Ponant: The Great Austral Loop

Ponant: The Great Austral Loop

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Ponant: The Great Austral Loop

Leaving the lights of Ushuaia behind, the course is set for the wild and beautiful Falkland Islands as you embark on this exceptional 16-day cruise. Continuing east, you reach the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, with its impressive glaciers, rich history and vast colonies of king penguins that reside on black sand beaches. Continuing south across the Weddell Sea, a labyrinth of ice and majestic icebergs, sail to the Antarctic Peninsula. Here you are greeted by floating ice fields, iridescent icebergs, glaciers and snow-capped peaks, and an extraordinary wildlife that includes whales, seals and penguins. Return to Ushuaia via the Drake Passage – a memorable finale to an amazing voyage.

Accommodation: Standard

Inclusions: 

The rates of our cruises are per person and include all meals while on board the ship (from dinner on the day of embarkation to breakfast on the day of disembarkation), Open Bar, room service 24h, luggage transfer from pier to the ship and vice versa and evening entertainment and events.

Ushuaia – Ushuaia program rates are per person and include:
* Flights Buenos-Aires/Ushuaia/Buenos-Aires in Economy-class
* Meet and Greet by our representatives in Ushuaia and luggage direct transfer from the airport to the ship for port clearance
* Choice between one full day in Arakur Resort located inside Cerro Alarken natural Reserve, Time at leisure, lunch and / or optional excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park OR direct transfer to the port for embarkation, buffet lunch and access to the Main Lounge (cabins/suites will not be accessible before 5pm)
* On disembarkation days in Ushuaia: direct transfer from the ship to the airport (not included on Ushuaia – Montevideo cruise)
Your program does not include:
* Gratuities for driver and local guide
* Personal expenses, and other services not mentioned in the program
* The optional excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park which has to be booked at the moment you book your cruise

Difficulty Rating: 2 (light adventure)

Single Surcharge: Available upon request

Notes: Contact us for more details

Price Dependent Upon: Season and availability

Trip Code: ACTSGAL

Price: AUD $19460

Departure: 20 November 2018 , 05 December 2018 , 14 November 2019 , 15 November 2019 , 20 December 2019 , 01 January 2020

Duration: 16 days

Locations: Antarctica

DAY 1: Ushuaia

Capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province, Ushuaia lies in a bay opening into the Beagle Channel at the country's southernmost tip. Its colourful houses are framed against towering mountains, snow-capped in winter and summer alike. Downtown, the End of the World Museum showcases Tierra del Fuego's natural and indigenous history. A ride on the heritage railway is an exciting excursion into the Tierra del Fuego National Park, while a cruise on Ushuaia Bay is the perfect way to spot sea lions and Magellanic penguins.

This island with its distinctive jagged relief is located on the western edge of the Falkland Islands and is home to a tiny village of two families. Step onto the golden sand of its flower-lined beaches, beside which an old stone house still stands, and you'll feel like you've entered a natural paradise. A narrow pathway weaves around typical Falkland moorlands. Follow it and in under 20 minutes you'll find yourself at the heart of a colony of southern rockhopper penguins, black-browed albatross and imperial shags. It's the perfect opportunity to watch the albatross swoop down from the cliffs and skim the waves that crash against the rocks on the exposed side of the island.

Make your way through the turbulent Woolly Gut strait and emerge in the stillness of Grave Cove. Located in the northern edge of the Falkland Islands, this bay owes its name to the vestiges of whalers’ graves that overlook the beach. As you step off the boat and onto the white-sand beach, you might find yourself escorted by a few hospitable Commerson's dolphins, elegantly adorned in black and white. A stroll along the grassy dunes will lead you to a vast plain of lush green grass, tended by a few sheep. On the other side of the island you'll find one of the largest gentoo penguin colonies in the area. With some luck, you'll also glimpse a sea lion scouring the waves for his next meal.

Salisbury Plain is home to one of the most unforgettable natural vistas of South Georgia. Formed by the retreat of Grace Glacier, the same majestic peaks that once awed Shackleton still tower over the surrounding land. The island's bluish landscape exudes the magnificence and beauty of unspoilt nature. At the heart of this wild refuge, on the beaches of the bay, lies a colony of 250,000 king penguins. Amidst this sea of black and orange heads, fur seals and their young can be spotted nosing their way through the crowd. Under the pale austral sunlight that reflects off of the plain, flocks of birds are carried by the winds in a graceful show of nature's wonder.

Situated at the foot of sharply-rising mountains, Fortuna Bay is a truly dazzling vision to behold. You’ll marvel at a panorama of cliffs rising up from the icy waters and small streams fed by melting mountain snow meandering through vast green plains. The bay itself bows inward to form a perfect crescent, indented by a torrent. During your excursion, you can follow in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton or even encounter the 50,000 king penguin couples who call the island their home and whose densely-packed silhouettes form a remarkable silver swath with a sprinkling of brown and bright orange.

Facing out towards the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean, you'll safely disembark along Saint Andrews Bay with the assistance of your naturalist guides. This bay bears a gift that is sure to enchant photographers. From the bay's long grey-sand beach, home to abundant fur seals and elephant seals, you can easily access a vast glacial trough bordered by steep mountainsides and enclosed by Ross Glacier. Here, at the heart of this valley, lies the climax of your visit: the largest colony of king penguins on the South Georgia Islands. You'll be witness to a surreal visual and auditory experience: entire hillsides covered with adult penguins dutifully going back and forth from land to water in order to feed their young.

The Grytviken stopover is a highlight of South Georgia Island. This former whaling station, now a ghost town, is set against a serene backdrop of ochre-coloured earth. Vestiges of the whaling industry are still very much present, particularly old whale bones and remnants of shipwrecks. Grytviken's other historical point of interest is the grave of famous adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton. During the legendary Endurance expedition (1914-1917) Shackleton and his men survived against all odds after having been trapped in pack ice for several months. The series of exploits leading to their rescue will remain forever etched in the annals of Antarctic exploration.

Majestic glaciers with a bluish sheen, waterfalls that reflect the rays of the setting sun, pitch-black volcanic sand beaches: these are just a few of the wonders to be found in Gold Harbour's landscape. This natural gem is blanketed by bright green tussocks and framed by snow-capped peaks. On this island where summer days are endless, the wildlife stays up with the sun. Fur seals, elephant seals and king penguins move about the island like tiny black dots along the landscape. Those humans who enter this kaleidoscope of colours and sensations do so as privileged and tolerated observers of the austral wildlife.

Amidst the eerie stillness of the Weddell Sea, you'll wend your way through a veritable labyrinth of majestic table icebergs. Sweeping ice platforms sculpt a landscape unlike any other, populated by fur seals, penguins, wandering albatross and other imposing seabirds. The Weddell seal, king of this realm, will welcome you to his territory with a haunting cry that pierces the surrounding silence. You'll recognise him by his dark grey coat and spotted belly. Weddell seals have the impressive distinction of being able to stay underwater for more than an hour.

Between 1897 and 1899, Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache led an Antarctic expedition aboard the Belgica. There, he discovered a quiet, protected bay which he named in honour of the Dutch queen, Wilhelmina of Orange-Nassau. In this enchanting place, towering mountains reflect off of still waters, offering up a magnificent and colourful feast for the eyes. Yet another source of wonder: humpback whales, majestic and frequent visitors to the bay, feed in the surrounding waters amidst a stunning seascape of ice floes and icebergs.

Situated just above the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island is easily recognisable thanks to its distinctive horseshoe shape. The crater of this former volcano caved in 10,000 years ago and the resulting caldera was flooded, creating a natural harbour. Deception Island still bears traces of its past as a longtime hub of the whaling industry. The vestiges of abandoned sheds that line the black sand of its volcanic beaches share space with the island's spectacular fauna: it is home to the Antarctic Peninsula’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins, as well as numerous elephant seals and fur seals.

Nestled among the South Shetland Islands in the icy waters of the Antarctic, Half Moon plunges visitors into a surreal and mystical setting. Long, jagged coastlines alternate with gently sloping bays, overlooked by petrified volcanic pipes. Camara, a former Argentine research station built at the centre of the island in 1953, still stands in the crook of a vast, crescent-shaped beach of large ash-coloured pebbles battered by icy electric-blue waves. Half Moon's wild lunar landscape is home to a number of animal species, including chinstrap penguins, fur seals, Weddell seals and Antarctic terns.

If there is one place, one sea, one waterway dreaded by tourists, researchers and hardened seafarers alike, it is undoubtedly Drake Passage. Situated at the latitude of the infamous Furious Fifties winds, between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands, it is the shortest route to Antarctica. Seasoned navigators will tell you that you must earn your visit to the White Continent! As a convergence zone where cold currents rising up from the South Pole meet warmer equatorial water masses, Drake Passage harbours a very diverse marine fauna. Don't forget to look to the sky to catch a glimpse of elegant albatross and Cape petrels, playfully floating about in the wind around your ship.

Capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province, Ushuaia lies in a bay opening into the Beagle Channel at the country's southernmost tip. Its colourful houses are framed against towering mountains, snow-capped in winter and summer alike. Downtown, the End of the World Museum showcases Tierra del Fuego's natural and indigenous history. A ride on the heritage railway is an exciting excursion into the Tierra del Fuego National Park, while a cruise on Ushuaia Bay is the perfect way to spot sea lions and Magellanic penguins.

Please note that the above itinerary is just a guide. Antarctica cruises are subject to weather, ice and other local conditions, as such, the actual itinerary is determined as the cruise progresses.

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