Location of Adventure
Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia, starting in Argentina or Chile
Group Size Limit
National Geographic Explorer: Approximately 102 Travelers
National Geographic Orion: Approximately 148 Travelers
Specialized 4x4 Land Rovers and Land Cruisers
Our Private Leaders
All accommodations; meals from lunch on Day 2 to lunch on Day 23; excursions; services of expedition leader, naturalist staff and expert guides; use of kayaks; entrance fees; all port charges and service taxes.
Air transportation; charter flights Buenos Aires/Ushuaia/Buenos Aires or Santiago; immigration/passport fees; personal items such as alcoholic beverages, emails, laundry, voyage DVD etc.; discretionary tips to ship’s crew.
Easy to Moderate
You must be able to walk unassisted for a minimum of one mile over rough and uneven terrain including rocky beaches, snow, ice and inclines in order to participate fully in this adventure. To participate in excursions ashore, you will also need to walk down a steep gangway (steel ramp with stairs) and climb into and out of inflatable Zodiac rafts, which can sometimes feel unstable depending on water conditions. Travel via Zodiac occurs over variable conditions and can sometimes be quite bumpy. If it's windy, you may get wet from sea spray. Travelers with back problems or other health issues that could be exacerbated by such conditions should take this into consideration. Travelers must be prepared for any type of weather, including extreme conditions. Daytime highs typically range from 30°F – 40°F on the Antarctic Peninsula and in the islands, but can drop well below freezing with high winds and wind chill. Nighttime temperatures may drop into the teens. Sea conditions during the Drake Passage crossing, which typically lasts two days, can be extremely rough, potentially causing issues for those who are sensitive to motion sickness. We recommend discussing medications with your personal physician if you are prone to motion sickness.
Important Information About This Trip
The tourist season in the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica is short, from late October to the end of March. The rest of the year, sea ice prohibits access to the continent, and perpetual darkness descends during the southern winter. Once spring arrives, Antarctica bursts into life. Each period of the austral summer travel season has its own highlights. The details below will give you an idea of what wildlife sightings and natural phenomena to expect when.
Late October–December (Spring/Early Summer)
Spring comes to the northern latitudes first, in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia by November, and to the South Shetland Islands in December, moving progressively farther down the Antarctic Peninsula and continent as the year continues. Warmer temperatures in December and 20+ hours of daylight (providing exceptional photography) mark the arrival of the southern summer high season for tourism. As ice melts and steady sunlight bathes the region, an explosion of phytoplankton in areas of ocean upwelling provides food for a host of creatures—krill form the next rung on the food chain, sustaining squid and fish that are ultimately eaten by seabirds (including penguins), seals and whales that arrive to
feast on summer’s bounty.
Visitors can expect to see:
- Crabeater seals (young are born between September and November)
- Southern elephant seals courting in October and into November, and huge males aggressively guarding their harems until early December
- Humpback, minke and Southern right whales migrating into the area
- South Georgia's king penguin parents carrying eggs (laid in November) on their feet, while the other parent goes out to sea to feed
- "Oakum boys"—juvenile king penguin chicks from the previous season still covered in fluffy brown down
- Fur seals littering the beaches in South Georgia, with aggressive males ready to mate
- Courting penguins in the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula engaged in nest building and stone stealing. By late December, penguin chicks begin to hatch in the northerly realms, progressing south in January.
- Spectacular icebergs and floes as winter sea ice breaks up in bays and channels, providing haul-out spots for seals
- Spring flowers blooming in the Falkland Islands in November
Warm temperatures continue, with daytime highs often in the 40s though coastal temperatures are typically around freezing. Receding ice opens more coastal inlets and bays ever farther south. Wildlife activity is at its height, offering travelers the greatest variety of species and behavior to witness.
Visitors can expect to see:
- Young penguin chicks, most of which hatch in January. Colonies are very busy as parents scurry back and forth feeding their young.
- A multitude of seabirds: Some 35 species live south of the Antarctic Convergence, and 19 of these breed on the Antarctic continent itself. These include ocean-going pelagic species such as albatrosses and petrels, and coastal species that feed close to shore, including skuas, cormorants, terns and sheathbills.
- Fur seal and leopard seal pups are visible on ice floes and abundant on the beaches in South Georgia.
- Whale sightings continue to increase, with whale watching is at its best in February, especially around South Georgia where multiple species are often visible in large numbers.
Dark nights return, but daytime temperatures are still above zero. Travelers get a taste of the Antarctic winter to come.
Visitors can expect to see:
- Penguins molting, losing their fuzzy gray down and developing their adult plumage
- Plenty of whales—numbers remain excellent into March
- Fur seals along the peninsula and offshore islands
- More landscapes unveiled and hiking options opened as snow cover is at its lowest point
- Snow algae blooms, turning some slopes colorful shades of pink and green
- Fascinating patterns of thin sea ice on the ocean’s surface, created by deep night frosts
- The southern polar lights, or aurora australis, which may appear on clear nights
Getting There & Getting Home
We can best serve you if our Natural Habitat Adventures Travel Desk makes your reservations, as our staff is intimately familiar with the special requirements of this program and can arrange the most efficient travel. Please call us at 1-800-543-8917. Note that while we offer you the best possible rates available to us on airfare and additional nights' accommodations, you may find special web rates or better fares online.