The vast Patagonian ice-sheet that straddles the Andes mountains in South America is the third largest ice-mass on the planet, after Antarctica and the Greenland icecap. It is a remnant of the earth’s most recent ice age and dominates the landscape, ecology and geology of Patagonia. Immense glacial systems cut through towering mountains as they move inexorably towards the sea. Take a look at any map of the region and this action becomes immediately apparent, in the maze of fjords and islands that make up one of the earth’s last great remaining wilderness regions. Ancient boreal forests also tell a story of an evolving planet and the supercontinent of Gondwanaland. They are home to several species of flora only found in South America, New Zealand, and Australia’s most southerly state, Tasmania.
Commencing in Ushuaia, the ship makes its way north through a vast network of deep fjords and channels, occasionally venturing out to the Pacific Ocean, navigating towards Valparaiso – Chile’s historic deep-sea port. Explore the surroundings by Zodiac boat, approaching huge glaciers and observing resident and migratory wildlife and birdlife. On shore, enjoy hikes of varying duration to outstanding viewpoints, in the company of expert guides. In addition, visits to small coastal communities showcase the unique way of life of the hardy local inhabitants – telling a story of both indigenous and European settlement. It is hard to think of a more remote, pristine location and you’ll discover it all in the comfort of one of the world’s most capable expedition ships, RCGS Resolute.
Cruise Date: 28 March 2020 to 10 April 2020
|Day 1||Ushuaia, Argentina||Commence Chilean Fjord Expedition Cruise|
|Day 2-3||Alberto de Agostino National Park||Garibaldi Fjord, Pia Glacier, Dainelli Glacier, Serano Glacier|
|Day 4||Magellan Strait||Cabo San Isidro beech forests|
|Day 5||Southern Patagonia Fjord Exploration||
Inside Passage, Montanas Fjord, Bernal Glacier
|Day 6||Torres del Paine National Park||Torres del Paine (Three Towers), hiking|
|Day 7||Peel Fjord||Southern Ice Field|
|Day 8||Falcon Fjord||Bruggen Glacier|
|Day 9||Wellington Island||Puerto Eden, Messier channel, Taitao Peninsula|
|Day 10||Chonos Archipelago||Guamblin Island, sea birds|
|Day 11||Castro and Chiloe Island||Visit Castro the third oldest city in Chile, colourful houses on Chiloe|
|Day 12||Mocha Island||Hiking on Mocha Island, coastal cruising|
|Day 13||Cruising towards Valparaiso||Educational presentations, enjoy the ships facilities|
|Day 14||Valparaiso||Disembark at Valparaiso and join transfer to Santiago Airport or downtown Santiago.|
The RCGS Resolute is a modern, ice-strengthened Antarctic cruise ship with all en-suite cabins accommodating up to 146 guests. Purpose built for polar waters the Resolute not only has the highest ice class rating (Lloyds 1AS) she also offers unmatched stability and superior speed to get you to your destination and out exploring.
The RCGS Resolute combines first class accommodation, excellent cuisine; dinner is a la carte, with a true expedition experience. Quite literally the best of both worlds. Two separate lounge and bar areas allow everyone to enjoy 180 degree views whilst sharing stories from your day exploring the shores of Antarctica. The Resolute has an open bridge policy so passengers can admire the crew manoeuvring the ship through the Antarctic waters. Additional facilities include: theatre style presentation room, hot water spa, sauna, steam room and salt water pool, gymnasium and wellness centre.
Your journey through Chile’s spectacular fjord region commences this afternoon in Ushuaia (Argentina) when you board the RCGS Resolute. Gather at the central meeting point then transfer to the pier for embarkation. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner before casting off, bound for the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, rugged coastal Chile and historic city of Valparaiso.
During the night the ship will sail in a westerly direction along the Beagle Channel, which separates Argentina from neighbouring Chile, and into Alberto de Agostini National Park, designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its large tracts of ancient sub-Antarctic forest systems. Naturalists believe these
forests started growing around 10,000 years ago. Awaken to the stunning view of the Pia Glacier. After breakfast, head to shore for the first time, with the option of taking a short but steep hike up to a panoramic view of the glacier. In the afternoon sail up the Garibaldi Fjord to explore its massive glacier here by Zodiac. Resident wildlife in the Beagle Channel includes the South American sea lion and several species of birds, including Magellanic penguins and albatross.
On the morning of day 3 the ship will have rounded the western tip of the great isle of Tierra del Fuego. Take in views of the ice-capped peaks of the Darwin Range as you enter remote D’Agostini Sound. Here, the Dainelli and Serrano Glaciers, along with several others, cascade into the sea. Your captain will assess current ice and weather conditions to determine where you can land to explore from shore.
Today you will arrive at Cabo San Isidro, on the north shore of Magellan Strait, and site of the southernmost lighthouse on the continent. This is your opportunity to enter the normally impenetrable Magellanic southern beech forests. A hiking trail follows the shoreline, passing shell middens left by the indigenous Kawéskar people, leading to Aguila Bay, site of an important whaling station over a century ago. Wildlife watchers will appreciate the variety of forest birds, and the viewpoint above the bay where dolphins are often observed swimming in the kelp beds below.
Cruise through the maze of channels that form Chile’s Inside Passage, gradually making your way northward. The ship will sail along the steep-sided Montañas Fjord, where you will stop at the Bernal Glacier, one of the few locations where – conditions permitting – you may be able to walk up to actually touch the ice. Return to the ship for dinner and an overnight cruise to the coastal town of Puerto Natales.
For many, today’s excursion is one of the highlights of the trip. After breakfast head ashore and enter the national park. This iconic location boasts some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world, with the celebrated ‘towers’ from which the park gets its name, looming above the surrounding plateau and glacier-fed lake systems. Powerful waterfalls surge through narrow channels between the lakes, and there are some excellent short hikes to lookouts and viewpoints, which all provide jaw-dropping views of the immense massif. The Guanaco (similar to a llama) is resident in the park and can be found in sizable numbers grazing on the native grasses. Spend a full day here, soaking up the views from all directions.
Departing Puerto Natales by night, awake far to the north, travelling through the narrow channels that separate the many forested on our way to Peel Fjord. This is one of the most remote locations of our journey. The many glaciers spilling seaward from Chile’s great Southern Ice Field here create abundant sea ice – a
spectacular location which can only be accessed by an ice strengthened vessel such as RCGS Resolute.
In a trip full of highlights, today may well be near the top. Navigating into Eyre fjord, the vast sweep of the Brüggen Glacier comes into view. Often called the ‘Pio XI’, at almost 60 km in length it is the largest glacier in the Southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. From the low vantage point of our Zodiacs the sheer scale of the glacier face is overwhelming. It rises almost 70m above the surface of the water and is a staggering 4km wide. In the afternoon, put on your expedition hats to explore the seldom visited Falcon Fjord.
This morning the ship will arrive on the shores of Wellington Island, alongside one of the most isolated inhabited places in the world. The tiny indigenous village of Puerto Edén is home to the last remaining Kawéskar people. A visit to shore allows you to explore the village and to purchase local handicrafts, including models of bark canoes reflecting the Kawéskar’s paddling heritage. In the afternoon, sail north along Messier Channel, now leaving the Patagonian fjords to voyage over the open sea, rounding the Taitao Peninsula by night.
Sailing through the Chonos Archipelago, a patchwork of windswept islands named after the canoeing people who once made their home here, stop at Guamblin Island. This forested and hilly island, once inhabited by the Chono people, is now a remote and infrequently visited National Park, hosting breeding colonies of several species of sea birds as well as sea lions. These waters are also home to a recently discovered population of blue whales – the largest species ever to have
existed on our planet – which are often spotted within 100m of the shores at this time of the year.
This morning the ship will be close to the town of Castro – the provincial capital of the island of Chiloe. The town was founded in 1567 and is the third oldest city in Chile. It flourished when the early Jesuits chose to base their mission here. Make your way ashore where you will immediately be struck by the colourful houses built on stilts around the harbour. Known as ‘palafitos’, they are simple homes built by the local fisherman. The local markets are a highlight and showcase some of the most impressive crafts and textiles in all of Chile. After re-boarding the ship in the afternoon you will sail up the coastline and hopefully see the snow-capped summits of numerous volcanoes that characterise this region.
Located 35 kilometres off the coast of mainland Chile, the remote outcrop of Mocha Island is an important historic site. Inhabited for centuries by the indigenous Mapuche tribe, Europeans first discovered it in the mid-15th century. The island was frequented by pirates, as well as Sir Francis Drake, and legend has it that more than 100 shipwrecks lie in the surrounding waters. Weather conditions permitting, make a shore landing where there are several hiking options. Here you may spot the resident sea lions and perhaps be lucky to encounter whales. The rare Pink-footed shearwater can be also found on the island, nesting in burrows on the forested slopes.
As the ship makes its way towards the historic port of Valparaiso, the educational presentations continue and you can enjoy an entertaining voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join the photography expert in the multimedia room, where you can download and/or back up your precious images. Or spend time outside on the observation decks, in the spacious lounges or on the bridge. It’s a fitting time to reflect on a wonderful expedition. This evening enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning arrive at Valparaiso – the principal deep water port for Santiago, which is around 100km inland from the coast. After breakfast it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers and disembark RCGS Resolute. A transfer to downtown Santiago, via Santiago Airport, is provided for all guests, however Valparaiso is well worth a day or two of exploration if your schedule allows. Ride the historic funicular railways that still operate around the city and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere. Or spend some time exploring the celebrated Casablanca wine region located nearby. Contact us if you would like to add on any arrangements.