Seeing the endearing and adventurous penguins in their natural habitat for the first time is a memory never to be forgotten. These comical flightless birds are expert swimmers, full of character and are mesmerising to watch as they waddle around within their colony.
Penguins are a joy to watch as they clumsily walk, hop, or run with their bodies angled forward. Many polar penguins slide across the ice like a ‘toboggan’ on their bellies, pushing forward with their feet.
Despite the varying size and shape of penguins, they are distinctively recognisable by their black bodies and white bellies. They live almost exclusively below the equator, and you can see penguins galore on an expedition voyage in the Antarctic, which have expert wildlife guides on board.
First we will list the holidays then more information about the specific places if you are interested.
Wild Antarctica: Fly the Drake
Experience the Antarctic Peninsula and its maze of protected channels with our dedicated Discovery Team. Glide in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, experiencing the peacefulness of the frozen continent. Watch as penguins and seals dive through the glassy seas. Take the time to feel the fresh, crisp air on your face and listen to the snow crunch under your boot.
|Punta Arenas||Hotel Cabo de Hornos||2 Nights||AI|
|King George Island||Discovery Yacht||1 Night||AI|
|Arctic Peninsula||Discovery Yacht||5 Nights||AI|
|Puntas Arenas||Hotel Cabo de Hornos||1 Night||AI|
Day 1: Punta Arenas
Fly overnight to Punta Arenas.
Day 2: Punta Arenas
Located on the edge of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas is a frontier town known for its brightly coloured houses, plazas and mountainous backdrops and is the stepping off point for your Antarctic exploration. Arrive at your hotel for your one-night stay.
Early in the evening you will meet your fellow Discoverer’s for a briefing and a welcome dinner.
Day 3: King George Island, Antarctica
Your journey into wonder begins as you fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island (weather permitting), the largest of the South Shetland Islands, where the crew will warmly greet you as you board Scenic Eclipse. Settle into your handsomely appointed suite and acquaint yourself with the luxurious facilities of your Discovery Yacht. Toast the start of your voyage at the welcome cocktail reception hosted by the Captain who will introduce your expert Discovery Leaders and their team
Day 4: Antarctic Peninsula
Welcome to Antarctica! Seeing the 7th continent for the first time is unlike anything you would have experienced before. Feel the fresh, crisp air on your face and hear the snow crunch under your boot when you first step foot on land. Each new encounter will fill you will awe. Witness wildlife in their natural habitat, with no fear of humans. Antarctica is truly land of peace.
Your expert Captain and crew will navigate some of the most beautiful waterways which may include traversing the stunning 11-kilometre-long Lemaire Channel where steep cliffs hem in the iceberg-filled passage just 700 metres wide at its narrowest point. There may be the chance to visit a working scientific base and discuss life in these harsh conditions with the staff. Enjoy the chance to visit areas alive with wildlife such as penguins, seals, and whales. You can also explore the remnants of a derelict whaling station and a vacant British base or climb to the rim of a volcanic crater. If conditions are favourable, there may be the opportunity to cross the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66°33’ South.
Due to the extraordinary nature of the region, a host of choices are open and dependent on the ice and weather conditions. Your experienced Discovery Team Leaders, who have made countless journeys to Antarctica, will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day, making the most of 18–20 hours of daylight.
Partake in daily Scenic Discovery excursions. Cruise on the Zodiacs around ice formations, step onto islands to view vast penguin rookeries and seals. Kayak and stand-up paddle board around icebergs and hear the ice cracking and whales feeding below.
Day 5: Antarctic Peninsula
Day 6: Antarctic Peninsula
Day 7: Antarctic Peninsula
Day 8: Antarctic Peninsula
Day 9: Punta Arenas, Chile
Disembark Scenic Eclipse after breakfast to fly to Punta Arenas (weather permitting), taking away memories of a truly unforgettable experience. On arrival in Punta Arenas, you will be transferred to your hotel.
Day 10 – Punta Arenas
After breakfast, depart for the airport with a new found appreciation of the immensity and uniqueness of Antarctica.
Highlights of Antarctica
|Beunos Aires||Alvear Palace Hotel||1 night||AI|
|Drake Passage||MS Fridtjof Nansen||2 Nights||AI|
|Antarctica||MS Fridtjof Nansen||5 Nights||AI|
|Drake Passage||MS Fridtjof Nansen||1 night||AI|
|Beunos Aires||Alvear Palace Hotel||1 Night||AI|
Day 1: Buenos Aries
Your adventure starts with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires, the lovely capital of Argentina. Check out the well-preserved Italian and French architecture, order delicious beef in one of the many great steakhouses and maybe practise your dancing moves in the famous hometown of tango. Make sure to embrace the heat from this sensuous city, because it is about to get much colder.
Day 2: Buenos Aries/ Ushuaia
Late nighters beware, we fly early in the morning to Ushuaia where hybrid-powered expedition ship MS Fridtjof Nansen awaits you. This port city competes with Chilean Puerto Williams for the seemingly coveted title of the southernmost city in the world. The Martial Glacier sits north of the city, creating an impressive mountain backdrop for the ‘end of the world’.
After a mandatory health and safety meeting on board the ship, kick off your journey with a welcome dinner hosted by the Expedition Team. You can then spend some time getting to know the ship that will be your home for the next several days.
Days 3-4: Drake Passage
In order to get to Antarctica, we have to cross the infamous Drake Passage. It was named after the English sea captain and privateer Sir Francis Drake who discovered it by chance in 1578 when his ship was taken south by heavy winds. Since there is no landmass at this latitude, wind and water roam freely, making it hard for ships to sail here. But don’t worry, even the ‘Drake Shake’ isn’t a big deal for our modern expedition ship.
It takes two days to cross the roughly 1000-km-wide Drake Passage. So, you’ll have some time on your hands, which is definitely a good thing as there is plenty to do to get ready for your Antarctic adventure. The Expedition Team will start their lecture programme in the Science Center, drawing on decades of experience to teach you how to make your visit as safe and as sustainable as possible. As per IAATO guidelines, we will all wear sterilised rubber boats when ashore and ensure we vacuum our clothing beforehand to remove any possible foreign contaminants. You will also learn about the various hands-on Citizen Science projects you can get involved in, all of which feed into live research and current science.
MS Fridtjof Nansen, lies at your feet to be explored as well, quite literally. Work out in the indoor or outdoor gym, or order a spa treatment in our Wellness Area. There are also three superb restaurants on board where you can enjoy delicious meals that are a treat for your eyes and your taste buds. But even with all these mod cons, don’t forget to head out on deck from time to time to look for your first iceberg, and to spot wildlife like whales, numerous types of petrels and albatrosses.
Days 5-9: Antarctica
Welcome to Antarctica. Being here, surrounded by icy waters, glaciers and icebergs big as cathedrals will probably make you feel like you’ve landed in a completely new world. Antarctica is magnificent, mesmerising and massive. You might need to stop for a moment to be able to take it all in. That awe-inspired silence is inevitably broken though when you see the first signs of wildlife like penguins, whales or seals and enthusiastic cheers erupt spontaneously all across the ship.
Just as the icescapes of Antarctica change through its seasons, so does its wildlife. In late spring from October to November, there will be much more snow, making the landscapes seem even more pristine. This forms the backdrop of penguin courting and nest building. Whales are still few and far in between during this time, most of them still on their way and beginning to arrive in greater numbers by December and January. Arrival of more whales marks the height of summer which is also when the first penguin chicks hatch. Seeing the clumsy clumps of feathers run around and is always a charming sight. February and March are the peak of whale-watching opportunities, when large amounts of krill lure them to the area.
When we get here, the Expedition Team will seize every chance to take you ice-cruising and on landings to get closer to the impressive scenery and wildlife. Spotting penguins from the ship is already an experience, which becomes even more wonderous when you go ashore to see them. It’s the same if a seal or whale suddenly appears next to you when cruising in our smaller explorer boats or when kayaking as part of an optional activity. Needless to say; keep your camera close at all times. To enhance your feeling of discovery, the Expedition Team will talk expertly about fascinating subjects like the frozen continent’s history, the biology of local wildlife, and glaciology.
Day 10-11: Drake Passage
After having explored remote and wild Antarctica over five days, we will be due to sail back for home. By this point, both your head and your heart will be filled with lifelong memories. You’ll hopefully also have captured many of these special moments on your camera. Crossing back over the Drake Passage, you’ll probably spend the next couple of days going through those pictures just to try and stay in Antarctica a little longer. The Expedition Team will also be doing the same as they recap the journey’s many experiences over in the Science Center. Working out is also a great way of processing everything you have seen, or maybe let your mind wander back to Antarctica in the Explorer Lounge and Bar?
Day 12: Ushuaia/ Buenos Aries
Your expedition cruise reaches its end as we return to Ushuaia. From here, you join a transfer to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires and a second chance to experience the Argentine capital. Since you are here already, why not extend your stay to keep your adventure going for a little while longer by joining our optional Post-Programme to the magnificent Iguazu waterfalls.
You will now have travelled to the bottom of the world and back. You’ve journeyed to the fabled Seventh Continent and have enchanting stories and photos of penguins to prove it. Antarctica will likely hold a place in your heart which few other places can match. Together with the other explorers who have been there, may we do all we can to preserve its unique beauty.
Travel to the terminus of the Andes and you’ve truly reached the end of the world once you set foot on Tierra del Fuego, a mythical land of fire and ice marooned off the southern tip of South America. Split in two by a border, it’s never been easier to visit both the Chilean and Argentinean sides of Tierra del Fuego on an epic journey through forgotten fjords, crackling glaciers, windswept pampa and brooding evergreen forests. Here’s how to make it happen in one perfect week.
|Ushuaia||Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa||2 Nights||AI|
|Tolhuin||Hostería Kaikén||1 Night||AI|
|Paso Bellavista||Karukinka Natural Park||1 Night||AI|
|Punta Arenas||Almasur Punta Arenas||1 Night||AI|
|Cape Froward||Hosteria Faro San Isidro||1 Night||AI|
Malvinas Argentinas International Airport in Ushuaia is the main commercial airport on Tierra del Fuego and the easiest place to begin your journey with at least two daily flights from Buenos Aires. This salty port town may seem rough around the edges at first glance, but its highly developed tourism industry welcomes visitors to the edge of the Americas with all the comforts of back home (think Patagonian wine and fire-cooked lamb).
Ushuaia is the base for 90% of the world’s cruises to Antarctica each summer (Nov-Mar) and transforms into a full-fledged winter wonderland come June when skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers and dog-sledders flock to its powdery hills (like Cerro Castor) and rambling river valleys (like Tierra Major) for epic adventures. Introduce yourself to the storied history of this unlikely outpost with a visit to Museo Maritimo y del Presidio, a museum housed within the cellblocks of the old National Prison.
The toy-like Tren del Fin de Mundo is an old logging train that originally shuttled prisoners to work camps, but now ushers tourists on a 7km track from town up to the lichen-covered lenga forests and languid peat bogs of Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. The tranquil waters of the park’s Lapataia Bay are ideal for a morning canoe trip paddling alongside cormorants, petrels, albatrosses and other Patagonian seabirds.
Return to Ushuaia for more wildlife viewing on an afternoon catamaran ride down the famed Beagle Channel, one of three navigable passages around South America between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The nutrient-rich waters of the channel are home to sea lions, several whale species and a buzzing colony of orange-beaked gentoo penguins on Isla Martillo. Piratour is the only outfit with permission to land on this island.
If you cross through the glacier-capped Andes that soar above Ushuaia and skirt the edge of powder-blue Lago Fagnano you’ll reach the golden grasses of Tierra del Fuego’s sleepy interior. Tolhuin, on the lake’s edge, makes a fine base for off-roading adventures. It’s also home to Panadería La Unión, a famed pastry shop with empanadas and alfajores (cookie sandwiches) whose walls are covered in photos of its famous visitors (mostly Argentine rock stars and their scantily clad cohorts).
Continue north until you reach the lonely lighthouse of Cabo San Pablo, which overlooks a sandy beach dominated by the rusting carcass of the Desdémona shipwreck. Stop at Garibaldi Cerveza Artesanal to pick up some hop-heavy craft brews on your return to Tolhuin where you can overnight at Hostería Kaikén, the only remaining of five refuges built by the government in the 1960s for early pioneers.
If you thought Argentinean Tierra del Fuego was rustic, wait until you cross into the Chilean side at Paso Bellavista. Home to less than 7,000 people, this is truly the final frontier of the Americas. To best appreciate its wild and rugged charms visit Karukinka Natural Park, a 300,000-hectare reserve owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society where culpeo foxes, sure-footed guanacos and skittish tuco-tucos roam the windswept steppe. For 360-degree views of the island, follow the 7km Cerro Pietro Grande trail through sub-Antarctic forests to a series of mountaintop lookouts. Karukinka offers a basic guesthouse, as well as six domes and 10 camping sites in the Vicuña sector.
Continue north from Karukinka until you reach the rocky shores of Bahía Inútil (Useless Bay) and its Parque Pingüino Rey, home to the only colony of king penguins outside of the Sub-Antarctic islands. What started as a group of eight seemingly lost penguins that washed up on the edge of retired kindergarten teacher Cecilia Durán’s estancia in 2010 is now a breeding colony of nearly 100 thanks to her work in creating this private park (where you can watch the waddling creatures from the safety of a viewing blind). Follow the bay westward toward Chilean Tierra del Fuego’s pint sized capital, Porvenir, to catch the afternoon ferry across the Strait of Magellan and overnight in the bustling port city of Punta Arenas, where king crab is a local delicacy.
An hour south of Punta Arenas you’ll find Fuerte Bulnes, a reconstructed fort that tells the tale of Chile’s first true attempt at colonizing land at this southerly latitude in the 1840s. The fort lies within Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes with a sleek visitor center that offers fascinating insights into both the motivations of the region’s (predominantly Eastern European) settlers and the struggles of the remarkably resilient indigenous inhabitants.
Nearby you’ll find the boarding location for Expedicion Fitz Roy, a small expedition ship that plies the forgotten corners of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Much of Chilean Tierra del Fuego is a puzzle of deserted islands and foggy fjords that can only be explored by water. Set sail toward the towering cross atop Cape Froward – the southernmost point of mainland South America – and wake up in Parque Nacional Alberto de Agostini.
Spend your final day in Tierra del Fuego searching for whales (humpbacks, orcas, blues, southern rights) and exploring the glaciers that tumble down into the frosty sea from the Cordillera Darwin, the world’s southernmost mountain range outside of Antarctica. With foreboding peaks and dense lenga forests, this isolated landscape can’t look all that different from the days when the indigenous Yaghan slathered their naked bodies in seal oil, wrapped themselves in guanaco fur and paddled the frigid fjords in search of a daily meal. Once you disembark back in civilization (Punta Arenas), you can either fly out via Santiago or return to Ushuaia by bus, car, flight or ferry.
Magical Philip Island
|Sydney||Amora Hotel Jamison||2 Nights||AI|
|Jervis Bay||Paperbark Camp||2 Nights||AI|
|Tilba Tilba||Central Tilba||1 Night||AI|
|Gipsy Point||Gipsy Point||1 Night||AI|
|Lakes Entrance||Waverley House Cottages||1 Night||AI|
|Wilson’s Promontory||Wilsons Promontory Wilderness Retreats||2 Nights||AI|
|Phillip Island||Oak Tree Lodge||1 Night||AI|
|Melbourne||The Lindrum||1 Night||AI|
Days 1-2: Depart
After enjoying your complimentary airport lounge access, board your flight out to Australia.
Days 3-4: Sydney
On arrival in Sydney, make your way to your hand-picked accommodation – both of our options are perfectly central and delightfully contemporary. You’ll then have two days to explore Australia’s largest city. Alongside the harbour icons, both bridge and opera house, there’s plenty more to discover. Wander through beautiful botanic gardens, relax on Bondi Beach and explore the historic architecture of the Rocks, today given over to boutiques and cafés.
Days 5-6: Jervis Bay
You’ll head south along the coast on the Princes Highway, pausing at Kiama to take in its famous blowhole, which shoots water up to 60m in the air. Then, inland waterfalls and Berry’s redbrick will see you on to Jervis Bay. Reputed to have the clearest water and whitest beaches in all Australia, it’s ideal for both white-sands relaxation and exploration; there’s world-class snorkelling and kayaking on offer. Between May and November, keep your eyes out for migrating whales and dolphins. You’ll stay a boutique B&B where you’ll be treated to complimentary dinners, bikes and canoes.
Day 7: Tilba Tilba
Mapping gorgeous bays and plunging through Budawang National Park’s dense forests, you’ll continue south to Tilba Tilba. It’s a beautifully restored period village that harks back to the 19th-centiry gold-mining boom. It’s also set dramatically at the base of Mt. Dromedary, with views best enjoyed from the walk up to the water tower. After perhaps sampling the local wine, you’ll then bed down in an elegant country house set on eight acres of tranquil, park-like grounds.
Day 8: Gipsy Point
Today you’ll ride rolling hills as you cross into the state of Victoria and arrive at Gipsy Point, where you can picnic with kangaroos and look out for sea eagles. There’s plenty to do en route, like heading inland to taste the cheeses of Bega or oysters of Pambula. The whale-watching tours from the town of Eden are a particular highlight. Accommodation tonight is in a spacious apartment at Gipsy Point Lakeside, with floor-to-ceiling windows and sweeping views of a world biosphere reserve – Croajingolong National Park. Explore with rugged coastline walks or turn inland for rainforest hikes.
Day 9: Lakes Entrance
As you reach Australia’s southeastern remotes, you’ll start to bear west through coastal forests. You’ll arrive at the appropriately named Lakes Entrance, found on the shores of Australia’s largest inland water system. It’s close to the spectacular Ninety Mile Beach, along with a handful of fine wineries and the Nyerimilang Heritage Park – a 19th-century clapboard homestead complete with gorgeous grounds. The Superior accommodation for tonight is a special highlight – your very own secluded cottage.
Days 10-11: Wilson’s Promontory
Continuing on through verdant ranchlands, you’ll arrive at mainland Australia’s southernmost point – Wilson’s Promontory. It’s a national-park wilderness of perfect-blue waters, white sands and carpeted headlands, all animated by the likes of kangaroos and wombats, spotted on fantastic hiking trails. Squeaky Beach is a further highlight, so-called for the distinctive noise made by its quartz sands. You’ll stay right among it all in an en-suite glamping tent with its very own wooden sundeck.
Day 12: Phillip Island
The wildlife wonders continue today as you cross onto Phillip Island. Among its pristine beaches and verdant interior, you’ll find koalas, kangaroos and its famous little penguins. Each evening at dusk, they set out of from the surf, completely ignoring the tourists that gather to watch their parade. You’ll stay in a boutique lodge.
Day 13: Melbourne
Heading into Melbourne, you’ll end as you began – with a city great. Staying in a heritage hotel in the city centre, you’ll have all of its delights on your doorstep. Indulge with its world-class dining scene, catch up on the local sports or get lost in the centre’s winding laneways to discover unique street art and hip bars. The Royal Botanic Gardens and National Gallery of Victoria are further favourites.
Days 14-15: Depart
Board your onward, overnight flight home.
|Cape Town||Cloud Nine Boutique Hotel and Spa||5 Nights||AI|
Day 1: Cape Town
Explore one of the world’s most beautiful cities from the open-top of a double-decker bus with a two-day pass. Flaunting its iconic red framework all around Cape Towns must-see spots, the hop-on hop-off bus is the best way to gain insight into the city’s intriguing history and eclectic modern-day makeup.
On the 4 possible routes, you’ll be taken to all the prominent museums and inner-city sights before heading to Table Mountain’s cable car station. From there, you’ll make your way down to the tranquil beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton and return to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. The best bit? It’s up to you where you hop off.
Multi-language audio is available on board to give you the lowdown on everything that you pass – oh and don’t forget to bring your camera!
Day 3: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Save yourself a 3-hour gruelling hike and zip to the top of the iconic Table Mountain on the aerial cableway, recently voted one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
Easily accessible with your included Hop On-Hop Off bus pass, you’ll have all afternoon to use your ticket. There’s a little café at the top if you fancy lunch with a view or time it with sunset, Cape Town looks its best at golden hour. You’ll be able to see right out across the bay past the V&A and out to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela used to look back at the mountain and be painfully reminded of freedom.
To Capetonians nowadays, it’s the geological and spiritual heart of the city. The crown jewel in the Cape Floristic Region, the mountain is home to an incredibly diverse range of colourful plants which can only be found in the Western Cape. You may also be lucky enough to witness a meteorological phenomenon that causes clouds to tumble down the mountain slopes like billowing fabric – the mountains famous ‘tablecloth’.
Day 4: Champagne Sunset Cruise
Cape Town is renowned for its picturesque sunsets, and where better to watch the blazing sun dip under the horizon than from the dazzling ocean itself?
Travel out across the Atlantic’s shimmering surface on a luxury vessel, and toast the end of the day with a glass of bubbly. Bliss! And if your complimentary glass of sparkling wine hasn’t quite quenched your thirst, there’s a fully stocked bar for whatever takes your fancy.
With its stunning views and romantic atmosphere, this is a perfect experience to share with your special someone – and not one you’ll soon forget.
Day 5: Cape Point & Penguins
With oh so many breath-taking sights and must-see landmarks, it’s impossible to experience all that Cape Town has to offer on foot. This half-day tour takes you on a spectacular journey from one awe-inspiring highlight to another.
Marvel at the sugar-white beaches and rugged mountains of the Atlantic Seaboard as far as Hout Bay before embarking on a drive along the most stunningly scenic roadway in the world – Chapman’s Peak Drive. Gaze in wonder at the diverse flora and fauna of Cape Point Nature Reserve as you make your way to the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula, and share your view of the glistening Atlantic with the New Cape Point Lighthouse.
As you return to the inner city through the naval village of Simon’s Town and several other charming little hamlets, you’ll have the option to take a small detour to visit the colony of African penguins living at Boulder’s Beach for a modest extra charge. They’re a charming bunch, why not pop in and say hello?
There are 18 different species, with the emperor penguin being the largest of all. They huddle together in large colonies that protect them from predators and provide warmth. The colonies consist of thousands, and sometimes even millions, of penguins.
They use their two-toned countershading as a protective camouflage. The top half of the animal is dark, so from above it blends in with the dark waters below. The bottom half is light, so from below it blends in with the sunlit waters above. This allows them to hide from predators like leopard seals, and orca, while they swim.
Penguins come ashore to lay their eggs and raise their chicks. Most penguins lay only one or two eggs at a time. Parents stay with their mate for many years and take turns keeping their eggs warm, and, when they hatch, feeding and protecting the chicks.
New Zealand Explorer
|Auckland||Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour||1 Night||AI|
|Rotorua||Lake Okareka Lodge||1 Night||AI|
|Christchurch||Westwood Lodge||1 Night||AI|
|Queenstown||The Dairy Private Luxury Hotel||3 Nights||AI|
Day 1: Auckland
Spend the day learning about indigenous Maori culture as you discover Auckland and the west-coast park of Waitakere Ranges. View several ancient volcanoes and marvel at the architecture of the Auckland Museum, one of New Zealand’s grandest buildings. Explore the boutique suburb of Parnell, restored in the old colonial style with many attractive mansions; and along Tamaki Drive, a famously scenic coastal road. See several stunning beaches along Auckland’s shoreline including Mission Bay, arguably the city’s most well-known beach.
Day 2: Rotorua
Stop off at beauty spots on your scenic drive to Rotorua. This journey showcases New Zealand’s renowned topography. En route, you have the opportunity to tour the fantastical Hobbiton Movie Set, home to more than 40 ‘hobbit holes’, including a number featured in the big-screen adaptation of Tolkien’s classic.
Day 3: Christchurch
Navigate mountain passes and sweeping plains as you head southwards, to the east-coast city of Christchurch. In this region you’ll find the Banks Peninsula, a rugged, volcanic protrusion riddled with quiet bays and ancient lava flows.
Day 4: Christchurch
It’s 350 kilometres from Franz Josef to Queenstown, but you’ll barely notice the distance, distracted by the wild west coast and the myriad of lakes, white rivers, alpine passes and curious kea (alpine parrots) along the way. Nonetheless, a well-earned rest awaits at your luxury lodge, set against some of New Zealand’s most emotive scenery. Stay in a stand-alone contemporary villa, making the most of the memorable view and fantastic facilities.
Day 5: Christchurch
Depart on your drive-cruise-fly tour of Milford Sound. Travel via luxury coach by the shores of Lake Wakatipu and along the spectacular alpine Milford Road, with photography stops en route. On reaching Milford Sound, cruise the fiord onboard a modern vessel, looking out for seals, dolphins and penguins. After lunch, the final stage of your tour entails a scenic return flight to Queenstown; experience 35 minutes of snow-capped mountains, dramatic waterfalls and expansive views over Lake Wakatipu.
Day 6: Christchurch
Enjoy your final day in New Zealand at leisure. Explore the city, or find out why Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world with a range of high-octane activities.
|Quito||Patio Andadluz||2 Nights||AI|
|The Galapagos Islands||Golden Bay Hotel & Spa||2 Nights||AI|
|The Galapagos Islands||Hotel Casita De La Playa||3 Nights||AI|
|The Galapagos Islands||Ikala Galapagos Hotel||3 Nights||AI|
Day 1: Quito
Today you begin your journey by boarding your international outbound flight to Quito. On arrival in Quito you will be met and driven to your hotel in the city. You’ll have the afternoon to settle in and explore the city.
Day 2: Quito
Today’s Quito tour will take you through the UNESCO World Heritage Site by way of senses, with different stops designed to touch, taste, feel, hear and smell the city. You’ll visit chocolatiers, handicraft workshops, street food vendors and markets in a unique tour of this diverse city.
Day 3: The Galapagos Islands
You’ll be transferred in the morning to the airport in time for your flight to the Galapagos Islands, where you’ll start on San Cristobal Island with a two night stay. The afternoon is at leisure to visit the Interpretation Center, a nearby beach or the sea lion colony.
Day 4: The Galapagos Islands
This morning you’ll board a small yacht on a trip to Española Island, home to the waved albatross, blue footed and Nazca boobies and some excellent snorkelling with sea turtles and plenty of fish species.
Day 5: The Galapagos Islands
You’ll enjoy a scenic small craft flight across the islands to Isabela, where you’ll spend the next three nights in a beachfront hotel. In the afternoon you can walk the pristine white sand beaches or maybe rent a bike to explore the island.
Day 6: The Galapagos Islands
Sierra Negra is one of the highlights of a Galapagos trip with the active volcano dominating the landscape. This private tour will allow you to hike toward the summit as well as to the lesser visited Volcan Chico.
Day 7: The Galapagos Islands
A morning shared tour will take you by boat to Los Tuneles, a series of volcanic formations which provides excellent snorkelling opportunities with its calm waters, minimal tide and bountiful wildlife.
Day 8: The Galapagos Islands
Leaving Isabela by speedboat, you’ll be transferred to Puerto Ayora, the main hub of Santa Cruz Island. You’ll spend three nights in town with plenty of restaurants and sightseeing possibilities within walking distance.
Day 9: The Galapagos Islands
Today you will join a small group tour which will take you to the north end of the island from which you’ll board a cruise to South Plazas Island, a colourful stop filled with prickly pear cactus, land iguanas and sea lions cover the land.
Day 10: The Galapagos Islands
Today’s tour will take you into the highlands of Santa Cruz, visiting the famous giant tortoises in the wild as well as Cerro Mesa for spectacular views of the islands.
Day 11: Depart
Facts about Penguins
Emperor penguins are endemic to Antarctica, and are the largest, and heaviest, penguin. The adult emperor’s plumage is mostly black, with white underwings and belly. The white belly turns into pale yellow in the upper breast, and they have bright yellow ear patches. The jaw of these penguins is highly distinctive, the upper mandible (or jaw) is long and black, while the lower mandible can be pink, lilac, or orange.
COMMON NAME: Emperor Penguin
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Aptenodytes forsteri
GROUP NAME: Colony
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 15 to 20 years
SIZE: 45 inches
WEIGHT: Up to 88 pounds
Other Penguin species
The Falklands is an excellent place to see macaroni penguin, which is one of six species of crested penguin, and is closely related to the royal penguin. It has distinctive red eyes and yellow crest; its black face and upperparts are well defined from the white under body.
As they prefer the ice-free areas of the sub-Antarctic to the Antarctic Peninsula, this is where you will see the long-tailed gentoo (the third largest species of penguin), with a distinctive trumpet like call as it throws its head back. It has a broad white stripe that runs across the top of its head, close to its bright orange-red bill. It also has a prominent tail that sweeps from side to side as it waddles on land, and pale-coloured webbed feet.
The rockhopper is a smaller penguin and has three subspecies: The southern rockhopper breeds on islands around the tip of Argentina, Chile, and in the Falklands, the eastern rockhopper breeds on the sub-Antarctic islands of the Indian and western Pacific oceans, whilst the northern rockhopper are found mainly in the South Atlantic region. The main characteristics that differentiate these penguins from others is their yellow and black, spikey feathers. They also have red eyes, an orange beak, and pink, webbed feet.
The magellanic penguins are found along the coastline of Patagonia, including Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands, and occasionally seen as far north as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Adults have black backs, and white abdomens, with two black bands between the head and the breast. The lower band is shaped like an inverted horseshoe. The head is black with a broad, white, border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts, and chin, and joins at the throat.
The king penguin is the second largest species of all, found on the sub-Antarctic islands to the northern reaches of Antarctica. Similar in appearance to the Emperor penguin, with the main differences being that the king penguin tends to be more orange on the cheek, the upper chest, and lower mandible, compared to the more yellowish colouring of the emperor penguin.
Most people tend to associate penguins with the frozen continent, and for good reason. Antarctica and the Southern Ocean islands, such as South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands, are home to several different penguin species, including the iconic yellow-crowned emperor penguin, the adorable adelie penguin and the aptly named rockhopper penguin (so named for the manner in which they jump from rock to rock).
Though previously inaccessible to most, in recent years, a number of polar cruises have enabled more tourists to experience what is regarded as the world’s last pristine wilderness.Visitors to Antarctica are often surprised to see penguins that stand four feet tall and weigh as much as 100 pounds. It’s not just size and stature that make Emperor penguins surpass other members of its species. They’re the only penguins that breed and give birth on the sea ice. Another trait that sets them apart: as befits their name “Emperor,” they also sport a regal yellow-and-orange plumage on their head!
Penguins are the most common birds in the Antarctic. Living in colonies with populations larger than some cities, and surviving in the harshest of conditions, it is no wonder that penguins are seen as the emblem of Antarctica.
However, of the 18 different species of penguin, only two (emperor and Adélie) make the Antarctic continent their true home, although others (chinstrap, gentoo and macaroni) breed on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where conditions are less harsh. King penguins only breed on the warmer more northerly subantarctic islands. One species, the Galapagos penguin, even lives on the equator.
Though previously inaccessible to most, in recent years, a number of tour operators and polar cruises have enabled more tourists to experience what is regarded as the world’s last pristine wilderness.
Visitors to Antarctica are often surprised to see penguins that stand four feet tall and weigh as much as 100 pounds. It’s not just size and stature that make Emperor penguins surpass other members of its species. They’re the only penguins that breed and give birth on the sea ice. Another trait that sets them apart: as befits their name “Emperor,” they also sport a regal yellow-and-orange plumage on their head!
The Antarctic is renowned for its penguin populations. Huge, hidden mega-colonies of Adelie penguins have recently been discovered in the Danger Islands, as recently as March this year. On-the-ground counts and aerial photography taken by drones revealed 751,527 pairs of penguins. Expedition voyages that visit Antarctica should have you up close and personal with the region’s Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Macaroni and King Penguins.
When to see them:
From November to December, Antarctica awakens after the long harsh winter. This is when pack ice starts to melt and icebergs are usually at their biggest. Because the days are getting longer there’s more light to view the snow-covered landscapes. This period is an excellent time to witness penguins (and other birds) as they court and lay their eggs.
From December to February, penguin chicks are hatching as the retreating snow exposes rocky headlands. Daylight last up to 20 hours which means icebergs are melting and you’ll get to witness glaciers calving. The crashing sounds of huge ice chunks falling off a glacier into the ocean waters is dramatic. This December-to-February period is also ideal for whale-watching. Polar visitors can also watch seal pups taking their first steps on the ice.
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina and Chile
Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, boasts several tour operators offering day cruises to view penguins and other marine life.
You can transfer to a boat for a short ride to Isla Martillo, a research station that monitors the 3,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins and a small colony of gentoo penguins that nest here between September and April. Visitors will spend up to an hour observing the very vocal Magellanic penguins, which bellow and strut along the beach by the hundreds. The tour guide will instruct you to maintain a safe distance from the birds, but be prepared for them to approach you as penguins can be extremely curious. After a few minutes on the beach, you’ll be led up a bluff to see their nesting ground, where the birds often return to the same mate and same nest year after year.
In South America, researches have demonstrated that King Penguins have been visiting the shores of Tierra del Fuego for hundreds of years, but none had been seen settling in this area until recently. The King Penguins are usually a species found only in the subantarctic islands, which means a very long and expensive trip/cruise is usually the norm to go see these birds…but lucky us (and you), a colony has set up camp in Useless Bay (Bahia Inutile) since 2010. In fact, that year, the first group of 8 arrived in Bahia Inutil and stayed for the entire breeding season before migrating and eventually returning the following years.
To support the group that now consists of more than 40 individuals, a national park has been created. Under its protection, their numbers have increased and the King Penguins of Bahia Inutil breed and give birth at the same place each year.
When to see them: Penguins start to arrive along the Patagonian coast in September, when they come to breed, and stay until about mid-March. The best time to see them, however, is December-January, when fuzzy little chicks are still feeding in the nests.
Phillip Island, Australia
Since the 1920s, tourists have flocked to Phillip Island to witness the smallest penguin species, known as little penguins or fairy penguins, return to shore each evening to feed their young after a long day of fishing. Only 12 inches tall and weighing less than 3 pounds, the little penguin is found only in Australia and New Zealand.
For decades, the penguins on Phillip Island were largely unprotected from the throngs of sightseers, but today most visitors observe the evening penguin “parade” from elevated boardwalks and viewing platforms to minimize disturbances to the birds.
For those who want a more up-close-and-personal experience, we can take you each day for a small group ranger-guided tour where you can walk among penguins on a secluded beach. You will help support conservation work on the island, including habitat restoration and research focusing on how penguins are affected by climate change, development and invasive species.
Phillip Island is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, but plan on spending at least a couple of days here to enjoy all its wildlife, including koalas, wallabies, elusive anteaters, seals and whales.
Watch the Phillip Island Penguin Parade on this evening tour from Melbourne. See the nightly ritual of these beloved fairy penguins waddling from the ocean to their burrows in the sand. Phillip Island is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of some of the world’s smallest penguins.
When to go: No time is restricted for Phillip Island, for these penguins hang about all year round, regardless of the weather or season. However, due to Penguin Parade being outside, working out the best time to travel may help you avoid those freezing cold winds or thundering rain. Phillip Island has a temperate climate, with cold winters and warm summers. Cool ocean breezes whip through the air throughout the year, so even if it is summer it’s always best to bring a jacket to fight the biting wind. If you enjoy sunny days full perfect for outdoor activities, summer can work perfectly, with stunning beach days and beautiful bush walks. If you don’t mind the cold and enjoy crisp morning walks and cosy nights by the fire, winter can be a perfect romantic getaway. However, if you are travelling in winter time, making sure to check the forecast before booking your penguin parade ticket, or simply bring a raincoat and umbrella can help.
Cape Town, South Africa
The southern tip of Africa offers numerous opportunities to view the African penguin, previously known as the jackass penguin because of its distinctive donkey-like bray.
African penguins have declined by 80% in the past 50 years because of pollution, development, climate change and irresponsible tourism activities. The Boulders Beach colony, about 24 miles from Cape Town, was only established in 1983, but it’s now an important habitat for the endangered bird.
As its name suggests, the beach is strewn with granite boulders, which create an impressive backdrop for photographing the penguins. Today, boardwalk viewing areas help protect the birds from excessive human contact, although you may encounter penguins while swimming and should take care not to approach them if possible.
Boulders Beach is part of Table Mountain National Park, situated at the convergence of the Atlantic and Indian oceans on the Cape of Good Hope. Hiking, mountain biking, wind sailing and wildlife viewing are just a few of the activities here that offer impressive views of Cape Town and the surrounding countryside. The nearby village of Simon’s Town, with its historic cottages and cobblestone streets, provides numerous accommodation and dining options.
African Penguins used to be known as jackass penguins because of their distinctive braying, and they’re the only penguins found on the continent. Colonies can be found from southern Namibia all the way around the South African coast to Port Elizabeth, but few places offer as remarkable a viewing point as Boulders Beach.
Best time to see the penguins: Summer is prime time to visit Boulders, and its when you’ll see the most penguin action. However, you can see the penguins throughout the year. Between September and October the birds spend much time feeding out at sea, so there are fewer penguins on the beach. For a real treat, visit in January when the juvenile birds are moulting on the beach. If you’re after snapshots, visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the birds are most active.
Otago Peninsula, New Zealand
Even in a country known for its dramatic scenery and amazing wildlife, the Otago Peninsula stands out. Located on the South Island of New Zealand, the peninsula was born of volcanic eruptions that created steep mountains and rugged sea cliffs. It’s a hot spot for marine wildlife viewing — seals, sea lions, elephant seals and, of course, penguins. Here it’s possible to see both the little penguin and the rare yellow-eyed penguin.
A number of tour operators on the peninsula are committed to environmental education and sustainable ecotourism. Nature Guides Otago offers naturalist-led tours as well as lodging that emphasize sustainability and support penguin habitat restoration and conservation.
Another option is Penguin Place, a conservation reserve on a private farm. Visitors begin the tour by learning about penguin conservation efforts before proceeding to a series of trenches and observation huts. From these vantage points, they are treated to up-close views of a yellow-eyed penguin colony while minimizing disturbances to the birds, which live in coastal forests and have suffered significant habitat loss from logging.
Experience eco-tourism at its finest. The endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Hoiho) nest in the coastal vegetation in and around the Otago Peninsula, hidden away from other birds and humans. Dunedin is one of the few places in New Zealand to see these beautiful birds in wild, going about the daily business of life on the beaches and amongst the sand dunes.
Little Blue Penguins – the world’s smallest penguin – are also local to the area and can be witnessed returning from fishing in comedic groups or ‘rafts’ as they are known, before waddling up to their burrows to feed their young.
A committed conservation effort by local tourism operators, the Department of Conservation and other groups, have ensured the penguins are protected and given space to flourish.
Best time to see them:
January to September – Penguins live here year-round, but the best time to see penguin action is January to September.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
It comes as a surprise to most travelers that a trip to the Galapagos could include the chance to see penguins. But in fact, the islands are home to the only penguin that lives in a tropical climate. Unlike other species that migrate according to the season, endangered Galapagos penguins live here year-round, especially in the colder waters of the western islands such as Isla Isabela.
Almost any tour of the Galapagos includes the chance to see an incredible variety of wildlife, but some operators specifically offer penguin tours. More likely than not you’ll be observing the birds from a boat, but if the tour includes snorkeling in an area frequented by penguins, there’s a chance that you could end up swimming with the birds.
The Galapagos penguin is one of the smallest penguins in the world and is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is the most northerly occurring penguin species, nesting entirely in the tropics, with some colonies living on the northern tip of Isabela in the Northern Hemisphere. They are closely related to the African, Humboldt and Magellanic penguins – all of which are burrow-dwelling. As there is no soft peat in which to burrow on the Galapagos Islands, Galapagos penguins instead live in caves and crevices in the coastal lava.
The Galapagos Penguin breeds all throughout the year, laying two to three eggs. They nest in burrows near the rocky shores. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young, bringing them small fish such as anchovies and sardines which are regurgitated in the nest. During times of scarcity, such as el Niño years, they may stop breeding for a period of time. This decreases competition for available resources and makes it more likely that the colony will survive.
When to see them:
Galapagos penguins live and breed on the Galapagos Islands all year round.
Penguin Watching tips:
Please read and observe any information signs which may be placed at the penguin colony.
Remember you need to wear dark clothing for camouflage. Also, ensure you will remain warm.
Approach your observation point from the land, preferably not by walking along the beach as this blocks the penguins access to their burrows. Use existing tracks and do not walk through the colony as it destroys burrows. Please do not damage vegetation.
Choose a viewing position which is at least 3 m from, and does not block, the penguins’ access to their burrows. Choose a site which has a dark background to camouflage yourself.
Settle yourself comfortably before last light. If there are experienced personnel available, please take their advice. Remain quiet and keep movement to a minimum. Penguins have excellent vision and easily spot movement, especially if they see you outlined against the sky.
Only dim torches emitting a red light (red cellophane over the lens is OK) should be used and then never toward the water or directly at the penguins. Flash cameras should not be used on the beach. Video cameras, without spotlights, can be used and produce better results at dusk than conventional cameras. Often the best places to view penguins are behind the beach where they feel more secure. Again, only use red light. To aid viewing, binoculars are useful, even at night.
Do not under any circumstances visit a colony with dogs (or cats). They are a major threat to penguins. Even if dogs are leashed their smell remains to attract others. Take your food scraps away as these also attract dogs and cats.
Penguins are protected wildlife. It is illegal to catch, attempt to catch or otherwise harass penguins. If this type of behaviour is observed, please report it to the nearest ranger. Offences are taken seriously. If you have interests or concern about your local penguin population please contact the Marine Conservation Program, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.