable history of the island, and its connection to Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The richness of these waters is evident in the marine mammal life, especially the fur seals on fishing forays. There is a chance of sighting whales, such as Fins and Minkies as well. Fin Whales are very difficult to approach as they are the fastest of the rorqual whales and can quickly leave us behind. The birds circling our stern will be outstanding, especially the large albatrosses. We have counted in these waters six species of albatross: Grey-headed, Light-mantled Sooty, Wandering, Northern Royal, Southern Royal, and of course, Black-browed; eight species of petrels: Cape, Soft-plumaged, White-headed, Atlantic, Blue, White-chinned, and Southern and Northern Giant Petrels; three species of storm-petrels: Gray-backed, Black-bellied and Wilson's; plus common Diving-petrel, Greater and Sooty Shearwaters, Southern Fulmar and Antarctic Prion by the thousands.

January 3 – 5: South Georgia
Here we will find one of the world's highest concentrations of sea birds, with colonies in the hundreds of thousands. South Georgia will give us amazing looks at 6 or more species of penguins, including huge colonies of King Penguins and the crested Macaroni Penguins (with 5 million breeding pairs). There are also 4 species of albatrosses, including the Wandering Albatross, with its 13 ft wingspan. The magic of South Georgia is due to its location - far enough north to escape the sea ice (providing year-round ocean access to the breeding sea birds and fur seals) and yet south of the Antarctic Convergence. This is where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans mix with cold waters from the south, merging into the nutrient-rich Southern Ocean, teeming with Antarctic krill - the lifeblood of the immense food chain.

In addition to the seabirds, half of the world's population of Southern Elephant Seals breed on South Georgia. Like the Elephant Seal, the Antarctic Fur Seal is restricted largely to the sub-Antarctic islands. Ninety-five percent of its world population breeds on South Georgia alone.

Our plan is to fully explore the more sheltered northeast cost of the island - our options for landings are amazing, and will likely include several of the following!

Drygalski Fjord • Some of the peaks that rise straight out of the sea were not subjected to glaciation, and therefore are sharply peaked.

Gold Harbour • The backdrop to this harbor is the hanging Bertrab Glacier. King and Gentoo Penguins, Elephant and Fur Seals are common here.

Grytviken • This was the busiest whaling station in the world for much of the first half of the 20th century. Now only a handful of people live, albeit temporarily, here on South Georgia, a United Kingdom overseas territory. There is a very nice small museum on the natural history of the island, plus a small gift shop and post office. The church was built for the whaling community and is the only building in Grytviken that is still used for its original purpose. Drink a toast to Sir Ernest Shackleton at his grave.

Prion Island • Located in the Bay of Islas, Robert Cushman Murphy named the island for the species of petrels that are seen there, Prion. This is the only site where we can see Wandering Albatross nesting. Other nesting birds include the Southern Giant Petrel, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, South Georgia Pintails, and also the South Georgia Pipit.

Salisbury Plain • One of the largest King Penguin rookeries on the island is located on Salisbury Plain. The Murphy and Lucas Glaciers flank the plain.

St. Andrew’s Bay • This is the largest King Penguin colony on South Georgia, with an estimated half a million individuals, all in impossibly dense colonies. The setting is beautiful with high peaks towering over the bay and a fast-flowing meltwater stream running off the island's glaciers. Reindeer, introduced by Norwegian whalers often feed on the grass in the area. Snowy Sheathbills and Skuas patrol, while Fur Seals keep watch on the beach.

Stromness • This abandoned whaling station was in full operation the day that Ernest Shackleton and his companions staggered in after a 36 hour trek across the island of South Georgia.

January 6-8: At Sea & South Orkneys
As we cross the Scotia Sea, sailing ever closer to Antarctica, we hope to visit the South Orkney Islands. Linked to the Antarctic Peninsula by an enormous sub-marine mountain range these islands, often shrouded in mist, are protected by large grounded icebergs and sea ice. As the temperatures drop the wildlife viewing seems to get better from the enclosed and heated bridge and the view lounge! At this peak of the southern summer the temperatures ashore are likely in the low 30’s. If we are lucky, there will be an excursion to Coronation Island to observe penguins nesting in moss beds alongside graceful snow petrels. We may also stop at the remote island of Laurie and visit the Argentinean meteorological station located there.

January 9 – 12: South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Mainland
Continuing south we will pass Elephant Island, where Shackleton’s men were stranded in 1916 after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea. Our entourage of following seabirds starts building with Pintado Petrels and Prions joining in large numbers.  Soon after Antarctic Fulmars join the melee of wheeling seabirds.

While most of Antarctica is frozen throughout the year, an exception is the long panhandle of the Antarctic Peninsula which stretches far enough north to be largely ice-free in the summer. To the east, it is exposed to the frozen Weddell Sea, while the western shore is warmed by the Southern Ocean and buffeted by fierce winds.

The Bransfield Strait separates the Shetland Islands from the Antarctic Peninsula, with the islands stretching for 335 miles from northeast to southwest. Whales have made a great comeback in this region. Wonderful Humpback behavior is common in these summer feeding grounds. Other cetaceans commonly include Orcas, or even rare beaked whales. Here in the cleanest of air watch for a possible "green flash" as the sun drops below the sea.

Here again the possible landing/cruising areas are nothing short of awesome!

Brown Bluff • A towering (2,225 feet) ice-capped red bluff dominates the landscape.  Below, a 2-mile north-facing beach is home to Adélie and Gentoo Penguin rookeries. 

Cuverville Island • A rocky beach here extends to a steep cliff that absorbs the summer sun, and is home to the largest Gentoo Penguin rookery  on the Peninsula.  Near the steep cliff face the area is rich in vegetation with lush lichens, moss and grass.  Southern Giant Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Antarctic Terns, Snowy Sheathbills, Antarctica Brown Skuas, and South Polar Skuas all breed here as well.

Danco Island • This small island is home to Gentoo Penguins, Snowy Sheathbills, Kelp Gulls and shags, to name just a few.

Deception Island • This horseshoe shaped volcanic island is still active, and amazing in many ways. Conditions permitting the ship will enter the caldera via a narrow passage called Neptune’s Bellows. Landings inside might be possible at Whaler’s Bay where dilapidated buildings and rusting boilers from the early 20th century whaling operations sit on the beach amid Weddell Seals and raucous Kelp Gulls. Watch for steam that may rise from hot geo-thermally heated water along the shoreline. Bailey Head is a landing on the exterior of the island, and home to a huge Chinstrap colony dominating the natural volcanic amphitheater of the site - probably the most beautiful of all Chinstrap colonies.  The island is the site of Sir Hubert Wilkins’ first Antarctica flight.

Enterprise Island (Gerlache Strait) • Located in Wilhelmina Bay, the island was long used by whalers (a Zodiac cruise around the island passes a still-visible wrecked whaling ship).

Half Moon Island (Livingston Island) • The crescent-shaped island was known to sealers, if no one else, as early as 1821. Sealers were notorious for keeping secret the location of valuable sites. Many Antarctic birds breed on the island – Chinstrap Penguins, shags, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Snowy Sheathbills, Antarctic Terns and Skua.

Lemaire Channel • This narrow 7-mile strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, and is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast. At just over 100 miles north of the Antarctica Circle the channel often becomes impassable when ice fills the passageway so it is not often on the itinerary until late in the season. 

Neko Harbor • Little evidence remains that this bay was once used by the floating whale factory ship Neko. You might see some whale vertebrae used by the resident Gentoo Penguins as shelter from the wind. There is an unmanned refuge hut erected by Argentina. Climb past the hut and up a steep slope for spectacular views of the glacier rimmed harbor.

Paulet Island • Located in the northwestern Weddell Sea, Paulet is home to 100,000 or more breeding pairs of Adélie Penguins, with peak breeding season from late December through January.  This is also a wonderful area to find penguin-covered icebergs. A Blue-eyed Shag colony is adjacent to the landing beach.  Slightly uphill the remains of a historic stone hut from the Swedish Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 are still visible.

Petermann Island • The southernmost breeding colony of Gentoo Penguins is situated on this small island located just below the Lemaire Channel. The dome of the island rises 650 feet above the sea. Large colonies of Adélie Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags and South Polar Skuas also nest here. Crabeater, Weddell and Leopard Seals are a common sight on the nearby ice floes. The surrounding mountains are spectacular with hanging ice and wind-sculpted snow.

Port Lockroy • Following a short inland hike you are rewarded with a broad panorama of rugged mountain slopes topped with glaciers.  A sprawling Gentoo colony occupies the higher outcroppings.  This once-secret WWII base is now designated a historic site.

Turret Point (King George Island) • The site is noted by high rock stacks along the eastern edge of King George Bay.  Both Chinstrap and Adélie Penguin rookeries are found on this point, along with nesting Southern Giant Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Blue-eyed Shags and Antarctica Terns. Southern Elephant Seals frequently haul out in large numbers, with Weddell Seals to a lesser degree.

Waterboat Point (Paradise Bay) • At low tide, Waterboat Point is connected to the Antarctic mainland, while zodiacs are used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behavior lived in a waterboat on the Point from 1921-22, thereby giving the area its name. The remains of their camp have been designated an Antarctic historic site.

Yankee Harbor (Greenwich Island) • This natural harbor is entered between Glacier Bluff and Spit Point, with a coarse gravel bar protecting the bay.  Gentoo Penguins have established a large rookery on the shingle terraces above the bay. The setting is spectacular with a large glacier along the east and north sides of the bay framing the view, and a large melt pond in the midst of the colony.

January 13 & 14: Drake Passage
The passage is named for Sir Francis Drake, who led the first English expedition to sail through these waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1578. Black-browed Albatrosses, Prions, and Storm Petrels roam this historic passage. Roughly halfway across the Drake we will again cross the Antarctic Convergence. After rounding Cape Horn we will sail up the Beagle Channel, celebrating our successful expedition with a special farewell dinner.

January 15: Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Early this morning we should arrive back in Ushuaia. Following breakfast we will disembark – transfers will be provided to either the airport or central Ushuaia as you prefer (luggage storage will be available in town for anyone catching flights later in the day and opting to further explore Ushuaia). Most international flights depart Buenos Aires for North America in the evening allowing for a fairly leisurely day. Lunch and dinner on your own.

We will be offering optional hotel accommodations, airport transfers, and extension tours in both Buenos Aires and Ushuaia for anyone interested – options and prices should be available early in 2014. The Tierra Del Fuego National Park group tour is included at no charge for any Galapagos Travel expedition participants spending the night of December 27 in Ushuaia with us.

The 96 passenger, 384 ft Akademik Sergey Vavilov is today operated by One Ocean Expeditions. The ship was built in Finland in 1988 for polar and oceanographic research. Recently refurbished, she is ideal for expedition cruising – she is our favorite Polar vessel! Common areas include the bridge, a top-deck view lounge, presentation room with theater seating, dining room, library, mud room, multimedia room, infirmary, sauna, exercise room, and plunge pool. Viewing is excellent from the large, open decks. Superb, varied, and abundant international cuisine is prepared by European chefs; the dining room allows for a single seating at all meals.

The Akademik Sergey Vavilov has an ice-strengthened hull; her smaller size allows us to navigate scenic waterways with ease, venturing into areas closed to larger vessels. Powerful twin engines provide the speed capabilities to maintain our full itinerary. Designed to explore remote corners of the world, she is equipped with sophisticated navigation equipment and stabilizers for smoother cruising. The ship meets all international environmental and safety standards. A western physician trained in emergency medicine is on-board. The atmosphere aboard is relaxed, more akin to a private expedition than a conventional cruise. She has a crew of 35, largely Russian, all highly experienced in polar/ice navigation.

All cabins have an outside view, with portholes or a window, and are comfortably furnished. They have ample storage in addition to a desk/ study area. Prices are per person based on shared accommodations.




(per person, double occupancy)


TRIPLE (shared facilities)
Bunk beds plus a sofa bed. Facilities are shared (“down the hall”); washbasin in the cabin.



TWIN (semi-private facilities)
1 lower berth & 1 sofa bed, with semi-private (shared between 2 cabins) facilities.


3, 4 & 5

TWIN (private facilities)
1 lower berth & 1 sofa bed, with private facilities.



2 lower berths, sofa, and private facilities.


4 & 5

Double berth, 1 sofa bed, TV, VCR, fridge, separate sleeping quarters and private facilities.



Double berth, 1 sofa bed, TV, VCR, fridge, separate sleeping quarters and private facilities w/ bathtub.


All ship cabins must be shared, except by special arrangement. We will attempt to arrange a roommate for you if traveling alone. Selected twin cabins are available for guaranteed single occupancy at 1.5 times the twin rate.

A deposit of $1,800 per person is required to reserve space. The balance of the Expedition Cost is due September 10, 2014. We accept Personal Checks, Overseas Wire Transfers, Visa & MasterCard for deposits and payments.

Extensive pre-departure materials; Shipboard accommodations 18 nights, including daily housekeeping; All breakfasts, lunches, afternoon tea, and dinners on board the ship throughout your voyage; Coffee, tea, and cocoa, available around the clock; All shore landings and Zodiac excursions per the daily program; Leadership throughout the voyage by the experienced Expedition team, including shore excursions and presentations aboard the ship; Foul weather gear set (rain jacket, bib pants & Lacrosse (Wellington) gumboots on loan; Group transfers from the meeting point in Ushuaia to the ship on the first day of the voyage, and from the ship to the airport on disembarkation; Baggage handling aboard ship; All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges while aboard the ship.

An optional night ashore is occasionally possible based on conditions. The ship will provide all necessary equipment and gear to loan for those spending a night ashore if the opportunity arises.

All airfares; baggage fees; visa and passport fees; governmental arrival and departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise hotel accommodations; airport transfers; items of a personal nature including laundry, postage, communications or medical expenses; sodas and alcoholic beverages; excess baggage charges; travel insurance (evacuation coverage at a minimum is mandatory); gratuities to the staff and crew (suggested at $10 per day per tour participant).

An optional kayaking program is available to a limited number of participants. The cost is $795 and includes the use of all gear. The kayaking option must be pre-booked. Please inquire about this unusual expedition option - it truly adds a new dimension of adventure to an already action-filled expedition.

All cancellations shall be in writing (fax or e-mail are acceptable). The Boat Operator imposes these terms based on the short season, the small number of departures, and the expense of operating in the Antarctic. In this respect, you are strongly encouraged to purchase Travel Protection Insurance. A comprehensive insurance package is available through GALAPAGOS TRAVEL for all U.S. and Canada residents. You will receive a policy application along with your deposit receipt.

All deposits and payments are non-refundable. If a cancellation occurs 90 days or less prior to departure, and full payment has not yet been received, the full penalty still applies and unpaid monies are due immediately. Refunds cannot be made to passengers who do not complete the tour for any reason whatsoever.

All expedition participants are required to carry emergency medical and evacuation coverage at a minimum.

Fuel surcharges seem to have become the norm these last few years. However One Ocean Expeditions has never charged a fuel surcharge, and while they cannot guarantee that one will not be assessed in the event of unprecedented fuel costs for our expedition is it extremely unlikely.

American, United/Continental, and Delta Airlines, plus Aerolineas Argentina, all offer direct flights to Buenos Aires from the U.S. In addition LAN has good connections from several U.S. gateways. Our office will be happy to assist with international air arrangements if you wish.

There are several flights daily between Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, Argentina, all on local carriers. We will make these arrangements for any expedition participants wishing them. At the moment this roundtrip fare is in the neighborhood of $450.

The One Ocean Expeditions staff includes an Expedition Leader plus another 10 or so Polar experts, including naturalists, a geologist/glaciologist, ornithologist, historian, marine biologist, "adventure concierge," kayak guide, and photographer. Julie Lolmaugh from Galápagos Travel will be escorting our group - this will be Julie's 4th Polar expedition and she can’t wait to share the wonders of the Southern Ocean with you!

The ship is smoke-free with the exception of some outside deck areas. Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the ship, including individual cabins. You are welcome to visit the Bridge as often as maritime regulations and the safety of the ship permit.

We put safety first and that means weather, ice, wildlife, political or other conditions may require us to modify the itinerary as we go. Every expedition is a little different. It may mean that we have to cancel certain shore excursions, including Polar camping if conditions are not suitable. Travel to Polar regions requires a degree of flexibility, open mindedness and an understanding that itineraries may change.

Why December?
We love mid-summer in Antarctica! This is our favorite time here. There is typically still lots of clean snow around making those picture perfect memories and photos easy to create. Earlier in the season more sea ice can prevent the zodiacs from reaching shore on occasion. By December the ice has receded making landings easier. By late-season the snow is pretty much gone from the landing areas, replaced by mud and penguin guano. Early season there is more courtship and breeding happening, whereas by mid-season the chicks are hatching and there is feeding going on. By late season the chicks are about to fledge, with the Adelies being the first to go.

Why on the Sergey Vavilov? She's the best ship for Polar expedition cruising we know. The ship is comfortable, with a great mix of indoor and outdoor viewing and relaxing areas, with great connections between those areas. She has a large open bridge, single dining room, and pretty much any amenity you might be looking for. The Vavilov (along with her sister ship the Ioffe) is the steadiest riding vessel we know, with an internal stabilizer system that takes many of the bumps out of the voyage. She is also a remarkably quiet running vessel.

Why with One Ocean Expeditions? They do it the best in our opinion. Their focus is on the maximum amount of time ashore. Their guides are experts in their fields and they offer the highest ratio of guides/expedition team to passengers going.

Why with Galapagos Travel? We know Antarctica. We offered our first trip here in 2000, and return every other year now. We will make sure you are ready for the adventures ahead so that yo can get the most out of the experience. One of us from the office is on each of our expeditions as well. We also start the expedition out with a free tour to the Tierra del Fuego National Park for our group.

Why 2014? The simple answer is "go before it gets pricier." We see increases of up to 10% between seasons.

What did we see on the last trip at this time? We did this exact same trip in December 2012 - same ship, operator, and dates. It was simply amazing. The book preview below will give you an idea of what we saw - it is a collection of Mark's favorite images from the voyage. What it will not show you is all of the remarkable 79 species of birds and 21 species of mammals encountered once we boarded the ship (although it will show you the Magellanic Woodpecker our group saw the morning before we boarded). We saw a remarkable seven species of penguins, including upwards of 450,000 King Penguins on Salisbury Plain, South Georgia, alone. We had 28 species of tubenoses throughout our journey, including 7 species of albatross. We saw impressive numbers of Antarctic Fur Seals in South Georgia, plus hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals, and close sightings of Leopard Seals, Weddell Seals, and Crabeaters. We had incredible numbers of whales this year, including up to 80 large whales one day, with spectacular sightings of Humpbacks. Also noteworthy were pods of Orca and the incredibly unusual Strap-toothed Beaked Whales. One day we even had up to 125 Hourglass Dolphins. The kayaking group enjoyed calm waters and close encounters, and the continent-campers savored a night ashore serenaded by humpbacks feeding nearby throughout the night. It was another magical voyage in the Southern Ocean!


Photo credits: Debbie Brown (db), Mike Tossy (mt), and Mark Grantham (mg, plus all uncredited images), Peregrine Adventures (pa).

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