Our Brand New David Attenborough Explorer Itinerary 2020

An incredible wildlife adventure taking in five continents over four months.

We have launched a brand new wildlife adventure for 2020, inspired by the legendary natural historian Sir David Attenborough.

If you’re a fan of the iconic documentary makers’ work you’ll definitely want to find out more about our incredible new itinerary, focusing on the fascinating destinations and wildlife featured across the popular documentaries.

This brand new itinerary for 2020 combines a selection of our greatest wildlife adventures across five different continents to take in some of the most fascinating scenery and species which have been the star of the show in Attenborough’s recent works.

Starting in Antarctica in February and ending in the Arctic in June, passing through South America, Africa, and Asia along the way, this intrepid itinerary offers the chance to see everything from pumas to polar bears, painted wolves and penguins.

Read the full itinerary below.

Antarctica – February 2020 (14 Nights)


Our intrepid wildlife itinerary begins in Antarctica with an epic 14-night polar adventure in the Falklands. Our Falklands Birds and Wildlife tour takes in the remote wilderness of the Falkland Islands, offering the opportunity to see the most spectacular wildlife this region has to offer, including albatross, 5 different species of penguin, seals, dolphins, orcas and a myriad of birdlife – many of which have played a star part in Attenborough’s documentaries.

South America

Costa Rica – March 2020 (11 nights)


The tour continues to Costa Rica with our incredible 11-night scuba diving experience in the Coco Islands. This underwater adventure offers the chance to explore one of the most impressive diving destinations in the world, home to over 300 different species of fish. Other fascinating creatures to witness here include turtles, dolphins and sailfish – all which have featured in Attenborough’s documentaries.

Ecuador – March 2020 (9 Nights)

hinese Hat and Rabida Island

The next leg of the tour is our 9-night Galapagos adventure, which takes in the west, central and east islands. The wildlife journey includes the opportunity to see the largest colony of marine iguanas on Fernandina Islands, a visit to a nesting site for the flightless cormorant on Isabela Island and pelican spotting on Rabida Island.

Argentina – March/April 2020 (11 Nights)


Next up is Argentina, for our brand new Patagonia, Pumas and Glaciers tour. This 11-day tour offers the chance to see pumas in the wild in the very location where Attenborough filmed his unforgettable Seven Worlds One Planet episode. This thrilling tour also includes a visit to  Los Glaciares National Park and a hike along the Southern Glacier.

Brazil – April 2020 (11 Nights)



Zimbabwe – April 2020 (6 Nights)

Concluding our time in South America, we head to Brazil for our Amazon, Pantanal and Savannah tour. This trip offers a unique opportunity to see the maned wolf in the wild, as well as the jaguars and anteaters which have featured in Attenborough’s documentaries. This tour includes accommodation in eco-lodges set among the incredible nature, as you visit each of these three fascinating areas of varied terrain.


Our first Africa leg of this itinerary is in Zimbabwe, where you can visit the Mana Pools National Park which was featured in Attenborough’s Dynasties documentary. This 7-day Super Sensory Safari is a first of its kind and provides a truly immersive safari experience, with activities specifically designed to engage all of the senses, including a walking safari led by expert professional guides.

Botswana – April/May 2020 (12 Nights)


The second African safari stop is in Botswana where you can see the beauty of the African elephants in the wild at Chobe Riverfront, home to the largest density of African elephants. This Wild Botswana tour also visits Okavango Delta, known as one of the best destinations in all of Africa for wildlife lovers.


India – May/June 2020 (12 Nights)

andhavgarh National Park

In Asia, take in our Wildlife Special focusing on leopards, tigers and rhinos. This 12-night tour includes tiger viewing in two of India’s best tiger reserves and a safari in Kaziranga Park – home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceros.

Arctic – June 2020 (10 Nights)

xploring Spitsbergen

This magnificent wildlife itinerary ends in the Arctic with our Introduction to Spitsbergen tour. This 10-night polar expedition will encounter polar bears, arctic foxes, whales and walruses in the wild as you explore the very best of what Spitsbergen has to offer.

This incredible 4-month itinerary taking in five different continents costs from £40,411pp. This doesn’t include transfers between countries. All internal transport within each leg of the trip, accommodation, and excursions are included as stated in each individual tour itinerary.

Contact us now to book

antarctic cruise vessel Argentina – Gateway To Antarctica

Gillian Landells - Polar Travel ExpertWildfoot Travel’s Polar expert Gillian Landells visited Argentina recently to board polar cruise vessel Ocean Endeavour for an antarctic cruise. Here she gives an account of her adventure along with a few pointers for those considering taking a similar trip 


Valdes Peninsula

Argentina boasts some incredible locations which are made for exploring – one such place is the Valdes Peninsula situated in Patagonia – a truly stunning wildlife hotspot and a highlight of my recent trip to South America.

Getting there

Access to the region is very easy from Buenos Aires and other domestic airports within the country with regular flights into Trelew and a lesser number into Puerto Madryn.

Arriving into Trelew will mean an overnight stay or a 1 hour transfer to Puerto Madryn itself which is the gateway to the Valdes Peninsula. The city is a prime beach destination with a promenade filled with restaurants and is a lovely base for a few nights. Plenty of accommodation options are available making for a comfortable stay.

When to visit and what you will see?

The Valdes Peninsula is an area which can be visited at any time of the year however there are certain months which draw wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world.

Orca can be seen all year around though the months of March and April see these fiercely intelligent animals demonstrate some unique behaviour involving attacks on the sea lion rookeries.

They beach themselves intentionally to catch sea lions and elephant seal pups – this behaviour has been learned and developed from one orca generation to the next and is only displayed at this particular location.

Southern Right Whales are to be found in the area between June and December before they make their way down to the waters of Antarctica. The peninsula offers calm and protected waters where the they can breed, and the mothers can nurse their calves and you are pretty much guaranteed to see these majestic creatures on a visit to the area. My experience was at the very end of the season during the middle of December (when even the guides were careful not to over promise the chances of seeing the whales) and I was treated to seeing 2 separate mothers and calves right beside the boat. An experience never to be forgotten.

From June until the middle of August, the whales are best seen from Puerto Madryn, sometimes right from the beach and from mid-August until mid-December, the main location to base yourself is Puerto Piramides. This tiny beachside town has some serious charm and with only 3 streets and plenty of accommodation options, it promises some fantastic whale sightings.

Magellanic penguins are common in the Valdes Peninsula between September to March – they will start to build their nests on arrival and bring their young up through the following months. This species mainly live in nests under bushes or in burrows and walking amongst them is entertaining indeed.

Magellanic penguins on Agentinas Valdes Peninsula

The numbers of penguins can be upwards of 300,000 and are to be found at a few locations, Punta Tombo, Punta Norte, Punta Delgada and Punta Ninfas. Seeing these creatures in this completely natural environment is something very special indeed.

Elephant seals are present in the Valdes Peninsula all year round with the breeding season being between August and November with October providing the peak numbers of these animals. There is nothing quite like seeing the huge hulk of the males up close and the sheer numbers that are grouped together on the shores.

beautiful beaches on Argentina's Valdes Peninsula

Sea lions will also be present throughout the year and you can easily see them lazing on the beaches in huge numbers. They mate between August and December with the pups being born between December and February. You can spend your time watching these animals both on land and sea as there are kayaking and snorkelling excursions available to give the ultimate interaction.

Buenos Aires

With one day in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city, there are many sights to see and it is hard to know where to start and what not to miss out. My recent trip involved a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery and it really is something to behold – anyone who has been will agree that their time there was a thought provoking experience.

Recoleta Cemetery is located in the lovely neighbourhood of Recoleta which is leafy, elegant and full of grandeur – a walk around the streets is a particularly pleasant experience with the eye always being drawn upwards to the French inspired architecture.

Taking a map when you first walk through the gates of the cemetery feels a tad strange however it is a handy tool to have as there are over 6400 mausoleums, many decorated with statues.

The style of the cemetery is what will first grab your attention, there are hundreds of little laneways, a labyrinth where you can wander around and never see the same thing twice. The mausoleums are where many of Argentina’s notable people lie in rest – writers, poets, scientists, presidents, Nobel Prize winners, some of the most wealthy and famous families in the country however most famous of all is Eva Peron – the former First Lady who was loved by many but was equally a very controversial figure.

There are statues and decorative features everywhere you look; some of the mausoleums resemble houses, hints of the fairytale imagination, marble, brass, engravings, stain glass windows. A lot have been very well maintained and some have fallen into disrepair with broken windows, a myriad of cobwebs and a look of the past about them.

There is always a queue of people wanting to pay their respects at Eva Peron’s resting place although it took her body nearly 20 years to arrive there as she was taken by the military to a graveyard in Italy where she was buried under another name. She is now in her rightful place back in Buenos Aires in a heavily fortified crypt 5 metres beneath the ground so her remains are completely protected ensuring she will rest in peace.

Eva-Peron's final resting place in Buenos Aires

A visit to the Recoleta Cemetery will give you the chance to take some beautiful photographs, listen to some haunting stories being told if you choose to take a guided tour which run every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am and if you just want to sit and take it all in then there is always a bench to be found shaded by the cemeteries many grand trees.

When to visit Antarctica? 

Planning a visit to Antarctica means travelling during the Southern hemisphere summer months namely between October and March. Expedition companies will offer various itineraries to meet the needs of adventurous passengers wanting to make the journey south.

You can choose to focus solely on the Antarctic Peninsula which is the main destination for travellers or opt to include the Antarctic Circle, visiting the Falkland Islands or South Georgia – there are many options however my voyage took me down to the Antarctic Peninsula – a 10 day round trip including flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.

What months are the best?

In truth there is no better month to travel to Antarctica, the experience will blow you away regardless of the month and each month has its highlights.

December and January are the most popular months to travel however pricing is reflected in this. If you are flexible on dates, then voyages at the start and end of the season can offer great discounts.

The start of the season (end of October through to November) will see the largest icebergs in their most pristine form, the month of December will have between 20 and 24 hours of daylight and provide some stunning photographs, January and February are the months when the penguin chicks and seal pups are born providing a chance to see these baby animals in their earliest of stages and March is particularly good for seeing whales.

What will you see?

Antarctica offers so much that your senses will be overloaded – from the sight of the majestic icebergs, to the smell of the freshest air on the planet, to the sound of a whale expelling air from its blowhole and the sight of thousands of Gentoo penguins (not to mention the smell!)

The scenery is absolutely magical and personally will be the part that I always remember from my trip to Antarctica. The tranquillity and the pristine beauty are really something to behold and although photographs will capture the look of the landscape, it cannot capture the feeling and emotion you have when you are actually there. Nowhere else on Earth will make you feel the way you do when you are there in person – the feeling of absolute wonder and thankfulness that somewhere like that exists on our planet.

Whales are to be found in abundance, all types from Humpback to Minke, from Sperm to Fin, from Blue to Right and not forgetting Orca. You will be able to see them from the ship itself and also during the zodiac excursions – they are not fazed by humans and to watch them behave in the natural way they do with all the space they could ever need is something very beautiful indeed.


Seals are very common to see with different types being spotted during your daily excursions – Weddell, Crabeater, Ross, Fur, Elephant and not forgetting the fascinating Leopard seal. For the most part they will be onshore, sleeping and genuinely not at all bothered about the human activity around them. Though after being very close to a Leopard seal on the shore of Deception Island and seeing their almost manic smile, my image of seals being cute and non-threatening was changed forever!

The bird life in Antarctica is incredible with many sightings and many species ticked off the list throughout the voyage – Wandering Albatross, Storm Petrels, Giant Petrels, Diving Petrels, Skua, Snow Petrels, Cormorants, Snowy Sheathbills – the list goes on. Right from the start of the trip along the Beagle Channel and crossing over the Drake Passage, you will see these birds and the sightings keep going during your time in Antarctica.


Birds in Antarctica cannot be mentioned without talking about the penguins – they are found in their thousands and thousands in this polar environment – you will find yourself captivated by them and their entertaining ways. The species of Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper, Adélie, Macaroni, King and Emperor can be found – they are masters of their surroundings, making nests, looking after their young, porposing through the water and mischievously stealing rocks from their neighbour’s nests. Seeing these animals in their huge numbers and to be able to sit down to observe their behaviour really is a humbling experience. Be prepared for the numerous penguin photos in your camera roll though as you take photo after photo of these beautiful creatures.

Ocean Endeavour

There are many different expedition vessels which travel down to Antarctica – all with varying levels of comfort, passenger numbers, activity options and facilities onboard however they are all designed with the polar environments in mind and to give passengers the best experience possible. The ships have ice strengthened hulls which enable them to slice through the icy environment.

Ocean Endeavour

On my recent trip to Antarctica, I stayed on the Ocean Endeavour which has a maximum capacity of 199 passengers and offers a modern style of ship along with passionate expert guides and crew who did their upmost to provide us with some incredible sights.

The ship itself is very spacious throughout meaning wherever you are on the ship, you can move around freely and with large windows situated in all the public areas and easy access to the outside decks, the outside views are never far away.

With 13 cabin categories onboard, from triple cabins to twin cabins and single cabins – some with portholes, some with windows and some situated in the interior of the ship, there really is something that will suit everyone’s requirements and budget.

If you are travelling solo, there are dedicated single cabins if you wish to have your space whilst journeying far south or if you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else then this is a great option to have some company whilst keeping the cost down. You will be allocated a cabin mate by the expedition company with males being kept together and females kept together – they will tend to allocate cabins to people of a similar age as well.

The cabins themselves are very comfortable with enough space to move around – a ensuite bathroom, small desk area with tv, storage facilities and the beds typically set up in twin style or bunk bed style.

The public areas are spread throughout the ship meaning there is plenty of space for the passengers to relax and spend their time onboard the ship. A beautiful restaurant where meals were held, the main lounge where you could relax and also where the lectures and presentations were held, the other lounge areas on different decks along with a small gym, sauna, spa and library meant you never felt crowded. There is also a polar boutique found on the ship which is a shop next to the main lounge providing lots of souvenir ideas as well as clothing – it is quite amazing how many items they stock and how many things you are able to buy as a memento to your journey.

Mealtimes are split between buffet style for breakfast and lunch – endless options to fuel yourself up for the morning and afternoon excursions with dinner being served la carte – be prepared for a mouth-watering selection of meals and lots of chatter about the days experiences. Any dietary requirements are catered for and the crew made sure that every person was made to feel special. We were personally greeted at each mealtime and over the course of the few days onboard, it made for a family atmosphere.

There was also the chance to have a BBQ on the upper outside deck of the ship – a unique experience sitting wrapped up in your outside gear with the incredible landscape surrounding whilst eating your food and chatting to your fellow passengers. It’s something to remember that is for sure!

There is an open bridge policy onboard the Ocean Endeavour meaning that full access can be given to the bridge, weather depending. It really does provide such a unique perspective to stand in the bridge, chatting to the crew and captain, looking at all the equipment and being able to look out onto the wide expanse of ocean or view the polar landscape from that kind of vantage point.

During the voyage

A major part of an expedition trip to Antarctica will be the team of expert guides who make the trip as informative and as fun as possible. They are some of the most passionate people you will meet who spend each Antarctic season showing off the beauty and wonder of this most Southerly continent to intrigued passengers. Being experts in their fields of marine biology, glaciology, ornithology, history, photography, geology (the list goes on!) they will give informal lectures and presentations during your time onboard. You will find yourself taken in by their passion for their subject and their respect for the animals that live in this harsh but beautiful land as well as the environment itself.

They will also be the people taking passengers out on the daily excursions and answering any questions you may have – they will keep you safe at all times and make sure you really are given the best experience possible.

The guides will make sure they immerse themselves into the passenger’s experience whilst onboard by sitting down at mealtimes with the guests, taking the time to talk to everyone and always being seen around the ship. Many will sit in on their fellow guides lectures and by the end of the trip when you are saying goodbye, it really does feel like you have made a bond with them as a team and individuals. Without them, these voyages cannot operate, and their commitment never wavers.


The Ocean Endeavour carries 20 zodiac boats and a selection of kayaks and stand up paddle boards – these are all stored on the upper decks of the ship to be brought down by crane to water level.

There is the option of adding on an additional soft adventure activity to your voyage in addition to the normal zodiac excursion program – this will give you a different perspective of the landscape and wildlife, getting you as close as possible to the action.

Any of these activities are best to request at the time of booking as spaces are limited and although there may be the option to sign up when you are on the ship, if it is something you are keen to participate in then the best advice is to pre-book to avoid disappointment.

Zodiac cruising and landings

On every expedition trip to Antarctica, the daily excursions off the ship are included in the cost of the voyage. Zodiacs are rigid inflatables which can hold between 8 and 10 passengers plus a guide who will drive the zodiac – you will be assisted on and off every time and lifejackets are compulsory.

Zodiac trips on an antarctic cruise vessel

You can expect to participate in these excursions twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon though it is important to remember that everything on a trip like this is weather dependant. Every evening you will be briefed by the expedition team on what the plan is for the next day; where they are hoping to visit and what activities are likely to be able to take place. If due to weather or ice conditions, things have to change then the expedition team will come up with an alternative plan with safety being first and foremost in their minds.

Zodiac trips on an antarctic cruise vessel

In Antarctica there is a regulation that all expedition companies have to follow which only allows a maximum of 100 people on the land at any one time. Ships which carry less than 100 people will be able to take full advantage of making sure every passenger experiences a landing every time an excursion takes place however that is not to say you should disregard a ship which carries more than 100 passengers. The Ocean Endeavour which I stayed on during my time in Antarctica has capacity for 199 passengers and the operation each day of disembarking everyone into zodiacs worked like a well-oiled machine. We were split into 4 groups of 50 people and as the ship has 2 separate platforms at the side of the ship, things worked very quickly and efficiently.

As well as zodiac landings where you will have time to explore by foot, take photographs and be enthralled by the wildlife on the shore, there is also plenty of zodiac cruising which will give you a different perspective of the polar landscape. Humpback whales may be breaching in front of you, penguins porpoising through the water, a leopard seal searching for food making its distinctive sound, all the while being surrounded by the most pristine icebergs and absolutely huge cliffs.

Excursions will take your breath away on countless occasions and hundreds if not thousands of photographs will be taken during them and will make sure you experience Antarctica, not just from your cabin and the outside decks of the ship but be properly immersed in it.


Typically, with kayaking in the Arctic and Antarctic, you do need to have had previous sea kayaking experience as the polar regions are not the ideal place to learn to kayak given the conditions. The kayaks will have a spray skirt and you will need to have a good level of physical fitness to participate in the programme.

As long as the weather is good, and the conditions are safe then you will be going out kayaking as many times as possible – some of the photos and video footage the kayaking group caught on my voyage was phenomenal. Two humpback whales surfacing right beside the awestruck group of 8 to 10 kayakers is something that will forever stay with them – you really are on the water level with these marine creatures.

Stand up paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is another option to consider – no experience is needed beforehand and with the activity being a mixture of surfing and kayaking, it is another way to experience life in Antarctica

On other itineraries, there is further options of camping where you spend a night on the ice, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and mountaineering – all of these are designed to enhance your experience however if you focus on the zodiac excursions with the hiking/walking then you will certainly not miss out on anything.

The Drake Passage

The infamous stretch of water which connects the tip of Argentina with the South Shetland Islands, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula is a main component of any Antarctic voyage and depending on what you have read, you may be put off completely by the stories or finding yourself drawn into the adventure of the crossing.

On my voyage, once we had left the port of Ushuaia and the calm waters of the Beagle Channel behind, 2 full days lay ahead as we crossed the Drake Passage, and no-one really knew what to expect.

Truth be told there were some moments that keeping yourself upright was a challenge and moving around the ship turned into a comedy routine however for the most part it was fine and nothing like I had read.

The expedition team onboard made sure to keep everyone busy by providing a full lecture programme on various topics such as marine biology, the history of the Antarctic treaty, glaciology and the expert photographer onboard offering tips on how best to get the most from our cameras.

We were still able to access the outside decks at times whilst crossing the Drake Passage, there were a lot of birds to be seen and just staring out at the expanse of the water knowing you were getting closer to Antarctica kept everyone going.

There was a doctor onboard who was available at all times if you felt the medication you were using wasn’t working as well as it should be or if you didn’t have anything with you at all – it was comforting to know this however thankfully I didn’t need to speak with him.

Our 2 day crossing on the way back was pretty similar, a few moments which got everyone talking namely one of our last evening meals turning into an episode of keeping the china on the table however we all agreed on our return to Ushuaia that we were happy we had sailed the Drake Passage.

It played such a big role in the whole journey and really gave me a sense of how far we were actually travelling – the distance involved is phenomenal at 500 miles each way and if you embrace it rather than fear it then it will become as much a part of adventure as the wildlife and landscapes.

If you are really not sold on the idea of sailing the Drake Passage then don’t worry, there are trips where you can fly between Punta Arenas, Chile and King George Island, South Shetlands which will cut 4 days off your journey – great if you are short on time.

Another option is to fly the Drake Passage one way and sail the other way – you will still get to experience the crossing by ship however flying will cut down the journey time by 2 days.

Passengers on an antarctic cruise vessel

Don’t forget your waterproofs repair kit and a spare washing line!

How many times in the last couple of weeks have we had to explain that polar bears are in the north and not the south? And usually this has been the next question after “why would anyone want to go to Antarctica- there’s nothing there?” !!!  But for us this is the beginning of the trip of a lifetime and an opportunity to further indulge our passion for wilderness, wildlife and photography.

We started talking to Simon at Antarctica Bound two years ago (I’m convinced he’ll be breathing a sigh of relief when he knows we are finally on the way…!) and the advice and help he has given, not to say the patience,has been amazing.

We knew exactly what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go – and we also knew what we didn’t want included. We set Simon the challenge of finding the right tour for us. At first he didn’t think it would be possible to find one tour that would cover everything we wanted and we thought we might have to do two tours back to back.

July 2013 – Simon phones to say he thinks he’s found the trip foru s….. Quark’s EpicAntarctica: Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Circle – and it is perfect. Everything we wanted and almost nothing on our ‘no’ list.

So, we booked.  Almost exactly seventeen months have gone by since then and our adventure to Antarctica is now less than a day away!  We didn’t waste the time since booking, making sure we would have the right camera equipment,right clothing, bags, and everything else you can think of for a month long trip.

And then we started reading blogs, trip reports and got totally confused!! How many pairs of socks is the right amount? Which lens will really be the best for taking Emperor Penguins up close? Camping washing line or not?

Over the last week we have been forced to consider the final selection. At the moment our spare bedroom is covered by all of the things we think we’d like to take. No way is it all going to fit in,either into the luggage or the weight restrictions. (We are NOT taking the cat – although she seems to think that if she hides in the clothes she might come too!).

This trip really is an epic adventure for us. Having got married earlier this year,this is our delayed honeymoon and “big birthdays” event all rolled into one.  The time has flown by and now it is here.  I guess we’ll find out if we got it right when we get there. And we’ll be sure to share the highs (and any lows). Just one more day to find the final items and get it all packed.

kit needed for antartica expedition


Although the major part of our trip is the Quark cruise, we decided to add a few days of R& R and to get acclimatized.  Plus we had heard from a number of people that Aerolineas Argentinas could sometimes be a little ‘delayed’ and that it would be better to ensure arriving at Ushuaia in time for the ship to leave at the very least!

Hence we find ourselves in Buenos Aires for three days.  Acclimatising is, in the circumstances, an interesting concept- for the time zone it is perfect, Argentina and the Antarctic are three hours behind the UK.   Not a huge difference, but enough to cause some confusion to the brain at bedtime. And so spending a couple of days getting into the right time zone is helpful. As for the climate nothing could be further from what we expect to face next week.

At the moment Buenos Aires is in 30 degrees of heat and somewhat humid….having packed for the ice, most of our clothes are at the very least ‘inappropriate’! However, we have managed to put on the thinnest trousers and t-shirts we bought with us and have been managing.

We have based ourselves in the Hotel Madero, which is situated on the waterfront and makes sightseeing of the important buildings easy enough on foot. Everything here is on a huge scale.  From eight lane roads to enormous buildings.

ushuaia antarctica

We took in the major sights this morning and had an enjoyable lunch in a traditional Argentinian bar. The biggest challenge has been the currency conversion. We brought dollars and so have to work through the Peso to dollar to pound exchange rates to work out how much anything costs.

peso exchange rate

There are also three different exchange rates for the Peso: the official rate (at banks and in the hotels currently around 8.3 to the dollar) the blue market rate (we paid in the bar/café with dollars and got a rate of around 10 to the dollar) and the black market rate (around all the major tourist attractions and the shopping centres, people on the street offer “cambio” and will change dollars at around 13 Peso to the dollar). All rather strange and confusing – but the prices are around the same as (or slightly cheaper than) London for food and drinks.

This opportunity prior to the cruise has given us the time to catch up on reading about the trip itself.   We can now truly identify a chin strap from a Macaroni penguin and have discussed the various merits of using the monopod as a walking aid, underwater camera pole (saves getting your hands wet and cold) or for actually balancing the camera!

Argentina boasts some of the best beef in the world and hopefully we will be able to report the truth of this statement after dinner tonight!

USHUAIA – THE END OF THE WORLD (Well, not quite)

We packed up and left Buenos Aires with some excitement and a little trepidation. Although we knew that the checked luggage would come in under the weight limit the hand luggage with the cameras was well over. We had read other blogs before leaving the UK which said that there was no problem at the airport, but you just never know do you?

Making the hand luggage look as small and light as possible we did get through the airport fine – and the checks at security were cursory to say the least. The flight was on the ´interesting´ side, pretty bumpy but the views were spectacular. Coming through the clouds on the descent into Ushuaia with mountains covered in snow just outside the window and flying over the bay with the town (the last city at the end of the world – although I think that Chile claims the same title!) spread out below was quite breathtaking.

breathtaking views of antarctica

The flight touched down at 19.00 and by the time we had collected baggage, found the transfer and made it to the hotel it was around 20.30 – but it seemed like early afternoon….the sun was still high in the sky and it was broad daylight. Fortunately the hotel has blackout curtains – it was still light at 23.30 when we switched out the lights in the room!

Ushuaia itself is best described as an outpost. With one main street filled with shops providing everything from outdoor clothing (just in case you forgot anything) to penguins in every shape size and form (stuffed toys of course, but in chocolate, stone, soap etc etc) and a variety of cafes and restaurants. To one side of the main street is the sea and the busy port with small and large ships arriving and departing, and inland towards the mountains is the residential district with house in many colours.

Finally, it is sinking in that tomorrow we will be leaving on the Sea Adventurer and will have a cabin as our home for the next twenty three days. Arriving in Ushuaia to see the snow covered mountains and the drop in temperature of nearly twenty degrees makes it all much more real!

So far we have only discovered two important items that we left behind…..a South American adaptor – we have adaptors for every other type of socket worldwide – but not for here! I´d certainly advise that if you make this trip and spend any time in Buenos Aires or Ushuaia you make sure you have the right adaptor. And today we realized that a bottle stopper would have been really handy! Since this trip is going to mean that we are on board for Christmas and New Year we are taking a couple of bottles of bubbly with us (bought in the very helpful supermarket at the end of the main street). Neither of us are big drinkers and so to protect the remains of the bottle from spillage and to maintain the bubbles, a stopper would have been ideal!! I guess we´ll have to make the most of it and drink it all in one go!

Some of the people who arrived on our flight yesterday are leaving this afternoon on Quark´s sister ship Sea Spirit. They have been waiting patiently in the hotel lounge and we have a taste of what we´ll be doing tomorrow. We plan to take a walk along the sea front to watch the departure and prepare for our own adventure to continue tomorrow.


Remember to book early!

Finally last night we met our fellow travellers. Quark held a meeting in the hotel to give us information about embarkation and what to do with our luggage. As we expected the majority of the others are Americans, followed by a good percentage of Australians and then British with a few other nationalities.

The explanation of what will happen is simple and then we reaped the benefits for having booked over a year ago…an upgraded cabin!! Turns out that Quark move people round the ship (at first we were slightly panicked by this as we had spent some considerable time pouring over the cabin plans, dimensions and configurations and choosing the one that we thought would suit our needs best), to provide for late bookings. We didn´t stop to ask any questions, but gratefully accepted the move from the lower deck (one porthole cabin) to the main deck (picture window cabin). This means we´ll get a better view of the waves crashing on the ship during the Drake Passage crossing!! And hopefully some great iceberg views too.

Somewhat frustratingly today we have to wait around for embarkation time. Check out at the hotel is 10.00 and meeting to transfer to the ship doesn’t take place until 15.30 – this means there are around 80 people wondering what to do (take a late breakfast). Those who only arrived last night take the opportunity to wander round town and do last minute shopping. But taking hand luggage around for the rest of the day (remember how heavy our camera bags are?!) isn´t really a viable option. So we found a space in the hotel lounge and hunkered down for the duration.

This delay is understandable since the ship only arrived in port this morning and is due to leave tonight. Between times the crew has to prepare for the new set of guests. But still it is a challenge to see the ship in the port and contain the excitement of setting off.

Between reading the Kindle, playing cards and rechecking the cameras for the hundredth time we´re keeping the excitement under control.  Hopefully our next report will be from the ship under sail.


Cabins are well appointed and larger than we expected and from the pictures we had seen. Beds are very comfortable and the room temperature can be adjusted to suit individual requirements. The small en suite bathroom is compact, but provides an excellent shower with a toilet and wash hand basin. There is really no need to bring shower gel or shampoo as those that are provided are perfectly adequate and smell just fine. It might be worth bringing a very small amount of a shampoo and shower gel you really like for a weekly ‘treat’. And, if you like to use one, bear in mind there is no conditioner provided separately. But there is a hair drier….I’m not vain, but with the need to be prepared to go on deck at a moment’s notice to see the wildlife, it’s certainly a benefit to be able to dry your hair quickly rather than risk going out with wet hair into a very cold environment!

There is enough cupboard space for clothing items and an area which accommodates boots and parkas away from other clothes so that they can dry without making everything else wet. There are also drawers and shelf space and a small desk, so room for all the ‘other’ items you need to bring. It is worth spending a little time planning where to put things when you arrive both to make them accessible in case of needing to get on deck quickly but also to stop them flying around during rough seas.

the calm antarctic ocean

There’s an open door policy on the ship. This means that no one is able to lock the door of the cabin. This is for safety reasons and has not been an issue. A safe is provided for the protection of your valuables.

Each cabin has a steward allocated for the whole voyage. This amazing person (whom we have yet to actually see) comes in every morning to make the beds, clean, restock the bathroom and take away any laundry. In the evening they come again to provide a turn down service. Gerry, our steward, has been superb. Whenever there have been items left on the beds and he has been in to make up the cabin, every single item has been put back exactly where it was left.

There are enough sockets, but bear in mind they are European type. We have found it helpful to bring a 4 way trailing gang to enable us to charge up multiple batteries and use the laptop at the same time.

Each cabin also has a phone which allows you to reach reception and other areas of the ship in case of emergency. You can also purchase a phone card for making calls home. We will be testing this out on Christmas Day to see if the family is having a good time back home!

The cabin also has a TV – this is primarily to provide the daily programme and anything you need to know about landings on shore. It also enables you to watch the educational lectures provided by the expedition team from the comfort of your cabin. Each day there is also a video shown.

Each day on board has its routine, mainly timed around meal times and activities. Everything you need to know is shown on the TV screen in the cabin and posted on notice boards round the ship. Most things are discretionary (except for the safety briefings).

Meal times don’t vary much except for when the weather or onshore activities dictate. There is plenty of food all of excellent quality and, except for dinner, served in buffet style. The restaurant is free seating which means you can choose who to sit with each meal time – a great way to get to know fellow travellers without finding yourself stuck at the same table every meal.

Outside official meal times there is a coffee and tea station available 24/7 and snacks and cookies if you find yourself hungry at any time.

Each day there is a briefing meeting to find out what has been seen during the day, and an update on what is likely to happen the next day. Additionally, the expedition team put on lectures about different aspects of wildlife, birdlife, geology, history etc.

Landings can take several forms and are timed to ensure everyone has ample opportunity to experience the area.

experience antarctica

Outside of meals and activities, time aboard is your own. There is an excellent library, a lounge and, of course, all the decks to spend time watching for birds and sea mammals such as Peale’s Dolphins and the ubiquitous Great Petrels, not forgetting some sunsets (before you get too far south).

post cards from south georgia

Internet is available from two Wi-fi areas on the ship. There are two options, one for an email only account and the second to purchase megabytes of data. The second is relatively expensive. To access emails only, you need to purchase an ‘account’ (at $30) but this lasts for the whole voyage, so arguably if you are going to take advantage of this it is better to purchase it as early into the trip as possible. The email account does not allow the attachment of any documents and so can’t be used to send pictures home.

There is an onboard shop which is open infrequently, and stocks souvenirs, gifts and things you might have left behind – sunglasses, dry bags and sun tan cream. If you want to send a postcard home from South Georgia, the shop has a stock of pre-stamped postcards which means you can write them before landing and then just post without having to spend time queuing on arrival.

Observation/viewing areas are all round the ship. Very few areas are off limits (it is also possible to sit on the bridge and watch the captain and crew steering!), but choosing the best place to stand depends on the weather and the wind direction. So far there has been ample space for everyone to see and for cameras to be swung around to capture the birds following the ship. Expedition staff are often on deck to identify any species you are not sure about.

Other tips:

Bring an extra washing line.  You will get wet, even if it is just from washing your trousers in the detergent bath upon returning to the ship.  The in-cabin clothes line is fine but doesn’t give your cabin mate any room for their clothes! The best ones are those used for camping that don’t need pegs. But be aware that you might need to go looking for one much earlier than your trip – many shops only have them available during summer camping season.

Bring a repair kit for waterproofs.  There are plenty of jagged edges at landing sites along with other things that you can get snagged on and any rips will destroy the waterproofing capabilities immediately.  The expedition team might be able to help but don’t rely on it.

Don’t forget something to clean your camera equipment with.  Even if you don’t change lenses, thus protecting the sensor, the lenses themselves will get dirty, whether from spray, rain, dust, or any number of environmental conditions.   Keep an eye on this and take the time to clean the front of the lenses (and your viewfinder) on a regular basis.