Antarctica is like no other place on the planet, and to experience its ethereal splendor is a rare privilege to savor for a lifetime. This unique expedition cruise first explores the Antarctic Peninsula then ventures south—far south!—to the legendary Antarctic Circle at 66° 33’ S. Few people have visited this extreme latitude, one of the five major parallels of the earth, with its eerie and spectacular light lasting nearly 24 hours in the austral summer. The Antarctic Circle marks the northern limit of the area within which, for one day or more each year, the sun does not set or rise! When you reach this imaginary boundary at the bottom of the world, you’ll toast the achievement with a glass of champagne on deck. As you explore the wonder of Antarctica aboard the expedition vessel Island Sky, you'll also enjoy Zodiac adventures among fantastic icebergs and walks ashore to observe seals, sea lions, colonies of penguins, and seabirds—all against a backdrop of some of the most incredible scenery on earth. Throughout the voyage, expert naturalists share their in-depth knowledge of this amazing continent.
Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.
Arrive in Ushuaia. Transfer to Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa. The rest of the day is at leisure with a welcome dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Ushuaia / Tierra del Fuego National Park / Embark Island Sky
Today, enjoy a boat trip on the Beagle Channel and disembark in Tierra del Fuego National Park for nature hikes surrounded by dramatic scenery. Board the Island Sky this afternoon and set sail for the Antarctic Peninsula.
Named for the 16th-century English seaman, the Drake Passage is a deep waterway spanning 600 miles from the southern tip of South America to the South Shetland Islands. Join naturalists on deck to watch for wandering and black-browed albatross, pintado and white-chinned petrels. Attend informative lectures on the history, geology, and wildlife of the Antarctic realm.
As you cruise the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula and its adjacent islands, landings are dependent upon weather and ice conditions. The expedition leaders have been to Antarctica numerous times, and their experience in the region enables them to adapt quickly to change, making sure every option is considered, and every opportunity seized. If the weather is in our favor, landings may be offered before breakfast or even after dinner. There is also a possibility that you may visit a research station to witness the scientific activities conducted by the multinational community of scientists working there. Though the expeditionary nature of our voyage precludes guaranteeing specific stops, the plan is to visit the following islands, bays, and coves where outstanding birdlife, dramatic scenery, and unique marine life can be seen close at hand. This list serves only as a guideline of the places you may experience:
Crystal Sound / Antarctic Circle – Dependent on ice conditions, the ship will attempt to cross the Antarctic Circle in Crystal Sound, so named for research conducted here on the structure of ice crystals. Board Zodiacs for a cruise among element-sculpted icebergs as you search for leopard, Weddell, and crabeater seals hauled out on ice floes. Minke and humpback whales are also frequently sighted during this time of year.
Detaille Island – Conditions permitting, step ashore on Detaille Island and explore the remains of the British Antarctic Survey Base that was abandoned in 1959.
Vernadsky Research Base – Permission pending, visit the Ukrainian-operated Vernadsky Research Station. Take a tour of the station and meet with a group of scientists to learn about their research and life in the Antarctic.
Lemaire Channel and Pleneau Island – Cruising the beautiful Lemaire Channel, keep watch for the humpback and minke whales frequently spotted here. This narrow channel is one of the most visually impressive areas of the Antarctic Peninsula and is often referred to as the “Kodak Gap” or “Nikon Niche” due to the wonderful photo opportunities it offers. Steep mountain peaks jut out of the sea on both sides, and the surrounding waters are often choked with icebergs and frequented by crabeater seals. A stunning labyrinth of grounded icebergs lies in the shallow waters west of Pleneau Island, presenting a superb Zodiac cruising experience. Crabeater and leopard seals haul out on the ice, and elephant seals and gentoo penguins may be found on the island itself.
Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay – Weddell seals can occasionally be found hauled out on the beach here, and a gentoo penguin colony overlooks a spectacular glacier, which is sometimes quite active in calving icebergs. In Zodiacs, cruise among these fantastic shapes sculpted by wind and water. Later, the Island Sky navigates the scenic waters of Paradise Bay, where Chile and Argentina both maintain bases.
Deception Island – As you approach Deception through Neptune’s Bellows, a channel just wide enough for the ship to navigate, southern fulmars and pintado petrels soar overhead. Weigh anchor inside a volcano whose collapsed cone was filled by rushing seawater.
Enjoy two days at sea to relax, sort through your photos, and attend lectures recapping your Antarctic adventures. On deck, keep watch for seabirds and the whales that are frequently seen in these waters.
Ushuaia, Argentina / Disembark / Buenos Aires
Disembark in Ushuaia and transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, connecting with your independent overnight flight.