Antarctic Travel Specialist, Gisel recently returned from a 20 Day Cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. Discover Gisels cruise highlights, more about the vessel and some handy tips on what and what not to take on this trip of a lifetime…
You recently returned from a 20 Day Cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica, what was your highlight?
I can’t choose a highlight! All three areas were fascinating and offered so many highlights. This trip was truly amazing.
How did the three areas compare?
All three areas offer different experiences. In the Falkland Islands, the wildlife is incredible. My highlights were the Albatross and the Rock Hopper Penguins. In South Georgia the focus was mostly on the history as you learnt about and gained insights into Shackletons journey and the now abandoned whaling stations. We also got to see King Penguins (my favourite to watch) and the Gentoo Penguins. Then there is the Antarctic Peninsula with its jaw dropping and stunning ice-bergs making shapes in the stark landscape.
What did you enjoy most about the Falkland Islands?
I found the history of the Falkland Islands fascinating. From the first recorded sighting of the islands in 1592, the exploration, settlements, negotiations of belonging and battles as most recently as the 1980’s. It is a diverse community with families who have been in the islands for nine generations. It was great to see the Albatross. After a 40 minute hike, we were on the edge of a cliff witnessing these big (and very clumsy) seabirds. The rockhoppers also great to see.
How about South Georgia?
South Georgia was where I first got to witness the fascinating King Penguins. We were there when the young penguins were losing their downy feathers. We got to see the transformation from cute fluffy brown fur balls to the colour defined and sleek creatures we see as typical images of the King Penguin.
And Antarctica itself?
Landscapes and variety of wildlife. We did some whale watching, we got to see the sea leopard and the Weddell sea seals (which you can only find on the peninsula). The awesome elephant seal is quite a sight. The sheer size of them is quite unbelievable. The male in this species can be over 20 feet long and weigh up to 4,000 kilograms!
What did you enjoy most about the Akademik Ioffe by One Ocean vessel?
The staff were amazing on this vessel, very welcoming, extremely professional with safety being the number one priority throughout the journey. The ship offered a range of facilities and services including a digital media room, a cinema room where you could see videos about what you are seeing next on the journey, a games room as well as art and photography classes. Despite being at sea for 5 days there was always something to do. Solo travellers were encouraged to interact and by the end of the cruise, connections for life and good friends had been made.
One of the many highlights was being on the same cruise as some BBC wildlife producers responsible for documentaries such as “Walk with the Dinosaurs”. They were kind enough to share tips on photography and filming wildlife and landscapes. One Ocean tend to be a preferred suppliers with this industry group so keeping such company is not uncommon on these vessels.
If there was a client concerned about feeling claustrophic or trapped on board for such a long period of time, what would your response be?
These are modern vessels and I think it would be almost impossible to feel that way. There are different levels on the vessel and each level houses different rooms varying in size and purpose as well there being numerous exits to the deck and stern areas.
You would have seen a variety of wildlife, which was your most favourite creature and why?
I really enjoyed observing the King Penguin. Their colours are amazing. The way they partner for life is also very special. I enjoyed observing the little dance they do when they meet up. This dance is unique to their partnership. However, again it’s difficult to choose a favourite as the Albatross was another one I thoroughly enjoyed observing as was the Gentoo Penguins. These guys were a lot of fun to watch as they slid down snowy slopes on their belly. I’m sorry I just can’t choose a favourite!
Which item could you NOT leave home without on this adventure?
You can’t leave home without your thermals. This is the only vessel that does supply the complete outer layer (boots, pants, jackets) which makes a big difference when you are planning (and packing) for this trip of a lifetime. However, your thermals are a must. Another item you just can’t leave home without is a good camera. I bought a Panasonic Lumix 70x zoom especially for the trip and I was so glad I did. I captured some incredible memories that will most definitely last a lifetime. One tip…. Familiarise yourself and prior to departure, practise getting the white balance setting right…. the one thing you can rely on is that there is plenty of white!
Which item did you leave at home and wish you had of taken with you?
My tripod! When you sit there and observe the wildlife for sometimes quite long periods, the steadiness of the tripod would have made picture taking a lot easier. I wish I had of taken more memory cards. Instead of exporting my pictures off the camera every evening, it would have been much easier to just pop another memory card in. Over 21 days I took 7,000 photos!!
If you could give one ‘Insider’ tip for embarking on an Antarctic Adventure such as this, what would it be?
The weather conditions will always end up determining what you do and don’t do. Regardless of itinerary, any Antarctic journey will always have an element of unpredictability. Weather and conditions can change at any moment. So, it’s a good idea to be open-minded and flexible about where you are and what you are doing each day. The crew are an experienced and professional team. Any change to the plan is made with safety top of mind. That unpredictability is what makes Antarctica so special, offering many opportunities to discover those “off the beaten track” hidden gems.