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Antarctica: In search of the Emperor penguin

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in Recoleta.
 
Buenos Aires

You will be met at the airport and escorted by one of our local representatives to your hotel in the chic residential district of Recoleta where the architecture is evocative of French belle époque and Italian influence.

Buenos Aires as a whole is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants.

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Buenos Aires

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Recoleta and Retiro.
 
Buenos Aires

Looking to the Old World for inspiration, leading families sought to replicate the graceful architecture of belle époque France, covering the upmarket residential areas of Retiro and Recoleta with palatial façades lining shady cobbled boulevards.

This walking tour takes you to former palaces and mansions which now have much more practical functions; the Military Society, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Parks HQ. Retiro station, built according to British design and with British materials, was nevertheless inspired by the ornate French gares. Later, follow meandering Arroyo street with its art galleries, and finally stroll down super-smart Alvear Avenue.

To join your guide, make your own way to the statue of San Martín in the Plaza named in his honour. At the end of the tour, continue to explore independently or make your own way back to your hotel.

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Buenos Aires

Day 3

Fly to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, transfer to your hotel.
 
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Transfer to the airport and fly to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, at the southernmost tip of the continent.  Depending on the number of intermediate stops, your flight takes 3-5 hours. 

The city has grown rapidly in recent years, partly as a result of government incentives to settlers, and its establishment as a Free Port, and partly a tourist centre - most Antarctic cruises, like yours, leave from the port here. The setting is spectacular; jagged mountains frame the town which clambers down steep streets to the shore of the Beagle Channel. 

Spend a night in a hotel here prior to embarking your expeditionary cruise vessel.

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Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Day 4

Transfer to the port to embark MV Ortelius and set sail.
 
Lighthouse in Ushuaia

Board MV Ortelius in the afternoon. This expeditionary ship is operated by a Dutch company, and although she attracts guests of many nationalities the language of operation is English and the atmosphere European. 

The accent will be on enabling you to have as many experiences off-board as possible, but there are plenty of on-board presentations and low-key expedition-related entertainment to keep you busy.  

Depart and head towards the Drake Passage through the Beagle Channel, named after HMS Beagle on which Charles Darwin travelled on his explorations around the South American continent. This serene waterway is dotted with rocky islets and fringed by the steep cliffs of forest-clad hills: it's the last you will see of trees for the rest of the voyage. 

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Lighthouse in Ushuaia

Days 5-6

At sea en route to the Antarctic Peninsula.
 
Grey Headed Albatross

Cross the Drake Passage, hundreds of kilometres of open water and the shortest crossing between Antarctica and the rest of the world. Pass the Atlantic Convergence where cold water wells up bringing nutrients to the surface from the sea bed, upon which a large number of seabirds feed, you will see an increase in the number of albatrosses and petrels accompanying the ship.

Very occasionally the crossing is gentle, but the odds are against it. Force 5/6 winds are considered normal conditions. Whales and dolphins can often be seen as well as an abundance of marine birds such as petrels, albatrosses and penguins. During this part of the voyage, there are briefings and presentations on the Antarctic ecosystem.

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Grey Headed Albatross

Days 7-10

Reach the Weddell Sea, search for Emperor penguins.
 
Emperor Penguin

The ship will arrive at the Weddell Sea on the eastern seaboard of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Weddell Sea, named after a British sealer, is a little-visited part of Antarctica owing to the prevalence of pack-ice which restricts the progress of ships. Ernest Shackleton’s vessel Endurance was crushed by the ice here. 

It will be the decision of your experienced Expedition Leader, in conjunction with the ship’s captain, as to how much progress towards the Emperor penguin colony on Snow Hill can be made. Historically, conditions have only permitted access to the island less than 50% of the time.

Should the ship make it to the Snow Island, the first two days will be spent at the Emperor penguin rookery itself, accessed by helicopter at a carefully pre-arranged landing place a 45min walk from the colony. This is a remarkable opportunity to be within a few metres of these stately creatures. (The visit and its duration are governed by the ice and weather conditions and may have to be curtailed or cancelled at any time).   

If the ship cannot reach Snow Island conditions may allow her to pass along the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula where you will view massive tabular icebergs and remote locations – such as Brown Bluff with its steep canyon walls, ice-cap backdrop and penguin colonies. Here, the helicopters may be able to land and from the air you will have the rare privilege of observing the untamed landscapes of jagged mountains, glaciers, lava flows and pack ice. If you are lucky, the giant Emperors, among other smaller penguin species, may be observed on the ice-floes.

On previous expeditions individual Emperors at least have always been located. 

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Emperor Penguin

Day 11

Visit Half-moon and Deception islands.
 
Half Moon Island
Sail through the South Shetland Islands – most of which are permanently glaciated, with precipitous mountain peaks glistening in the sunlight. 
 
It is hoped that there will be landings on Half-moon Island (chinstrap and gentoo penguins; elephant seals) where there is a 2km walking track and Deception Island (chinstraps) with a visit to Pendulum Cove or Whalers Bay.

Deception Island, formed by the caldera of an active volcano, creates a natural harbour for ships: for this reason fur seal and whaling stations were established here.   Commercial whaling ended in 1931 and the sites are derelict but a number of scientific bases were established of which a couple are still in operation.

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Half Moon Island

Days 12-13

At sea en route to Ushuaia.
 
Bird

Return to Ushuaia, passing once again through Drake Passage, accompanied by a plethora of seabirds. There will be presentations, discussions and low-key entertainment such as a quiz or auction, and you can take the time or organise your photos using then onboard computers.

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Bird

Day 14

Disembark in Ushuaia and transfer to airport for flight to Buenos Aires.
 
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Pass along the Beagle Channel to reach Ushuaia in the morning and disembark after breakfast. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires.  

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Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Day 15

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.
 
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Antarctica: In search of the Emperor penguin

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Antarctica: In search of the Emperor penguin

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Antarctica: In search of the Emperor penguin

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