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Thursday 6th November - Tuesday 25th November 2014
A trip to the Antarctic is always an unforgettable experience, and this year’s tour was no exception. Being the first tour of the austral summer season, this cruise departed from Puerto Madryn and returned to Ushuaia. This meant that we were all able to enjoy two days on the incomparable Valdes peninsula, getting close-up to its amazing megafauna, and most of us were also able to spend a little time after the tour in Tierra del Fuego, exploring the wild open spaces and magnificent forests of southern Patagonia in search of some rather special birds. Both the pre-tour and post-tour extensions were not part of the official tour, and the cruise itself visited the Falklands, South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetlands before setting sail across the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia. Our enthusiastic team maintained an almost constant watch during our days at sea, enabling us to achieve some impressive sightings of seabirds and marine mammals. A modest total of 83 bird species and 15 mammals on the cruise itself focused on quality rather than quantity, although the few extra days in Argentina before and after the cruise will have more than doubled this total for most. There were so many highlights on the trip: wandering amongst hundreds of Black-browed Albatrosses on their nests; gigantic Wandering Albatross chicks waiting patiently for mum or dad to return with food; uncountable King Penguins stretching away to the horizon like an army of revellers at Glastonbury; South Georgia Pipits back on the mainland of South Georgia after the successful rat eradication programme; getting close-up with baby elephant seals and angry male fur seals; albatrosses and petrels almost constantly around the ship whilst at sea; many great cetacean sightings including several pods of Orcas; Chinstrap Penguins struggling uphill in the snow and then tobogganing back down again; getting stranded on South Georgia by a fearsome storm; the incomparable and spectacular scenery of South Georgia; mighty icebergs including one that was 24km long… the list is almost endless. What an awesome trip.