The incredible bird life of the Falkland Islands is awe-inspiring. Take a look at some of the species you may encounter on a visit to this fascinating place....
With so many ships making the journey to the southern most continent one of your toughest decisions will be which voyage to choose? Our team of specialists have the personal experience teamed with a wealth of knowledge to help make your choice easier. Our advice is to seriously consider if your time and budget will stretch to a longer voyage that includes South Georgia. With all its stunning beauty and accessible wildlife – we can confidently say you may otherwise find yourself traveling back to Antarctica again at your earliest opportunity; it happens to very many people! Let our experts at Antarctica Travel Centre take care of all of your arrangements before and after your voyage to make your special trip one of ease and astonishment.
Whatever you choose we are confident you will have that ‘trip of a lifetime’. It’s the astonishing landscapes coupled with close encounters with an abundance of wildlife including penguins, whales, seals, sea lions and albatrosses that makes a voyage to the Antarctic absolutely remarkable.
To visit our dedicated Antarctic web site please click here
Lemaire Channel and Pleneau Island – Cruising the beautiful Lemaire Channel, keep watch for the humpback and minke whales frequently spotted here. This narrow channel is one of the most visually impressive areas of the Antarctic Peninsula. Steep mountain peaks jut out of the sea on both sides, and the waters are often choked with icebergs and frequented by crabeater seals. A stunning labyrinth of grounded icebergs lies in the shallow waters west of Pleneau Island, presenting a superb Zodiac cruising experience. Crabeater and leopard seals haul out on the ice, and elephant seals and gentoo penguins occupy the island itself.
Deception Island – As you approach Deception through Neptune’s Bellows, a channel just wide enough for the ship to navigate, southern fulmars and pintado petrels soar overhead. Weigh anchor inside a volcano whose collapsed cone was filled by rushing seawater.
Whales are present throughout the season – Minke, Humpback, Sei, Fin, Orca and for the very lucky few, Blue whales. Earlier in the season (November and December) they are more intent on feeding and often you will see dorsal fins, ‘blows’, or the tail flukes as they dive to feed. Later in the season, in late February and March, having ‘filled up’, they tend to be more inquisitive, perhaps ‘spy-hopping’ right beside your Zodiac. The Expedition vessel Akademik Ioffe has a dedicated whale watching voyage ‘Marine Mammals of Antarctica’ departing 9th March 2016 and 17th March 2017.
There are a total of seven species of penguins you can see on the Antarctic Peninsula (4), Falkland Islands (5) and South Georgia (4). All bar the Emperor are regularly seen and will be present all season long.
Of the four species on the Peninsula three species are regulars, chinstrap, Adelie and gentoo. The fourth, the Emperor penguin, is rarely seen – unless you join an early season voyage (October/November) that visits an Emperor penguin rookery (e.g. Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea).
South Georgia is home to 4 species; gentoo (200,000), macaroni (6,000,000), king (1,000,000) and chinstrap (12,000).
The Falkland Islands has five species; macaroni (100), rock-hopper (600,000), king (400), gentoo (130,000) and Magellanic (100,000).
Glaciers, icebergs and bergy bits – the variety of colours, shapes and sizes are impossible to adequately describe. Each voyage will spend time Zodiac cruising among icebergs that are thousands of years old, some black, some blue, all amazing and a photographer’s dream.
South Georgia is one of the most stunning places on earth. This small archipelago rears up from the Southern Ocean to a height of almost 3,000 metres and is home to millions of birds. The rugged landscape forms a dramatic backdrop to the many beaches and coves which are home to millions of penguins and petrels, thousands of elephant and fur seals and hundreds of albatrosses.
The sub-Antarctic island group of the Falkland Islands has much to offer. Voyages that visit the Falklands are between 18 and 22 nights in duration and, far more than just a convenient break in the crossing to South Georgia, the islands are a highlight of any of these voyages. The wonderful landscape, often pastures and rolling hills, is reminiscent of more northern climes than of the sub-Antarctic (at least on a warm day!) and offers some great walks. There are many scattered reminders of the 1982 Falklands War (referred to locally as ‘the conflict’) and an excellent museum in Port Stanley details the events of this recent history. But it is the wildlife that is usually the high point of any visit here: five species of penguins, two endemic bird species – the Falklands flightless steamer duck and Cobb’s wren – as well as sea lions and elephant seals. The island group is of global significance for three bird species, having 40% of the world’s Southern Giant petrels, 30% of its Gentoo penguins and 65% of the world’s Black-browed albatrosses.
We have carefully selected our preferred partner ships Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, they provide exceptional experiences for all who visit. We’ve chosen the best ships and the best operators to deliver you to these wondrous wilderness areas, classified in three categories – Luxury, Expedition and Fly-Cruise.
To visit our dedicated web site www.antarcticatravelcentre.com.au
All vessels have less than 200 passengers, three with a maximum capacity of less than 100.
Note; only 100 guests may go ashore at anyone one time.
Combine more traditional-style ‘cruising’ with an Antarctic adventure. They offer large, very comfortable cabins with en-suite facilities and many suites have private balconies.
Silver Cloud (189)
Silver Explorer (132)
Le Soleal (199)
Le Boreal (199)
Le Lyrial (199)
These operators/ships have a greater emphasis on maximising time off the vessel or out on deck. Cabins are simple and comfortable, the food excellent.
Akademik Sergey Vavilov (92)
Akademik Ioffe (96)
Sea Spirit (114)
Affords a visit to Antarctica – or the Falklands and South Georgia – in a shorter period of time by overflying some of the longer sea crossings, including the Drake Passage, to land closer to the destination.
Combines flights on a specially designed short-runway aircraft with a modern and comfortable expedition vessel.
Hebridean Sky (114)
Ocean Nova (68)
Akademik Sergey Vavilov (70)
Most ships offer kayaking (for an additional cost) for up to 20 guests. It’s an incredible way to gain a very different perspective, with expert guides and a Zodiac close enough to offer assistance, yet far enough away not to disrupt the tranquillity. Occasionally, if you’re lucky, whales will come to investigate but don’t worry as the guides will form the kayaks into a ‘raft’ and you will enjoy a genuine once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Some sites don’t lend themselves to a physical landing or may be best seen from water level. Zodiacs (rubber inflatable boats) offer a safe way to explore and are an integral part of any day on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Note: Please ensure you are adequately dressed as it can get cold; waterproof pants are essential.
Emperor Penguins. As someone with a strong interest in wildlife I’d like to point out that if you want to see an Emperor penguin, who breed on sea ice, you must head south in October on an icebreaker ship with helicopters – without both the chances of seeing an Emperor are close to zero. Many companies appear to promote seeing them when the ship, the itinerary and timing mean they will not see them – as the sea ice, where the colonies breed, breaks up in early November and the colonies disperse.
Antarctica – 200 Guests
These ships combine more traditional-style ‘cruising’ with an Antarctic adventure. They offer large, very comfortable cabins with en-suite facilities; many suites have private balconies. The on-board service is excellent as is the cuisine.
Akademik Ioffe/Ocean Navigator
Antarctica – 96 Guests
Have a greater emphasis on maximising time off the vessel or out on deck. The expedition team works closely with the Russian ship’s captain and crew. Cabins are simple and comfortable, the food excellent. The ships are stable, fast and manoeuvrable.
Antarctica – 114 Guests
Luxury ships generally have larger cabins and a greater range of on board facilities (like cruise ships). A flight from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, or to Mount Pleasant (Falkland Islands) avoids long sea crossing which affords maximum time exploring; the Falkland Islands, South Georgia or the Antarctic Peninsula.
Akademik Sergey Vavilov/Ocean Voyager
Antarctica – 92 Guests
A flight from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, or to Mount Pleasant (Falkland Islands) avoids long sea crossing which affords maximum time exploring; the Falkland Islands, South Georgia or the Antarctic Peninsula. The operators have a greater emphasis on maximising time off the vessel or out on deck. Cabins are simple and comfortable, the food excellent.
Arakur Hotel & Spa
Tierra del Fuego , ‘Land of Fire’ is often the gateway to Antarctica. There are several fine hotels in Ushuaia. Given the short season, November to March, they
cost quite a lot relative to standards. The best hotels book out early.
International Association Antarctic Tour Operators
IAATO is a world leading authority on Antarctica and any high quality operator will be a member and operate within the IAATO guidelines.
We are very happy to have been accepted as an associate member of IAATO.
It’s worth making it clear at this point that in Antarctica size matters;
<100 No more than 100 clients ashore at any one site
<200 Ships with over 200 clients can only visit a handful of sites; and if all 200 clients have to visit the same site and go ashore at the same time you’ll either spend half the time ashore, or visit half the number of sites as a 100 client vessel.
<500 Ships with over 500 clients cannot go ashore. You will see the Peninsula but not experience it.
South America Travel Centre can look after all aspects of your holiday, including flights and travel insurance.
We start by asking you what your interests are and where you are interested in, when, for how long, what style of ship and cabin type Once we have a good understanding of just what you’re looking for, we can find a voyage and ship that will deliver interest and enjoyment in an experience to exceed your expectations.
Please book early. Many of the ships can be booked out up to 8-10 months in advance.
If you’re thinking of travelling during any major holidays like Christmas and New Year our advice is simply to book as early as you can, even 12 months or more, and we can add flights as soon as they become available.
Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter Chile, a Reciprocity Fee is required for entry into Argentina (Currently US$125 paid for online prior to travel). You will need to hold a valid passport and have a return ticket when you arrival.
Vaccinations are advised for common diseases like Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid as well as Influenza. There are no compulsory vaccinations.
We advise you to consult a Travel Doctor specialist prior to departure to assess any health risks in relation to your medical history and travel plans.
We have access to a wide range of airfares and have excellent relationships with our key airline partners. Our two main airline partners in Latin America are LATAM Airlines, QANTAS Airlines and Air New Zealand. We can also arrange internal flights for you within Latin America.
Irrespective of whether you book directly with us or with your preferred travel agent, we’ll request the details of all of your fights to ensure if there are any changes your transfers and other arrangements are adjusted accordingly.
The Antarctic season runs for late October through until March – the southern hemisphere summer. In some ways there’s no ‘best time’ to travel to Antarctica.
In simple terms the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands and South Georgia open up in November (October for Emperor Penguin voyages) and the season runs through until March when the shortening days and the encroaching sea ice close this magical place to all but the hardiest.
November; If you would like to witness the dominant Elephant seals battling to control their harem of female on the beaches of South Georgia – then you must take an early season voyage – leave it too long and the bulls will have ‘set sail’. On the Peninsula the penguins are arriving and starting their courtship displays.
December; The beaches and hillsides are busy with tens of thousands (occasionally more) of courting penguins, the daylights hours are long.
January; After a relatively brief period of calm, with both parents incubating the eggs, the colonies erupt into activity once again, feeding hungry, fast growing, chicks is a full time job.
February; Seals, skuas, petrels and penguins are all busy attending their sub-adult young the ‘summer’ will soon be over. The penguin chicks slowly lose their down to be replaced with their adult ‘feathers’.
March; Whales who’ve been busy feeding throughout the Antarctic summer seem to have more time to investigate the visitors (us). Leopard seals have an easy time catching juvenile penguins taking their first swims and then the brief season comes to a close.
The weather is as unpredictable. Surprisingly it’s generally not that cold. Any voyage can experience extreme conditions followed shortly by beautiful clear days. In fact the best conditions often follow a storm. Calm conditions will often lead to low cloud or fog. The Drake Passage can be the ‘Drake Lake’ or the ‘Drake Shake’ and there’s no certainty as to which one you’ll experience (for those who simply don’t want to consider the Drake Passage a Fly-Cruise voyage is the answer).
With regards to clothing as the saying goes ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’ – dress well.
We cannot recommend Hayley from South America Travel Centre (SATC) more highly. Our entire trip was planned perfectly from the second we left Sydney. Not only did she incorporate all of our preferred destinations, Hayley also made suggestions on additional places based on our preferences and some of these turned out to be the highlights of our trip! We tend to be more independent travellers and Hayley was able to create the perfect mix of seamless travel with the flexibility for us throughout the journey to take advantage of any unexpected opportunities that arose. The guides at every location were extremely knowledgeable and offered excellent suggestions on everything from safety through to restaurants and laundry locations. I absolutely cannot fault the services provided both locally and in Australia from the SATC team.
Each pickup/drop off was on time. My guides were very friendly, had great English, and were passionate about what they did. All hotels were faultless. I would have to say that Andrea from Buenos Aires was the best guide of a fantastic bunch. Andrea was there to greet me on my first arrival into BA, took me to the ferry for my trip to Colonia and made sure I was checked in, and was there to pick me up. She was also there to send me on my way to Ushuaia at the ungodly hour of the morning and pick me up again after the cruise, to sending me on my way the next day to Iguazu. I was most impressed at the efforts the guides went to in order to streamline the check-in process at the airport, making sure I got to the immigration area. I have never seen or experienced such attentiveness or helpfulness. Thank you for putting this trip together for me, it was the best trip that I have been on, and I have done some out there trips. From the hotels, to the destinations, the ground arrangements, everything went off without a hitch. I truly appreciate what you did to make this trip amazing.
Our trip was absolutely outstanding thank you so much for your incredible efforts in what was such an incredibly short turn around. We are so grateful, it was the most amazing trip and every day was as good as the other! Anyone who has asked about our trip or has mentioned they are travelling or wanting to travel to South America I have put them straight onto South America Travel Centre. Thank you for all of your prompt responses, quick turn around and thorough knowledge, understanding, expertise and advice. Your service was second to none. It was outstanding and we are truly grateful. Please pass on our gratitude to the wider team as well for helping pull a once in a lifetime experience together for us in three days! We are so thankful for the afterhours and overtime you put in also, we couldn’t have had the amazing trip that we did at such late notice without you.
Being in our late 70 and having only travelled with groups, never on our own, we were a little apprehensive not speaking Spanish how well we would manage? I have nothing but praise for the service we received from South America Travel Centre. We were met at every destination by a knowledgeable person not always able to speak English but well able to take us to hotels, return us to bus stations and air ports, and check us in. Those who spoke English told us about their town the best places to eat. A wonderful holiday expertly organised and every little detail taken care of. Thank you South America Travel Centre.
We found our itinerary absolutely perfect. By that I mean not only were our superb boutique hotels great, the guides in each city friendly, courteous, well-spoken and knowledgeable but the time in each city or location and the balance between site seeing “work" and leisure time “play” was also perfect. The most difficult question by friends on our return has been “what was the highlight”. An impossible question when considering the merits of, inter alia, Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Christ the Redeemer, Inti Raymi Festival, Lake Titicaca. The purpose of our trip to South America, in truth, was to see as much as we could of the continent with a view to probably not returning as we explored other opportunities. I have to now say that the chance of us revisiting South America is extremely high.
I write to thank you for organising our recent trip to South America. Everything went like clockwork, and the arrangements were very satisfactory. The guides always turned up at the right time, and the people meeting us at the airports were always there. We had a wonderful trip, and we will have to plan another one now, so that we can see Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay and maybe more. But first it’s back to work to earn some more money! For me the greatest highlight was Machu Picchu; it far exceeded my expectations. Once again, thanks so much, Alistair Macindoe.