Fly/Cruise: fly the Drake passage, get more time to explore
This polar expedition visits the sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and the island of South Georgia – home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife. We fly from South America to Antarctica in a little over two hours where we board our ship and enjoy a thorough exploration of the glaciated coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. Witness the icebergs and towering glaciers of Antarctica, before continuing to South Georgia. We follow the course taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton whose epic small boat journey, from Elephant Island across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia remains one of the greatest feats of navigation in history.
Spectacular South Georgia
We commence our exploration at the remote south eastern tip of South Georgia and then spend the following days exploring the northern coastline. Here are some of the largest king penguin colonies on earth. The shores are covered in wildlife – including nesting albatross, fur seals and elephant seals. Rusting relics from the old whaling era sit silent and provide dramatic contrasts to the green tussock grass, and snowy peaks that surround us.
A unique adventure
We then head for the Falkland Islands and aim to spend one final day exploring the wildlife – rich Sea Lion Island and nearby by Bleaker Island. On this voyage, our days are spent exploring on shore in the company of expert guides – including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists and adventurers as well as our resident photography professional. Cruising in our inflatable Zodiac boats is another memorable activity. For the adventurers, we provide plenty of opportunities to explore on long hikes ashore, or by sea kayak.
Abbreviation: [B,L,D] Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 1. Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica
Our journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. We gather at a central location and transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). Upon arrival at King George Island, we embark our ship via Zodiac. After settling into our cabins and exploring our new surroundings, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome refreshment and set sail. No doubt, everyone will be looking forward to the adventure ahead. [D]
Day 2-4. Gerlache Strait and Antarctic Peninsula
Overnight we navigate through the Bransfield Strait and awake to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent laid out before us. For the next three days we have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. If ice conditions allow, we cruise through the Lemaire Channel and may visit sites which may include Pleneau Island and the Penola Strait. Southerly Petermann Island, is home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adelie and gentoo penguins nest side by side. A visit to an active research base nearby provides a fascinating insight into the important climate change science occurring in Antarctica. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline feature heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Our activity program is in full swing by now, and each day we enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with our expert guides providing insight and interpretation. Planned visits could include Paradise Harbour, Orne Harbour or Andvord Bay, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favourite location where we frequently encounter pods of humpback whales. [B,L,D]
Days 5. Northern Peninsula & Weddell Sea
We are now heading north towards Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way we hope to make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, we sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is an outstanding hike here to a location known as ‘Neptune’s Window’ – high up onto the rim of the crater. Our goal is to enter the icy Weddell Sea, through the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. At first we are awe-struck by the sheer size of the tabular icebergs in this area and their presence always makes for exciting navigation on the ship. This region is also home to some of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries found in Antarctica. [B,L,D]
Days 6. Elephant Island
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and entrance to the Weddell Sea, we head for Elephant Island – a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats – pondering their chances of survival. We enjoy emposing views of the location from the ship and will attempt a landing subject to conditions. From the ship or on shore, this is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history. [B,L,D]
Days 7-8. Scotia Sea towards South Georgia
As we depart Elephant Island we cannot help but ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his four companions – as they attempted the near impossible – navigating 800 nautical miles in a 30 foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. We make a much easier time of the crossing in our state of the art expedition ship. Onboard experts keep us busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussions throughout the day. The great pelagic seabirds are sure to keep us company – and we anticipate excellent sightings of albatross and giant petrels soaring on the winds of the South Atlantic Ocean. Anticipation builds as the mountainous peaks appear on the horizon, marking our arrival at South Georgia. [B,L,D]
Days 9-12. Explore South Georgia
Rounding the remote south-eastern end of South Georgia, we spend the next four days thoroughly exploring the coastline. Dark sand beaches, tussock covered hinterland and a backdrop of towering peaks and glaciers are a feast for all the senses. South Georgia has often been called the greatest wildlife show on earth. Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies and living in rookeries of immense size, live the majestic king penguins. Our aim is to visit a number of these huge colonies – where naturalists estimate that more than 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins live in close proximity. Locations we hope to visit include Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain. Dotted along the coastline are the rusting relics of the early whaling era. The largest of these locations is Grytviken. Here we find a fascinating museum and a beautifully restored Norwegian Lutheran Church. Adjacent to the old whaling station lies a small cemetery. This is the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton – who was laid to rest here in 1922. For many onboard, being in the presence of the great polar explorer is a highlight of the trip. We continue our journey along the coastline, hoping to visit Stromness –another former whaling station – and the final destination of Shackleton and companions Frank Worsley and Tom Crean having made the near impossible traverse across the interior of South Georgia. [B,L,D]
Days 13-15. At Sea towards Falklands
By now we are in sensory overload, our cameras full of images and our journey towards the Falkland Islands commences. The spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species are our constant companions as they soar above the ship. Photographing these stunning birds in flight takes great patience and skill and our resident photography expert on board will show you the best techniques. The onboard educational program continues and our experts recap our remarkable journey to date. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images in the multimedia room and catch some rest after a busy two weeks of activity. [B,L,D]
Day 16. Falkland Islands
We wake to the sight of landfall in the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, we first note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. We launch the Zodiacs and go ashore to view the incredible diversity of wildlife found at this location. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper, as well as southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. King cormorants and striated caracaras are just some of the bird species we expect to see. As we cruise along the coast of the Falklands, bound for Stanley, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain. [B,L,D]
Day 17. Port Stanley, Falkland Islands – Punta Arenas
In the early morning, we navigate through the narrows and into the harbour of Port Stanley. A transfer will take us to the airport for our return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. [B]
Please Note: Polar exploration can be unpredictable, which regularly causes variations to our itineraries. Specific sites visited will depend on prevailing weather and ice conditions at the time of sailing. The above itinerary should be read as a ‘guide only’ and may change. The ship’s Captain in conjunction with the Expedition Leader continually review the sailing plan throughout the voyage, making adjustments to the itinerary along the way to take advantage of optimal weather and ice conditions or to maximize our encounters with wildlife. Decades of experience spent exploring these waterways mean we have a large number of outstanding landing sites and zodiac cruising locations to consider, even when the weather conditions may not be ideal or when heavy ice may block out a planned route. A flexible approach is something we encourage you to bring to the ship. Camping options are dependent on favourable weather and ice and snow conditions and is not guaranteed on any voyage. Camping is unlikely early and late in the season (November and March), due to lower average night time temperatures on shore and shorter average daylight hours. Please ask us if you have any questions about this programme.
We include the use of an expedition gear package free of charge. Containing around $US900 worth of essential equipment, this kit includes a quality waterproof/windproof jacket and bib-pants plus insulated rubber boots designed for extended walking. We also include a set of binoculars and a trekking pole for use when on shore. A waterproof backpack completes your package. This kit saves you buying expensive clothing and equipment you may only ever use once, and means more weight allowance for your main luggage.
- All cruising on board the Akademik Ioffe OR Akademik Sergey Vavilov
Accommodation & Meals
- 16 nights on board the Akademik Ioffe OR Akadenik Sergey Vavilov
- Cost based on twin-semi private cabin (one bathroom shared between 2 cabins)
- 16 breakfasts, 15 lunches and 16 dinners
- Antarctic gear hire package including waterproof/windproof jacket, bib-pants, insulated comfortable rubber boots, binoculars, trekking pole and waterproof backpack for use on shore
- Comprehensive pre-voyage information package including details to help you prepare for your trip
- Transfers from a central meeting point in Punta Arenas on Day 1 and from the airport to a downtown hotel on arrival back from Stanley on Day 17
- Charter flights from Punta Areans (Chile) to King George Island (Antarctica). Scheduled flight from Stanley (Falkland Islands) back to Punta Arenas
- Shipboard accommodation in your selected cabin category with daily housekeeping. Cabins feature outside views with windows or portholes
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners on board throughout your voyage with daily afternoon tea
- 24 hour tea, coffee, hot chocolate in bar lounge plus in cabin tea and coffee making facitities
- Experienced Expedition Leader and professional expedition team of marine bioligists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides and photographers
- Daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat breaking into small groups for shore landings
- Guided hikes and walks on shore of various durations for guests of all abilities
- Visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty and community visits
- Educational presentations and talks by polar experts in their field (ie. marine biologists, naturalists, historians etc). Onboard or on shore
- Resident photography guide available to assist all guests
- Access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up and management
- An emergency trained Physician onboard every voyage
- Dedicated hospitality team including Hotel Manager, four chefs, professional bar staff and Adventure Concierge staff
- On board sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi and fitness centre including personal trainer and massage options (charge applies for massage and spa treatments)
- Access to well stocked library full of polar reference books
- End of voyage video, photos and take home USB
- Port fees and all permits to access visited areas
- Any international or local airfares unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary.
- Visa and passport expenses.
- Pre or post-cruise hotel accommodation unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged)
- Pre or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged)
- Personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges or laundry expenses
- Telecommunication charges (ie. email, satellite phone)
- Baggage, cancellation or medical travel insurance related expenses (travel insurance is mandatory on all voyages)
- Tipping payable locally, suggested amounts are approx. $12-$15pp US per day
One Ocean Voyager (Akademik Sergey Vavilov)
Designed for polar research, the One Ocean Voyager (Akademik Sergey Vavilov) is modern, comfortable, safe and ice-strengthened. From small group sessions to briefings for all passengers, we have public spaces onboard the ship ideally suited for each and every need. A bar and observation lounge, as well as a library provide ideal places to sit and relax or catch up on some reading. A selection of movies and documentaries can also be watched in the lounge. Enjoy the sumptuous meals prepared for you by our culinary team in our dining room. Other facilities include the theatre style presentation room, gift-shop, fitness room, massage room, sauna and plunge pool.
One Ocean Navigator (Akademik Ioffe)
Levels of Fitness
To get the most from your Bunnik tour, you will need a good level of fitness and mobility and an open mind. Many of the best sights can only be accessed on foot. Sightseeing includes lots of walking, getting into and out of boats and other forms of transport and extended periods at high altitude.
You should be able to walk at least 3.5km or for 2-3 hours on uneven ground with no walking aids and climb several flights of stairs. You should also be able to carry your own bags – porterage is not included in our tipping costs and extra services may not always be available.
Passengers who are 70 and over will be required to obtain a doctor’s clearance before travelling.
ON BOARD CRUISE SHIP
Sea kayaking – $795.00pp US
Sea kayaking allows you to experience another side of Antarctica and highly professional guides will introduce you to a slower paced, quieter polar experience. Kayak excursions are offered whenever weather conditions permit and you can expect to get out around six or seven times over the course of your voyage, for periods up to three or four hours. The programme is directed at any passenger with an adventurous spirit and a some previous paddling experience.
Please note: This option MUST be reserved at the time of booking and attracts an additional charge of $795 US per participant. You will need to complete a special questionnaire outlining your previous paddling experience. Ask us for a copy of this document if you are interested in the sea kayaking programme.
Single Travellers Please Note:
- No single supplement is required if you are happy to share. You would be matched up with a fellow expeditioner of the same gender. If there is no-one suitable to share the cabin you will have sole use of the cabin at no extra cost.
- If you prefer exclusive use of the cabin a single supplement would apply which is 1.5 x the cabin price or 2 x cabin price for suites
- Triple share cabins are also available for single travellers on a limited basis.
Please Note: Cabin upgrades and itinerary length variations may be available, please contact Bunnik Tours for more details. Effective 1st July 2017 the Argentina Reciprocity Fee is no longer required for Australian Passport holders.