Discover the unique emperor penguin colony of Snow Hill
Board the icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov, on a once-in-a-lifetime voyage to the bottom of the planet. Conquer the infamous Drake Passage and Weddell Sea en route to Snow Hill, an immense emperor penguin colony off the coast of Antarctica, to find penguins frolicking and nursing their young. Learn about this elusive species with the help of onboard experts and presentations, and take to the air in a helicopter for breathtaking views of this pristine polar landscape. Remote and utterly wild, this is a rare chance to discover a new, frozen world.
- Physical rating
- Min 8
- Group size
- Min 1, Max 110
Why we love this trip
Witness the spectacle of thousands of emperor penguins - and their chicks - in their natural habitat.
Cruising the Drake Passage and Weddell Sea also includes the opportunity to see other iconic wildlife, such as whales, seals and seabirds.
Travel aboard the legendary Kapitan Khlebnikov, the only vessel to circumnavigate Antarctica twice.
Enjoy helicopter sightseeing and Zodiac cruising for a unique perspective of the Antarctic Peninsula
Is this trip right for you?
•Although the Kapitan Khelbnikov is big and sturdy and built for Antarctic conditions, these waters can be unpredictable and rough. Some people may experience seasickness, especially through the Drake Passage and other open water crossings. Please be prepared with medications to combat this. There is also a doctor on-board should you need further assistance.
•As you’d expect, temperatures in the Antarctic are freezing. A warm parka will be provided along with waterproof boots and unlimited hot drinks, but you should also bring base layers and lots of warm clothing. Please see the trip notes for further important information about what to bring.
•Weather depending, you will be making excursions to the Snow Hill penguin rookery by helicopter. The pilot has the last word on when it is safe to travel so please bear in mind that weather may make some excursions not possible.
Meals IncludedThere are no meals included on this day.
Special InformationYou can arrive at anytime today, but we recommend you be at the joining hotel for the pre-departure briefing at approximately 6.00pm.
These two days will have an air of anticipation, as you prepare for your first landing at the Snow Hill emperor penguin rookery. Plenty of activities will keep you engaged at sea, including educational and informative presentations by your Expedition Team. You’ll learn about such things as the history of whaling in Antarctica and the emperor penguins’ biology, unique habitat and adaptive behavior.
You may also want to spend some time on deck, with your binoculars and camera at the ready, looking out for wandering albatross, petrels, whales and dolphins. Crossing the polar front, keep a close watch, as you should see your first iceberg, too.
- Breakfast (2)
- Lunch (2)
- Dinner (2)
That said, our expeditions will have some elements in common, such as landings, wildlife sightings, helicopter sightseeing and ice—truly massive amounts of ice! Having broken away from the ice shelf, large tabular icebergs, so named for their plateau-like flat top and steep sides, will signal your arrival to Antarctica.
Located on sea ice, the emperor rookery is situated some distance from Snow Hill Island, so your captain will navigate your ship to a position in the ice that’s within helicopter range of the rookery. As we draw near, a few curious penguins may be attracted to the open water by the ship, so keep your eyes peeled for them. Deployed in a rotation of flights, our on-board helicopters will land as close to the penguins as possible, yet still at a safe distance (at least 0.75 nautical miles/1.4 km), to protect the birds. Since you must carry all your own gear for the entire distance to the rookery and back across sea ice several feet thick, you’ll want to keep items in your backpack to a minimum. A must-bring, however, should be your camera.
We encourage everyone— photographers and nature lovers alike— to carry a camera during our rookery visits, because any visit could reward with that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Your Expedition Team will include a professional photographer, who will conduct on-board workshops and assist you on-site to help you get the most out of your camera, whether you’re a newbie or a pro!
Though we can’t predict how many excursions will occur during your stay in the vicinity of the rookery, rest assured that your Expedition Leader will take every possible advantage of good weather and flying conditions, and our intention is to spend as much time as possible in the area, to give you plenty of chances to observe the emperors in their natural environment.
Since we are visiting earlier in the rearing season than any other expedition, the emperor chicks are still young, so you may see a few brooding on their parents’ feet or even several huddling together in large communal crèches. It’s possible you may catch the impressive sight of a constant trail of adults walking or tobogganing in single file from the sea to the rookery to feed the chicks, and then heading back out again to hunt for more food. Listen closely for a parent trumpeting upon its return to the rookery—the call is instantly recognized by the chick, who whistles in response.
To protect the penguins, we’ll remain at least 15 feet (five meters) away, but you may have the opportunity to encounter them up close. Curious creatures, emperors are unafraid of humans, and if you stand still and remain quiet, the birds may actually approach you. If you are crouching on the ice, eyes focused down through your camera lens, pause for a moment and slowly look around you—you may find yourself surrounded by the very birds you’ve been trying to photograph!
- Breakfast (7)
- Lunch (7)
- Dinner (7)
If you choose to spend time outside on deck, keep an eye out for the large seabirds that have accompanied mariners through the Southern Ocean since Magellan made his first navigation of the globe. By now, you should be able to recognize albatross and petrels on the wing. As we enter the mouth of the Beagle Channel on our way back to Ushuaia, a small vessel will come alongside and a local pilot will board our vessel to help navigate this last stretch of water. If the weather is fine, you may want to watch from the deck, enjoying the soft light of the austral summer.
- Breakfast (2)
- Lunch (2)
- Dinner (2)
Special InformationWe recommend that flights are booked after 12.00pm today, in case bad weather delays the ship's arrival into port.
Meals13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners
TransportIcebreaker expedition ship, zodiac, helicopter
Accommodation12 night's expedition cruise ship, 1 night hotel
Our Arctic and Antarctic trip bookings require an increased deposit amount of 20% of the full voyage cost (before any discount). The balance is due 120 days before departure.
If a booking is cancelled 120 days or more before departure - the cancellation fee is the full loss of the deposit paid.
If a booking is cancelled between 119 days and departure - the cancellation fee is 100% of the total price of the voyage.
Other fees may apply for air tickets and other arrangements booked in conjunction with a Polar voyage.
Some helicopter sight seeing is included in the cost of your voyage. Additional aerial sight seeing can be booked on board at an additional cost.
Your voyage is operated by our sister company, Quark Expeditions. All accommodation and transfer arrangements as listed in the itinerary are also operated by Quark Expeditions or their local representatives.