ANTARCTICA CRUISE: CAPE HORN TO THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
24 MARCH - 18 APRIL 2009
Every so often we receive the opportunity to participate in a really unique and exciting birding and wildlife experience. One such instance, that represents the ultimate wildlife adventure, is being able to offer our clients the chance of joining a Bird Holidays expedition across the South Atlantic from Cape Horn to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, Gough Island and Tristan da Cunha before disembarking in Cape Town.
Cruise is scheduled to leave Tierra del Feugo, the legendary ‘land of fire' on the 24 March ending in Cape Town on the 18 April 2009 with the option to take in the ‘Fairest Cape to the Garden Route' as an overland birding extension.
On reaching Antarctica, which ranks as one of the wildest and relatively pristine
destinations on planet earth, we will be exposed to colonies
containing hundreds of thousands of penguins in keeping with birder expectation, along with the continuous presence of numerous seabirds careening across the bows of the vessel or following in the wake. All around photographic opportunities abound with most species providing excellent views. Mix of seabirds on the way south will be made up of several Prion species, Antarctic Fulmars, Black-bellied Storm Petrels, Pintado and Blue Petrels. Southern and Northern Giant Petrels will be in constant attendance while Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross wheel above the wave crests in seemingly perpetual motion.
As we enter colder Antarctic waters the seabird mix changes and we can expect to see the first of many icebergs before we reach the Antarctic Peninsula itself where we will disembark in search of Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. We may even have the chance to set foot on the continent to search for Leopard and Weddell Seals. Landings also provide the chance for up close views of the graceful Snow Petrel and predatory raids on the various nesting colonies by Brown and South Polar Skuas. Emperor Penguins occasionally frequent the ice flows in the area for roosting and, with luck, we will enjoy sightings of these magnificent birds.
Heading north our journey takes us to South Georgia , home to thousands of King Penguins and dueling Elephant Seals. Here we will wander through a colony of Fur Seals to view the highly endearing courting behavior of Wandering Albatross on the breeding grounds. These magnificent ocean travelers have a wingspan of 12 feet that has to be seen to be believed. To sit quietly amongst these largest of all our flying birds is a wildlife privilege one is never likely to forget!
All around the breeding cycle will be in full swing with Black-browed, Grey-headed and the most elegant of all the albatrosses, the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, nesting on the cliffs. Other birds in continuous evidence include Antarctic Terns and Wilson 's Storm Petrel's as they fly up to their nests amongst the jagged peaks above us.
Our time at sea will also be well spent as we keep an eye out for Humpback and Minke whales. With luck we may even get sightings of Orcas, Hourglass Dolphin and the highly endangered but steadily recovering Blue Whale – the largest of all the cetaceans.
On the approach to Gough and Tristan da Cunha the mix of seabirds will change once again with the chance to pick up on Kerguelan and White-headed Petrel along with the Tristan race of the White-chinned Petrel, now recognized as a distinct species, the Spectacled Petrel. If weather conditions allow a zodiac cruise around Gough may provide views of the Tristan Albatross and Gough Moorhen feeding along the shore. Landing conditions at Nightingale and Inaccessible Island on the day will determine whether we go ashore for close up views of Brown Noddies and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross breeding alongside Great Shearwaters, Great-winged and Soft-plumaged Petrels.
In summary, we can expect to see seventy of the South Atlantic birds, including eight or nine species of albatross, plus penguins, giant-petrels, storm-petrels, diving-petrels, prions and shearwaters. For cetacean enthusiasts up to sixteen species of whale and dolphin have been recorded in the past.
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross
On arrival in Cape Town the overland extension will focus on ‘ fynbos ' biome species such as Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Lesser and Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Siskin, Victorin's Warbler and the charismatic Cape Rockjumper amongst many other endemic delights.
On the cruise, expedition staff will decide where we should visit based on past experience, wildlife knowledge and ice conditions. Excursions are made using zodiac inflatables, as conditions allow. Walks will be at a leisurely pace on uneven ground or snow. Only basic fitness is required but there is still some optional uphill walking. Daytime temperatures at this time of year average +6°C in Antarctica.
VESSEL & ACCOMMODATION
Full board is provided with two nights at Buenos Aires (21 &22nd), one night at Ushuaia (23rd) and 25 nights on board the Professor Multanovskiy. The ship is a Finnish built research vessel owned by Oceanwide, a Dutch company. Cabins are twin or triples. Both have upper and lower berths. Maximum capacity of 50 passengers only. There is a supplement for en suite cabins.
Phil Palmer a highly respected bird photographer and wildlife guide of over 12 trips for Bird Holidays to the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years.
Only 10 passengers can be accommodated on a ‘first come first served basis' through Avian Leisure. Approximate cost excluding the one way air fare to Buenos Aires is £5900 per person sharing a twin cabin non-private if you book before 26th November 2008.
Contact Marie-Louise on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and further options such as discount for triple cabins, single supplement, en suite supplement, superior cabin supplement, basic cruise only option as well as booking terms & conditions'