Only a century ago, venturing as far south as the 7th continent was an undertaking requiring months of preparation and weeks at sea. You were literally taking your life in your hands, as Antarctic explorers Roald Amundsen, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, or Nobu Shirase would surely attest.
But today, over 100 years after Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out on their fateful voyage on board the ill-fated Endurance, journeying to Antarctica and exploring Southern Ocean destinations is the adventure of a lifetime. This is particularly true on board small exploration boat Hans Hansson.
Getting to Antarctica
Recent technological advances and greater interest in Antarctica have enabled us to travel to this incredibly remote, pristine region faster and easier than ever before. You can now fly the Drake, for example, cutting days off your travel time with unique Antarctic fly/cruise itineraries.
Magellan statue in Punta Arenas, Chile. Photo credit: D Johnson
The embarkation point for your adventure will be from the southernmost areas of Argentina or Chile. In Ushuaia, Argentina, you be flying into the southernmost airport in the world, at the tip of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. There are some interesting attractions here, including Tierra del Fuego National Park and the End of the World train. A short distance northwest, Punta Arenas, Chile, is the departure point for our popular fly-cruise voyages. There's lots to do in this community of 127,000 as you head towards your final destination.
An Intimate Antarctic Cruise
Travelling aboard our small exploration vessel Hans Hansson is a holiday unlike any other.
Accommodating just 12 passengers, Hans Hansson offers an intimate and flexible
experience that includes exploring remote places larger vessels can't access. Residents of the region, Captain Dion Poncet, his partner Juliette Hennequin, and their crew share their vast knowledge of the area as you explore the Antarctic together.
Its small size allows Hans Hansson expeditions to be more flexible, with daily itinerary choices often made by its passengers, according to their interests. Time ashore is not limited as it is on larger vessels, and there's more opportunity for exploration.
Mealtimes are just like home, with the possible exception that much of the food you'll eat comes from Dion and Juliette's farm, or is locally sourced. Crew and passengers eat together, creating an intimate atmosphere unavailable on larger vessels.
A massive refit in 2005 created more comfortable living quarters for Hans Hansson passengers, without compromising its inherent seaworthiness. Each of the four Twin Cabins contains a desk and wardrobe, while the two Superior Cabins offer private washrooms, as well.
White Sand Beaches, Wildlife and Biodiversity
Your exploration of the Falklands aboard Hans Hansson begins in Santiago, Chile, where you'll arrive before being flown to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) via Punta Arenas, Chile. After checking into your hotel in Port Stanley on East Falkland, you'll have a couple of days of exploration, including a visit to the penguin colony at Volunteer Point.
Once you board Hans Hansson, the real adventure begins as you spend the next 9 days circumnavigating the islands. Built as a rescue boat, Hans Hansson is just the right size to visit the smaller inlets and islands larger vessels can't reach. There's also a lot more time for exploration, a luxury you'll appreciate when you visit Sea Lion Island. A National Nature Reserve, Sea Lion Island boasts more than 40 species of birds, penguins, sea lions, seals, and whales.
Sheer cliffs, soaring peaks and sheltered coves await you at the Beaver Island group. You'll see gentoo penguins, South American gray foxes, reindeer and many varieties of seabird here. Perfect for hiking, many of these islands are nature reserves.
Just off the coast of West Falkland, the highlight of West Point Island is “Devil's Nose,” a promontory with thousands of black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguins.
The nearby Jason Islands are cat- and rat-free, creating the perfect environment for birds of all kinds -- you may even spot the rare striated caracara here.
Saunders Island features beautiful white sand beaches and an opportunity to see Commerson's dolphins, which are also known as skunk or panda dolphins, due to their distinctive black and white markings.
To learn more, contact an experienced Polar Travel Adviser today to get started on your intimate exploration of the Falkland Islands or to learn more about taking an Antarctic tour.