Antarctica is surely the ultimate destination! The scenic settings are as magnificent as any on earth, and the scale of nearly everything is grand, to say the least. Complementing these astounding vistas are vast colonies of majestic penguins, brash skuas, giant albatrosses, weird sheathbills, somnolent seals and feeding whales that all add life to the region’s stark and amazing beauty.
Our voyage traverses some of the most productive regions of the Southern Ocean; notably the Falkland and South Georgia Islands, both of which are renowned as among the richest of all Subantarctic islands. South Georgia’s rugged beauty is worthy of Antarctica itself, while the Falkland Islands are better known as the battlegrounds for the 1982 Anglo-Argentine War. Several days are spent at sea, cruising from one island group to the next until we find ourselves on the Great White Continent itself. These crossings provide thrilling pelagic birding, with huge numbers of albatrosses, petrels, prions, skuas and other seabirds making a daily appearance. Cetaceans are also regular, ranging from the largest whales to the striking Hourglass and Commerson’s Dolphins.
This journey to Antarctica is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and cannot come more highly recommended!
Our Antarctica photography tour commences in the southern Chilean port city of Punta Arenas. We gather at a central meeting point and transfer to the wharf where we embark our expedition ship. After settling in to our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet the expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air and we enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner. We chart a course through the Straits of Magellan and are on our way, bound for Antarctica – and what promises to be an incredible adventure.
The Drake Passage is rich in bio-diversity and showcases a great abundance of wildlife. We will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as make our way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and our photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s Captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of our modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day during our Antarctica safari, our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history of the locations we hope to visit in the coming days. As we approach the coastline of Antarctica, we encounter more icebergs and anticipate our first whale sightings.
Around 60 miles off the coast of the Antarctic mainland, we find the South Shetland Island chain. Dazzling wildlife sightings await us on our Antarctica photography tour 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, our Antarctica safari will take us past 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!
Our next objective on our Antartica photography tour is to enter the icy Weddell Sea, through the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. At first, we are awe-struck by the sheer size of the tabular icebergs in this area and their presence always makes for exciting navigation on the ship. This region is also home to some of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries found in Antarctica. After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetlands and Antarctic Sound, we head for Elephant Island – a location forever connected tothe story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats more than a century ago – pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are often notoriously tricky due to strong winds and pounding surf on the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
As we depart Elephant Island we cannot help but ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his four companions – as they attempted the near impossible – navigating 800 nautical miles in a 30 foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. We make a much easier time of the crossing in our modern expedition ship. Onboard experts keep us busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussions throughout the day. The great pelagic seabirds are sure to keep us company – and we anticipate excellent sightings of albatross and giant petrels soaring on the winds of the South Atlantic Ocean. Anticipation builds as the mountainous peaks appear on the horizon, marking our arrival at South Georgia.
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 on our Antarctica photography tour 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.
By now we are in sensory overload, our cameras full of images and our Antarctica photography tour towards the Falkland Islands commences. The spectacular seabirds, including several albatross and petrel species, are our constant companions soaring above the ship. The onboard educational program continues, and our experts recap our remarkable journey to date. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images at the multimedia station and catch some rest after a busy two weeks of activity.
We wake to the sight of landfall in 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. As we cruise along the coast of the Falklands, bound for Stanley, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain.
This morning we pass through ‘the Narrows’ and into the port of Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. We say goodbye to our crew and after some free time to explore the town, make our way to the airport for our special charter flight to Santiago – Chile’s stylish capital city. On arrival in Santiago, our Antarctica photography tour comes to an end. Onward regional and international flight connections may be possible this evening. Discuss the options with your booking agent. A transfer is provided to a downtown location for those choosing to stay and explore Santiago and the delights of Chile.
A professional safari Tour Leader and award-winning wildlife photographer, Marius Coetzee is the co-founder and CEO of is greatest passion yet; ORYX – Worldwide Photographic Expeditions.
Marius’ expertise as a Photo Tour Leader, host, as well as a wildlife and cultural photographer stems from over 10-years working as a professional guide in some of South Africa’s most esteemed private game reserves, as well as a collective 17-years’ experience in the photo safari industry.
He is widely travelled, having led photographic safaris to many of the planet’s most celebrated photographic areas, and thus has a unique grounding with which to keep ORYX at the cutting edge of the photographic industry. Marius’ easy manner and deep connections with his photographic subjects’ relays instantaneously to his clients, making him a decidedly sought-after photographic leader and highly respected within the industry.
As CEO of ORYX, Marius has transitioned from hosting ORYX’s scheduled departures to focusing primarily on private photo tours so as to continue the focus on keeping ORYX at the forefront of photographic safaris worldwide.
“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
Hi Nicolette, Thanks to you and the entire ORYX team. This was truly the experience of a lifetime. My only wish was that my wife was there to share it with me. Having said that Penny did everything possible to make this trip the absolute best it could be. She was so attentive – to both shooting and post production, that I know my photography skills took a big jump forward. I have been on many photo expeditions over the last 6 or 7 years and Penny’s instruction and attention were well beyond what I have experienced previously.Antarctica
You guys have been fantastic, from my initial enquiries, through supporting me with payments to the information you provided beforehand. But most importantly Penny was an absolute super star. It was an incredible trip. Exhilarating, intense, thought provoking and really fun. Penny was patient, really easy to get along with (for 3 weeks on a boat is not easy to achieve!), supportive and taught us both so much. Having Penny with us the whole time opened my eyes to a different way of seeing things. She has an incredible creative eye, and the way we looked at animal behaviour, and thought about the context that surrounded Antarctica, moved my photography beyond basic documentary to something that had more purpose. Instead of solely trying to capture beautiful images we were trying to tell stories in a place where there are so many important stories to tell. This has not only made my photography better and more interesting (I hope!) but it also given it more meaning. And having more meaning for me has given me a whole new excitement and sense of purpose for my photography in general.Antarctica & 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.”