From island hopping on Galapagos to exciting wildlife safaris in luxury, at Wildfoot we are all about offering a huge range of adventurous holidays and tours that we know our clients will love. Our team of adventure enthusiasts have visited some of the world’s most intriguing locations and this blog gives us the chance to share our findings with our valued customers.
Amy from Wildfoot Travel visited the ‘End of the Earth’ earlier this year, experiencing this captivating region aboard the M/V Ocean Victory. The isolated fjords of Patagonia are made much more accessible aboard a small expedition vessel, giving access to remote towns, narrow fjord systems and the formidable glaciers that lie within them. Here is an insight into Amy’s journey…
Starting in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, our vessel wound its way through Chile, heading north to Valparaiso. With an experienced team on board, the journey began with excitement as I awoke on my first day in the stunning Beagle Channel, before we headed into the narrow channels of the fjord system. With condors soaring overhead, sea lions roaring on the shore, breaching whales, and bergy bits (pieces of ice from the glacier) floating past the ship, this was a fantastic and unforgettable immersion into the region.
Patagonia is teeming with history, wildlife and culture, and our journey touched upon the legacy of early explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, the resilience of indigenous people such as the Yaghan and Kawesqar, and the impact of natural wonders like the glaciers of the Patagonian Ice Fields and the imposing towers of Torres del Paine.
From sea lions howling on the shoreline and pumas roaming Torres Del Paine to whales and cormorants bobbing in the water, our wildlife encounters were nothing short of extraordinary. The majestic humpback whales and dolphins gliding past the boat, captivating us with their playful behaviour and magnificent flukes, will be something I will remember for a very long time. Along the shores, sea lions basked in the sun, and at the heart of Patagonia’s wilderness, Torres Del Paine National Park, we witnessed the elusive pumas silently roaming alongside the iconic guanaco and rheas.
The Patagonian landscape is nature’s art, with its dramatic terrain carved out by glaciers. As we wound our way through the narrow channels of the fjord system, the dramatic cliffs meeting the chilly waters where sea lions and dolphins frolicked along the coast was a breathtaking sight. Yet that was just the beginning of the spectacular scenery that was coming our way. As we approached the nearby Moreno Glacier, standing proudly at 250 ft tall, we had to take a moment to stand in awe as this huge ice wall calved its vibrant blue icebergs into Lake Argentino.
Further along the way, the impressive sights continued in earnest as we reached the colossal Pi XII Glacier, one of the world’s largest non-polar glaciers, which stretches as far as the eye can see. And all of this was before we even reached the jewel in the crown of Patagonia, the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park. A must-visit for nature enthusiasts and hikers, the pristine lakes, forests and waterfalls of the park did not disappoint! Named for its iconic granite peaks, the park’s diverse terrain is perfect for activities such as trekking, horseback riding, kayaking and photography. I particularly enjoyed our treks, reaching incredible viewpoints that simply took my breath away.
Our voyage wasn’t just about wildlife and scenery; it was also an opportunity to connect with local cultures. From indigenous communities to the vibrant town of Castro, we delved into the rich history and traditions of these regions. Through visits to museums, artisan markets, and interactions with locals, we gained insights into the people and heritage that define these remarkable places.
Within the breathtaking landscapes of Chilean Patagonia lies the unique villages of Puerte Edén and Caleta Tortel. Puerte Edén, often referred to as the “City of Silence,” is a remote coastal village accessible only by boat, making it an off-the-beaten-path destination that exudes tranquillity. Caleta Tortel is a picturesque village celebrated for its unique wooden boardwalks and bridges that meander through its maze of islands and channels. These hidden gems offer one-of-a-kind experiences, and both are the perfect stops for those seeking to connect with the local communities, making them indispensable ports of call on any Chilean adventure.
Sustainable Travel – Managing a Balance
In an era where responsible travel is of paramount importance, Albatros Expeditions, the operator for my Patagonia adventure, uphold a commitment to sustainable travel. By increasing local jobs, fostering understanding and learning, promoting conservation and protection, and acting as change ambassadors, they contribute positively to the destinations we visited. Simultaneously, they strive to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution, in order to reduce negative impacts on these extraordinary places. The vessel itself, the M/V Ocean Victory, is equipped with a Tier 3 compliant engine and innovative technology to minimise its ecological footprint.
Speaking of the vessel, the M/V Ocean Victory is a marvel of modern engineering. Its Wärtsilä NOR (nitrogen oxide reducer) engine reduces NOX emissions by up to 75%, making it a pioneer in low-emission expedition cruising. With an ice-class 1A certification, Rolls Royce zero-speed stabilizers, and an X-bow design for comfort and speed in rough seas, the Ocean Victory ensures both safety and unparalleled adventure for its passengers.
The vessel itself is a home away from home. Featuring comfortable cabins (90% with their own private veranda), scrumptious food, leisure facilities, two lounges with fantastic views and unbeatable service, the vessel provides everything that you would expect from a high-end hotel, and more!
Cruising through the icy fjords, taking in the view from one of the many observation decks, lounges, hydraulic viewing platforms, or perhaps the onboard hot tub, helps to make every part of your trip even more memorable.
The crew on board are there to make your trip extraordinary. Whether it be spotting wildlife from the deck, evening lectures in the lounge, or on location in the wilderness, the expedition team are experts in their fields and keen to share their knowledge with you.
Your adventure, your way
Our expert team of wildlife and adventure enthusiasts have firsthand experience and knowledge of all the regions in which we travel. That’s why we’re so well placed to create bespoke adventures for you, based upon your exact requirements and desires. With access to the region’s best guides, suppliers and tours, whether you want to explore by land or sea, on your own or with a group, or self-guided or accompanied by experts, you can rest assured that we know what we’re talking about. We’ve been there and done it all.
Our passion really is making your aspirations for adventure come true, so if you’re looking to tick one more thing off that travel bucket list, get in touch with one of our friendly team members so we can get started on helping you create the holiday of a lifetime!
As well as creating bespoke, tailormade itineraries, we also provide a wide range of set departure tours and adventures to Patagonia and Chile in general. With our extensive, firsthand experience and local knowledge, we can work with you to build your perfect trip. Here are just a few of our favourite Patagonia itineraries to give you an idea of what you can expect from a visit to this remarkable area.
Patagonian Fjords of Chile
The Chilean Fjords, with mazes of inland passages, calving glaciers and stunning wildlife, count as one of nature’s greatest wonders. There is no greater way to experience this spectacle than from an expedition cruise.
Start in the cosmopolitan city of Santiago and enjoy a day trip to the world heritage city of Valparaiso. Then head south to Patagonia, the vast region straddling the mighty Andes, where mountains, lakes, glaciers and an unforgettable puma trekking experience awaits.
An itinerary encompassing the best of Patagonia, from the wild Valdes Peninsula in Argentina to a spectacular cruise in the Chilean fjords landing at the legendary Cape Horn. Starting in vibrant Buenos Aires and taking in the cosmopolitan capital city of Santiago and the World Heritage area of Valparaiso, this is the top-and-tailed total Patagonian experience.
For travellers with a curious spirit and an adventurous heart, seeing the spectacle of the lights in the Arctic – which has achieved almost reverential status amongst travellers – is something that can’t be satisfied merely by looking at photographs and documentaries or listening to other people recounting their travel stories. This incredible natural phenomenon is at the top of countless so-called travel “bucket lists”, and for those who do put their dreams into action and make a pilgrimage to witness the event for themselves, it’s something very special, that will genuinely never be forgotten.
We’re all about making people’s adventure travel dreams come true, and we know everything there is to know about many of the world’s most exotic wild places – including the magnificent Arctic region. So if you’re considering a trip to see the lights in the Arctic for yourself, and wondering how to bring the idea to fruition, we’re the ones to help you! To whet your appetite, learning a little more about the region and what you can expect on a week-long visit or a month-long odyssey, might very well inspire you to action!
The history of the Northern Lights
We are all familiar with the term Northern lights to describe the phenomenon of lights in the Arctic, but their correct scientific name is aurora borealis – chosen by the Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, Galileo who named them after the Roman goddess of the morning, Aurora and the Greek god of the wind, Boreas. He mistakenly believed the display came about due to sunlight reflecting from the Earth’s atmosphere.
But even though the name is attributed to Galileo, the lights in the Arctic have been around since way before his time – all the way back to pre-history. The oldest known record of them is in a 30,000-year-old cave painting in France, and there are many myths and legends that revolve around them, documented by everyone from the Vikings to the North American Inuits to the ancient Chinese.
It’s a pretty astounding thought to imagine that the dinosaurs who once walked the Earth looked up at the same spectacle in the skies that adventurous travellers do today – and they were probably just as awe-struck as we are!
What causes Arctic lights?
Put into simple terms: the event is what happens when electrically charged particles from space enter the earth’s atmosphere at great speed. And the most incredible thing is that it all starts on the sun…
Originating from the surface of the sun, large amounts of gas are shot out into space in what scientists call ‘Coronal Mass Ejections’. Creating what are known as solar winds, the particles travel at an incredible eight million kilometres per hour and, even though around 98% of them are deflected by our planet’s magnetic field, some of them get through and enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere. They are accelerated toward the magnetic poles – or as we call them, the North and South Poles (in the south it is called ‘aurora australis’).
When the charged particles collide with the atoms and molecules of the Earth’s atmosphere (usually at around 80-300 kilometres above the surface of the planet) they become ‘excited’ (yes, that’s the technical term!), and the collision creates the emission of the fluorescent, glowing, highly distinctive dancing show we know and love. The variation in colours is caused by the different gases, e.g: the green is oxygen, while pink, blue or purple is nitrogen. On more rare occasions, we can see a deep red, which is indicative of high altitude oxygen.
How often do the Northern Lights happen?
It’s fascinating to learn that, actually, the lights in the Arctic are happening every day of the year – 24 hours a day! But even though the process is happening constantly, of course the times when they’re visible to the human eye is a different matter altogether – and did we mention they’re unpredictable?
The lights are visible from late August to early April and while the conditions do need to be dark and free of clouds, it doesn’t actually need to be extremely cold, which is a common misconception. At some times of the year in certain places it can be almost perpetually dark, but as a guide they are most likely to appear between the hours of around 5pm to 2am. A word of warning: you should be prepared for some late nights or broken sleep if you’re keen to catch as many sightings as possible. Because of their unpredictability, the longer you can stay in the region on a tour, obviously the better chance you’ll have of seeing them. That’s why our packages are the length they are.
While the solar winds that propel the particles required to create the lights toward Earth are in constant effect, the emissions do vary in their strength in what is an approximately eleven year cycle. This means that during the peak periods of activity the aurora borealis appears at their most frequent and intense. (According to NASA, the next ‘solar maximum’ is due around 2025.) For the die-hard fans, tracking the solar cycle will keep you in-the-know as to when the very best potential sightings are predicted – although when you’re on a WILDFOOT tour your guide will stay abreast of this information so you don’t have to.
How long do the Northern Lights last?
For something so anticipated and fascinating, the actual length of time the lights in the Arctic appear on any given occasion can seem almost fleeting. But the flipside is that fortunately sometimes it can be much longer. In some cases they may appear for just a few minutes – dancing and weaving with each other for a short, tantalising time before slipping away to return the sky to blackness. A decent display would be considered to be about 15-20 minutes in duration, however, at other times it can go on for a magnificent and memorable few hours – or even longer.
During an active period the displays could occur every couple of hours, for short, sporadic periods, or longer 30-minute sessions. You can keep an eye on the forecast using an app, although, again, if you travel with one of our WILDFOOT tours or cruises, your guide will be all over the predicted schedule of sky shows.
Which month is best to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
Although the lights in the Arctic are present throughout the year, there isn’t enough darkness in the summer to provide decent sightings (in fact it doesn’t ever get completely dark for long periods of the season). So we advise customers who really want to see them to travel during winter when the skies are at their darkest (sometimes for 24 hours). The winter season runs from late September to early March, with the optimal time for sightings considered to be from mid-October through March.
You may have to spend extended time standing outdoors in the cold if you want to catch (and photograph) the best sightings, but the good news is that the presence of the Gulf Stream means that Iceland is far less chilly than other places like Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Are Northern Lights tours worth it?
Naturally our answer to that question is always going to be a resounding ‘yes’. We love what we do and we want to share it with as many people as possible! We’ve been running tours and expeditions for many years now, to some of the most remote and exotic parts of the world, including trips to see the lights in the Arctic – so we know a thing or two about the best way to do it.
For many customers the opportunity to experience the light show is an integral part of their motivation to explore the Arctic regions. In our experience, any of our land-based trips to Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago should be your first choice if you are hunting the Northern Lights. This is a fantastic location for winter displays.
As with any natural phenomenon, even when we as humans think we have a handle on Mother Nature’s behaviour, the aurora borealis can be notoriously unpredictable. That’s just a fact, and many a traveller has been disappointed when they miss out on seeing them after coming all the way to Iceland, Sweden, Greenland – or wherever. But calling on our many years of experience, we know exactly how to maximise your chances to satisfy your adventurous heart’s desire.
Because we’ve been chasing the lights for so long, we know the very best places to see them – and we’ve designed our tours accordingly. When they’re at their most intense, it is possible to get wonderful sightings from the major cities like Tromsø or Reykjavik, but really, to give our clients the best possible chance we know we need to be in more out-of-the-way places in the landscape – which are free of pollution.
Our cruises and tours go to places that we’ve personally explored over our many years in the industry, that we know from experience can offer stunning opportunities to view the spectacle even in times of low-hanging cloud cover.
So, yes, we whole-heartedly believe that taking one of our fantastic cruises or land-based tours is the very best way to see the lights in the Arctic – and you can have a look at our testimonials to see that you don’t just have to take our word for it!
Other Highlights of Iceland and Greenland
While seeing the Northern Lights is one of the most common goals for most people visiting the stunning region of the Arctic Circle, one the best pieces of advice we can think of is to make sure you wholeheartedly and completely immerse yourself in the adventure and focus on everything else as well – because there is so much on offer.
Our inspirational, expert-led range of adventure tours is designed to allow you the most up-close-and-personal encounter with the landscape, wildlife, people and unique geology as is humanly possible – by land or sea!
Sights and attractions
These extraordinary destinations are brimming with things to see, do and experience – with everything from hiking and adrenaline based land activities, to slightly tamer shore excursions (but no less fulfilling) and pastimes like bird-watching.
The uniquely adapted wildlife of the region is a source of endless fascination and enjoyment, with the opportunities to encounter many species seen nowhere else on the planet. You’ll have the chance to see reindeer, Arctic foxes, a host of marine life, including whales, dolphins, seals and walruses, as well as more than 40 species of endemic and migratory birds.
If you’re looking to make your adventure holiday even more adventurous, you’ll be able to try your hand at a host of activities including scuba diving (to discover a whole new world beneath the surface of the icy seas), snowshoeing, mountain climbing, kayaking and more.
Keen photographers will find a plethora of delight in the magnificent landscape – with imposing glaciers, frozen waterfalls, inspiring fjords and remote traditional villages and people.
We’ve designed our tours to provide maximum fun and maximum adventure, and we take you to places other companies don’t go, to introduce you to the authentic heart, soul and history of this inimitable destination. Our itineraries range from 7-day life-affirming cruises along little-traversed coastlines to experience the astonishing landscape and wildlife of Disko Bay, to an epic sea voyage of 26-days to take in the magnificence and diversity of Greenland, visiting remote settlements and exploring unique geological formations.
While we’re mostly known for our fantastic cruising itineraries throughout the Arctic Circle, we also offer an extensive portfolio of itineraries that provide you with some incredible land-based adventures if that’s what you’d prefer. Activities include exciting wildlife-watching to encounter unique species, husky-sledding, camping, kayaking, self-drive itineraries and luxury hotels where you can relax and enjoy the stunning spectacle of the Northern Lights.
Your adventure, your way
Our wonderful guides have firsthand experience and knowledge of all the regions in which we travel. That’s why we’re able to offer you the unique opportunity of visiting these destinations with expert guides on a tour that has been customised to match your exact requirements. On land or by sea, self-guided or with an expert, we can create your dream holiday – and you can rest assured we know what we’re talking about because we’ve been there ourselves.
Our passion really is making your aspirations for adventure come true, so if you’re looking to tick one more thing off that travel bucket list, get in touch with one of our friendly team members so we can get started on helping you have a holiday of a lifetime!
With our extensive first-hand experience and deep local knowledge of all our destinations, we’re passionate about providing you with the opportunities to explore some of the most fascinating and unique places on Earth. We’re ready to help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime holiday to discover the magnificence of the Arctic. Here are just a few of the many thrilling and memorable tours we offer – and there are plenty more!
Guided Iceland Winter Tour
Travelling with a small group and a guide, this 8-day tour introduces you to the very best Iceland has to offer – in the most magical of ways. In a specially modified 4WD vehicle you’ll explore majestic glaciers and waterfalls, stunning beaches, national parks, hot springs and, of course, the unforgettable spectacle of the aurora borealis.
Explore the iconic natural wonders of Iceland your way, with the freedom of this 5-day self-drive itinerary. Including 2 nights in Reykjavik and 2 nights in Hveragerdi, you’ll take to the open roads of the east and south of the country at your own pace – it’s a fantastic way for keen amateur photographers to make the most of their time and with departures timed during the winter months, you’ll increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. This self-guided experience is one of the absolute best ways to discover the sights independently.
Come aboard the MS Balto, a specially designed vessel, and explore the fjords and secret anchorages of the magical Disko Bay region. On this 8-day tour you’ll see towering icebergs, imposing glaciers, unique geological formations and a stunning array of wildlife including whales, reindeer and Arctic foxes. This small group expedition introduces you to ‘micro-cruising’ to encounter remote settlements and their people and experience a magnificent landscape unlike any other on the planet.
Discover the astonishing landscape of Greenland in this epic 26-day sea voyage aboard the purpose-built MS Balto. Along with the incredible geological formations, uncharted coastlines, icebergs, glaciers, caves and fjords for which the country is famous, you’ll have the chance to encounter an abundance of wildlife, including multiple whale species, and learn about the fascinating Norse history and Inuit culture. The ultimate ocean-going expedition that will change your life!
The Northwest Passage is the sea route through Northern Canada’s Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. But what is it about this iconic journey that makes it such a magnet for the more adventurous traveller?
Here are ten good reasons why you should add this trip to your bucket list.
1. Venture Where Few Have Ever Been
Thick pack ice makes these waterways completely inaccessible for most of the year.
The ice begins to recede in July, making travel possible from July to September.
This inaccessibility makes this one of the most remote and unspoiled locations on the planet. For those with Wanderlust in their soul, there’s something exciting about reaching places where few have travelled.
The wildlife in this area is truly spectacular. July and August offer the best chance of wildlife activity and as the days are longer which allows more time to witness the natural splendour that surrounds you. Highlights on the list of wildlife you may encounter here include polar bears, Musk Ox, Puffins, Beluga whales, Narwhal and Walrus.
3. Northern Lights.
As the skies darken in September, the chances of witnessing the Aurora Borealis and its captivating colour display increase. Watching nature’s light show from the deck of an expedition ship is a truly moving experience and one that will stay with you forever.
The rugged and constantly changing landscape in Canada’s far north is quite breath-taking. As you travel through the icy waters, you will be able to feast your eyes on a mesmerising geological display that can only be found in the far north.
For over 300 years European explorers searched in vain to find a way through the ice and unlock a shorter trade route to China and the east.
In that time, hundreds of lives were lost and countless stories and legends were born. The British expedition, led by Captain Sir John Franklin, is a particularly harrowing and macabre tale.
It wasn’t until 1906 that legendary Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen completed the journey successfully. Charting the way for others to follow.
Travelling through these icy waterways, you can visit many historic locations as you uncover the stories of determination, failure and triumph that are etched on these icy shores.
6. Photographic Opportunities
You’ll be the envy of all your friends when you return with incredible shots of marine wildlife, birdlife, icebergs, landscapes, seascapes, and of course, possible even the Northern Lights.
Travelling on a small expedition cruise ship with onboard scientists alongside other experts, you can enjoy both guided trips ashore and lectures on board. Depending on the voyage and the vessel you choose, you’ll learn about wildlife, conservation, geology, history, photography, climate change and the fight against global warming.
On the many trips ashore, you will visit several of the islands in this fascinating Archipelago, giving you opportunities to explore on foot. Walking leads to even better vantage points and richer, more intimate wildlife encounters.
Inuit culture is completely unique. Everything about life here is fascinatingly different, yet warm and welcoming. A glimpse of everyday life in the far north, is something that you will never forget.
10. True Escapism
If you are looking for tranquillity and an escape from the everyday grinding pressures of the ‘real world’, look no further. The icy silence and sense of wilderness here combine with amazing wildlife and the pragmatic, enduring local people to put our everyday lives clearly into perspective.
by Phoebe Edge , Costa Rica Research Field Assistant
Pura vida! For anyone who has visited Costa Rica they will explain to you that this phrase defines the basic essence of life here. For Ticos (slang for Costa Ricans), it is a simple expression of happiness, optimism, and living life to the fullest. It is literally impossible to visit Costa Rica without hearing this phrase continuously. And honestly, it doesn’t take long to get into the Pura Vida spirit once you are here.
I have lived in South Pacific Costa Rica for over a decade now and, over and over again, people tell me that the unforced kindness of the Costa Rican people made their visit here that much more special. Visitors quickly discover that Ticos take immense pride in their country and share it through their hospitality. Costa Rica is synonymous with peace and democracy. It became the first country in the modern world to abolish its military army in 1948. Family is very important to Ticos as well.
All of this keeps the country strong and on an even keel. I can safely say that the love the Ticos have for their country and its unique and exquisite natural beauty is completely infectious, and you feel inspired to help preserve it as they do. It’s in everything they say and do. Costa Rica covers a mere 0.03% of the planet’s surface, yet it has become world renowned for being a haven for biodiversity. Not only does the extensive biodiversity provide an abundance of natural beauty, it creates a home for thousands of plant species and animals making it one of the last strongholds. The nation is endowed with over 6% of all life forms on Earth, a high majority of which are endemic meaning they are not found anywhere else. Its tropical climate extends across extreme variations in altitude and covers countless ecosystems. Habitats range from verdant rainforest, lush mangroves, lava fields, serene cloud forests, as well as Atlantic and Pacific Ocean territory. At least 850 bird species can be found, 237 mammal species, 1,260 tree species, 1,200 orchid species, and 361 reptile and amphibian species. These are only the ones we currently know of. Costa Rica harbours thousands of known life forms and thousands more are still yet to be discovered.
Protecting these natural wonders remains high on the country’s agenda, and thankfully tourism hasn’t wavered in its commitment to conservation. Tourists flock to Costa Rica in the hope of seeing some of the hundreds of species here. Yet it is always managed in a sustainable way. It’s incredible to observe how the forces of nature and local culture interplay and combine so effectively here. Costa Rica began moving towards ecotourism with the establishment of its first protected area, the Cabo Blanco National Reserve, in 1963. This was then followed by the creation of the first official national parks in 1971. Today the Costa Rican government protects over 1,300,000 hectares. Along with various private reserves operated by non-profit organisations. This means that over 30% of national territory is allocated for conservation – one of the highest ratios in the world. It is for this reason that Costa Rica is often cited as a model for conservation in harmony with community development and economic growth.
Wet or dry season, dawn or dusk, no day is ever dull here. The more time you spend in Costa Rica you begin to realise how much the smallest details contribute to the most fulfilling experiences. Hearing the sound of bright red scarlet macaws fly overhead through the postcard perfect blue sky never ceases to amaze. Nor nature’s wake-up call of howler monkeys at dawn, while the jungle humidity embraces you and makes you feel like you have taken a step back in time. The stillness of the rainforest punctuated by the various calls of frogs, the rasping of cicadas and the songs of toucans. Crashing waves on deserted beaches whilst sea turtles emerge to lay their eggs. An iridescent blue morpho butterfly fluttering by as whales breach in the background. These may all sound like simple things, they are. Yet the simplicity of these moments are what make them so beautiful. Nature’s perfectly orchestrated moments make the modern world and all its stress fade to insignificance.
I remember one of my first times out on the Golfo Dulce, where I am now based researching and conserving cetaceans and sea turtles. A small body of water just 15 by 50km in size yet it holds over 20% of all the marine life of Pacific Costa Rica. Within 30 minutes on the water, I managed to see a mother and calf humpback whale. The mama came right by the boat, partially lifted her head out of the water and looked me straight in the eye. I felt my whole body come alive with her energy and couldn’t move for several minutes. And there it was, a life changing moment that will stay with me forever. Connecting with nature is such a comfort and while it feels almost out of body at first, it becomes the norm on a day-to-day basis here. One lasting memory after another.
Costa Rica is overflowing with the most incredible national parks, gorgeous scenery, adventures for everyone, and unique wildlife. There is abundance all around. On top of this, the locals are so welcoming that it makes it extremely hard to leave. So, when you do come to Costa Rica, take it all in and treasure every moment while you say to yourself and everyone you meet along the way like you really, really mean it, “Pura vida!”
by Miranda Krestovnikoff, British radio and television presenter specialising in natural history and archaeological programmes
I am a natural history radio and television presenter with a passion for the marine environment. I learnt to scuba dive in the shadow of Skomer Island and always feel at home when I’m in or on the water. I’ve been lucky enough to incorporate this into my presenting work through television projects such as diving shipwrecks on “Wreck Detectives” for Channel 4 and exploring magnificent coastal wildlife on the BAFTA award winning series “COAST” for BBC2.
I love travel and adventure and nowhere better than on our very own coastline, without the need to fly abroad. Here in the UK, we have some of the best coastal and marine wildlife anywhere in the world with over 20 species of cetacean and places where you can snorkel and dive with grey seals and blue sharks. For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, the seabird colonies around our shores are stunning with offshore islands offering exciting opportunities to get close to some of the world’s largest colonies of puffins, Manx shearwaters and gannets.
I have always wanted to embark on a trip that encompasses all of my favourite parts of the UK coastline and this cruise does just that. Visits to my favourites islands of Lundy, Skomer and the Scillies are all included along with Islay of the Hebrides. The wildlife we’ll see en-route will be just stunning – I can’t wait!
‘Our Man in Stanley’, Andy Pollard is as Falklands as they come. Friendly, courteous and welcoming, he knows most of his fellow islanders by their first name. Andy grew up spending time on Sealion Island where his mother Jenny was the lodge guide for many years. He is also a successful wildlife and birding guide and an expert photographer who knows every nook and cranny on each key island.
Slipping under most traveller’s radar, and only 400 Miles from southern Argentina, sit 700 Islands where you can still find true wilderness and a wildlife-fest that is hard to beat.
The Falklands are home to 75% of the worlds rockhopper penguins, 70% of the earths black browed Albatross, the world’s largest population of gentoo penguins and 40% of the world’s southern giant petrels. We have not even mentioned the two endemic bird species (12 subspecies are unique the Falklands) then there are 171 native species of higher plants with 13 endemic species.
Hard to get there? Yes of course it is. But to those who endeavour, the delights of the Falklands are extremely magnetic and hard to resist once sampled.
Most travellers visit The Falklands as part of an expedition, also visiting South Georgia & Antarctica on a 19-25 day vessel based adventure spending a few days exploring the key islands. Passengers make up to 5 landings at key wildlife or nesting spots depending on the number of days allocated within the itinerary.
Experts on board will not only introduce you to incredible wildlife, but the scenery too. Each island is similar in that they no steep hills, making them great for hiking. Aside from that similarity, each island offers its own unique and diverse landscape and wildlife.
If you are lucky, you will also land at the pier in Stanley where you will meet some of the locals. You may have time to try a half in one of the three taverns, or maybe to visit the museum or cathedral. Enjoying high tea at one of the cafes or hotels is also a must.
MV Greg Mortimer and sister vessel MV Sylvia Earl offer vessel-based expeditions incorporating Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia from £ 16,704
per person based on a triple share or £17,200 per person for a shared double or twin cabin.
If you are lucky enough to be using the Falklands as a starting or finishing point on your expedition, I strongly recommended that you consider arriving a week or even two weeks early to explore these islands independently.
By choosing a 14-night land-based itinerary you can spend 3 nights on each key island and still have enough time to spend in Stanley to enjoy day trips to the fascinating battlefields or maybe to take a 4×4 guided visit to Volunteer Point where you will see a spectacular king penguin colony of 1000 plus birds.
On each of the key wildlife islands there is a small lodge with anything from 5 to 10 bedrooms available for those who visit. The lodges are looked after by expert guides who are there to make visitors feel welcome as well as to help them discover the best possible spots for viewing wildlife. Each lodge offers full board, with drinks available at an additional cost.
Orientation trips in a 4×4 vehicle are also usually included, which are invaluable, allowing you to get your bearings very quickly, preparing you for your own adventures. Pack lunches are on offer for those who would like to stay out all day to walk and take photographs under their own steam.
Land-based 14-night experiences before you board your vessel start at £4995 (based on two people sharing) and include accommodation, inter-island flights, transfers and full board whilst on the islands and Bed & Breakfast whilst in Stanley
Amongst the world’s most respected wildlife cameramen, Doug Allen has worked on countless TV shows and documentaries including Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and Life In The Freezer. Alongside filming (and winning eight Emmys), Doug has published his own remarkable book ‘Freeze Frame. He also finds time in his busy schedule to act as an invaluable ambassador for Wildlife Travel.
Filming wildlife requires tenacity. The animals don’t always turn up or behave as you’d like them to. To ease frustration, we remember two things.
First – bear in mind that you can only be in one place at a time. So, you make your best call but it won’t always be right. Go search all day for polar bears without success then return to the cabin to find it surrounded by pawprints.
But the second, well that says if you’re not there, you’ll never see it. That’s the one that takes you out on the less than promising days, when perhaps a little flash of what you want will be your only reward.
Binoculars are relevant when making that second call. They’re no use if they’re so heavy that it’s tempting to leave them behind when the rucksack is full of cameras. I need mine to be always with me, both light andcomfortable. There are shoots when I’ll be looking through them for half of a twelve-hour day.
I like the elegant simplicity of the design of these 10 x 30 CL Swarovskis; the thumb indents on the back of the barrels made for effortless holding, they were a natural fit in my hands. The focuser wheel’s action is smooth and precise, beautifully engineered so focusing in and out is crisp and consistent. The wheel is large and coated in soft rubber for grip with gloves or numb fingers. Important when I’m filming in cold places. I was surprised how easy it was to hold them and focus with one hand.
Because of the nature of the filming I do, I tend to give my equipment a hard time. Dust, snow, salt spray – are all common hazards. The nitrogen filling and waterproof to 4m are other attributes I want.
It’s maybe a small point but I do like rubber lens protectors that are attached to the barrels. Much less likely to be lost or be blown away.
I had one disappointment. Changing the dioptre adjustment involves pushing and twisting the middle of the focus wheel, an action that’s much more fiddly than on other Swarovski models which have a ‘pull-out to release mechanism’ before you adjust. Once it’s set however it’s almost impossible to shift by mistake.
To summarise – the Swarovski CL 10 x 30’s are exceptionally small and light, extremely well made, with high resolution and clarity; they have a bright and flat field that’s sharp to the edges, steady hold and good focus action. Definitely a pair I would recommend. Just a shame about the dioptre adjustment.
Doug Allan’s remarkable book Freeze Frame is available now on his website. Why not pick up a copy of your own here: http://dougallan.blogspot.com
I live in Lerryn, Cornwall, beside the River Lerryn, a lovely little river that flows into the River Fowey. I have a lifelong passion for wildlife photography. These days, I am lucky enough to spend my time shooting images for books, talks, and articles.
Whenever I photograph birds, I am usually surrounded by wildlife of all sorts, so I take those opportunities to snap away at anything else that takes my interest while I can.
My wildlife photography in the UK takes me to many remote and interesting locations, which inevitably lead me to take spontaneous travel shots along the way.
Following birds has taken me all over the world (with the help of Wildfoot Travel) but my local patch is in the South West of England – and it is no accident that I choose to live here.
The South, and South West coast of England have a distinctly-mesmerising natural beauty. Moving West through Devon and Cornwall you discover a land rich in wildlife, history and culture. As you travel west, the landscape becomes increasingly rugged with huge sea cliffs, dense woodland, rolling hills and peaceful moorlands. Each of these areas is brought to life by its own unique waterways including rivers, estuaries and creeks.
Besides being a natural haven for all kinds of wildlife, this area is also a land of ancient Celtic myths, Arthurian legends, pirates, smugglers, and evidence of a once-thriving mining industry.
Sailing along the rugged coastline, the ports of Plymouth and Dartmouth, retain a fascinating, deeply-ingrained maritime heritage. Further west, the harbour town of Fowey, (pronounced Foy), has managed to retain its charm despite being a busy commercial harbour. Its deep-water channel is used by many big ships delivering their cargo, which regularly includes China Clay. The picture-postcard harbour, carrying over 1500 moorings, is bustling with yachts and other small boats. Fowey also welcomes over 6000 visiting yachts and motor cruisers each year.
Over the centuries, Barbary Pirates sailed these waters, along with the Spanish Armada, British Privateers, smugglers and pirates. If that rich heritage is not enough to capture your imagination, the wildlife and the scenery are both outstanding.
The name Fowey comes from the Cornish for Beech Tree, and it is easy to see why. Beech woods line the river upstream and the small creeks and rivers, like the Lerryn, that feed into it. Rare birds like Little Egrets, once only found on the near continent, have colonised these woodlands. The trees and bushes that line the riverbanks also provide a haven for many other birds including owls and kingfishers. The stealthy and patient visitor may even be lucky enough spot an occasional otter.
Spring is a good time to see West Country wildlife at its finest. Birds that migrate to Africa for the English winter like wheatears and fly catchers begin to return. Whilst overshoots of rare Mediterranean birds like Hoopoes and Bee-eaters can often be witnessed. Sea birds who have spent the long-winter traversing oceans, return to our waters to breed. Gulls, guillemots, razorbills, and puffins take their place back on the islands and cliffs. Gannets nest in spectacular colonies and fulmars, shearwaters, and petrels also begin to reappear. Whilst on land, wildflowers abound.
Moving further west there is a feast of wildlife photography opportunities on offer, with chances to see dolphins, porpoises, and basking sharks. Minke and Humpbacked whales also navigate these waterways.
Trips to historic towns, derelict mines, lost gardens and wildlife-rich moorlands, offer the chance to make your own discoveries. The South West Coast Path is a continuous footpath, stretching over 600 miles long. This well-managed pathway holds something for everyone, from short walks to long hikes which can include sightings of even more migrants and resident birds.
The picturesque, secret-bays and idyllic, tiny beaches in this area have been used for many film sets (including Poldark) and there is always the chance to see a seal that has hauled out to enjoy a well-earned rest on the golden sand.
Evidence that the reintroduction scheme is working well, the county bird of Cornwall, the Chough, is spotted with increasing regularity and can be easily identified by its red beak and red legs. Peregrine falcons haunt the cliffs, and as the countryside squeezes towards Land’s End, rarer and rarer birds are regularly spotted. Birds like the Sociable Plover which should have been in Kazakhstan, turned up near Land’s End recently.
Following the coast as you travel further west, the historic port of Falmouth appears. Travelling onwards unveils the tiny fishing villages of Coverack and Cadgwith, before reaching the most southerly point of mainland England, The Lizard peninsular.
Then on to St Michael’s Mount, Penzance, the working fishing port of Newlyn and the beautiful village of Mousehole towards Land’s End. Beyond that, the USA is the next stop at just over 4000 miles west.
Twenty seven miles off the coast is the possibly the jewel of the Southwest. The Isles of Scilly. These remarkable islands bask in a sub-tropical climate, helping to create their stunning beauty. This is a place of flowers and shipwrecks.
In the days of square-rigged sailing ships, the islands were a magnet for wrecks. These days they attract the wrecks of birds. Each year, migrating birds that overshoot their European destination, often ending up on the isles of Scilly. In Autumn, birds that migrate south from Siberia to South Asia can become disoriented in bad weather. Losing their bearings, they hit Britain, travel south and end up on the Scillies. The same is true of American birds that migrate south from Alaska, often getting caught in westerly gales and landing in the isles of Scilly. Every autumn hundreds of birdwatchers visit. It is said that you have more chance of seeing rare waders here than on their nesting sites in Siberia or Alaska.
As the Spring arrives, flowers grow, puffins nest, terns return, and seals are common. Bringing the beaches back to life, revitalised in a display of natural colour and activity. Perfect for wildlife photography.
Turning east back towards land, you begin to follow the north Cornwall coast. Here it is easy to see how the full force of the west winds, and the powerful seas they create, have carved out the imposing landscape. Towering cliffs, extensive beaches (ideal for surfing) and smaller, wilder bays pepper the coastline.
Lying off the coast of Devon, the island of Lundy is an old pirates’ haunt. It is surrounded by one of the UK’s first marine nature reserves, an area of water protected from overfishing, where underwater life thrives. A small colony of puffins still exists and once again migration is a good time to visit.
Although technically outside ‘my patch’, travelling north towards the headland of South West Wales, your reach the stunning islands of Skomer and Skokholm and the uninhabited island of Grassholme the nesting place of puffins and Gannets.
Of course, it is possible to travel onwards right around the UK, unlocking countless opportunities for wildlife photography. North through the Celtic Sea, a known hotspot for sightings of huge numbers of dolphins. On past the Welsh coast to the Isle of Man and up to the coast cost of Scotland. Then on to the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, and beyond where the Orkneys and Shetland await. The sea birds change as you go, with more kittiwakes, more predatory Skuas and more chance of seeing birds from the far north.
The Antarctic is not your average holiday destination (read our comprehensive guide here), so you would be forgiven for overthinking your packing list and planning on taking much more than you might actually need. After all, you are heading off into a cold, icy landscape that is open to all the elements and you really don’t want to get caught unprepared. But, when considering the question, ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’, remember this: You are not an intrepid explorer heading off on foot, camping in the deepest depths of a glacial ice field and, while it might still be chilly, you will be travelling in the austral summer which sees much more settled weather and a much more pleasant environment.
So, when it comes to what to pack for an Antarctica cruise, we have some top tips. We want you to be prepared, but we also think it is important to not overpack or worry about taking too much. So here goes…
Your Main Bag
OK, so let’s start with what you are going to carry all your kit in. A backpack is definitely better than a suitcase. Getting on and off ships that have very narrow corridors can be tricky so something you can carry on your back is best. And don’t go over the top in size. Pack light and you will be grateful you did.
A dry bag is also a good idea to carry electronics when you are jumping on and off your zodiac for those exciting trips to shore.
First and foremost, leave the dinner jackets and ball gowns at home. You need to be comfortable on this trip, and there is no need for fancy clothes and impractical shoes. Pack comfy clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement and perhaps one smarter outfit if you discover that your ship hosts a Captain’s Welcome evening. Don’t go over the top though. A smart top and nice pair of trousers will do just fine.
Base layers are so important. You only need a couple as they wash well and dry quickly. Silk or merino wool are our preferred materials, but if you have polypropylene, that is good too. All these fabrics wick away sweat and keep you warm. Base layers are thin and meant for layering as and when necessary.
Pop a mid-layer on over your base layer when you’re out on excursions, and you’ll stay warm and comfortable. For zodiac cruises that can get chilly, and any trips that involve a shore landing, we recommend a fleece jumper or good quality sweater too. You can always take it off if you get too warm – that is the beauty of layering!
You are going to spend time getting a cold bum on these trips. Whether it is sitting in a kayak or crouching low to get that long awaited perfect penguin pic, your bottom will make contact with the ice and cold. To help keep your legs warm, fleece lined trousers are a go-to clothing item.
Having a quality outer layer is paramount. You are at the mercy of the weather conditions in this part of the world and if you get too wet, you could be in serious trouble. Many expeditions provide a Parka coat (these are usually a bright colour so that the crew can always spot the passengers against the ice), but you need to check with the company you book with first. If your company is not providing this waterproof outer layer they most probably provide equipment hire as an alternative. This is a good option as investing in a heavy-duty jacket that you may never wear again can be very expensive.
These are essential when you are heading out on a zodiac. There is always splashing and sometimes a wave or two, so keeping the water away from your warm insulating layer is key. You can go for a lightweight pair and the simple pull-on, pull-off style works best. Waterproof trousers also stop you getting damp when you are on the floor photographing or perhaps even re-living your youth and enjoying a slide down an icy hillside (like the one in Paradise Bay)!
You definitely need to take care of your feet when you are onboard, and warm socks are a must. You should pack plenty of pairs too as these tend to be the first item of clothing to get wet. Merino wool socks are our favourite option. They are extremely warm, wash well, dry quickly and are great at keeping smelly feet at bay. Choose a stretchy sock for maximum comfort.
A Note on Laundry – Yes, some ships do offer you this facility but why not just pack enough underwear for the trip and rinse out anything you might need along the way? This is a much easier option, and the cabin laundry service can be expensive. Handwashing socks and anything merino is also easy to do. Merino dries quickly so no worries there.
Comfy Boat Shoes and Knee-High Waterproof Boots
Choose a pair of shoes will be mainly worn on the ship. Remember that the ship has a deck so they will see some outdoor action. Make sure this pair of shoes is easy to get on and off as you don’t want to miss a ‘once in a lifetime sight’ on deck because you were fighting with tricky shoelaces.
Apart from your comfy shoes on board, you will need a pair of quality waterproof knee-high boots. This footwear will be worn when you are getting from the cruise ship to the shore in your inflatable landing boat. Insulated is best, but if you bring your own and they are not lined, don’t worry, add in a pair of warm socks and you will be fine. Knee high is so important because when you get off your zodiac boat to head to shore, you often have to wade through water that can be up to mid-calf level. Wet feet are a no-no, so if your company doesn’t provide these boots, invest in a decent pair.
Great news though – two pairs of shoes is ample.
Top Tip: Buying your own boots? Go for a shallow tread. Penguin poop can be very hard to dig out of the deep treads!
On Shore Essentials
No-one wants wet hands in the cold so waterproof gloves should be top of the list when thinking of what to pack for an Antarctica cruise. Thermal lined is always a good idea, but make sure your gloves have that all important waterproof (or at least water resistant) layer too. Again, the investment is most certainly worth it.
Here at Wildfoot, we recommend packing two pairs of gloves. Being small and light they can often get lost and as they are easy and light to pack it is wise to take a couple of pairs. Liners can help anyone who is particularly predisposed to cold hands.
Fact: Up to 20% of body heat is lost through the head so keeping your head warm is key! Lots of fleeces and jackets come with hoods that are ideal as an extra head layer but having a separate hat made for the conditions and a scarf too is essential.
Neck gaiters are a great idea. No flapping ends like those on scarfs and they are made with warmth as a priority. Alternatively, you could combine your hat and scarf and go for a balaclava. These are very effective at keeping out the cold and protecting your ears, chin, nose and neck too.
Beanies are a good option for drier days. Designed for freedom of movement they are ideal for wildlife spotting. As an alternative, especially if you find beanies irritating, try a headband that covers the ears, as these can be just as effective against the wind and cold.
There is nothing quite like the brightness of an Antarctic sunny day. The high latitude and altitude create a light like no other; both bright and beautiful it can almost dazzle you if you are not prepared. Not surprising when you consider that the whiteness of the snow and ice is so pristine that the reflection of ultraviolet light can actually be quite harsh on the eyes. Even on colder days, the sun’s powerful rays penetrate the atmosphere, and it is not unusual to end up sun burnt and even suffer snow-blindness on days like these.
Eyes need protection so if you are not going ‘full-on’ snow goggles (some do and it is recommended) you definitely need polar sunglasses. These are lighter and easier to wear, but you do need to go for a quality pair and recommended brand.
You have probably looked forward to booking such an epic experience for years and no doubt you have saved up and are splashing out on indulging in every bit of this incredible cruise, which is why we really encourage you not to scrimp on camera equipment. You may very well have a good camera that you’re familiar with – great, bring that but please don’t rely on your phone for capturing this kind of holiday. A reasonable camera and even a GoPro or video camera are high on the ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’ list.
Some people like to work with a tripod so add this to your list if you like. And, remember a good sized SD card for storing your daily pics and lots of spare batteries too.
We could write a whole blog post on the pros and cons of different cameras for wildlife photography, but our advice is to use the camera you are familiar with or if you need to buy a new one, go for something that you can understand and work with without too much added stress.
Don’t forget too that many expeditions have an onboard photography expert who is on hand to help you get to grips with your kit and advise on how to get the very best shots you can. This is an opportunity not to be passed up.
As any outdoor enthusiast knows, a headlamp always comes in useful. Your trip may or may not include an overnight camp onshore, but even if it doesn’t, you might do some wildlife spotting in the hours of darkness while on the ship. Having a headlamp that is hands free leaves you able to take any shots you might like to.
Go for one with good brightness quality and a decent battery life. Oh, and if you grab one that doesn’t weigh too much, that is a bonus.
Some companies provide these, but it is nice to bring your own. You are then familiar with your settings and fit and can watch the wonderful seabirds and majestic sea life at leisure.
While it may be chilly and thoughts of hot chocolate are more prevalent than thoughts of a long drink of water, you need to keep hydrated in this part of the world. Two litres of water a day is the advice, so packing a decent water bottle is essential. Choose a bottle that carries at least 750ml – there are plenty of excellent brands out there.
Top tip: Water can freeze when you are onshore so covering your bottle with a thermal sock can be a lifesaver!
SO, SO important, sunscreen needs to be applied everyday while you are in this part of the world. This should definitely be at the very top of your ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’ list. The UV light is extremely strong here and you will need an SPF factor of at least 30.
Lip Balm with SPF
The sunshine and dry, windy conditions are a nightmare for dry lips. Pack a quality lip balm that offers adequate protection with sunscreen too.
Sea Sickness Medicine
This is one often overlooked by guests, which is understandable as you don’t often spend days and nights onboard a ship so it’s likely that you have no idea how you will cope. Taking some motion sickness medicine with you just in case is a sensible plan. The Drake Passage is included on many a cruise and this particular stretch of water can get quite choppy to say the least – although you could be lucky and end up travelling through on a day.
In our modern world, access to power is ever more important to us. Whether it is to recharge our camera, download our photos, charge our toothbrush or plug in our reading light, we always need power. A powerstrip is useful because power points are few and far between on board our cruise ships. Invest in a lightweight one that allows you to plug in all your devices in one place.
Even if you find that you bond with all of your fellow passengers, you don’t necessarily want to hear them snoring when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep. Cabin walls can be thin and people go to bed at different times so, if you want to work to your own schedule, ear plugs are a must!
Lots of cruises include all you need in the name of toiletries, but we definitely suggest bringing your own moisturiser. Skin can get dry, especially when you have been out in the wind and sun all day so using an effective product that works for you is recommended. Remember to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and a hairbrush too, of course.
You never know – you might decide to brave the ‘polar plunge’ while you are onboard, so a bathing suit is essential. If you are not so inclined to be daring, you may discover your ship has a hot tub, so your swimming costume could come in handy for that too.
Not for everyone, this accessory can make a huge difference for anyone suffering from Reynauds or anyone with a predisposition for cold hands. You really have no idea how you will cope in the Antarctic environment so handwarmers might be something you want to consider.
There will be downtime on the ship and while many vessels have a library, you may want to take the opportunity to catch up on all those books you have been trying to read but never got around to. Downloading some music is always a good idea but do this at home, as no matter what the info says about the strength of Wi-Fi on board, it won’t ever be as good as at your home. Download all you need before you leave and don’t forget your headphones.
Journaling a trip isn’t for everyone but if you think you may feel inspired at times to write about your experiences, then bring a journal just in case this trip gets your creative juices flowing. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a list of what you saw that day, but journaling memories is a great way of remembering your holiday and bringing your trip back to life.
Do Not Pack…
No need for fancy clothes and please stay away from open toed shoes. If your ship has a spa, they will provide flip flops for use by the sauna or hot tub.
We would also suggest that you leave any fancy jewellery you have at home. This kind of cruise is not like a river cruise or a Caribbean option. This is a trip taking you to the wildest part of our planet where expensive jewellery is very much not required. If you bring a precious item and then need to leave it behind in your cabin or take it off for an excursion, there is more risk of loss too, and you really don’t want that worry when you should be concentrating on enjoying an experience of a lifetime.
Before you go, please make sure your passport is in date and you have any visas required. Travelling is always exciting wherever you go, and it is easy to forget about the bare essentials. You won’t be going anywhere without an up-to-date passport, so make this a priority when thinking about ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’.
We have an incredible range of Antarctic cruiseson offer and when asked about our favourites, we always find it hard to answer. Here are three, however, that come highly recommended.
A stunning trip that takes in a crossing of the Polar Circle (subject to conditions), this cruise combines the very best of what this region offers. Glorious landscapes inhabited by incredible wildlife and dotted with historic sites stretch in every direction and, as you sail into hidden inlets and tiny bays, this undiscovered world of pristine beauty unravels.
There are few who have had the privilege of stepping onto the shores of Cape Horn, the famous but rarely visited island south of Ushuaia, but you have the exciting opportunity on this innovative expedition. After sailing the southern seas, the trip halts at the Falkland Islands for a few days where passengers have the chance to explore spectacular landscapes and enjoy wonderful wildlife spotting.
This one is a classic. Encompassing all that is true of the Antarctic region, the cruise introduces this part of our wonderful world from an authentic and genuine perspective. Spend time wildlife spotting from the deck, head out on a zodiac to explore onshore, or why not join one the many thrilling optional extra activities? This cruise brings you the very best of Antarctica and has all you need to satisfy your holiday aspirations.
When planning your trip to the Antarctic, we want to help, and not only with your ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’ question. We have an expert team on hand to answer all of the questions, many of which are answered here. We can talk through your travel options and get you on the cruise that is worthy of all your aspirations. We understand that this trip could well be a once in a lifetime and we take great pride in giving every passenger exactly what they want and more. Let us take you to the most majestic part of our planet and share with you a holiday that will carve a place for itself in your memories always.
Antarctica has to be experienced to be believed. This pristine and tranquil paradise, largely untouched by humans, is home to a plethora of wildlife, living on land, in the sea and gracing the skies. Wildfoot offers many Antarctica cruise itineraries and here we break them down for you.
There are many routes to consider when you are planning an expedition cruise to this destination. How do you know which route is the right choice for you?
Your decision may simply depend on your budget or how much time you can commit. It may also be about the type of wildlife, the wilderness or the activities you’d like to experience on your Antarctica itinerary. Here, Wildfoot Travel’s Dave Cheetham details the different routes on offer and runs through the pros, cons and the cost of the options.
Which Antarctica Cruise Itinerary Should I Choose?
There are many routes to consider when planning a trip to this region.
Your decision may simply depend on your budget, and how much time you can commit. But it may also be about the kind of wildlife, wilderness or the activities you would like to experience.
Expeditions range from 9 to 32 days in length and are all vessel based. The vast majority of these expeditions embark from Ushuaia, the southernmost port in Argentina.
Before we run through your options, I should point out that the prices mentioned in this video are ‘expedition only’. They do not include flights or accommodation on land, are based on the lowest grade quad or triple cabin-spaces and are always subject to availability and to change.
If you are travelling alone, we can usually arrange same-gender shared-cabins which help to keep the cost down. Or you can opt for ‘sole occupancy’, taking a cabin to yourself which usually comes with an additional 50% supplement.
Twin cabins, higher grade cabins or suites are available but you should expect to pay more. Our travel advisors are always happy to help you get an accurate quote for your perfect Antarctica itinerary.
So, with the small print out of the way, here are the routes you can consider, in order of popularity.
The Antarctic Peninsula
The most popular expedition route, often referred to as the classic route, can take between 9 and 13 Days. The first, and last, two-and-a-half-days are spent crossing The Drake Passage to Antarctica and the South Shetland Islands.
This is an excellent choice for those who only have 2–3 weeks available including travel. You should expect to pay between £4,000 and £6,000.
A superb destination, easily reached on a zodiac, this bay is dominated by some of the most fascinating ice features you will see. Icebergs that have been set free from the glacier at the harbour’s head provide a backdrop of stunning formations and in the foreground penguins, and seals can be spotted on the many ice floes that surround you. Horns, terns, petrels, cormorants, and even whales can also be seen here.
A magnificent island, this circular rock may only be 1 mile in diameter, but with a volcanic cone that towers 1100 feet high, it is a sight to behold. Famous not only for its huge number of Adelie penguins, Paulet Island is also home to the historic hut that sheltered the survivors of a failed Nordenskjöld expedition in 1903.
This natural harbour can be reached via the Neumayer Channel. The buildings here were originally built by the British in 1944 but since 1996 have been used by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust where they have an interesting museum.
Another volcanic island, this one rises 500 feet above sea level and has a permanent ice cap that covers more than half it. Home to Adelies and gentoos, the island was first discovered by a French expedition in 1909. You will also see skuas here and Wilson’s storm petrels too. For anyone wanting to stretch their legs, a hike to the top is always an option.
Budding photographers will love getting snap happy along this most beautiful of straits. Discovered on a German expedition in the 1870s, the channel was first crossed by a Belgium explorer by the name of Adrian de Gerlache. It takes about an hour to sail the 7 miles, and the beauty reveals itself to be even more spectacular as each minute passes.
The Shackleton Route
Following Shackelton’s historic route will take between 20 and 24 days. This fascinating Antarctica cruise itinerary also takes in South Georgia and The Falklands.
It must be considered that this expedition demands a longer commitment and is suitable for those with a little more time to spare. Prices start at just over £8000 and rise up to a little over £11,000 in peak season.
King Haakon Bay
On the south coast of Georgia a trip down this long and narrow inlet is an exciting addition to this tour. Relatively undiscovered and still to be mapped fully, this stretch of water remains somewhat uncharted. Home to a delightful array of seabirds, you may also have the opportunity to step on land and walk among fur seals, king penguins and elephant seals too.
Ernest Henry Shackleton gave his name to many features of the Antarctic and rightly so. His epic trip across South Georgia in May 1916 ended in what is now known as Shackleton Valley, a valley at which the Shackleton Waterfall cascades at its head.
It seems fitting that given Shackleton visited South Georgia many times on his expeditions of the Antarctic that he be buried here. In fact, it was on this island that he completed one of his most famous polar treks. The grave sits at the abandoned whale station of Grytviken. When you visit, the tradition is to make a toast to the explorer (with a whiskey if you have any!)
Stromness Whaling Station
Named after the Orkney town in Scotland by the whalers that first used this place, this is the location that Shackleton finally got to where he could get help after his ship, the Endurance, sank in the Weddell Sea. The Norwegian station manager offered him sanctuary here after his ordeal. Originally run as a whaling station from 1907 to 1931, then a ship repair yard before being left to ruin in 1961, today all of the buildings and machinery make for an interesting visit.
Crossing The Circle
This wonderful Antarctica trip takes around 14 days. Exploring the more remote areas and reaching the actual Antarctic Circle is a dream come true for most of our passengers. The rich wildlife and glorious scenery make this a very special trip indeed.
You should expect to pay between £6500 and £8000 for this slightly longer expedition.
Often overlooked by visitors in the past, this port is now a hub of activity. Although most people will bypass the town itself, it is definitely worth an hour or two’s exploration. Historically important, its museum was once a prison for serious offenders, many of whom were key in the construction of Ushuaia. The railway, built by the prisoners, was aptly named Tren del Fin del Mundo.
The channel in which Ushuaia lies is one of three routes that link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the tip of South America. Thanks to the expedition on the ship that gave the channel its name, the stretch of water has been mapped and makes for a beautiful part of any Antarctica itinerary. It was on the Royal Navy Beagle’s second voyage that Charles Darwin joined and played a significant role in the surveying.
The phenomenon of the midnight sun is one of the most wonderful things you’ll experience on an Antarctica cruise itinerary. Hard to imagine that there is no night, but during the summer, the sun stays above the horizon 24 hours a day (thanks to the seasonal tilt of the Earth that favours the sun in the Arctic and Antarctic summer) and there is no sunrise or sunset. The constant daylight offers plentiful extra photo opportunities.
These beautiful creatures always seem very happy to share their space with visitors when they are relaxing on the beaches. Of course, we would never go too close, but we can get close enough to enjoy their company and get some great pics too. After a brief decline in numbers thanks to commercial sealing, they are now one of the most abundant species in Antarctica (and one of the largest too, growing up to 3.3m long). They are very good divers and it is incredible to note that they have been recorded diving to depths of 2000ft for up to an hour at any one time! One thing is for sure, you will become very familiar with these beauties no matter which Antarctica cruise itinerary you choose.
Fly The Drake Cruise
Distilling the experience down to a neat 6 to 8 days, this option is a good choice for those who would prefer not to sail across the infamous Drake Passage, or for those who are simply more time-sensitive. Fly from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands, where you will pick up the cruise vessel.
An express 6-day Antarctica trip can be available for as little as £3,700 and you should expect to pay up to £9,000 for a longer 9-day fly-cruise.
The Weddell Sea
Taking 11 days, the Weddell Sea Expedition’s main draw is a chance to see the elusive emperor Penguin.
The usual price tag for this trip is about £6,600 but it is definitely worth considering choosing a vessel which offers helicopter access to improve your chances of reaching the penguin colonies. This upgraded experience will take the cost up to somewhere around £9,200.
Discovered by the British sealer James Weddell, in 1823 this stretch of water reaches far south into the Antarctic and is therefore very cold. The waters of the Weddell Sea have been described as some of the clearest on earth and are even said to be on a par with distilled water. Humpbacks, orcas and minke whales make this place their home, as do leopard, Weddell and crabeater seals, so whale watching and seal spotting are an everyday pastime. There are more than 100,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins here which nest on Paulet Island and in recent times a colony of emperor Penguins has also been found on Snowhill Island.
The Epic Ross Sea
Considered the ultimate Antarctica trip for most passengers and taking between 30 and 32 days this one-way trip comes with two options. You can choose to embark from New Zealand and disembark in Ushuaia, Argentina or take the trip in reverse and disembark in New Zealand. The price starts at £22,800 and is rarely the choice of first-time travellers to cold weather destinations.
The “Last Ocean” on Earth
Known as the ‘Serengeti of the Antarctic’ this pristine stretch of ocean that spans 598,000 square miles is now heavily protected by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Lying south of New Zealand the Ross Sea, also known as the ‘Last Ocean’ is one of the few places on earth largely untouched by humans. Its waters provide a thriving ecosystem of around 16,000 species that is maintained by the density of nutrients that support it.
This ocean is so important for many of the species that make the Antarctic their home, with intact communities of crabeater seals, orcas, minke whales, Adelie penguins and more. So far the waters have escaped the pressures of fishing and shipping despite threats of fishermen looking for new waters to work. Today 432,000 square miles of the protected area is completely free from fishing. The remaining part of the protected area will allow toothfish fishing in a specially designated zone.
This mighty cruise itinerary is a classic, taking in South America, Patagonia, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica and combining the perfect mix of wildlife and adventure. From the historic highlights of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego to the natural wonders of the Antarctic peninsula, you will explore the hidden bays by zodiac and step foot on the White Continent itself to get up close and personal to the penguins and seals.
Ideal for anyone who has limited time to spend in the region, this trip misses out the crossing of the Drake Passage. Flying from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island in the South Shetlands, you make your way back by sea through the stunning waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Days are spent exploring the fjords by zodiac vessel or even by kayak. You can always head onland and immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery while enjoying a snowshoeing or hiking expedition.
One of our most spectacular Antarctic cruise itineraries, this one offers the opportunity to cross the Antarctic Circle, an experience that will round off the trip in style! Spending days soaking up the magnificent tranquillity of this incredible region and photographing the towering icebergs that provide your daily backdrop, you will also have the chance to enjoy penguin and seal spotting and regular zodiac excursions that are included in the price.
Discover this magnificent continent from a whole new perspective – by air! Not only is a helicopter trip exciting in itself, to experience it while flying over this beautiful region is extra special, especially when it includes a landing at historical Cape Horn and the off the beaten track Diego Ramírez Islands. Also taking in a cruise through the Drake Passage, this remarkable Antarctica cruise itineraryhas it all.
There you have it – all the routes you have to choose from. If you’d like to discuss any of the trips in more detail, feel free to give us a call. One of our expert team members will be at the other end of the phone to answer any questions you have. We are a company with a passion for travel in this stunning part of our world and our dedicated specialists are on hand to help you choose the Antarctica itinerary that is perfect for you. We thrive on adventure and are dedicated to providing extraordinary travel experiences to those who have a desire to travel the less trodden paths of our world.
Our commitment to wildlife conservation as well as environment protection sets us apart from our competitors so if you are keen to leave behind nothing but footprints when you are on your next adventure, book with Wildfoot Travel and you can rest assured that we have it covered. We are proud of our tight ties with several conservation organisations and work closely with charities such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Save the Albatross and South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project, among many others.
In the next video in this series, I’ll be unveiling a few top tips to help you get the best value from your Antarctica trip. Make sure you don’t miss it.