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South Atlantic Islands Cruises

South Atlantic Odyssey

Expedition cruise to South Georgia, Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Ascension Island
(+ options to also visit the Antarctic Peninsula and Cape Verde)

Tristan da Cunha

Antarctic Peninsula (PLA32A only – Ushuaia • Beagle Channel • Drake Passage • Hope Bay/Brown Bluff • Devil Island • Weddell Sea • Paulet Island) • South GeorgiaGough IslandTristan da CunhaSt HelenaAscension Island and possibility to extend your cruise to Cape Verde (PLA33).

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.

Some people have time to indulge in the entire voyage but, should yours be a bit more limited, you can leave the ship at Ascension Island or Cape Verde. Alternatively, if you want to spend time on St Helena and also experience the last working Royal Mail Ship, you can disembark there.

Antarctic Iceberg - © Oceanwide ExpeditionsGreen Turtle on Ascension Island

Route map

Antarctic Peninsula route map

PLA32A Ushuaia – Antarctic Peninsula – Ushuaia route

PLA32A, PLA32B & PLA33 route map

PLA32A & PLA32B Ushuaia – Ascension route
PLA33 Ascension – Cape Verde route

Key facts

  • South Atlantic Odyssey
  • South Atlantic expedition cruise with specialist expedition leaders
  • 2016 departures:
    17 March (PLA32A)
    26 March (PLA32B)
  • 36 nights: Ushuaia – Antarctic Peninsula – Ushuaia – Ascension (PLA32A)
    27 nights: Ushuaia – Ascension (PLA32B)
    +6 nights: Ascension – Cape Verde (PLA33)
  • Cabin price from: £4,565* (quadruple shared porthole on PLA32B)
  • Deposit: £1,000
  • Meal Basis: Full Board (except in Ushuaia or Ascension)
  • Travel: M/v Plancius
  • 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 2016
    overview, dates & prices
    South Atlantic Odyssey 2016
    detailed itinerary

The ship

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

M/v Plancius

Your itinerary

Day 1: Embarkation and departure from Ushuaia for Voyage PLA32A
In the afternoon, we embark in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located at the Beagle Channel and sail through this scenic waterway for the rest of the evening.

Day 2 - 3: At sea
During these two days we sail across the Drake Passage. When we cross the Antarctic Convergence, we arrive in the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. In this area we may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black- browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson's Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. Near the South Shetland Islands, we spot our first icebergs.

Day 4 - 7: Antarctica
We will sail directly to "High Antarctica", passing the Melchior Islands and the Schollaert Channel between Brabant and Anvers Island. On Cuverville Island, a small precipitous island, nestled between the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and Ronge Island, we will find a large colony of Gentoo penguins and breeding pairs of Brown skuas. If we land on Orne Island we can observe Chinstrap penguins and possibly Weddell and Crabeater seals. In Neko Harbour we will have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic Continent in a magnificent landscape of huge glacier and enjoy the landscape during zodiac cruises.

When sailing to Paradise Bay, with its myriad icebergs and deep cut fjords, we will have the opportunity for zodiac cruising between the icebergs in the inner parts of the bay. Throughout this area we have good chances to see Humpback whales and Minke whales. We sail through the spectacular Lemaire Channel to Pléneau and Petermann Island where we can find Adelie penguins and Blue-eyed shags. In this area, there are good chances to encounter Humpback whales, Minke whales and Fin whales. Sailing north through Gerlache Strait we arrive at the Wilhelmina Bay where we often are fortunate to see feeding Humpback whales. We may embark on a Zodiac cruise if the conditions allow ending at the wreck of Guvernøren an old whaling vessel that burned here in 1915. Around Melchior Islands amidst a beautiful landscape with icebergs, where we may encounter more whales but also Leopard seal and Crabeater seals.

Day 8 - 9: At sea
On our way north we are again followed by a great selection of seabirds while crossing the Drake Passage.

Day 10: Arrival in Ushuaia (March 26)
We begin Voyage PLA32B in the afternoon as we set off from again from the Beagle Channel.

Days 11 - 14: At sea
We sail again across the Drake Passage. When we cross the Antarctic Convergence, we arrive in the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. In this area we may see Wandering albatrosses, Grey-headed albatrosses, Black-browed albatrosses, Light-mantled Sooty albatrosses, Cape petrels, Southern fulmars, Wilson's Storm petrels, Blue petrels and Antarctic petrels. Near the South Shetland Islands, we spot our first icebergs.

Days 15 � 17: South Georgia
We aim to visit some of the major King penguin rookeries in the World. The late season offers an outstanding chance to see the King penguins on eggs and with small chicks. The rookeries are packed at this time of year and the traffic to and from the beach is astounding. Salisbury Plain offers this scenario in mind boggling quantity. We will see the huge King penguin colony along with Elephant seals and endless numbers of fur seal pups playing in the surf. On Prion Island in the Bay of Isles (the island is closed for visitors during breeding season from 20 Nov – 07 January) we can see breeding Wandering albatrosses. We will also find time to visit the old whaling settlement in Grytviken, where now the penguins walk through the streets. Grytviken is home to a small, but highly informative museum and also offers a chance to visit the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton who is buried here alongside his trusted friend and companion Frank Wild. We will attempt to land Gold Harbour and St Andrews Bay with stunningly beautiful scenery and a wildlife density second to none. King penguins are truly Kings here! We end our South Georgia experience in the spectacular Dryglaski Fjord.

Days 18 – 22: At sea
In the Westerlys we have a pleasant tailwind. On both sides of the Antarctic Convergence, we observe many species and great numbers of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic seabirds.

Day 23: Gough Island
Today we plan to approach the unique Gough Island for a zodiac cruise around Quest Bay, as always weather permitting. Gough Island is a strictly protected nature reserve and landings are not allowed. However, the intended Zodiac cruise have proven to offer spectacular scenery and a great abundance of wildlife not easily seen elsewhere in the world. In previous years we managed to circumnavigate all but four miles of the 33 mile circumference of the island by ship. We felt very privileged to be among the few visitors who have been able to experience Gough and in particular, to see it at such close quarters and in such favourable conditions. We hope to be lucky to repeat this unique experience with you.

Days 24 – 26: Tristan da Cunha
In the Tristan da Cunha archipelago we plan to call on the settlement at the west side of the main island. We will also try to make landings at Nightingale Island and Inaccessible Island where millions of seabirds ranging from Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Nortern Rockhopper penguins to Brown Noddies breed. We allow one day in reserve for bad weather. Please note that we will try and approach for landings, however due to the weather conditions this is not always possible. Since we began our Atlantic Odyssey's (1998) we failed during 30% of the voyages to make landings in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, due to adverse weather.

Days 27 – 30: At sea
We now enter sub-tropical waters with their own species of seabirds and dolphins.

Days 31 – 33: St. Helena
St. Helena has a good anchorage and landing site at James Town. On this island, we will have ample opportunities to enjoy local culture, pleasant climate, and endemic plants and birds. We will visit Longwood House, the place where Napoleon lived and died in exile. There will be opportunities to explore the Island on your own and for snorkelling in the shallow surf where we can find a multitude of tropical and sub-tropical fish species.

Day 34 & 35: At sea

Day 36 – 37: Ascension Island (April 21 - 22)
Ascension Island is a dry volcanic island with a moist and richly vegetated top. The Sooty tern (wide-awake) colony sometimes consists of more than 1 million breeding pairs. We will try to climb the moist summit of Ascension Island and make a zodiac-cruise around Boatswain Bird Island. Near the anchorage at Georgetown we also have great opportunities for snorkelling. We aim to witness egg-laying sea turtles coming ashore at night. Some of our passengers may disembark and fly with the scheduled RAF (Royal Air Force) flight to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, UK. Others may proceed with the voyage to the Cape Verdes (Voyage PLA33). In the evening the vessel will depart from Ascension Island.

Days 38 – 42 (April 23 – April 27): At sea
We witness the northbound spring migration of northern birds like Arctic terns and Long-tailed skuas who join us in crossing the Equator ("the Line").

Day 43: Praia (April 28)
Passengers will disembark at 9.00 hours*. Those who will fly from Praia on the night of May 01 will be offered an excursion in Praia on Sao Tiago. We shall make an excursion to Cidade Velha, steeped in history, and shall observe the massive fortress on the hill, built to deter English marauders in the period when the Crowns of Portugal and Spain were united and Portuguese possessions became as fair game to the likes of Drake and Raleigh as were Spanish ones. We shall see the ruins of the Cathedral, the oldest Christian Church in the tropics, and the slave whipping post in the main square. The village is well watered and there are plantations of sugar cane, which support a rum distillery, and several species of birds. We shall have another guided stroll around the City of Praia, which is the capital of the Cape Verdes, and which has given rise to a unique variety of folk music, which we shall hear as we pass the various bars!

* For the disembarking passengers we will reserve a few rooms in a hotel in Praia, where we collect their luggage and where they can freshen up at the end of their excursion before travelling to the airport in the night or to their hotels if they are staying longer in Praia.

Antarctic Peninsula sceneryBlack-browed AlbatrossPlancius in AntarcticaPhotographing King penguinsGough IslandWelcome Sign on Tristan da CunhaView of Jamestown and Jacob's Ladder on St HelenaTwo Boats Village, Ascension IslandA Market on Cape Verde