Whales and Landscapes

Antarctic Peninsula

February 16 - March 5, 2019
Cost: $13,750 to $23,400
Leader: Ted Cheeseman + 15
Group Size: 98
Days: 18

Safari Overview

Sail the Antarctic Peninsula with scientists to watch whales in nutrient-rich waters amid unbelievable glacier-covered mountain scenery. Since the first explorers discovered this unknown continent, they’ve shared stories of incredible vistas and abundant mammals. This exciting expedition will combine years of experience on the Antarctic Peninsula with a scientific focus on marine mammals, in partnership with the American Cetacean Society (ACS). We designed this itinerary to maximize our opportunities to study and watch the whales that inhabit this vibrant and nutrient filled area of the South Shetland Islands and western Antarctic Peninsula. Happily, here we find some of the best whale feeding grounds in the midst of Antarctica’s most stunning landscapes, taking full advantage of the season’s golden light. Landscape photography, time with Humpbacks, Antarctic Minke Whales, and Orcas, and visits to penguin and seal colonies will surpass your wildest expectations. Our priority on this special expedition is to give you the maximum field time during a unique period on the Peninsula and to share our passion and experience in the Antarctic with a special scientific component along with opportunities to engage in citizen science. Come and experience the Antarctic Peninsula with us!

HIGHLIGHTS
• Fly over the Drake Passage, with stunning views from above, saving two days of ship travel.
• Get up-close and personal with Humpback Whales as they “spy-hop” out of the water to get a better glimpse of you!
• Be a part of the scientific research the marine scientists are conducting throughout the voyage via citizen science opportunities.
• Experience beautiful sunrises and sunsets backlighting stunning landscapes.
• With fewer than 100 participants, everyone can be on shore or Zodiac cruising together rather than taking shifts.
• Our 16 leaders are marine scientists, polar specialists, photographers, and naturalists that will provide lectures, workshops, and guided excursions.

Itinerary Updated: June 2017



Ship Info FAQ Print Trip Safari Options
Date Description Lodge Meals
Feb 16 Depart home.
Feb 17 Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile. Hotel Diego de Almagro, Punta Arenas
Feb 18 Fly to King George Island and board the Ioffe. Aboard the Ioffe B, L, D
Feb 19 - Mar 1 Eleven days of landings along the western Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. Aboard the Ioffe B, L, D
Mar 2 - 3 Cruise northward across the Drake Passage. Aboard the Ioffe B, L, D
Mar 4 Disembark and fly homeward from Ushuaia, Argentina. B
Mar 5 Arrive home.

Our Trip Leaders

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

International flights to Chile

Feb 16

For most traveling to Punta Arenas, Chile, you will need to leave home today.

Arrive in Punta Arenas

Feb 17

We are full-members of IAATO

Arrive in Punta Arenas by this evening. Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, a transfer agent will meet you and transport you to your hotel. If you wish to arrive early to buffer against travel delays or to spend extra time in the Punta Arenas area, we can arrange extra hotel nights and suggest or arrange field trips.

Note: Cheesemans' is a full-member of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

Fly to King George Island, Antarctica

Feb 18

Adelie Penguins

Fly to King George Island. Located at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, King George Island is the largest island in the South Shetland Island archipelago. You will land at Teniente R. Marsh Airport, the northernmost airport on the continent of Antarctica via a charter flight because no regularly-scheduled public flights service this airport. You will then transfer via Zodiac to your home for the duration of the voyage – the Akademik Ioffe.

A note about expedition cruising: Due to the expeditionary nature of our voyage, specific stops cannot be guaranteed. Flexibility is paramount in expedition travel; the following itinerary depends on the conditions at the time of travel. We strive to land often and stay as long as possible, abiding by the Guidelines for Responsible Eco-tourism from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).

Explore South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula

Feb 19 - Mar 1

Humpback Whale

THE SOUTH SHETLAND ISLANDS

The South Shetlands are a string of volcanic islands, some still active, that run parallel to the Antarctic Peninsula across the Bransfield Strait. Fondly known as the “Banana Belt of Antarctica,” these islands boast the richest concentrations of terrestrial wildlife in the Antarctic due to their proximity to the rich upwelling waters from the great Circumpolar Current. Even with our luxuriously in-depth itinerary, we will have to choose between many very compelling sites. Deception Island is a favorite and one of the most exciting islands on our voyage. This horseshoe-shaped, volcanic island is still active, as its hot thermal pools demonstrate. We hope to land on both the outside wall and inside the caldera that opens to the ocean via a narrow gap called Neptune’s Bellows. The landing at Bailey Head is home to about 100,000 Chinstrap Penguins, but the sea can make landings tricky with steep swells crashing on an exposed beach. Inside Deception’s huge caldera, we hope to make a fascinating landing that may include a short hike up the mountainside among the lichen-draped cliffs to the scenic overlook. On the beach at Whaler’s Bay, we may find Weddell Seals basking and we’ll go ashore if conditions are favorable. Deception Island also offers one the most unique experiences of the voyage – soaking along side the beach in the thermal pools surrounded by clouds of steam. The water temperature can be fairly comfortable, although it can get so hot that it’s necessary to mix in colder water!

On a clear day, the Chinstrap Penguins of Half Moon Island make a delightful foreground to the breathtaking eastern coastline of nearby Livingston Island. At this end of the Earth, the vast scale of nature will open our senses. Great respect must be given to the fragile vegetation and the wildlife colonies. We will review proper landing procedures throughout the voyage, allowing you as much freedom as possible to enjoy the magnificent wildlife and landscapes within the bounds of safety and minimal impact.

Both Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins breed on Aitcho Island, an island covered in mossy green carpets making a surprisingly bright contrast to Antarctica’s intensely achromatic landscapes. Conditions permitting, we’ll take a walk across the island past the Southern Elephant Seal wallows. This landing site and other similar sites with Southern Elephant Seals offer a terrific chance to see (and smell!) the world’s largest species of seal, also perhaps joined by hauled out Weddell Seals and Southern Fur Seals.

From the South Shetlands, we sail southwest across the Bransfield Strait into the fabled Gerlache Strait. Here we can expect whale sightings to ring out from the bridge as the Antarctic Peninsula landscape rises up around us into a glacier-draped view of mountainous proportion. The waters around Anvers Island, Dallmann Bay to the north and the Gerlache to the east are a likely starting destination. We can expect our whales among sculpted icebergs in the foreground and staggering mountain walls in the background, making for some of the world’s best Zodiac cruising. We will hope for magnificent sunsets, sculpted blue icebergs, and close penguin and whale encounters, each with the potential for an experience that we will never forget. We will visit sites where the penguins and seals that once sustained early Antarctic explorers have taken over, leaving only faint clues of the age of exploration and exploitation.

Over the last few decades, the Southern Ocean has experienced a significant warming trend, showing clear evidence of global warming. The Antarctic Peninsula has been feeling climate change the most, with a massive 9°F (5°C) warming in average winter temperatures over the last 50 years. This has dramatically changed and reduced ice distributions, but we will still be among a world of spectacular icebergs! In late summer, the coldest temperatures we normally experience during landings on the Peninsula are in the high 20s and low 30s F (-5 to 5°C). It is a bit like winter temperatures at ski resorts – usually very pleasant wearing good layered clothing and a jacket and certainly nothing like wintertime temperatures in Antarctica.

WESTERN ANTARCTIC PENINSULA ~ The Danco Coast, Neumeyer Channel, and Lemaire Channel

Whether we travel south down the west coast or sail east through the Antarctic Sound into the Weddell Sea will be determined by weather, ice distributions and reports of marine mammal sightings; happily, we have ample time for a thorough exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula. When heading south, we will travel down along the picturesque Danco Coast on the west coast of Graham Land. This area has awe-inspiring scenery with coastlines deeply indented with bays and scattered with islands. Impressive mountains rise sharply from the coast to the central Graham Land Plateau and glaciers descend to narrow piedmont ice shelves. Extensive Zodiac cruising and opportunistic landings during the best light will allow us to soak in the serenity of this majestic place.

We’ll make our way down the coast into Wilhemina Bay, Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay, among the most beautiful areas in Antarctica. These waters rank high on our long list of favorite places for Zodiac cruising. Enjoy views of sculpted icebergs and surfacing whales as we cruise the inner bays near spectacular glaciers and ethereal mountains. We can expect wonderful whale behavior in these plentiful summer feeding grounds. The krill swarms are enormous, sometimes even visible on the ship’s depth sounder. We will find colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, sometimes in mixed colonies, along with their attendant scavengers: Snowy Sheathbills, Brown Skuas, South Polar Skuas, and Kelp Gulls. We’ll aim for a landing in Neko Harbour on the Antarctic continent proper, hopefully with an opportunity for a walk and an incredible view.

Enjoy the view from the ship as the Ioffe navigates through stunning Neumeyer and Lemaire channels or around the south end of Anvers Island into Biscoe Bay where we will be completely surrounded by ice-draped peaks soaring dramatically out of the water. Crabeater, Weddell, and Leopard seals are often hauled out on the ice floes and whales may even surface between the floes, so keep your cameras ready! Tall, hanging ice cliffs, the fronts of highly fractured tidewater glaciers, decorate most of the shoreline for unforgettable scenery. At the southern part of the Lemaire Channel we’ll come to Petermann Island. Located at 65° S, Petermann is outstanding for seeing Gentoo and Adelie penguins on their nesting grounds and making feeding trips in large groups along a “Penguin highway” in the snow. The clear water is beautiful for observing and photographing penguins returning to land. Petermann has seen a reversal in abundance between the two species, with half the numbers of Adelie Penguins we found here twenty years ago, but twice the numbers of Gentoos. Photogenic Antarctic Shags are also found on the edges of the colonies.

We will hope for good conditions to travel further south along the western side of the Peninsula, possibly down to Crystal Sound, the Antarctic Circle, Fish Islands and beyond into Margarite Bay to explore the southern reaches of summer navigable waters. Look for Snow Petrel, Antarctic Petrel, ice-loving Antarctic Minke Whales and maybe an extremely rare Ross Seal. When we are out in the golden light of an Antarctic evening, be sure to put your camera down for a moment and simply absorb the beauty and silence.

As we take our time sailing back north, we’ll again be on the lookout for cetaceans, including Orcas and even rare beaked whales, and explore wonderful coves that are breeding areas for Leopard Seals. We will surely find ourselves cruising with Humpbacks as they swim and lunge feed among the icebergs offshore in these waters where whale populations escaped the worst of the whaling age. The region offers excellent opportunities to find Antarctic Minke Whales feeding and Orcas cruising looking for seals and penguins. The photography in these rich krill areas of the Peninsula is truly fantastic. Additional landing sites along the western Peninsula are expected, which ones will depend on conditions (as is the case with any landing). Port Lockroy, located at the end of the very narrow and beautiful Peltier Channel close to Neumeyer Channel, has a British Antarctica Survey maritime museum and a sprawling Gentoo Penguin colony that we hope to visit. We’ll also hope for good conditions to land at tiny Cuverville Island with Gentoo Penguins on the headlands.

As we continue north, we are likely to again pass through the South Shetland Islands, possibly for a landing at Hannah Point on Livingston Island. Look for a possible pair of Macaroni Penguins among the Chinstrap and Gentoo colonies. The usual rookery scavengers (skuas, gulls, giant-petrels, and sheathbills) should also be present. At Hannah Point we will also find excellent examples of Antarctica’s only two flowering plants, a complete flora of the entire continent at one site.

Return through the Drake Passage and Beagle Channel

Mar 2 - 3

Minke Whale

Even with the extended time our voyage will allow along the Antarctic Peninsula, it will no doubt still feel too soon to leave the continent behind. As we sail north on the homeward leg, we will share delightful memories of our experiences, enjoy a group slide show of images captured, and talk of plans for future travels. The wildlife, however, is not all behind us. Almost 500 miles north of the South Shetlands, near Cape Horn, the waters here at the tip of the South American continental shelf are as rich as seawaters can be and seabirds are sometimes present in large flocks, especially Sooty Shearwaters if the sea is calm. Peale’s Dolphins and other marine mammals may also be seen. Once in the lee of Cape Horn, any ocean swell will disappear and we will enter the Beagle Channel for a final scenic cruise to Ushuaia.

Disembark in Ushuaia, Argentina, and travel homeward

Mar 4

We will dock in Ushuaia, Argentina, by early morning today. After breakfast, we will bid farewell to our shipmates, expedition staff, and the crew of the Ioffe and disembark early for morning flights. Our local agents will collect the luggage in the luggage van to be held until check-in time at the Ushuaia Airport. If you wish to extend your stay in Ushuaia, we are happy to assist you with the arrangements.

Travel homeward

Mar 5

Travel and arrive home today depending on your flight schedule.

Antarctic Peninsula

Sail the Antarctic Peninsula with scientists to watch whales in nutrient-rich waters amid unbelievable glacier-covered mountain scenery.

-64.633333, -62.166667

Ship Information

Akademik Ioffe

The 98-passenger Ioffe was built specifically to sail in polar regions. Ship amenities include comfortable presentation room, fitness and spa centers, gift-shop, bar and lounge, outside BBQ and observation decks, and open-bridge policy. A fast cruising speed of 13.5 knots allows more time ashore and more flexibility in changing weather. The ship carries a fleet of ten Zodiacs for our shore landings. All cabins feature windows or portholes for ample natural light.


More Information
Ioffe ship with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Description Cost Per Person
Triple with shared bath Deck 3 cabins feature two lower berths (one that can be converted to a sofa) and one upper berth, ample clothes storage, desk and chair, and two portholes (one opens). Facilities are shared but a washbasin is in the cabin. $13,750
Twin Shared Deck 3 cabins feature two lower berths (one that can be converted to a sofa), ample clothes storage, desk and chair, and two portholes (one opens). Facilities are shared, but a washbasin is in the cabin. $14,850
Twin Semi-private Deck 4 cabins feature two lower berths (one that can be converted to a sofa), tall cupboards for clothes storage, desk and chair, bookshelf, and an opening window. Facilities are semi-private (shared with the adjacent cabin). $16,450
Twin Private Deck 4 and 5 cabins feature private facilities, two lower berths (one that can be converted to a sofa), tall cupboards for clothes storage, desk and chair, bookshelf, and an opening window. $18,350
Superior Private Deck 6 cabins feature private facilities, two lower berths, a comfortable sofa, a writing desk and chair, plenty of storage space, and several opening portholes. $19,450
Shackleton Suite Deck 4 and 5 cabins feature two spacious rooms: living area and bedroom with private facilities. The living area is ideal for relaxation with a sofa (convertible to bed), large table, desk, chair, ample storage and a large window that can be opened. The bedroom has a double bed with upgraded linens and pillows. $21,450
One Ocean Suite Deck 5 cabin has two very spacious rooms: living area and bedroom with private facilities (with a bathtub and shower). The living area is ideal for relaxation with a sofa (convertible to bed), large table, desk, chair, ample storage, large windows overlooking the bow (forward facing) that can be opened. The bedroom features a double bed with upgraded linens and pillows. $23,400

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we will not charge you a single supplement. Single rooms are subject to availability.

Please note that we cannot guarantee a specific cabin number. If changes occur, we will do everything in our power to assign a cabin of equal or greater value as the cabin type specified in your reservation. Deck plan, cabin arrangements, and cabin amenities are subject to change by ship operator. If space is available, some cabins can be booked for a single occupant at an additional cost; please contact us for details.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second November 1, 2017 $4,000
Third April 1, 2018 $5,000
Final September 1, 2018 Remaining balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Cancellations

Refunds are given depending on the time left before departure according to the following table. The cancellation fee of $300 per person can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance that could reimburse your trip costs in the event of your cancellation

Dates Forfeited Amount per Person
On or before June 30, 2018 $300
July 1- July 31, 2018 10% of tour cost
August 1 to August 31, 2018 40% of tour cost
On or after September 1, 2018 100% of tour cost

Included

  • All leaders, landing fees, passenger fees and port taxes, including an IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) passenger fee for all activities unless described as optional.
  • 14 nights aboard the Ioffe.
  • Accommodations in Punta Arenas for the night of February 17.
  • Charter flight on February 18 from Punta Arenas, Chile to King Georgia Island, South Shetland Islands.
  • Meals from breakfast on February 18 through breakfast on March 4.
  • Transfer from the airport to Hotel Diego de Almagro in Punta Arenas upon arrival.
  • Airport transfer in Ushuaia as described on March 4.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
  • Waterproof boots on loan for the duration of tour.
  • On-board lectures during free time and sea days.
  • Professionally produced and printed expedition log.

Not Included

  • All airfare (except flights listed as included), airport arrival/departure taxes, excess baggage fees, and any airport transfers on return trip through Buenos Aires. Airfare is approximately $1,300-$2,000 round trip from the USA, depending on origin.
  • Passport fees, visa fees, or reciprocity fees.
  • Gratuities for the ship’s crew – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting $10 to $15 per participant per day for February 18 to March 4 aboard the Ioffe (about $150 to $225 total per passenger) to be divided among the crew and officers, including cabin and dining room service staff. Expedition leaders do not expect a tip.
  • Expedition Gear Package: outdoor gear, such as waterproof pants, hiking poles, parka, will be available to rent aboard the ship. More details will be sent in the Trip Essentials document after booking.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, fax/phone/email charges, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance, but it is required for you to purchase. Read more about travel insurance.

Climate

Antarctica has a cold, dry, sometimes windy climate even in the summer. Normal late summer temperatures are -5 to 5°C (25 to 40°F) on the Peninsula, known as the ‘Banana Belt’. Penetrating cold is not usually a problem. Wind chill and wetness while riding in Zodiacs are the primary conditions to insulate against. It is also possible to get wet weather, but often it is with wind, so an umbrella is not usually practical. Waterproof gloves, warm cap, layers of light, loose, warm clothing, and water repellent outer garments are necessary. Sunscreen is critical. The temperature on the ship is comfortably warm, but you may still wish to dress in layers and keep a warm layer handy in case there is exciting wildlife (such as an Emperor Penguin!) to watch from the ship’s deck.

Fitness Level

Although participating in the Antarctic Peninsula voyage does not require a high level of physical fitness, you should be fit enough to walk up and down stairs on the ship and on the gangway that hangs on the side of the ship, able to get into and out of the Zodiac with assistance of Expedition staff and crew, and walk on sometimes unstable, rocky, and slippery terrain on shore. Once on shore, you can choose to walk for short or long distances (within the specified guidelines). Landing details will be given in advance of each landing. If you have any questions about your physical abilities, please give us a call!

Medical Questionnaire
In addition to your registration form, you will be asked to complete a medical questionnaire before traveling. Our ship’s doctor will review all information so that any concerns can be addressed prior to the voyage. A doctor’s signature is not required for participation in the tour except in certain cases as determined by our doctor and Expedition Leader.

Flights

Airfare, except flights listed as included, is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ) by February 17. For most, this means leaving home by February 16, and most flights route through Santiago, Chile. Depart from Ushuaia, Argentina (USH) any time after 12:00pm on March 4. Most flights homeward route through Buenos Aires, Argentina. Allow at least four hours to transfer between the domestic and international airports in Buenos Aires.

Flights we book for you: The charter flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island. The cost of this booking is included in the tour cost.

FAQ

About the whale focus of this expedition

As longtime pioneers of Antarctic expeditions that focus on wildlife, Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris (CES) is collaborating with the American Cetacean Society (ACS) to offer this in-depth exploration of the marine mammals of the Antarctic Peninsula. Expedition leader Ted Cheeseman and ACS are excited to offer this opportunity to share science, education, and exploration of one of the most whale-rich stretches of water in the world during the season of peak whale abundance. At the feet of the stunning mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula, krill congregate in countless numbers, drawing great congregations of whales into seasonal feeding binges on a scale found few other places on the planet.

Together, CES participants, ACS scientists, and other marine scientists will gather data for long-term ecological research projects, including photo-identification of individual whales that we’ll link to breeding populations around the world and track individual whales to link behavior to environmental conditions. Thanks to the citizen science platform Happywhale, we will be able to identify individual whales during the voyage. We will have a team of active scientists aboard, utilizing the unique platform of this whale-focused expedition. Science goals and methods for the expedition will be determined as our departure date approaches.

This expedition provides opportunities to travel alongside marine biologists, to whale watch from ship and Zodiacs, to learn photographic techniques from professional photographers, and to land at wildlife-rich and historically significant sites on the Antarctic continent and outlying islands. Ted designed the itinerary to maximize marine mammal encounters, diverging from the norm of Antarctic cruises in keeping with the Cheesemans’ Ecology philosophy of offering the most in-depth expeditions possible. We will still devote plenty of time to explore penguin colonies and photograph stunning Antarctic landscapes under the special golden light of the season.

Accommodations

Seasickness

Don’t let a fear of seasickness scare you away! Over the years many who have dreamed of experiencing Antarctica with us have stayed home for fear of seasickness, but of all those who have joined, we know of only one passenger who said that seasickness really affected the enjoyment of the trip. Still, that same passenger talked about repeating the trip, because the rest of the experiences more than made up for it. For all but the most sensitive, motion sickness is only a problem during the open ocean passages. While we are cruising close to land – the majority of the trip – seas are usually quite calm. The Ioffe has an excellent stabilizing system. The Southern Ocean has a reputation for the worst seas in the world, not because conditions are always rough (on the average day, the seas are actually quite calm!) but because the extremes are large. If we are hit by a storm during a crossing, the experience will be memorable. For this reason, unless you know you are immovable by the heavy seas, bring a good supply of medication. Many of our frequent travelers are quite susceptible to seasickness, yet they come back year after year because they love Antarctica! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.

Transportation

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, wildlife sightings, or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.