Location of Adventure
Antarctica, beginning in Argentina or Chile
Group Size Limit
National Geographic Orion: Approximately 102 Travelers
National Geographic Explorer: Approximately 148 Travelers
Specialized 4x4 Land Rovers and Land Cruisers
Our Private Leaders
Overnight at hotel on Day 2; accommodations; meals from lunch on Day 2 to lunch on Day 13; excursions; services of expedition leader, Naturalist staff and expert guides; use of kayaks; entrance fees; all port charges and service taxes.
Air transportation; personal items such as alcoholic beverages, emails, laundry, voyage DVD etc., immigration fees; gratuities to ship’s crew at your discretion.
Easy to Moderate
You must be able to walk unassisted for a minimum of one mile over rough and uneven terrain including rocky beaches, ice and snow, in order to participate in this adventure. In order to participate in excursions ashore, you will need to walk down a steep gangway (steel ramp with stairs) and climb into and out of inflatable Zodiacs, 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, 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
Antarctica’s tourist season is short, from early November 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.
November–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 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 into November, and huge males aggressively guarding their harems until early December
- Humpback, minke and Southern right whales migrating into the area
- Courting penguins engaged in nest building and stone stealing. By late December, penguin chicks begin to hatch, beginning in the South Shetland Islands and progressing south in January
- Spectacular icebergs and floes as winter sea ice breaks up in bays and channels, providing haul-out spots for seals
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 the 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
- Whale sightings continue to increase, with whale watching is at its best in February
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
Please call our office for details about different departures, as we are prepared to handle all your round-trip travel arrangements. 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.