Welcome to Birdquest

ANTARCTICA: IN SEARCH OF THE EMPEROR PENGUIN

Visit the Weddell Sea in a ship with helicopters!

Antarctica Birding Tours: Wonderful as they are, most Antarctica bird watching and wildlife holidays visit only the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula where no Emperor Penguins can normally be observed. This special Antarctica birding and wildlife expedition explores the Weddell Sea, where this remarkable species breeds, and where there is a very high chance of success with finding Emperor Penguin.

Thursday 14th November — Sunday 24th November 2019
(11 days)


Leader: Oceanwide Expeditions leaders

Group Size Limit: 15

Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable accommodations

Seeing Emperor Penguins is a life-long dream for many a birder and wildlife enthusiast

Seeing Emperor Penguins is a life-long dream for many a birder and wildlife enthusiast

This special Antarctic cruise is all about seeing Emperor Penguins! An Emperor Penguin rookery is situated south of Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea, on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The captain of the vessel will do his utmost to position the vessel close enough to Snow Hill Island in order to enable the expedition team to offer ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to approximatelyt 45 minutes walking distance from the Emperor Penguin Rookeries. If we succeed, this will be an amazing experience. Even if the ship cannot get close enough for a colony visit (which happens over 50% of the time) a great deal of effort will be made to find Emperor Penguins on the sea ice and the success rate so far is 100%!

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 and really does make the heart sing with the joy of being alive. If you ever have the chance to go to Antarctica then take it, for you will surely never regret it!

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 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 may enjoy some spectacular views of these leviathans breaching and sounding right next to our ship.

Our journey starts at Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world, situated on the windswept but spectacularly beautiful shores of Tierra del Fuego. Here we join our ship and sail out into the Southern Ocean en route to the Antarctic Peninsula.

The sea crossings from South America to 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 and Blue Petrels, Slender-billed and Antarctic Prions, Great Shearwater, Wilson’s, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, and Common Diving Petrel. We can also expect some cetaceans, including some large whales.

Steaming ever 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, and the rugged South Shetland Islands, home to millions of penguins and petrels.. Here we will encounter Weddell, Crabeater and Leopard Seals, penguins and whales amidst the ice floes, visit Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo 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. On this sopeciual cruise, the legendary Emperor Penguin will be our ultimate quarry.

From the Antarctic Peninsula we sail northwards, back 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.

The great advantage of taking this particular Antarctic cruise is of course the very high chance of seeing the much sought-after Emperor Penguin. You will also see many other Antarctic birds and sea mammals in all their glory. The itinerary and day to day schedule are strongly wildlife-orientated and concentrate on the Weddell Sea (the only part of the Antarctic Peninsula where Emperor Penguins occur). Oceanwide Expeditions always have at least one experienced birder/ornithologist amongst their expedition leaders.

Birdquest has operated tours to Antarctica since 1990.

Accommodation & Road Transport: We shall be sailing on the MV Ortelius, a converted, ice-strengthened former Dutch naval vessel of 4575 tons and over 91 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. Ortelius can accommodate up to 120 passengers in 47 passenger cabins, all with private toilet and shower. Cabins consist of 4 quad cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds and two upper, 2 triple cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds and one upper, 24 twin cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds, 10 twin cabins with a window and two lower single beds, 6 superior twin cabins, with a window and one lower double bed and one lower single bed, and a separate day room, and one suite which is similar to a superior but larger. 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. 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. Ortelius even has its own on-board helicopters for this special expedition.

Further information about the cruise, including photographs and details of the ship, are available on the Oceanwide Expeditions website: www.oceanwide-expeditions.com

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy.

Climate: Quite mild at this season. Around the Antarctic Peninsula the temperature is generally a little above freezing point 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 conditions are typically cool, but considerably warmer than further south.

Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities are outstanding.

ANTARCTICA: IN SEARCH OF THE EMPEROR PENGUIN BIRDING & WILDLIFE TOUR: PRICE INFORMATION

2019 confirmed prices

For Usuaia/Ushuaia arrangements:

€9300 (£8087, $11346) in a quad-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom

€9950 (£8652, $12139) in a triple-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom

€10650 (£9261, $12993) in a twin-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom

€11100 (£9652, $13542) in a twin-berth cabin with window and private bathroom

€11550 (£10043, $14091) in a superior cabin with private bathroom

€12200 (£10609, $14884) in a suite 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 = €1.150, €1 = $1.220). 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.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew 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$150-200 for such a cruise.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants have two nights at Ushuaia 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 will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Some of the 'ice sculptures' are quite incredible (Nik Borrow)

Some of the 'ice sculptures' are quite incredible (Nik Borrow)

A greeting party of Adelie Penguins on Paulet Island (Nik Borrow)

A greeting party of Adelie Penguins on Paulet Island (Nik Borrow)

Dolphin Gulls can be found at Ushuaia (Nik Borrow)

Dolphin Gulls can be found at Ushuaia (Nik Borrow)

The supremely elegant Light-mantled Albatross can be seen at sea (Nik Borrow)

The supremely elegant Light-mantled Albatross can be seen at sea (Nik Borrow)

Amazing male Southern Elephant Seals spar on the beach (Nik Borrow)

Amazing male Southern Elephant Seals spar on the beach (Nik Borrow)

... and take advantage of unsuspecting females! (Nik Borrow)

... and take advantage of unsuspecting females! (Nik Borrow)

Scavenging Brown Skuas can often be found around the edge of seabird colonies (Nik Borrow)

Scavenging Brown Skuas can often be found around the edge of seabird colonies (Nik Borrow)

In Antarctica, colonies of Chinstrap Penguins entertain (Nik Borrow)

In Antarctica, colonies of Chinstrap Penguins entertain (Nik Borrow)

The delightful Snow Petrel (Nik Borrow)

The delightful Snow Petrel (Nik Borrow)

... and inquisitive Antarctic Petrels, sometimes visit the ship (Nik Borrow)

... and inquisitive Antarctic Petrels, sometimes visit the ship (Nik Borrow)

Many of the 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 9QY

top of page

Website crafted by the Accent Design Group.

Valid CSS| Level A compliant on bobby| 508 compliant on bobby| Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional|