Location of Adventure
Ushuaia, Argentina / Punta Arenas, Chile / Antarctic Peninsula
Group Size Limit
Due to the limited capacity of our sailing 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, alcoholic beverages (other than those described above), passport fees, Argentina Reciprocity Fee, 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 and rugged area far from medical facilities. In Antarctica, we follow an itinerary based on safety, and since our activities are often unique and infrequently performed, they are exploratory in nature, requiring 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 such a polar setting, enduring unpredictable and changing weather conditions, cold temperatures, and traveling in close quarters aboard a sailboat. All participants must be in good health and fully mobile with substantial physical stamina to participate in this adventure. At minimum, all 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 are required to walk one mile over an unpaved, rocky road that can be quite 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). When we explore ashore, Zodiac landings can be unstable and either wet (requiring you to walk a short distance in shallow water) or dry (disembarking directly onto land) and can include walking over rocks or large boulders that can be very slippery. You will find that physical strength and stamina will enhance your ability to undertake the activities included, as well as paddling a kayak, should you wish to do so.
Accommodations on board the S/V Australis are tight but comfortable, with one toilet and shower room shared by all guests. Shipboard reality necessitates that guests be in close quarters with their 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 to your enjoyment of this adventure.
It is important to note 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 lengthy periods of time to ensure their safety (with bathroom breaks only). Expedition members should be prepared for high seas, and to take necessary precautions for seasickness.
While exploring from the boat, daily activities may include walks, kayaking and Zodiac excursions of varying duration. We expect to operate in generally calm waters, but conditions can change quickly, and we may be exposed in open Zodiac boats 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.
Guests who desire a higher level of activity may be able to participate in longer sea kayaking excursions (weather, ice and local conditions permitting). Shore excursions take place near sea level with some elevation gain, walking over rough, uneven, slippery and snowy terrain that can include climbing on loose rock. Optional sea kayaking excursions will also be offered. Our intent is to paddle in largely calm seas, though again, the weather can change with little notice, and excursions can occur in windy, snowy or rainy conditions. Shifting ice may also force us to alter our kayaking itinerary. Those who choose to participate in kayaking excursions should be aware that paddling in the water and weather conditions in the Antarctic Peninsula requires confidence and physical ability as well as previous kayaking experience in choppy conditions. It also requires stability, strength and agility in order to enter the kayaks from our Zodiacs. The group will be accompanied by the Expedition Leader and follow tender at all times, and if the weather deteriorates, we will return to the boat promptly. No one will be allowed to paddle on their own without the group and guide.
Weather and local conditions permitting, we may also have the opportunity to camp ashore overnight. As this activity is completely dependent on weather conditions, 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. Those travelers who choose not to camp may remain on the boat if they wish.
Important Information About This Trip
For this sailboat-based nature expedition, we welcome travelers with the necessary spirit, a zest for serious adventure, and either experience with winter camping or a hardy constitution and avid enthusiasm for demanding conditions. 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 their quick changes and sometimes-hostile environment. Of course, we have the advantage of safer and more comfortable equipment then Shackleton and his expedition crew had, but Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are a realm where nature tests our judgment and at the same time rewards the intrepid! Please note that although our expedition takes place on a sailing vessel, due to the difficult sea and weather conditions encountered as well as the lengthy distances we must travel, the boat will generally be motoring for the duration of the trip.
Whenever possible, for any single travelers booking this adventure, 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.
On this trip, we fly either one or both ways between South America and Antarctica. Regarding flights, should the very unlikely event occur (it’s never happened before) that our flight operator were to cancel flights between South America and Antarctica due to weather or other issues, we may have to elect to sail one or both ways. Should such a cancellation occur, the final decision to sail may not be reached until the last minute, so it could be that we are not able to provide travelers with advance notice of the change in transport mode until they are already on the trip.
The Environment & Weather
Summer in Antarctica can exhibit all kinds of weather—mostly governed by the prevailing westerly winds and the Antarctic Ice Cap. The weather pattern is an unpredictable mixture of marine low-pressure systems and more stable high-pressure inland climate. The weather is largely influenced by the immense, frigid ice sheet that covers the earth's southernmost continent. Temperatures typically range from 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, you should prepare for all kinds of weather—sunshine as well as showers and snow storms. 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, survival 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.
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. 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.