Halintours, Inc.

Cuba 2016
About Us
Costa Rica
Argentina: Patagonia
Old World: New Horizons
Client Comments
Ethics of Tourism

Antarctica:  The Trip of a Lifetime

Trip Report
by Carol Cespedes

How do you top the trip of a lifetime?  By doing it one more time – and even better.  That happened for us last February when Benny and I set out again for Antarctica. Our 2004 voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula had left incredible memories  – contact with the polar regions is like a powerful narcotic. Those who experience it once yearn to visit again.  So a special offer from Oceanwide Expeditions for a 19 day voyage to Antarctica that also included the Falkland Islands and South Georgia was irresistible. 

 Our ship for the journey was the Plancius, a vessel originally designed for oceanographic research in the polar regions.  Oceanwide  had purchased the vessel and refitted it as a small passenger ship to accommodate 114 serious ecotourists with highest standards for safety in the Antarctic.  http://oceanwide-expeditions.com/vessel/show/m-v-Plancius  We found ourselves sailing with an intense international group of tourists, most of them fitted out with the latest in photographic equipment, some of them already veterans of the Arctic and Antarctic. The ship was Dutch, the crew mostly Russian, the service staff Filipino, and the professional staff of scientists/expedition leaders a mixture of Danish, Italian, German, Chilean, and Canadian with an American in charge of ornithology. 

The extra islands meant extra days at sea, but it was all worthwhile as we discovered  new lands:  the austere Falklands (rather like a Scotland plus penguins) and the wild beauty of South Georgia with glaciers slipping down from glistening peaks, shimmering green meadows, and wildlife beyond our dreams. In spite of rough seas and capricious weather we managed seven zodiac landings in rugged South Georgia, of course making the pilgrimage to  Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave in Grytviken. One unforgettable experience was standing on the beach at Gold Harbor, surrounded by nonchalant king penguins, and watching roaring male elephant seals do battle for their harems.

 Then on to the Antarctic continent, where we approached the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound hoping for an early landing on Paulet Island. Here our experienced captain made the prudent decision to scrap the original itinerary, which would have sent us southeast into the Weddell Sea, and instead diverted to the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.  It was a perfect reversal of the conditions of our 2004 voyage, when pack ice had blocked us from approaching  the western shore of the Peninsula and forced us instead into the Weddell Sea. Skirting the ice, the Plancius entered the South Shetland archipelago, where our the first Antarctic landing was on Aitchoo Island – the identical with the last landing of 2004.

 Craggy Aitchoo teaming with gentoo and chinstrap penguins was worth a second look, and indeed there was something new. Our first visit was  in December when we saw penguin eggs hatching and new chicks thrusting their tiny beaks out from under the parent’s body. This time in  February, and we saw awkward adolescent chicks, almost as large as the parents, chasing each other about and investigating strange objects (such as visiting tourists) with uninhibited curiosity.  From Aitchoo we sailed on to new territory, the abandoned whaling station at Deception Island followed by three landings on the Antarctic continent. For me the peak experience was a zodiac cruise over the brash ice in the aptly named  Paradise Bay topped off by a visit from a curious pair of humpback whales. 

So how do you top two trips of a lifetime? Maybe by planning to do it again….

Zodiac filled with photographers on Paradise Bay

Euro Down, Dollar Up Means Price breaks with Oceanwide

Reversing the trend of recent years, Oceanwide Expeditions has announced that due to the decreased value of their anchor currency, the Euro, to the U.S. dollar, prices for the 2010-2011 Antarctic season have been reduced 15%-25%.  Here is the chart of departures with prices less than we paid last year!

Oceanwide Expeditions Trips and Rates

King Penguin checks his grooming

Classic Chinstrap Penguin: How do you like my profile?

Sleeping leopard seal on Paradise Bay

Gentoo penguin feeding nearly grown chick

Journal of our 2004 voyage to Antarctica

Elephant seals battle for possession of the harem at Gold Harbor, South Georgia