South Georgia Grand Tour
19 Nights/20 Days
Start: Puerto Madryn, Argentina/ Finish: Ushuaia, Argentina
Janssonius: 19 October
Few places compare to South Georgia in terms of exotic wildlife and jaw-dropping scenery, and the Falklands are no different. On this exploratory voyage you can enjoy both, possibly touring the world’s largest black-browed albatross colony while also seeing some of the biggest breeding spots for king penguins and elephant seals on Earth – along with day after day of amazing polar scenery.
Possible Route Map
The largest black-browed albatross colony in the world, at Steeple Jason, Falkland Islands
Carcass Island, Falkland Islands
A rockhopper penguin colony on Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
A black-browed albatross on West Point Island, Falkland Islands
A wandering albatross on a nest, Prion Island, South Georgia
A king penguins colony with thousands of penguins at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia
The king penguin colony at St Andrews Bay, South Georgia
The king penguin colony at Gold Harbour, South Georgia
Antarctic fur seals at the abandoned whaling station of Stromness, South Georgia
The abandoned whaling station of Grytviken, South Georgia with the m/v Plancius at anchor
Godthul, South Georgia
Little Moltke Harbour, South Georgia
Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia
James with King Penguins at Gold Harbour,South Georgia
To make a booking, or to ask any questions you have about the voyage and its suitability for you, please contact us. James has guided on this voyage before and will be happy to discuss all aspects of the trip with you.
PLEASE NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions and in order to take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife. The on-board expedition leader determines the final itinerary. Itineraries may mention places that require permission to land, which must be granted by the relevant national authorities. Such permission is not granted prior to the publishing of these itineraries. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. Average cruising speed is 10,5 knots.
Day 1: Sandy Argentine beaches
You embark from Puerto Madryn in the afternoon, your prow aimed for the Falkland Islands. Golfo Nuevo is renowned for its visiting southern right whales, so you have a good chance of spotting one as you sail toward the open ocean.
Day 2 – 3: Sea life, sea birds
Though you’re now at sea, there’s rarely a lonesome moment here. Several species of bird follow the vessel southeast, such as albatrosses, storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
Day 4 - 5: Finding the Falklands
The Falkland Islands offer an abundance of wildlife that is easily approachable, though caution is always advised. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of a 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of bird live here, but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters.
During this segment of the voyage, we focus on visiting the following two sites:
Steeple Jason – Home to the world’s largest black-browed albatross colony (roughly 113,000), Steeple Jason is a wild and rarely visited island buffeted by wind and waves. Weather and swell conditions dictate the journey here.
Carcass Island – Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wrens and tussock-birds) live here.
Other sites that we may offer as an alternative:
Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here.
West Point Island – Landing in a small cove near to the islands house you will be able to walk through the tussac grass and at an abundant breeding colony of black-browed albatrosses where they live side by side with rockhopper penguins.
Grave Cove – Nesting gentoo penguins and excellent hiking opportunities are abound here with the chance to enjoy the scenery and wildlife that the islands has to offer.
Day 6 – 7: Once more to the sea
En route to South Georgia, you now cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within the space of a few hours, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.
Day 8 – 14: South Georgia journey
Today you arrive at the first South Georgia activity site. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program.
Sites you might visit include:
Prion Island – The home of the great wandering albatrosses. The previous summer’s wandering albatross chicks are almost ready to fledge, and adults are seeking out their old partners after a year and a half at sea.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for southern elephant seals. Only during this time of year do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the four-ton bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. You can also see a substantial number of Antarctic fur seals here during the breeding season (December – January).
Fortuna Bay – Near beaches inhabited by various penguins and seals, you have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall, and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Leith Harbour, Stromness, Husvik – These sites remind us of the scale of the whaling industry in the early 20th century. Elephant and fur seals breed and moult here. Gentoo penguins also occupy the landing sites. Antarctic prions and South Georgia dive petrels may be observed, especially in the area of Husvik.
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
Cobblers Cove, Godthul – At Cobblers Cove we aim for Rookery Point to see macaroni penguins. Light-mantled sooty albatrosses nest along the coastline and giant petrels can be observed as well. Godthul (Norwegian for “good cove”) was named by Norwegian whalers and seal-hunters and remains such as bones can still be found along the shore line. Beaches are the home of gentoo penguins.
Royal Bay (Moltke Harbour, Will Pint & Brisbane Point) – Moltke harbor in Royal Bay was named by the German International Polar Year Expedition in 1882 and some of the remains of their dwellings are still visible. The scenery of Royal Bay is beautiful, dark sandy beaches, followed by the green tussock colors and finally dominated by the snow and ice covered Ross Glacier. Royal Bay is probably the windiest place, zodiac cruising is spectacular. Approx. 30,000 pairs of king penguins live here.
Cooper Bay – Offers the largest chinstrap penguin population and gentoo and also macaroni penguins are present. Antarctic terns, white-chinned petrels, blue-eyed shags and light-mantled sooty albatrosses can be spotted too.
Drygalski Fjord – offers spectacular landscapes and sceneries. With ca. 2 kilometer high mountain peaks at a very close distance from the sea.
Annenkov Island – Passing Pickersgill Islands we reach the rarely visited Annenkov Island, first discovered by James Cook in 1775 and was later renamed by the Russian expedition of Fabian von Bellingshausen in 1819. A rocky terrain with a variety of ridges, peaks and hills where also fossils have been found.
King Haakon Bay – British explorer Ernest Shackleton reached King Haakon Bay during his journey of 800 sea-miles by open boat “James Caird” from Elephant Island. From here he crossed to Stromness to ask for help to rescue his party at Elephant Island after they had left the Weddell Sea where their ship got crushed by ice. Elephant seals dominate the beaches. Birdwatchers will look out for South Georgia pipits, Antarctic prions as well as common diving and blue petrels.
Day 15 – 19: Southward bound
There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels trailing the vessel south. Eventually we reach the Drake Passage and you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south.
Day 20: Earth’s southernmost city
You arrive and disembark in Ushuaia, commonly held to be the world’s most southern city. It is located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, nicknamed the “End of the World.” But despite this stopping point, the wealth of memories you’ve made on your Antarctic expedition will travel with you wherever your next adventure lies.
20 Night/ 21 Day Voyage
This voyage is the same as the 19 night/ 20 day voyage above except it has an extra day in South Georgia giving the opportunity of visiting more of the possible landing sites mentioned above.
Our Green Promise
If you book this polar expedition cruise through us we will pay your Carbon Offset for you and will provide you a Certificate on completion of your expedition.
19 DAY EXPEDITION CRUISE = 9.3 T
20 DAY EXPEDITION CRUISE = 9.8 T
(calculated at https://co2.myclimate.org/en/cruise_calculators/new )
It is your responsibility to book your travel to and from the start and finish of the expedition. This is normally a flight. If you would like to carbon offset this cost please use our carbon offset calculator here.