Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia birding and wildlife watching tour is a marvellous adventure that takes you to birding's last frontier. Our Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia tour is a feast of birding and marine mammals that you will remember forever, and you don't even have to put up with very cold conditions in order to see it all – it is relatively mild down there at the time we visit.
Friday 9th November —
Thursday 29th November 2018
THERE ARE ADDITIONAL DEPARTURES TO ANTARCTICA, THE FALKLANDS & SOUTH GEORGIA OR TO ANTARCTICA ONLY BETWEEN NOVEMBER AND FEBRUARY. PLEASE CONTACT US FOR INFORMATION.
Leaders: a Birdquest guide and Oceanwide Expeditions staff
Group Size Limit: 15
Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable accommodations
Antarctica is the last frontier on our ever-shrinking planet, a place that every traveller longs to explore but so few ever see. An uninhabited continent of more that twelve million square kilometres almost entirely encrusted with ice - an awesomely silent but starkly beautiful frozen world. Here some of the most magnificent scenery of all can be seen under the cleanest skies on earth. Towering volcanoes, stark mountain ranges, lowering headlands, icebergs like floating cathedrals - all are enhanced by the peculiar quality of the light, which lends an ethereal beauty to the savage grandeur of the landscapes.
This is a land of superlatives, at one and the same time the coldest, highest, windiest, driest, most barren and least known area on earth. Some 90% of the world’s fresh water is locked up in Antarctica’s icecap, which if it were to melt would cause sea levels to rise over 200ft (over 60m), drowning much of the world’s arable land and hundreds of major cities.
One of the strangest features of this lost continent is the fact that Antarctica is surrounded by the richest oceans of all, thronged with marine life ranging from tiny krill to elephant seals and whales, and supporting enormous numbers of seabirds. The tameness of Antarctica’s seabirds and sea mammals is legendary and this remarkable journey will not only provide numerous opportunities to see albatrosses, petrels, penguins and seals at sea but also see us wandering right amongst their breeding colonies, accepted without question by creatures that have learned no fear of man. Whale-watching is a feature of Antarctic cruises and we are likely to enjoy some spectacular views of these leviathans breaching and sounding right next to our ship.
Our journey starts in earnest either at Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world, situated on the windswept but spectacularly beautiful shores of Tierra del Fuego, or at Puerto Madryn further north in Patagonia. Here we join our ship and sail out into the South Atlantic en route to the Falkland Islands.
The sea crossings from South America to the Falklands and onwards to South Georgia and Antarctica offer some of the best pelagic birding experiences in the world, with no fewer than five species of albatross routinely encountered (Black-browed, Grey-headed, Light-mantled, Wandering and Southern Royal) and several others possible, as well as both Southern and Northern Giant-Petrels, Cape, White-chinned, Soft-plumaged, Atlantic, Kerguelen and Blue Petrels, Slender-billed, Antarctic and Fairy Prions, Great Shearwater, Wilson’s, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm-petrels, and Common and Georgian Diving-Petrels. We can also expect a good selection of cetaceans, including some large whales.
The sea crossings from South America to the Falklands and onwards to South Georgia and Antarctica offer some of the best pelagic birding experiences in the world, with no fewer than five species of albatross routinely encountered (Black-browed, Grey-headed, Light-mantled, Wandering and Southern Royal) and several others possible, as well as both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Cape, White-chinned, Soft-plumaged, Atlantic, Kerguelen and Blue Petrels, Slender-billed, Antarctic and Fairy Prions, Great Shearwater, Wilson’s, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, and Common and South Georgia Diving Petrels. We can also expect a good selection of cetaceans, including some large whales.
Our exploration of the wild yet beautiful Falkland Islands will be enlivened by the spectacular and very approachable wildlife of the archipelago. Here are some of the largest colonies of Black-browed Albatrosses and Southern Rockhopper Penguins in the Southern Ocean, while other attractions include South American Fur Seal, Magellanic Penguin, Rock and Imperial Shags, Kelp, Upland and the rare Ruddy-headed Geese, Falkland Steamer Duck, Striated Caracara, Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatchers, Rufous-chested Plover, Two-banded Plover, Brown Skua, Dolphin Gull, South American Tern, Blackish Cinclodes, Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant, Cobb’s Wren and White-bridled Finch.
After enjoying the attractive scenery and marvellous birdlife of these rugged, wind-swept islands we sail onwards to South Georgia, enjoying some wonderful pelagic seawatching en route. This most mountainous of the sub-Antarctic islands appears like a series of snow-covered peaks rising from the sea, scalloped with fjords carved by more that 150 glaciers. Here we will experience some of the most unforgettable wildlife spectacles of our journey amidst dramatic scenery, walking amidst huge colonies of stately King Penguins, standing close to gigantic Southern Elephant Seals and enjoying superb views of nesting Wandering Albatrosses, while other notable creatures include Macaroni and Gentoo Penguins, South Georgia Shag, South Georgia Pintail, South Georgia Pipit and the bad-tempered Antarctic Fur Seal.
To the south across the Scotia Sea lie the bleak, ice-mantled South Shetlands, home to millions of penguins and petrels. Steaming even further south we come at last to our ultimate goal, the Antarctic Peninsula, an icy finger of land pointing towards South America and first seen by human eyes only last century. Here we will watch Weddell and Leopard Seals, penguins and whales amidst the ice floes, visit Adelie and Chinstrap Penguin rookeries, experience the awesome scenery of the ice-choked Antarctic channels, watch pure-white Snow Petrels and piebald Antarctic Petrels soaring around icebergs, and visit the shores of the Antarctic continent itself.
From the Antarctic Peninsula we sail northwards across the deep waters of the Drake Passage to the southernmost tip of South America, where the turbulent waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific meet at lonely Cape Horn, before very reluctantly returning to ‘civilization’ at the port of Ushuaia with memories that only a lucky few can ever hope for. A visit to Antarctica is like no other journey on earth; it is indeed about as close to visiting another planet as any of us are likely to get. We can say without hesitation that this is the ultimate wildlife adventure, a wilderness experience that is truly uplifting, that makes the heart sing with the joy of being alive. If you ever have the chance to go to South Georgia and Antarctica then take it, for you will surely never regret it!
We shall be sailing on the MV Plancius, a converted, ice-strengthened former Dutch naval vessel of 3434 tons and 89 metres in length operated by the well-respected Oceanwide Expeditions, who are based in the Netherlands. While significantly more comfortable and more modern than the old Russian expedition ships, this is still not a ‘cruise ship’ in the traditional manner and is designed for exploring wild places and enjoying wild nature, rather than enjoying luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers. Plancius can accommodate up to 114 passengers in 53 passenger cabins, all with private toilet and shower. Cabins consist of quad cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds and two upper, triple cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds and one upper, twin cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds, twin cabins with a window and two lower single beds, somewhat larger deluxe twin cabins with a window and two lower single beds and superior twin cabins which are almost 50% larger than a standard twin, with at least one window and one queen-sized bed. Cabins have ample storage space and an outside view.
Public facilities include a restaurant/lecture theatre, an observation lounge/bar with panoramic views, a library and a small shop. Food is plentiful, of good quality, waitress-served and prepared by experienced chefs. Both ships carry a small complement of expedition staff who, as well as guiding excursions ashore and zodiac cruises, double up as guest lecturers and give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the areas visited. There will be at least one birder/ornithologist among them who will also be there to point out seabirds and cetaceans at sea. The bridge is normally open to all (except when the ship is docking) and provides a great viewpoint whenever it is too breezy to stand comfortably outside.
Much of the sailing is done at night (or what passes for ‘night’ in summer in high latitudes), thus maximizing opportunities for going ashore and enjoying the harsh but beautiful Antarctic landscape to the full. Landings are carried out by means of a fleet of zodiacs/naiads, the rugged, fast-moving type of inflatables first developed by Jacques Cousteau for expedition work which allow safe landings on remote coastlines in all types of conditions. The speed and efficiency with which the crew and expedition staff carry out these landings allow everyone plenty of time ashore, a key factor when considering any cruise of this type.
Further information about the cruise, including photographs and details of the ship layout, including all cabin categories, are available on the Oceanwide Expeditions website: www.oceanwide-expeditions.com.
Birdquest has operated tours to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia since 1990.
This particular cruise is guaranteed to have a Birdquest leader on board, regardless of the size of our group.
To find out whether this particular year’s Birdquest cruise commences in Ushuaia or in Puerto Madryn, please check under ‘Tour Price’ below.
Accommodation: For details of the ship, see the introductory section.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few optional harder walks.
Climate: Quite mild at this season. Around the Antarctic Peninsula the temperature is generally a little above freezing point (around 4-5°C, or 39-41°F at South Georgia) and on sunny days it can feel relatively warm if there is no wind (but it feels decidedly cold on windy days at sea). Sunny spells are interspersed with (often longer) overcast periods and some rain or snow are to be expected. In southern Argentina and in the Falklands conditions are typically cool, but considerably warmer than further south.
Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities are outstanding.
Important: Adverse weather conditions may prevent landings on exposed coasts. It is, however, very unusual for more than one or two landings to have to be called off during a cruise. The information given about possible landing sites should be taken as a general indication about what is likely to be achieved: every Antarctica and South Georgia cruise is different, being dependent on the amount of time available, sea and ice conditions, and the weather, and so it is likely that some of the sites visited on your particular cruise will be different from those described.
These are provisional prices and dates
Tour Price: This cruise starts in Puerto Madryn and ends at Ushuaia. For Puerto Madryn/Ushuaia arrangements:
€9650 (£7720, $10620) in a quad-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom
€10550 (£8440, $11610) in a triple-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom
€11550 (£9240, $12710) in a twin-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom
€12100 (£9680, $13310) in a twin-berth cabin with window and private bathroom
€12900 (£10320, $14190) in a twin-berth deluxe cabin with private bathroom
€13900 (£11120, $15290) in a superior cabin with private bathroom.
Kindly note that this tour is priced in Euros (prices in Pounds Sterling and US Dollars are only indicative and based on the exchange rates prevailing at the time of calculation: £1 = Euro 1.25, €1 = $1.10). If you are paying in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars your deposit and final balance payment due will be calculated according to the exchange rate prevailing at the time.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, some soft drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services.
Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew, and any fuel surcharge that may be imposed by the cruise operator, Oceanwide Expeditions, are not included in the tour price. The level of gratuities is entirely a matter for personal discretion. The staff work very long hours to make such cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we have been told that most passengers give gratuities of around US$190-285 for a 19 days cruise (Ushuaia/Ushuaia) or US$200-300 for a 20 days cruise (Puerto Madryn/Ushuaia).
Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants have two hotel nights at the cruise start point prior to the cruise. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request.
Single Cabin/Room Supplement: Single occupancy of twin-berth cabins can be obtained in return for a 70% supplement on top of the tour price. Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement.
Deposit: 20% of the tour price (including any single supplement).
If you are paying the deposit in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars rather than in Euros, please contact us before sending payment so that we can provide you with the appropriate figure based on the current exchange rate.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QYtop of page
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