Location of Adventure
Ushuaia, Argentina / Punta Arenas, Chile / Antarctic Peninsula
Group Size Limit
Due to the limited capacity of our motorsailer vessel, the S/V Australis, this trip accommodates a maximum of just seven travelers, plus our Natural Habitat Adventures Expedition Leader and three crew. Such a small group guarantees an intimate and inimitable experience of Antarctica, and highly personalized encounters with the guides and naturalists we travel with.
Specialized 4x4 Land Rovers and Land Cruisers
Our Private Leaders
Early arrival and Day 1 airport transfer (if you are staying at our hotel in Ushuaia or Punta Arenas), final day airport transfer, accommodations, internal flight to or from King George Island, meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on the final day, purified drinking water throughout the trip and soft drinks with meals, a limited selection of wine and beer on board our boat, services of a Natural Habitat Adventures professional Expedition Leader, boat crew and local guides, all camping and kayaking equipment, waterproof overshoes for shore excursions, most gratuities, all permits, entrance fees and taxes.
Travel to and from start and end points of the trip, early arrival airport transfer (if you are arriving early and staying at a different hotel in either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas), late departure airport transfer (if you are departing late and staying at a different hotel in either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas), alcoholic beverages (other than those described above), passport fees, some gratuities, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, Internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, required medical evacuation insurance and optional travel insurance.
This is a true expeditionary polar sailing trip in an exceptionally remote wilderness area far from medical facilities. In Antarctica, we follow an exploratory itinerary based on safety, and the exact activities we engage in on any given day are determined by weather, sea conditions and the judgment of our skipper and Expedition Leader. Given the unique and often unpredictable elements of this trip, its successful operation requires a commitment to group unity and a willingness to embrace the unexpected and overcome any challenges we might face. Guests must be prepared for typical activities that take place in a rugged polar setting, such as hiking on snow and rocky shorelines, enduring unpredictable and changing weather conditions including cold temperatures and high winds, and traveling in close quarters aboard a compact boat.
All participants must be in good health and fully mobile with substantial physical stamina to participate in this adventure. At minimum, guests must be able to walk unassisted at least two miles over a trailless landscape that can be rocky, snowy, muddy and steep in places. Note that in order to board our charter plane in King George Island, guests must walk one mile over an unpaved, gravel road that can be muddy at times (luggage will be transported in a separate vehicle). All guests must also be able to get into and out of Zodiacs (rigid rubber boats) without assistance. Zodiac landings, via which we access the shore for exploration, can be unstable. Wet landings require that you walk a short distance in shallow water, while dry landings—disembarking directly onto shore—can include climbing and walking over rocks or large boulders that may be very slippery. You must also be able to climb into and out of an upper bunk on board the boat, as guests will be accommodated in both lower and upper berths. The more physical strength and stamina you have, the better your ability will be to undertake and enjoy our range of activities, including paddling a kayak, should you wish to do so.
Daily activities may include Zodiac excursions, kayaking and walks ashore, of varying duration. We expect to operate in generally calm waters, but conditions can change quickly, and we may be exposed in open Zodiac rafts to cold, rainy, snowy or windy weather, with rough seas. Travelers who are susceptible to motion sickness or who have back problems or other health issues that could be exacerbated by such conditions should take this into consideration and consult their physician before attempting this expedition.
Shore excursions take place near sea level with some elevation gain; walking over rough, uneven, slippery and snowy terrain can include climbing on loose rock. Optional sea kayaking is offered, and guests who desire a higher activity level may be able to participate in longer kayaking excursions (weather, ice and local conditions permitting). Our intent is to paddle in largely calm seas, though weather can change with little notice, and excursions can take place in windy, snowy or rainy conditions. Shifting ice may also force us to alter our kayaking itineraries. Paddlers should be aware that kayaking in the weather, sea and ice conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula requires confidence and physical ability, and paddlers should ideally have previous kayaking experience in choppy conditions. Paddlers must also have the stability, strength and agility necessary to enter a kayak directly from a Zodiac. The paddling group will be accompanied by the Expedition Leader and follow tender at all times, and if the weather deteriorates, we will return to the Australis promptly. No one will be allowed to paddle on their own without the group and guide.
Important Information About This Trip
For this boat-based polar expedition, we welcome travelers with a strong spirit, a zest for serious adventure, a hardy constitution and avid enthusiasm for demanding conditions. Experience with winter camping is also useful. All expedition members must be flexible and have a positive and adventurous attitude—the weather and ocean conditions of the Antarctic region are notorious for quick changes, and the environment can sometimes be hostile. Of course, we have the advantage of sophisticated safety equipment and far more comfortable shipboard amenities than Shackleton and his crew had, but Antarctica and the Southern Ocean remain a realm where nature tests human judgment while rewarding intrepid expedition members. Please note that while the Australis looks like a sailboat, it is a motorsailer, and we will be motoring for the duration of the trip due to often-challenging sea and weather conditions, as well as the lengthy distances we travel.
It is important to be aware that sailing conditions in the Drake Passage can be extremely rough, and should we encounter such conditions, guests may be asked to stay in their berths for long periods of time to ensure their safety (with bathroom breaks only). Expedition participants should be prepared for high seas, and to take necessary precautions for seasickness.
Accommodations on board the Australis are tight but comfortable, with one toilet and shower room shared by all guests (the crew share a separate bathroom). The reality of traveling aboard a compact boat necessitates that guests be in close quarters with fellow travelers for long periods with little to no personal space or time alone. Thus, a flexible and tolerant attitude toward other participants is paramount for the enjoyment of all. Whenever possible, for any single travelers who book this trip, we will match you in a cabin with a traveler of the same sex. However, due to the limited space on board, the last booked guest will be required to share a cabin on board with our NHA Expedition Leader, who may be of the opposite sex.
Weather and local conditions permitting, we may also have the opportunity to camp ashore overnight, as allowed by our permits from the National Science Foundation. As this activity is completely dependent on weather, as well as other factors, it is important to note that there is no guarantee that camping will be offered on every departure. We will provide appropriate tents and sleeping bags rated for winter camping, as well as expedition-style camping pads, but keep in mind that overnight temperatures can fall below freezing (though it is usually warmer in the tents). Travelers who choose not to camp may sleep aboard the boat if they prefer.
Flight & Sailing Delays
Guests will fly one way between South America and Antarctica and travel the other direction across the Drake Passage aboard the Australis. Please note that weather-related delays or changes to your scheduled flight and sailing departures may occur. In light of unpredictable weather and its potential impact on flight schedules and operations, guests are strongly advised to have sufficient travel insurance to protect against both flight cancellations and delays, as well as potential marine delays. It may be necessary, for instance, to spend an additional night in Ushuaia or an extra night aboard the boat on King George Island, in order to wait for favorable weather conditions for the Drake crossing. Given the potential for such an event, we also recommend that guests consider booking an additional hotel night on the back end of their trip, in case of such a delay.
Environment & Weather
Summer in Antarctica can exhibit all kinds of weather—mostly governed by the prevailing westerly winds and the Antarctic ice sheet. The weather pattern is an unpredictable mixture of marine low-pressure systems and a more stable high-pressure inland climate. The weather is largely influenced by the immense ice sheet that covers the earth's southernmost continent. Temperatures typically range from 30 to 40°F. In other words, you should prepare for all kinds of weather—sunshine and milder temperatures as well as showers and snowstorms. Winds can be both fierce and shifting, and the Antarctic seas are famous for ferocious katabatic storms (rare, but possible).
Your safety is of paramount concern to us. Toward that end, we provide highly competent guides, a premier polar sailing vessel manned by a world-class skipper and crew with extensive experience in Antarctic waters, and the very best equipment. Our guides and crew are thoroughly trained in emergency wilderness first-aid techniques and maritime survival in polar waters. Ultimately, our guides make decisions with everyone’s comfort and safety in mind, while trying to maximize the adventure experience for each individual. We must stress that listening carefully to your guide’s instructions and directions is ultimately your responsibility and in your best interest and that of the group.
We provide all group gear such as life jackets, tents, sleeping bags and liners, expedition-style camping mattresses, kayaks, Mustang suits, waterproof overshoes, and a comprehensive first-aid kit and satellite phone for emergency communications. We will supply you with an individual and very comprehensive Clothing & Equipment list prior to your departure.
Since the areas we travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for our guests' safety. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat, we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We will add the cost of a medical evacuation policy to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, contact number and your individual policy number. Thank you for understanding that our policy exists exclusively in the interest of our guests' safety.
Also, to ensure quality medical care in the event of a medical emergency, as well as peace of mind from the time you book your trip to the time you return home, we highly recommend purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. Plans may cover everything from medical treatment and trip cancellations and delays, to lost luggage. We offer both medical evacuation and comprehensive travel policies through Travelex. Please contact our office if you would like more information about either of these plans.
Getting There & Getting Home
Please arrive in either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas by 5 pm on Day 1 in order to participate in our group welcome dinner. You are free to depart either Punta Arenas or Ushuaia at any time on the final day of the trip.
We can serve you best if our Natural Habitat Adventures Travel Desk makes your reservations, as we are intimately familiar with the special requirements of this program and can arrange the most efficient travel. Also, in the case where you are delayed at King George Island and must spend an additional night on the boat, we would be able to make international flight changes on your behalf. Please call us at 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.