The oceans of the world offer infinite possibilities for discovery: from the cold seas and towering icebergs of Antarctica to the riotous colour and warm waters of the South Pacific, expedition cruising opens up a wealth of wildlife and landscapes, cultures and activities. All the small ships we have chosen for our wildlife cruises have solid reputations for being ideal in terms of size, speed, safety and stability for exploring the remote, beautiful and wild areas of our planet. Whether you choose a 12-passenger five-star vessel or an icebreaker, they will all give you the perfect base to venture into the world’s wildest areas. They will move you quickly from bay to island to icechoked channel, and provide a comfortable homecoming at the end of a day’s exploration. Whatever your tastes, we are confident you will find among our selection of wildlife voyages a blend of experiences and activities, on and off the water, just to your liking. There are so many questions that you will want to know the answers to before heading off on your first wildlife cruise, we thought we would help by answering some of your questions before you have even made your booking! It is not exhaustive by any means, but it will help to set the scene and will give you an insight into ‘how things work’. Is it a cruise or is it a voyage? It is actually a bit of both. The impression which you are likely to conjure up with the word ‘cruise’ is of a gigantic ship, and hundreds (if not thousands!) of passengers being disgorged into an unsuspecting port to wizz around, buy lots of ready made artefacts only to return to their ship and sit by the pool in the sun reading a book! A voyage on the other hand suggests rather a lot of hardship in order to get anywhere or do anything… a bit like Christopher Columbus’s voyage, or even Charles Darwin’s. Wildlife cruising is different. On a wildlife cruise with Wildlife Worldwide you will be on a small vessel (the vessels we work with generally accommodate between 20 and 128 passengers) just enough to be able to meet new people and get to know them over the course of the trip, and to be able to recognise and greet all of the other passengers onboard. Not so many that every time you see a face it seems to be a new one! On a wildlife cruise the vessels have been specially adapted for their conditions, they will have been refitted to accommodate guests, since many of them were actually research vessels in a former life. On a wildlife cruise, there will be illustrated talks and presentations throughout the journey. These will cover a whole range of topics from birds and mammals, to geography, history and astronomy, and they will be presented by the onboard guides and experts who play such an important role in making your trip a special one. So, how does it all start and what’s it like on board? To begin with you will probably be welcomed aboard with a glass of bubbly and a bite to eat! The crew cast off and once you are under way you will be introduced to the captain and his crew. Departures are generally late afternoon/early evening. Passengers are free to visit the ship’s bridge any time of the day or night. It is fascinating seeing how they plot the ship’s course observing the monitors of depth, wind speed and wave height! Tell me about the food. The food onboard is plentiful and delicious. There is a good variety of food, and vegetarians can generally be catered for as long as we know in advance. Fresh fruit and salad will generally be provided throughout the trip. As well as breakfast, three course lunches and dinners, biscuits and cakes are provided in the late afternoon, and tea, coffee and juice are available throughout the day. What are the weather and sea conditions going to be like? The weather and sea conditions are highly variable and good weather can never be guaranteed, whether you are in the tropics or the polar regions. Are the days at sea boring? Not at all! There is usually a lecture programme arranged for sea days and the possibility of a film in the evening or a preparatory talk for the next day. Lectures last between 40 and 45 minutes and there is plenty of time to get out on deck between lectures to see what’s around - there is almost always something to see. How about the landings? The object of the exercise on one of our wildlife cruises is to get off the vessel and explore the area, look at and photograph the wildlife and learn about your surroundings in the company of experts. On arrival at the landing site, final instructions are given, and lifejackets are donned, while the zodiacs are lowered into the sea. Ten to 12 people at a time will go in a zodiac to the landing site; you will normally spend between two and fours hours in any one place. This of course will vary depending on where you are and what there is to see and photograph. There will generally be two landings in a day and the ship will sail to the second landing site while lunch is being served. The landing sites are many and varied and they will depend on the wildlife cruise that you have selected. You will normally receive more information about these once you have made your booking. Which landing sites you visit may change depending on the weather conditions and other circumstances out of the control of the ship’s crew. Do I need to be fit? Although you don’t need to be super-fit, you need to be in good health since many of the voyages take place in remote destinations without access to sophisticated medical facilities. Most shore excursions involve climbing in and out of zodiacs, involving a certain amount of agility, so the voyages are not usually suitable for those with mobility problems. 166 F O R R E S E R V A T I O N S C A L L U S O N 0845 130 6982 Wildlife Expedition Cruising
S E E U S O N T H E W E B AT wildlifeworldwide.com 167 Wildlife Cruising / Antarctica Where do the Antarctic trips depart from? The port of departure for most Antarctic voyages is Ushuaia, a small town on the southern tip of Argentina. Originally a pioneer town, it has increased dramatically in size over the last 20 years and now has a number of hotels, restaurants and shops - mainly catering for the increase in visitors to Antarctica. Ushuaia has one of the most stunning settings imaginable. On the edge of the Beagle Channel the view across to Chile is spectacular and the backdrop of the Andes as they reach the sea is equally breathtaking. Excursions can be made from Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park as well as nearby glaciers and islands in the Beagle Channel. You might want to think about leaving for your wildlife cruise a few days early and adding on an extension. For wildlife cruises to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, Hobart in Tasmania and Lyttelton or Invercargill in New Zealand are generally the starting points. What are the weather and sea conditions going to be like in the Antarctic Peninsula? This is probably our most often asked question in respect of these trips – and of course there is no easy answer! The weather and sea conditions are highly variable and good weather can never be guaranteed, even in the height of the Antarctic summer. Crossing the Drake Passage from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula is infamous for bad weather and indeed this applies to most of the Southern Ocean. Rough weather can safely be expected 50 percent of the time. The waves can reach staggering heights but for those of you with good sea legs there is still great wildlife to be seen – including the sea’s aerial masters, the albatrosses and petrels. I have heard a lot about the scientific bases – will we get a chance to visit them? During the trip the ship will stop at least once at a scientific base. Base Esperanza is an Argentinean base on the Antarctic Peninsula and notable because it has a school with twenty pupils! Tours of the base are fascinating. As the scientists take visitors around they will show you how they cope with the weather, and explain their work. There has been a long history of scientific work in Antarctica so many of the bases have interesting museums dedicated to science or exploration. Can you swim in Antarctica? Well amazingly you can… but it’s not for the feinthearted! Where exactly will depend on the ship’s itinerary, but most cruises take in Deception Island where the expedition staff will dig out a small pool in the sand and after a short dip in the bay (1°C) you can warm up in the pool (40°C!). So, if you think you might want to try it, then don’t forget your swimmers! In the past many of you have chosen to sail with us to Antarctica, and over the next few pages we’ve included yet another great selection of Antarctic trips. So, bearing this in mind, here are answers to a few specific questions on cruising in Antarctica. Cruising in Antarctica What wildlife can I see on one of the cruises? The list below may well whet your appetite! Whales Minke are found in the ice floes around the Antarctic Peninsula, while Humpback, Beaked, Fin, Sei, Southern Right, and Blue Whales may be found in the Southern Ocean. Orcas are regular sightings amongst the ice floes right up to the Falkland Islands. Birds Sooty Shearwaters and numerous gulls around continental South America. Albatrosses, petrels and prions in the Southern Ocean. South Georgia Pipit among the tussock grasses on South Georgia and a selection of endemic birds on the Falkland Islands. Seals Weddell Seals are the most southerly of all the Antarctic seals and are generally near ice. Leopard Seals are common around the Antarctic Peninsula, especially near the penguin colonies. Crab-eater Seals are around pack ice throughout the region. Antarctic Fur Seal are found mainly near the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia, while Elephant Seals occur over much of the Southern Ocean. Other mammals Reindeer! These are found on South Georgia having been introduced by the sealers and whalers many years ago. Penguins If you want to see Emperor Penguins you must select a voyage that either takes you to the Ross Sea, or visit the only known Emperor Penguin rookery on the Antarctic Peninsula at Snow Hill. King Penguins are seen in massive numbers on South Georgia (some also occur on the Falklands). They breed over a two year cycle so whenever you go to Antarctica you are likely to see all stages of maturation – from eggs being incubated by adults, to scrawny brown newly hatched chicks and bedraggled, moulting sub-adults. Macaroni Penguins have a significant concentration on South Georgia too. Rockhopper, and Magallenic Penguins are Falklands ‘specials’. For Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins the Peninsula is the place, while Adelie Penguins breed further south than any other penguin and are found all around the continent.