All aboard for the voyage of a lifetime.
We sail from Puerto Madryn on the coast of Patagonia to the Falkland Islands for an unsurpassable wilderness and wildlife experience. The Falklands are home to the endemic Falkland Steamer Duck and Cobb’s Wren, plus restricted range specialities like Blackish Cinclodes and Striated Caracara, the world’s largest colony of Black-browed Albatross and five breeding species of Penguins; Magellanic, Macaroni, Rockhopper, Gentoo and the mighty King, totalling around one million birds! As well as all these birds, literally within touching distance, we can also see a variety of whales and dolphins, plus South American Fur Seals, Southern Sea Lions and impressive Southern Elephant Seals, the world’s largest seal, with staggeringly colossal 16.5 foot long bulls weighing up to 8,800 pounds! Imagine getting close to all of this and more.
On this voyage of discovery, we sail aboard the m/v Ortelius, built in 1989 as a special purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science, and recently refurbished by Oceanwide Expeditions with en-suite cabins. The ship has large open deck viewing areas, two dining rooms, serving excellent cuisine prepared by international chefs, plus a lecture room which doubles as a bar, with large windows for a panoramic view of the changing scenery. With an ice-strengthened hull, a diesel-electric propulsion system to reduce engine noise and vibration, and a highly experienced and professional twenty strong nautical crew, plus nineteen hotel staff, seven expedition staff and one doctor, this is the ideal vessel for a South Atlantic voyage. You could be one of no more than 116 privileged explorers, able to enjoy this extraordinary cruise, with landings by sturdy Zodiacs, to some fabulous and remote areas, which would otherwise be totally inaccessible.
This voyage operated by Oceanwide Expeditions, the world’s leading polar expedition operator, is the sequel to fantastic Polar Bear Quests to Svalbard in 2007, 2016 and 2018, and a wonderful cruise to Antarctica in 2009. Given these unforgettable experiences, I cannot emphasise enough just how good these trips are, thanks to the professionalism of Oceanwide Expeditions.
Day 1 We depart Heathrow in the evening, on an overnight flight to Buenos Aires, with British Airways (to be confirmed). Dinner and overnight in flight.
Day 2 We arrive this morning in Buenos Aires, where we will be met by a local driver and transferred to our hotel in the city. Once settled in, there will be an optional outing with a packed lunch to the nearby Costanera Sur reserve, which is jam-packed with waterbirds including Pied-billed, White-tufted and Great Grebes, Striated and Cocoi Herons, Coscoroba and Black-necked Swans, Silver and Speckled Teal, Lake Duck, Rosy-billed Pochard, White-faced Whistling-duck, Snail Kite, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Red-gartered and Red-fronted Coots, Plumbeous Rail, South American Stilt, Southern Lapwing and the strange Limpkin. We should also see Rufous Hornero, Argentina’s National bird, as well as Chimango and Southern Caracaras, Eared Dove, Picazuro Pigeon, Black-hooded and Monk Parakeets, Guira Cuckoo, Shiny, Bay-winged and Screaming Cowbirds, Great Kiskadee, White-rumped and Blue-and-white Swallows, Grey-breasted and Brown-chested Martins, Red-crested Cardinal, Spectacled Tyrant, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow and many more besides! Alternatively you may prefer to go sightseeing in Buenos Aires. Dinner (not included in the tour price) and overnight in Buenos Aires.
Day 3 We have an early morning domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Trelew, with time for sightseeing in this ‘Welsh town’, before transferring by road to Puerto Madryn, in time to board the cruise this afternoon. As we sail out of Puerto Madryn we may well see Southern Right Whales in Golfo Nuevo. Dinner and overnight on board.
Days 4 & 5 Sailing south into the south Atlantic, the vessel will be shadowed by an interesting variety of Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and Diving Petrels. Dinners and overnights on board.
Days 6 to 11 Our first sight of land will be the offshore island of Steeple Jason, the wild and remote home of the world’s largest colony of Black-browed Albatrosses, a staggering sight with over 110000 nesting birds! From here we circumnavigate the entire archipelago in a clockwise direction, calling, weather permitting, at all the high spots along the way; Carcass Island is home to abundant birdlife including Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins, Cobb’s and Sedge Wrens and a variety of waders such as Blackish and Magellanic Oystercatchers, Surfbird, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers.
Saunders Island has another large colony of Black-browed Albatrosses as well as King Cormorants and King and Rockhopper Penguins, while nearby West Point Island is also choc-a-bloc with Black-browed Albatrosses and Rockhoppers. Volunteer Point has a long white sandy beach with a large rookery of King Penguins. From here we dock at Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, where we can experience the local scene, which is an unusual blend of Victorian English charm in a South American setting.
We can also check out the local birdlife such as Southern Crested Caracara, Rock Cormorant, Brown-hooded, Kelp and Dolphin Gulls, White-crested Elaenia, Austral Thrush, Black-throated Finch, Black-chinned Siskin and the endemic Falkland Steamer Duck. Sandy Bay offers excellent birding with possibilities like Upland Goose, Magellanic Snipe, Long-tailed Meadowlark and Dark-faced Ground-tyrant, as well as an easy walk to see King Cormorants alongside Gentoo, Magellanic and Rockhopper Penguins. Sea Lion Island is home to Southern Sea Lions as well as the archipelago’s largest breeding colony of Southern Elephant Seals, numbering around 2000 individuals, which is an awesome spectacle.
We may also see exciting birds like Ruddy-headed and Kelp Geese and Two-banded Plover amongst others. Landing at New Island North Nature Reserve in the far west of the archipelago is by permit only, and if granted, we can say hello to the South American Fur Seals and farewell to the by now familiar Black-browed Albatrosses, before setting sail for the South American mainland. Dinners and overnights on board.
Day 12 Sailing southwest towards the mainland we shall again be shadowed by an exciting variety of seabirds. Dinner and overnight on board.
Day 13 Our voyage ends this morning in Ushuaia at ‘the end of the world’ in Tierra del Fuego, where the rugged pinnacles of the Andes plunge into the beautiful Beagle Channel. Once ashore, you will be transferred to the airport to check in for an afternoon flight to Buenos Aires, where you will be met and transferred to a hotel in the city. Dinner (not included in the tour price) and overnight in Buenos Aires.
Day 14 After a leisurely morning, you will be transferred to the airport for a midday flight back to Heathrow. Dinner and overnight in flight.
Day 15 You arrive in Heathrow around midday (Flight schedule to be confirmed).
Cost reduced from £6845 to £4785 Compared to similar trips available through other companies this represents very good value for money.
Please note that there is an optional extension in Tierra del Fuego at the end of the cruise (details below).
What the price includes:
Return overnight flights from London to Buenos Aires, domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Trelew and from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, all transfers in Argentina, two nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation in a hotel in Buenos Aires, nine night full board cruise to The Falklands in a twin porthole cabin with private facilities, the services of your guides during the cruise and wildlife checklist.
The overnight flights into and out of Buenos Aires take about 15 hours, the flight to Trelew takes 2 hours, and the flight from Ushuaia takes 3 hours and 20 minutes.
A visa is not required for British citizens to visit Argentina.
In the Falklands in November, temperatures range from 3 – 11°C, with an average of 7°C. Wind and rain are likely, with a monthly average of 1.6 inches in November, which is less than we get in the UK in this month.
The published cruise itinerary is provisional and may vary at the discretion of the Captain or Expedition Leader, according to the weather and local circumstances, or to take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife. Landings from the sturdy Zodiacs are supervised by highly skilled Oceanwide Expeditions crews and are not difficult. Although there will be up to 116 passengers on board the cruise ship, our group will be a small contingent. As spaces are limited and highly sought after, I recommend booking as early as possible in order to secure your place. If you are making a single booking and wish to share, please let me know as soon as possible and I will contact you as soon as I have someone willing to share.
Passengers range in age from 30 to 90, with the majority being 45 to 65, and the cruise is not very physically demanding. The ship has an infirmary and a doctor for dealing with minor illnesses, but you will be travelling in a remote area without access to sophisticated medical facilities, and so it is essential to have travel insurance to cover your evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Discover Tierra del Fuego (Optional extension) 7th to 12th November 2018
Tierra del Fuego is at ‘the end of the world’, where the rugged pinnacles of the lofty Andes plunge into the beautiful Beagle Channel. Starting from Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, at 55 degrees south, we have three days to explore this dramatically scenic region in search of the local birdlife, which includes exciting species like the mighty Magellanic Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in the Americas, and the majestic Andean Condor, plus several regionally endemic species like Ashy-headed Goose, Flightless Steamer-duck, White-throated Caracara, Austral Parakeet, Magellanic Tapaculo, the aptly named Fire-eyed Diucon and the highly sought endemic Magellanic Plover. No wonder Tierra del Fuego is ranked number 32 in the world’s top 100 birding sites. We shall be accompanied by a guide from BirdsChile, an award winning tour company which has been leading birding tours in Chile and Argentina since 2009, and so this will be the perfect end to a wonderful Falkland Island cruise.
Day 1 At the end of the cruise we disembark in Ushuaia, meet our local guide and spend the afternoon near the Chilean border amid the spectacular scenery of Tierra del Fuego National Park on the lookout for birds like Ashy-headed Goose, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Southern Caracara, Austral Parakeet, Magellanic Woodpecker, Green-backed Firecrown, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Fire-eyed Diucon, Austral Thrush, Black-chinned Siskin and Patagonian Sierra-Finch. Dinner and overnight in Ushuaia.
Day 2 We head north towards Rio Grande to explore the steppes and wetlands in search of birds like Black-necked Swan, Flying Steamer-duck, Great Grebe, Variable Hawk, Least Seedsnipe, Black-faced Ibis and the delightful little Austral Negrito among others. Dinner and overnight near Rio Grande.
Day 3 We have a full day for further exploration of the area on the lookout for birds such as Chilean Flamingo, Fuegian Snipe, Hudsonian Godwit, Cinnamon-bellied and Dark-faced Ground-tyrants, Austral Canastero, White-bridled Finch, and of course, Magellanic Plover. Dinner and overnight near Rio Grande.
Day 4 We transfer to Rio Grande airport for a domestic flight back to Buenos Aires, where we will be met and transferred to a hotel in the city. Dinner (not included in the tour price) and overnight in Buenos Aires.
Day 5 After a leisurely morning, we will be transferred to the airport for a midday flight back to Heathrow. Dinner and overnight in flight.
Day 6 We arrive in Heathrow around midday (flight schedule to be confirmed).
Cost £1475 This is only available as an extension to the Falkland Island cruise.
What the price includes:
Return overnight flights from London to Buenos Aires, domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Trelew and from Rio Grande to Buenos Aires, all transfers in Argentina, three nights’ full board accommodation, two nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation in a hotel in Buenos Aires, bird checklist and the services of your guides.
Single supplement: £175