South Atlantic Odyssey
Expedition cruise to South Georgia, Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension Island and Cape Verde (+ option to also visit the Antarctic Peninsula)
Destinations covered in these cruises: Ushuaia • Antarctic Peninsula (Cuverville Island, Orne Island, Neko Harbour, Paradise Bay, Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island, Wilhelmina Bay, Melchior Islands) • Ushuaia • South Georgia • Gough Island • Tristan da Cunha • St Helena • Ascension Island • Cape Verde;
There is a romance about the remote islands of Antarctica and the South Atlantic which captures the imagination and inspires the true traveller. This magnificent voyage is probably one of the most exciting available anywhere in the world, calling as it does at tiny remote island communities as well as visiting outstanding wildlife sites.
The adventure starts at the southern-most tip of South America where we join m/v Plancius, an ice-strengthened expedition ship, with her maximum of 112 passengers. This is one of the ships which we use for our Antarctica and Spitsbergen/North Atlantic holidays. We start by sailing across the Beagle Channel, enjoying watching a multitude of albatrosses, petrels and Fulmars. We'll set foot on the Antarctic continent, looking for Weddell Seals, Leopard Seals and Gentoo Penguins whilst in the waters close by we'll be hoping to see Killer Whales.
Heading north, we stop at the amazing island of South Georgia with its fascinating history associated with Shackleton and its superb wildlife including colonies of Chinstrap and Macaroni Penguins and Wandering Albatross. From here the next “port of call” is Gough island where we hope to be some of the very few people to have approached close to the island with its superb wildlife as we hope to circumnavigate it in zodiacs.
Tristan da Cunha, the most remote British dependency, has a romance all of its own and we'll hope to have an opportunity to meet some of the people who live there as well as visit Nightingale Island with its millions of seabirds. Our next island, St Helena, is also a British dependency and you can read more about this and neighbouring Ascension Island on other pages of this website. From Ascension Island the ship continues to Cape Verde.
If you wish to stay longer at Cape Verde this can be arranged (see below for more details).
- South Atlantic Odyssey
- South Atlantic expedition cruise with specialist expedition leaders
- 2020 departures:
20 March (PLA34)
29 March (PLA35)
22 April (PLA36)
- 33 nights: Ushuaia – Antarctica – Ushuaia – St Helena (PLA34)
24 nights: Ushuaia – St Helena (PLA35)
10 nights: St Helena – Ascension Island – Cape Verde (PLA36)
- Cabin price from: £8,820 (PLA34), £5,320 (PLA35) or £1,230 (PLA36)* quadruple shared porthole
- Deposit: 20%
- Vessel: M/v Plancius
- Meal Basis: Full Board (except in Ushuaia or Ascension)
- Activity level: Easy
- Tour leader: Oceanwide Expeditions
- * Prices quoted are for cruise only. We can arrange flights on request from an airport of your choice (where available) and fares will be confirmed at time of booking. Most departures will require at least two nights' stay in Ushuaia. Accommodation is in a 4 star hotel at a cost of approximate £110 per night (bed & breakfast in twin or double room) and again cost will be confirmed at time of booking. Accommodation on the ship is on a full board basis. Please note that your deposit covers the ship only. In order to get the best possible fare for your flight, we may need to ask you for full payment at the time of booking that flight.
- South Atlantic Odyssey 2020 detailed itineraries
- South Atlantic Odyssey 2020 Overview, dates & prices
M/v Plancius started her life in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and was named “Hr. Ms. Tydeman”. In June 2004, the vessel was taken out of active service and was purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions in December 2006. The vessel was completely rebuilt in 2009 and complies with the latest SOLAS regulations (Safety Of Life At Sea). Read more about Plancius…
Please note that the following itinerary covers both PLA34 and PLA35 (starts on day 10) cruises. Check the PDF itineraries above for the actual itinerary of your chosen tour.
Day 1: End of the World, Start of a Journey
Your voyage begins in Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark Plancius from this small town on Tierra del Fuego — nicknamed “The End of the World”. In the early evening we sail the scenic, mountain-fringed Beagle Channel.
Days 2 & 3: At sea
Over the next two days as we cross the Drake Passage you can catch a taste of life from the perspective of the polar explorers who first braved these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling waves, maybe even a fin whale blasting up a column of sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence — Antarctica's natural boundary formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas — you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. A variety of albatross and petrels show up, along with Cape Pigeons and Southern Fulmars. Then, near the South Shetland Islands, the first icebergs come into sight.
Days 4 – 7 Enter the Antarctic
Gray stone peaks sketched with snow, towers of broken blue-white ice and dramatically different wildlife below and above. You first pass the snow-capped Melchior Islands and Schollaert Channel, sailing between Brabant and Anvers Islands. Possible sites you may visit include:
Wilhelmina Bay — a likely spot to see feeding Humpback Whales. If conditions allow, you may even embark on a Zodiac cruise to the ghostly wreck of the Guvernøren, a whaling vessel which caught fire here in 1915.
Cuverville Island. Stabbing up between Rongé Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, Cuverville is home to a colony of several thousand Gentoo Penguins as well as pairs of breeding Brown Skuas.
Danco Island. Activities here may focus on the Gentoo Penguins nesting on the island in addition to the Weddell and Crabeater Seals which may be found nearby.
Neko Harbour — an epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow. Opportunities for Zodiac cruising and kayaking provide you the closest possible view of the ice-crusted alpine peaks. You may be able to set foot on the Antarctic Continent here.
Paradise Bay. You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters where there is a good chance of seeing Humpback and Minke Whales. There'll also be a chance to land on the continent here.
Booth, Pléneau & Petermann Islands. You may sail through the Lemaire Channel in search of Adélie Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags. There's also a good chance you'll encounter Leopard Seals as well as Humpback, Minke and Fin Whales here. You may also visit Both Island's Port Charcot.
Melchior Islands. A beautiful landscape rich with icebergs. Leopard Seals, Crabeater Seals and whales are found here and there are excellent opportunities for kayaking and diving. You depart at noon, depending on conditions on the Drake Passage.
Days 8 – 9: Familiar Seas, Familiar Friends
While crossing the Drake, you're again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south.
Day 10: New Friends, New Destinations (PLA35 STARTS HERE)
New passengers join at Ushuaia before we again sail up the Beagle Channel.
Days 11 - 14: Sea Route to South Georgia
A number of albatross and petrel species follow the vessel eastward across the Antarctic upwelling zone and towards South Georgia.
Day 15 - 17: South Georgia Journey
The plan is to visit some of the world's top King Penguin rookeries. At this time of year, you have a good chance of seeing these magnificent birds nesting on eggs, their chicks close by. The rookeries are overflowing with waddling rush-hour traffic to and from the beach. Possible visits include:
Salisbury Plain, St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour. Here you see not only the massive King Penguin colony but also Elephant Seals and limitless Fur Seal pups playing in the surf.
Prion Island — a great location to watch Wandering Albatross.
Grytviken. You have the opportunity to check out this abandoned whaling station where King Penguins now walk the streets and Elephant Seals lie around like they own the place — because they just about do. You might also visit the South Georgia Museum and Shackleton's grave.
Cooper Bay is a great place for a Zodiac cruise. This bay also houses a rookery of Macaroni Penguins. King Penguins, Pintails and Giant Petrels may also appear here.
Days 18 – 22: Once More to the Sea
A pleasant tailwind often accompanies the vessel through the westerlies and on both sides of the convergence fly vast numbers of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic seabirds.
Day 23: The Quest Continued
You first approach Gough Island for a Zodiac cruise in Quest Bay, weather permitting. Northern Rockhopper Penguins and Sub-Antarctic Fur Seals are often seen here. In previous years it has been possible for the vessel to circumnavigate all but four miles of the 33-mile circumference of the island, taking in the scenery and unrivalled abundance of wildlife.
Days 24 – 27: Tristan da Cunha
These islands are famed for their bird populations which include Rockhopper Penguins, several species of albatross, petrels, skuas, terns and many others. Our aim is to visit the settlement on the west side of the archipelago's main island but the planned four days here may also allow to land in Seal Bay on the south side or possibly at Sandy Point on the east side of Tristan da Cunha. Here we may encounter wildlife such as Yell-nosed Albatross and Sub-Antarctic Fur Seals and otherwise explore a very rarely visited spot. We aim to land at Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands with views of seabirds ranging from Yell-nosed Albatross to Brown Noddies. Two days is reserved in case of bad weather but please remember that nature determines the itinerary here. Since the beginning of the Atlantic Odyssey in 1998 adverse weather has led to the cancellation of 35% of Tristan da Cunha landings. It is not impossible, but it is difficult.
Days 28 – 31: Subtropical Seas
Seabirds and dolphins indigenous to this region often follow the vessel.
Days 32 – 34: St Helena Highlights
After landing at Jamestown you have many opportunities to enjoy the local culture, pleasant climate and endemic bird of this remote island. One such activity is a visit to Longwood House where Napoleon died in exile. You'll also have the chance to explore the island on your own — and snorkel the shallows to see multitudes of tropical and subtropical fish. Disembarkation and flights to Europe and Africa are possible from here or you can continue on Voyage PLA 36 to Cape Verde via Ascension Island (see itinerary for PLA 36).
The following itinerary is for PLA36 only. Check the PDF itineraries above for the actual itinerary of your chosen tour.
Days 1 - 2: Sailing the Ridge
We leave St Helena in the evening to sail along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the submarine mountain range running some 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) from the Arctic Ocean to near the southern tip of Africa.
Days 3 – 4: Onward to Ascension
This dry, volcanic island is a major home for the Sooty Tern (almost known as the Wideawake) whose colony sometimes grows to over a million breeding pairs. You may get the chance for a hike to the richly vegetated Green Mountain National Park and a visit to the shore in the late evening to watch the green Turtles laying eggs on the beach.
Days 5 – 9: Across the Equator
Joining you across the Equator are Arctic Terns and Long-tailed Skuas in their northbound spring migration.
Day 10: Praia, Cape Verde (Cabo Verde)
At 0900 hours you disembark in Praia on Santiago Island, the capital of the Cape Verde Islands.* If you're flying out on the night of May 2/May 3, we offer an additional tour in and around Praia. Here you can visit the historic Cidade Velha and its massive hillside fortress which was built to defend against English raiders. Other sites include the oldest Christian church in the tropics and the slave whipping post in the main square. Stroll the Praia streets and enjoy the variety of indigenous folk music spilling out of the tavern windows.
*Disembarking passengers will have access to a few hotel rooms where you can collect your luggage and freshen up before travelling to the airport — or back to your hotel if you're staying longer in Praia.