Our journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. We meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for our scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute journey we are met on arrival and transferred to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal Britain. Our visit will give perspective on the history of British settlement of the islands, plus the 1982 Anglo-Argentine War in which Argentinean forces invaded but were subsequently defeated and expelled by the British.
Photographic opportunities of the island include brightly coloured corrugated iron roofs and painted decorative woodwork which are characteristic of older houses in the Falklands. The cottages can be seen on Pioneer Row and Drury Street. Probably the most photographed buildings in Stanley are the Christchurch Cathedral and the Government House. Christ Church Cathedral is the most southerly Anglican cathedral in the world. It has a tower with a ring of five bells and stained glass windows from the 19th and 20th century. Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Whalebone Arch, constructed from the jawbones of two blue whales in 1933 to commemorate a century of continuous British administration in the Islands. The Government house is the private residence of the Governor of the Falkland Islands and also the offices of the Foreign and Commonwealth representatives and the South Georgia Government. Set in beautiful flower gardens, it has been extended at various points in time so presents a mixture of both styles and materials
There are ship remains in Stanley and around the island, and these wrecks can be photographed.
Rounding Cape Horn, and indeed some parts of the Falklands coastline, in times past was a dangerous business and many ships arrived in Stanley looking for repairs. High costs usually prevented the work being carried out and wrecks were utilized for storage purposes.
Birds common at Stanley include the endemic Falkland Steamer Duck, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Black-throated Finch and Black-chinned Siskin. Time will be available to explore the museums, shipwrecks, historical trails and shops of Stanley, or to enjoy more nature oriented excursions into the surrounding countryside before ship embarkation.
After settling in to our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail, dinner and cast off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Overnight we have navigated down the eastern coast of the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, we first note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage. We launch the zodiacs and go ashore to view the incredible diversity of wildlife found at this location. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper, as well as southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. King cormorants and striated caracaras are just some of the bird species we expect to see.
Weather permitting, we may have time to visit neighbouring Bleaker Island – another settlement on the exposed south-eastern coast of the Falklands – equally rich in wildlife.
Now we sail southeast bound for the island of South Georgia. These days at sea are never dull! Much of our time is spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals as well as seabirds. Our friendly on board experts continue to fill minds with heroic stories of some of the earliest daredevils to explore Antarctica. We will also learn about Polar conservation – a theme particularly close to the hearts of our One Ocean Expeditions’ guides and crew.
The anticipation grows particularly as we cross the Antarctic Convergence and notice a dramatic drop in temperature. For the seabird enthusiast, these are some of the most exciting waters in the world. As we cruise from the Falklands to South Georgia, we cross the Antarctic Convergence where the warmer, saltier water of the north meets the colder and less-salty Antarctic water. This is a very rich feeding ground for seabirds and marine mammals, attracting large numbers of animals from distant breeding islands and waters. Though the Convergence attracts birds from both north and south, we will notice a shift of species and relative numbers between the waters on either side of the Convergence. Albatrosses and petrels will predominate here. In addition to the species already noted, we are likely to see Royal Albatross (usually both the Northern and Southern species are observed), Light-mantled Albatross, Southern Fulmar, Soft-plumaged, White-headed and Blue Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm Petrel, and Common Diving Petrel. We will also look for rarer prizes such as Kerguelen and Great-winged Petrel, and albatrosses from the other side of the Sub Antarctic.
Majestic snow-covered mountains greet us on the island of South Georgia – the most rugged island in this region. We will cruise the protected waters of the eastern coast looking for suitable landing spots the highlight of these excursions is the mind-boggling abundance of king penguin adults and young that live in these locations by the hundreds of thousands, covering every inch of the shore.
South Georgia has often been called the ‘Serengeti of the Southern Ocean’ – and as we approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop, you will begin to see why. Launching the Zodiacs we begin our exploration of the island, in the vicinity of Elsehul Bay. Large numbers of fur seals and the much larger elephant seal will line the dark sand beaches. Weather and time permitting, we will explore Salisbury Plain where beyond the black sand beach lies one of the world’s largest colonies of King Penguin. Walking here is a truly incredible experience! Living in the tussock grass, king penguins and their chicks may number up to 100,000 birds in some locations. The island is also home to large numbers of nesting albatross as they fill the skies above, coming and going from the nest.
A highlight is a visit to Grytviken – the largest of the whaling stations, situated at the head of Cumberland Bay. It is here we visit the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton. For many, being in the presence of the great explorer will be a highlight of the trip. An excellent museum at Grytviken, maintained by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the restored church built by the original Norwegian whalers
(Please bear in mind, however, that throughout Antarctica and the Sub Antarctic, landings are subject to the weather being safe; alternatives are usually available when winds and surf are unfavourable at the planned site.)
Our final day on spectacular South Georgia features some of the most dazzling scenery yet, especially around the southeast tip of the island, while the stunning Drygalski Fjord is framed by sharp, non-glaciated mountain peaks.
As we cruise southwest, crossing the Scotia Sea, sailing ever closer to Antarctica, towards the Orkney Islands, we cross increasingly polar waters. More temperate species disappear while the true Antarctic species become more prominent. Our informative on-ship lectures will continue to provide breaks from the hours of watching seabirds, whales, dolphins, and icebergs. The ship will, once again, be followed by a multitude of seabirds.
Weather and ice will dictate our crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica, leading us perhaps to the South Orkney Islands or Elephant Island. As with all of our itinerary planning, our Expedition Leader and Captain will make a decision based on the conditions at the time. The South Orkney Islands represent the peaks of a submarine mountain range called the Scotia Arc, connecting South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands. Often shrouded in fog and surrounded by ice much of the year, a chance to visit these islands doesn’t come often. As we edge ever closer to the frozen continent, large icebergs announce our arrival in Antarctic waters. If the weather is clear, we will hope to see the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon and if conditions allow, we will attempt a landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland, we find the South Shetland Island chain. Dazzling wildlife sightings await us on our excursions to some of these islands, including King George, Half Moon, Barrientos or Livingston. Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguin thrive here, along with several species of seal. We also stand a chance of seeing the gentle Humpback Whale as it dines on the abundant krill off King George Island.
Weather permitting, we will then visit the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. With rugged scenery, great sites of geologic interest and an overwhelming display of whaling and scientific exploration history, Deception Island is a perfect museum of natural and exploration history. For those wanting to stretch their legs, a spectacular hike to the crater rim offers a challenge!
On the final approach to the Antarctic Peninsula, crossing just outside the icebound Weddell Sea, we should be encountering the more awe-inspiring tabular icebergs, large fragments of the vast Weddell Ice Shelf, and the ice shelves along the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Further shipboard lectures prepare us all, though these will be suspended while cruising Antarctica itself due to the many thrilling sights that await us around the clock! This includes numerous species of pinnipeds (Weddell, Crabeater, Leopard, Southern Elephant, and Antarctic Fur Seals) and cetaceans (e.g. Antarctic Minke and Humpback Whale and Orca), along with further possibilities for the beautiful Snow Petrel and, hopefully, Antarctic Petrel.
On our way west and south we will pass the Orne Islands with large colonies of Chinstrap Penguin and a beautiful view across the Gerlache Strait to Cuverville Island, a small precipitous island nestled between the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula. Cuverville Island is home to the region’s largest
Gentoo Penguin colony and most of the region’s breeding bird species. Such Penguin colonies and their inevitable attendants are frequent highlights.
Finally, after so much anticipation, we will arrive at the Antarctic mainland in either Paradise Harbour or Hope Bay. The scenery here, from the colossal icebergs to the seemingly endless Antarctic ice sheet, is truly breathtaking; while the bay is also an excellent site for Orcas. Weather permitting, we hope to undertake a shore excursion and set foot on the White Continent itself!
As we cruise north through the famous Drake Passage between Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego with another crossing of the Antarctic Convergence, we will again have many opportunities to enjoy and study the region’s many seabirds and cetaceans. While encountering the pelagic seabirds of the Subantarctic Southern Ocean, especially the now-familiar albatrosses and petrels, we will examine each bird in search of rarer species; perhaps a Westland Petrel, a Southern Royal Albatross, or one of the Shy Albatross complexes. Lectures continue to provide entertaining diversions and educational information and upon approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
Today we cruise into the Beagle Channel and land at Ushuaia in the early morning. This provides another chance to see any sea and land birds of Tierra del Fuego, before bidding farewell to the fellow travellers with whom we have shared this remarkable voyage of a lifetime.
Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
Although Dale grew up in suburban London, which certainly isn’t replete with wild animals, his addiction to wildlife films instilled a deep love for animals and the outdoors, and he has subsequently left London and spent the last 20 years travelling the globe working with, and photographing its wildlife.
During this time, he has produced more than 400 nature, travel and photography oriented magazine articles and has worked on numerous wildlife documentaries including for the BBC. His photographs have appeared on high profile front covers and he has won several awards with global publishing companies.
Aside from having guided widely in Africa, his extensive experience in tropics, whether it be the steamy jungles of south-east Asia or South America, or the endemic rich island of Madagascar, make him the natural choice for ORYX’s Brazil, Borneo and Madagascar tours. His sense of humour and relaxed demeanour ensure that he is a hit with all the people he guides, both young and old!
“This was my second big expedition with ORYX. As I write this I am reminded of the full title of this young and dynamic company: ORYX Worldwide Photographic Expeditions.
The Antarctic is certainly at the end of our wide world and no doubt on many bucket lists.If you have thought of wanting to go to the Great White continent then plan and book now. If you are a photographer then do it with ORYX.
We travelled in a group of nine with Marius Coetzee, founder of ORYX and expedition leader from 28 December 2013 until 15 January 2014. We were aboard the sturdy purpose-built Russian ice-capable research vessel, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov with a total of 90 passengers. The expedition was managed and run by super staff from One Ocean Expeditions based in Canada. They were professional in every regard, from on ship duties to Zodiac outings and landings, and there was a great emphasis on education with numerous interesting and informative lectures, including from their resident photographers Ira Meyer and Tony Beck.
Even with an expedition crew that has two professional photographic guides you need to have someone like Marius Coetzee to really help you get the shots you want.
Marius has an easy way of discussing the days planned activities and sharing gems about the shots to get. His advice on equipment is first rate and in the field he will seek out the best vantage points and preferentially let his clients shoot. Even with more creative photographers he continuously looks for compositions and movement and shares his ideas freely. This is a rare capability in a first class photographic guide.
ORYX has an extensive network of ground contacts, and landings and transfers are facilitated professionally at ports and airports with no stress for the traveller. As an aside, Marius and I went up to Iguaçu Falls with a private guide, Miguel, and all of ORYX’s abilities including their choice of venue, accommodation and guide scored top marks.
Booking and communication details and other requirements are effortless with Kirsty at the home office.
Get out there and live your life: go on an expedition with ORYX Worldwide Photographic Expeditions.”
“Thanks Marius for a great trip! We had a wonderful time and you managed it all fabulously: Asanti Sana! Your tips and suggestions to make the photography more interesting were enlightening. Even the other passengers were impressed.”Antarctica
“I’ve been back two weeks now, following a trip of a lifetime to Antarctica with ORYX Photography Tours. It was a phenomenal adventure and exceeded all expectations. Marius is a pleasure to travel with; he has a great sense of humor and is very attentive to all.
I was the least experienced photographer in our small group, but was given all the help and guidance I needed not just from Marius but from all in our group. Marius is very good at reading people and understanding what they will like and when they need help, he ensures that his clients get the shots they want and always puts them first.
I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who wants an epic adventure and go with ORYX as you won’t regret it! Wish I was still there, but alas not, so instead I’m in the process of booking my next trip with ORYX and Marius for later in 2014!”
I arrived home safely at midnight on the 16th and was so busy at work that I’m just finding the time now to write to you. I only have positive things to say about the trip, Antarctica was a fantastic experience, Dale was perfect (as always) and the rest of group very easy to get along with.
It’s late in Geneva and I’ll be brief: there is no doubt that I will join another ORYX expedition, I don’t know when, but soon I hope (and with Dale again for sure).
Enjoy your weekend.
I recently got back from Antarctica and it was absolutely spectacular. Out of about 10 photographer-guides I’ve traveled with in the past, Dale is the best overall. He’s a wonderful teacher, has almost no ego, and is always concerned about his clients getting great shots. I never fail to be impressed by his talent in photographing animals and landscapes, his technical ability, attention to detail, and aesthetic sensibility. He’s highly attuned to the animals and their behavior, which is one reason why his photos are so successful. My photos are much better when I travel with him.
I loved the Akademik Ioffe ship and staff. The mostly Canadian staff and Russian crew were excellent and exceeded expectations in professionalism and competence. The food was very good, with many courses and options, and different every single day. The cabins were comfortable with stunning antarctic views. The staff planned activities all day long to fill up the downtime days so we were constantly entertained and the 3 weeks flew by. There were other options for Antarctica, but I’m so glad I chose this one and it’s a memory of a lifetime!Antarctica
Thank you and the ORYX team so much for your email welcoming us home!
In every respect, we truly did have a wonderful time in Antarctica. I do not know where to start… comprehensive and regular communication from the time of our initial enquiry, the friendly tone of all your emails, your promptness in responding to our enquiries, your care and concern.
The One Ocean experience on Akademik Ioffe: this was our first cruise and it exceeded all expectations. The professionalism and friendliness of all staff, service, amenities, activities, conservation principles, amazing variety and healthy choices at every meal, a surprise birthday cake from Bob for me on 5 January (every birthday was celebrated with a personalised cake with a candle! – so thoughtful), fellow passengers from all ages and stages!
Graham learnt so much from Dale, not only about his camera, but also about new and varied angles for photographing wildlife! This was also our first photographic tour and we look forward to many more. Graham’s passion for birdwatching and photography was more than fulfilled– he has so many amazing shots and our bird count tally was increased by 50 new species!
It is difficult to relate to others what you experience in Antarctica – the stillness, purity, abundance of wildlife, pristineness, the ocean in every shade of blue, the privilege of being there…
I will recommend our overall experience with you all in a heartbeat!
Thank you again for helping us to achieve this bucket list item in such a memorable way.
Kind regards and take careAntarctica & South Georgia
“Many thanks for the warm welcome back, all your organisation went off seamlessly. We had an amazing experience and after South Georgia and the Peninsular, our souls were enriched and hard drives full of amazing photos. The rest of the trip was also amazing, with a lot of great memories.We are eventually getting over the jet lag and would really like to thank you and your team for all the hard work that you put into making this once in a lifetime expedition such a success.”