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Sailing Antarctica: The Ultimate Polar Nature Expedition
(Sail from Ushuaia/Fly to Punta Arenas)

17 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

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Day 1: Ushuaia, Argentina
Arrive in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, located at the tip of Tierra del Fuego. Meet your fellow travelers at a welcome dinner on this first evening of your Antarctic adventure.
Day 2: Tierra del Fuego National Park / Maritime & Presidio Museums
This extra day in Ushuaia is included as a "reserve day" if flights are delayed. You don't want to take a chance on missing your sailing tomorrow! But there's plenty to see in the Ushuaia region, too. We've included a half-day tour of scenic Tierra del Fuego National Park, which combines coast, islands, mountains and the southernmost subantarctic Andean forests. Beneath the deciduous lenga, beech and wild cherry trees, we find a moist understory of moss, ferns and peat bog. On easy hikes, look for red fox, guanaco, otter, geese, ducks, woodpeckers and 90 more bird species that are among the native fauna found in the park. The landscape shows typical signs of glacial formation, with broad valleys filled with lakes and rivers alternating with rows of mountain ranges. Throughout the park are signs of its past inhabitants, the Yamanas people. 
Following lunch in town, we visit the impressive Maritime and Prison Museums, housed in the former national penitentiary built by convicts who were relocated to this remote region in 1906. The infamous prison, finished in 1920, was designed for 380 inmates, though it held up to 800 before it closed in 1947. The maritime exhibits chronicle the history of seafaring in the area, including a scale model of the ship Magellan sailed in 1520 through the strait that now bears his name. It was Magellan who dubbed this southerly mosaic of islands Tierra del Fuego, meaning "Land of Fire"—a reference to constantly burning fires indigenous people lit to stay warm, even inside their bark canoes. There's free time later this afternoon to explore Ushuaia, a lively tourist town catering to the many adventurous climbers, trekkers and sailors that set forth from here. We'll enjoy dinner together in town this evening. 
Day 3: Ushuaia—Board S/V Australis / Beagle Channel
Today our real adventure begins as we board our expedition sailboat Australis in the Ushuaia harbor. The Australis is a 75-foot-long ice-strengthened motorsailer, designed and outfitted to navigate the polar waters of the Southern Ocean. After introductions and a safety orientation, we set out into the calm waters of the Beagle Channel, admiring the endless ridgelines of the mountains that line either side. We're excited to be sailing with one of the world's preeminent mariners in polar waters and his seasoned crew. Drink in the views of Patagonian peaks that unfold as we make our way south, enjoying the long daylight of a southern summer, and dream of the adventures that lie ahead.
Days 4–6: Crossing the Drake Passage 
Named for renowned explorer Sir Francis Drake who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage is notorious for its often-fierce gales, creating large, wind-whipped swells—we're likely to have some raucous sailing! But the Australis is a hardy vessel and her skipper second-to-none—we are in good hands, and the journey is exhilarating. The southern portion of the Drake also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological zone where a great upwelling of nutrients draws an amazing variety of seabirds, including many albatrosses that follow in our wake. The first sightings of icebergs and snow-clad mountains indicate that we have reached the South Shetland Islands. The exact timing of our Drake crossing depends on weather and sea conditions, but we generally expect it to take approximately three days. If conditions are favorable, we'll step ashore for our first encounter with penguins and other wildlife of this southern polar wonderland. 
Days 7–14: Cruising and Camping on the Antarctic Peninsula
For the next eight days, we follow the best weather and safest water, exploring the bays and fjords of the Antarctic Peninsula. Nothing prepares us for the scale and scope of this icebound wilderness, and the phrase "awe-inspiring" takes on totally new meaning here. Walls of blue ice rise 300 feet from the surface of the steel-gray sea, and it is as if the entire landscape is one massive glacier. Though our environs are austere, these waters are a haven for a remarkable collection of wildlife, including vast penguin rookeries and beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals. Taking advantage of the perpetual light, we spend long days sailing among the icebergs, watching for whales and seals bobbing by. Sometimes, we get so close we can hear a whale blow, and we may even feel the spray. Birdlife is extraordinary, with huge populations of albatrosses, petrels, skuas, gulls, terns and cormorants. 
Every day holds something different. While at times we are struck by the depth of the silence, other times we're amidst a cacophony of squawking penguins, honking seals and crackling ice. The kayaks carried on board the Australis allow opportunities to observe wildlife at eye-level, and where landings permit, we step ashore to hike. And, with our special permit from the National Science Foundation, we have the option to camp for up to three nights, weather and local conditions permitting, on deserted beaches, sharing the solitude only with the legions of wildlife. There are few places on the planet where the natural world feels more intact, while we have never felt smaller. 
Day 15: King George Island
The only airstrip on the Antarctic Peninsula archipelago that can reliably serve the South American continent on a regular basis is located on King George Island in the South Shetland group. We arrive here today, one day prior to meeting up with our return flight home, as a hedge against potential weather problems. Tomorrow morning, it will be time to say farewell to the Australis and her valiant crew after a fortnight of extraordinary adventure. 
Day 16: Fly to Punta Arenas, Chile
Weather permitting, we board our airplane for the 3-hour flight back to Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chilean Patagonia. On arrival, we check into our hotel. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner with the group in town, regaling one another with stories and indelible memories of this truly singular adventure.
Day 17: Punta Arenas / Depart
Fly homeward today from Punta Arenas, with a cache of memories to last a lifetime and then some!
All This Included
Intrepid explorers passionate about serious adventure won't find a more exhilarating way to experience Antarctica than on this one-of-a-kind polar expedition. With just seven travelers on a handful of departures each season, this is the most exclusive of opportunities! Explore the Antarctic Peninsula aboard an ice-strengthened motorsailer, surrounded by seals, whales, penguins and icebergs. In a world where "adventure travel" has become a relative term, we've reclaimed it with this total immersion in the planet's last, most pristine wilderness. While larger, well-appointed ships have made Antarctica travel downright cushy, they have also removed travelers from a primal encounter with nature. Our exclusive small-boat voyage—with a world-class skipper and seasoned polar crew—brings it back. This genuine adventure will reward expeditionary travelers with a rare experience of one of the most remote and magnificent places on Earth.
  • Transfers between the airport and our tour accommodations
  • all accommodations
  • activities and land transportation as detailed in the itinerary
  • internal flight to or from King George Island
  • meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on the final day
  • drinking water throughout the trip
  • soft drinks with meals
  • a limited selection of wine and beer on board our boat
  • services of NHA Expedition Leader
  • boat crew and local guides
  • all camping and kayaking equipment
  • waterproof overshoes for shore excursions
  • most gratuities
  • all permits
  • entrance fees and taxes
  • Cruise with premier polar naturalists and a veteran crew aboard our privately chartered expedition yacht, discovering Antarctica's prolific wildlife at close range.
  • Spend 10 days sailing, hiking, kayaking and camping via our special permit from the National Science Foundation—more than any other Antarctica Peninsula cruise.
  • Motor-sail one way to or from Antarctica and fly the other, offering a combination of high adventure, enhanced comfort and maximum time with wildlife.
Ushuaia: Alto Andino Hotel
Cruising: Cabin onboard S/V Australis
Punta Arenas: La Yegua Loca
  • Group Size Limit: 7 Travelers.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from start and end points of the trip, early arrival airport transfer (if you are arriving early and staying at a different hotel in either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas), late departure airport transfer, alcoholic beverages (other than those described above), passport fees, Argentina Reciprocity Fee, some gratuities, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, Internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, required medical evacuation insurance and optional travel insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Extreme Adventure. This is a true expeditionary polar sailing trip in an exceptionally remote and rugged area far from medical facilities. In Antarctica, we follow an itinerary based on safety, and since our activities are often unique and infrequently performed, they are exploratory in nature, requiring a commitment to group unity and a willingness to embrace the unexpected and overcome any challenges we might face. Guests must be prepared for typical activities that take place in such a polar setting, enduring unpredictable and changing weather conditions, cold temperatures, and traveling in close quarters aboard a sailboat. All participants must be in good health and fully mobile with substantial physical stamina to participate in this adventure. At minimum, all guests must be able to walk unassisted at least two miles over a trailless landscape that can be rocky, snowy, muddy and steep in places. Note that in order to board our charter plane in King George Island, guests are required to walk one mile over an unpaved, rocky road that can be quite muddy at times (luggage will be transported in a separate vehicle). All guests must also be able to get into and out of Zodiacs (rigid rubber boats). When we explore ashore, Zodiac landings can be unstable and either wet (requiring you to walk a short distance in shallow water) or dry (disembarking directly onto land) and can include walking over rocks or large boulders that can be very slippery. You will find that physical strength and stamina will enhance your ability to undertake the activities included, as well as assisting with crewing the boat (optional) and paddling a kayak, should you wish to do so. Accommodations on board the S/V Australis are tight but comfortable, with one toilet and shower room shared by all guests. Shipboard reality necessitates that guests be in close quarters with their fellow travelers for long periods with little to no personal space or time alone. Thus, a flexible and tolerant attitude toward other participants is paramount to your enjoyment of this adventure. It is important to note that sailing conditions in the Drake Passage can be extremely rough, and should we encounter such conditions, guests may be asked to stay in their berths for lengthy periods of time to ensure their safety (with bathroom breaks only). Expedition members should be prepared for high seas, and to take necessary precautions for seasickness. While exploring from the boat, daily activities may include walks, kayaking and Zodiac excursions of varying duration. We expect to operate in generally calm waters, but conditions can change quickly, and we may be exposed in open Zodiac boats to cold, rainy, snowy or windy weather, with rough seas. Travelers who are susceptible to motion sickness or who have back problems or other health issues that could be exacerbated by such conditions should take this into consideration. 
  • Since the areas we travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for our guests' safety. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat, we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We will add the cost of a medical evacuation policy to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, contact number and your individual policy number.
  • Please arrive in either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas by 5 pm on Day 1 in order to participate in our group welcome dinner beginning at 7 pm (Punta Arenas) or 8 pm (Ushuaia). You are free to depart either Punta Arenas or Ushuaia at any time on the final day of the trip. 
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.