South Georgia in Depth + Falklands
South Georgia in Depth + Falklands 15 days aboard Akademik Sergey Vavilov
In depth, pre or post-expedition tours of the Falkland Islands can be added to this itinerary. Please ask for details. South Georgia has rightly been called ‘the most staggering wildlife show on earth’. After our in depth exploration, we are certain you will agree. This particular departure is timed to coincide with the arrival of spring as South Georgia emerges from the long and frigid winter. It is an exceptional time to visit. Late October marks the beginning of the wildlife migration and commencement of the breeding cycle for many species, especially elephant seals and penguins.
- South Georgia in depth
- Spectacular scenery
- Amazing marine wildlife
- Myriad birdlife
- Flights from and to Punta Arenas
- Full board accommodation on board ship
- Loan of waterproof boots
- All zodiac excursions and landings
- Programme of expert lectures
ITINERARY14 Nights 15 Days
- Day 1 | Punta Arenas, Chile to Port Stanley
- Days 2 - 3 | At sea
- Days 4 - 5 | King Haakon Bay and the Northwest Coast, South Georgia
- Days 6-7 | Fortuna Bay, Stromness, Grytviken and central North Coast
- Days 8-9 | St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour and Eastern Coast
- Day 10 | Godthul and Prion Island
- Days 11-13 | Return to Falklands
- Days 14-15 | Sea Lion Island and Port Stanley
Punta Arenas, Chile to Port Stanley
Our journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. We meet at a central location and transfer to the airport for our scheduled service to Stanley in the Falkland Islands, where we are met and transferred to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is charming with brightly coloured houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980’s, is a sobering reminder of recent history. There is time to explore the town, before we make our way to the ship for embarkation. We depart in the evening.
Please note: it is possible to arrive in the Falklands early to spend time experiencing the superb wildlife and/or battlefield sites. Please ask for details.
We chart a southeasterly course bound for South Georgia. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its biodiversity and showcases an abundance of astonishing wildlife. We will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross, giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill and our photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit in the coming days. History is a key theme of this voyage and the epic story of Shackleton is central to our journey.
King Haakon Bay and the Northwest Coast, South Georgia
These next days will be unlike anything you have ever imagined. Majestic snow-covered mountains greet us on arrival in South Georgia. We begin our exploration on the southern coastline. We hope to navigate the ship into the very historic location of King Haakon Bay. It was here that Shackleton and his men made landfall in their small lifeboat – the James Caird, after completing the perilous ocean crossing from Elephant Island, 100 years ago. From here, they set off to cross the mountainous spine of South Georgia – a feat never before attempted. This is a very dramatic place, visited by just a handful of ships each season. From here, we make our way around to the protected waters of the north-eastern coast. We can now indulge in an in-depth exploration, navigating the ships into the bays and harbours the entire length of the island. Elsehul Bay is a posible place for kayaking.
One of the most anticipated sites in South Georgia is Salisbury Plain. The black sand beaches and tussock covered dunes are home staggering abundance of king penguin adults and their young. The rookery is believed to have a population of up to 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins. This is just one of several such king penguin rookeries on South Georgia. At the height of breeding season the rookeries are believed to have more wildlife per square foot than any other place on the planet. You have to experience it to believe it. The majestic ‘Kings’ are not the only wildlife on display. Fur seals can be seen poking their heads above the water; the elephant seals will enjoy lazing about the beach, while the skuas and giant petrels fill the skies above. Meanwhile, the albatross - our constant companion on this journey - is never far away.
Fortuna Bay, Stromness, Grytviken and central North Coast
Our adventure takes us next to Fortuna Bay, a majestic three-mile long and one-mile wide fjord. It was named after the ship Fortuna, one of the original vessels of the Norwegian–Argentine whaling expedition which established the first permanent whaling station at Grytviken, further down the coast. In Fortuna Bay we can expect to see king penguins and elephant seals and may spot light-mantled sooty albatross, which are known to nest in the area. They are spectacular birds with magnificent plumage. History comes into sharp focus as we continue west to Stromness and Grytviken. From 1912 until the 1930’s, Stromness (and nearby Leith and Husvik), operated as whaling stations and the rusted and ghostly remnants of these old stations seem out of place in such a pristine environment.
This area is key to the Shackleton story and it was here, in 1916, that Shackleton and his companions, Worsley and Crean arrived after their epic crossing from King Haakon Bay on the south coast. This is after having completed their 800- mile journey by small boat from Elephant Island. If the weather co-operates, we hope to be able to hike the last few miles across the saddle separating Fortuna Bay from neighbouring Stromness, in the footsteps of Shackleton and his men. As we journey further to the southeast we enter the broad expanse of Cumberland Bay. At the head of the bay lies Grytviken – the largest of the old whaling stations on South Georgia. A highlight of our landing here is a visit to the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his loyal right hand man, Frank Wild. Frank Wild’s lifelong wish was to be buried beside Shackleton. However his wish never materialised due to the outbreak of WWII, a week after Wild’s passing in South Africa. Our voyage falls just five years after the transport of Wild’s ashes to South Georgia aboard our ship, and some 96 years after his last voyage with Shackleton in 1921.
St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour and Eastern Coast
Our next days will take us to St Andrew’s Bay and Gold Harbour - places that are teeming with wildlife including fur seals, elephant seals and massive colonies of the colourful king penguins. As with all of our landings we will exercise every opportunity possible to explore on foot, as much or as little as you like. Gold Harbour is so called because the sun's rays make the cliffs yellow with their light in the morning and evening. It’s an exhilarating location. Drygalski Fjord at the far eastern extremity of the island has been called one of the most spectacular sites in South Georgia and we think you will agree. If it is calm enough you can hear the glacier calving large chunks of ice, reminders of what early sealers, whalers and vessels needed to pay close attention to.
Godthul and Prion Island
As we continue our journey along the northern coastline we visit several beautiful locations including the old whaling depot of Godthul. Prion Island, in the Bay of Isles. Prion island has been designated as a ‘Specially Protected Area’ by the South Georgia Government, due to the breeding wandering albatross colonies at this location. Boasting the largest wingspan of any living bird, typically ranging from 8-11ft, they spend most of their life in flight, landing only to breed and feed. Distances travelled each year are hard to measure, but one bird was recorded travelling 6000 km in just twelve days. It is rare to experience them up close and personal and on land. We are exceptionally lucky to be able to attempt a landing here. The site is closed to visiting ships between November and mid January, due to the massive concentration of fur seals on the beaches.
Return to Falklands
Our final days are spent catching up on journal entries, or perhaps downloading and reviewing photos in the multi-media room with our photography expert. A particular highlight of our return journey will be frequent sightings of the majestic albatross, petrels and other seabirds as they soar above the ship on the winds of the Southern Ocean.
Sea Lion Island and Port Stanley
In the morning, we land at Sea lion Island, a haven for all sorts of wildlife, including ground nesting birds, striated caracaras, giant petrels and king shags as well as three species of penguin. On and around the beaches are elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins and orca. Later we head towards Port Stanley to arrive on the morning of day 15.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for return flight to Punta Arenas. Note: there is an option to spend more time in the Falklands - please ask for details.
What Our Customers
Superlatives abound – a truly amazing experience...awesome. Thanks to all for making it such a memorable experience.
We had the time of our lives on board ship...if anybody wants to go to Antarctica, we will certainly advise to go with you.
Huge congratulations to you and all the team for the perfect organisation throughout the trip. From the early planning to the last transfer, everything went without a hitch.
Now that I am back from my odyssey voyage, I thought I would let you know that after all that planning it really did exceed my expectations – we managed landings everywhere even on Tristan da Cuhna and had great bird sightings. The guides all knew what they were talking about too and made sure I got some great photos – still sorting them all out! Thanks for everything and see you at Birdfair!
I came to Wildfoot because a friend had booked with you when you were Antarctica Bound and they were right. Everything went perfectly, even when our flight was cancelled, you made sure we still made it to the ship with time to spare. L’Austral is a beautiful ship with first class service and food and the guides looked after us well. Very happy to recommend Wildfoot and L’Austral...
The adventure really was a 'trip of a lifetime' and we are so glad we tagged an extra day in Buenos Aires at either end and that we went Premium Economy, it made all the difference. The ship Sea Explorer was exactly as Simon had described and was very comfortable. South Georgia was the highlight but we were surprised how much wildlife there was to see on the Falklands and we might well book one of your nature trips to the Falklands in the future.
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