Set Sail to Meet Antarctica’s Emperor Penguins

Travel with Quark Expeditions on an Antarctica itinerary for a rare and up-close cruise experience and quality time with emperor penguins

Emperor Penguin in Antarctica. 

Observe emperor penguin behaviors in Antarctica.

David Merron/Quark Expeditions

Travel far south by ship to Antarctica to partake in one of the most exclusive wildlife experiences on the planet with the best expedition team in the polar regions, Quark Expeditions, on their “Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill.” You’ll be one of the few humans ever to mingle with emperor penguins—the world’s largest penguins, some topping four feet tall. Your viewing will be from a safe distance, after a helicopter landing near the remote Snow Hill Island rookery, home to some 8,000 breeding pairs of the penguins.

Quark Expeditions offers the experience only on their Ultramarine expedition ship, equipped with two twin-engine helicopters that take off from the ship’s top deck in intimate groups of 7-9 guests. It’s a thrilling aerial adventure that’s included in your fare. Quark’s expert team will also lead exciting expeditions on Zodiac landing craft and hikes that will enlighten you about the animals and the icy landscape you see. Back on the ship, hear fascinating lectures about Antarctica and the creatures that live on the “White Continent.”

Emperor penguins at Snow Hill Island

Trip Highlight

Emperor penguins at Snow Hill Island

In the Weddell Sea, Snow Hill Island is home to thousands of emperor penguins, endemic to Antarctica and the biggest and tallest penguins found on earth. At the breeding site, they incubate their eggs, care for their chicks, and teach their young to fish and swim—all before your eyes.

Trip Designer

Quark Expeditions

For more than 30 years Quark Expeditions and their highly experienced team of scientists, historians, and other expedition experts has been delivering true polar quests, full of experiences that are both educational and unforgettable. With one expedition team member for each four guests, and such perks as complimentary helicopter landings and a spa, Quark delivers lasting memories in one of the most remote places on the planet.
 Buenos Aires

Explore Buenos Aires, Argentina’s fascinating capital city.

Adobe Photostock

Day 1Embrace the Flavor of Buenos Aires

Arrive in Buenos Aires and, after transferring to your hotel for an included pre-expedition hotel night, set out on your own to explore the center of Argentina’s massive and fascinating capital city with its impressive European-influenced architecture.

A great place to stretch your legs is the Recoleta Cemetery, one of the most impressive cemeteries in the world, where mini streets take you past dramatic, building-sized marble mausoleums in styles that include Art Deco, Baroque and Art Nouveau. Among those occupying the tombs is Eva “Evita” Peron. For dinner, you might want to visit one of the many restaurants featuring grilled meats and Argentinian wines.
Ushuaia, Argentina

Day 2Fly to The Southernmost City in The World

After your included flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, you’ll have time to explore on your own the world’s southernmost city, before making your way to the pier for a late-afternoon embarkation.

With a population of about 75,000 and located on a wide bay on the largest island in Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia is a starting point for cruises to Antarctica as well as a popular destination for vacationing Argentinians, with its nearby beaches and glacial hiking trails. Downtown is plentiful with shops and boutiques, and bars and cafes.

To learn about the region’s history, The End of the World Museum, located in two historic buildings, has exhibits on the island’s Indigenous people and local fauna, as well as shipwrecks that occurred near the island in the early days of expeditions. Another fascinating place to visit is The Maritime Museum located in the old Ushuaia prison, for a history of the inmates—both serial offenders and political prisoners—who were sent to the remote destination, and how they helped build the city.

You’ll want to be on deck as your ship embarks, sailing along the historic Beagle Channel, with views of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago as you leave the tip of South America. The next time you’ll see land will be in Antarctica.

Sail through the famous Drake Passage

Keep an eye out for seabirds and whales as you sail through the famous Drake Passage.

Michelle Sole/Quark Expeditions

Days 3-4Seabirds and Whales in the Drake Passage

The Drake Passage, sometimes mellow, other times with rough and tumbling waves, is always an adventure. It’s where the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Southern oceans meet, and a place where you will want to have your binoculars and camera at the ready for glimpses of wildlife across the expansive ocean waters.

The passage attracts many seabirds. Flying overhead may be such bird species as Antarctic giant petrels and wandering albatross. Keep your eye on the water for possible sightings of hourglass dolphins and humpback, killer, minke, and fin whales. Your expedition team will keep you well informed on any wildlife appearances.

Emperor penguin chicks near Snow Hill Island

Emperor penguin chicks learn to swim and fish near Snow Hill Island, in preparation for months in Antarctica’s icy seas.

David Merron/Quark Expeditions

Day 5Polar History and Penguin Education

As the captain navigates the Weddell Sea, world-respected polar experts, penguin scientists, biologists, and polar historians will enrich your polar quest. Learn what it was like a century ago for the brave polar heroes who embraced the unknown in their quest to explore Antarctica. And enjoy entertaining educational programming about the habits of emperor penguins, among the largest of bird species. You’ll be well-briefed as you prepare for your once-in-a-lifetime quest to reach a colony of thousands of pairs of penguins and their chicks.

Tomorrow you’ll begin five days in the vicinity of Snow Hill Island, either on tour to the penguin colony or immersing yourself in custom-designed Weddell Sea experiences.

Helicopters afford unparalleled access to the stunning landscape and its inhabitants.

Helicopters afford unparalleled access to the stunning landscape and its inhabitants.

David Merron/Quark Expeditions

Days 6-10Real-Life Penguin Parade

The whole ship will be in explorer mode, as the Expedition Leader and navigation team access weather and sea ice conditions to determine how close the Ultramarine can get to the emperor penguin colony near Snow Hill Island. The ship’s two twin-engine helicopters will then bring guests to the rookery in small groups, with views of snow-capped peaks and apartment-building-sized icebergs along the way.

The rookery is located on sea ice off the south coast of the island, and the helicopters will land as close to the penguins as possible, without disturbing the birds. You’ll walk across ice on paths carved by penguins for a closer look at the fabled colony. You are one of the few people in the world ever to experience close access to thousands of the birds—and you’ll hear them even before you see them. Experts on the expedition team will be on hand to provide details on how the penguins care for their young and to assure you see everything nature delivers on this adventure of a lifetime.

In addition to your rare penguin encounter, each day in the Weddell Sea you will be immersed in polar experiencesincluding Zodiac cruising among icebergs and landing on ice, as well as such adventures as paddle-on-top kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and, if you dare, partaking in a polar plunge.

The emperor penguins near Snow Hill are the goal of this expedition, though other sites may be alternatively explored should weather and ice conditions prevent or shorten access to the colony. Other possible landings would take place on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula—in which case you may visit rookeries of Adélie and gentoo penguins as well as historic reminders such as huts left by explorers on the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04.

Quark Expeditions penguins

You’ll bring back memories to last a lifetime.

David Merron/Quark Expeditions

Days 11 to 13Sharing Experiences and Drake Passage Crossing

During your journey back through the Drake Passage, breathe deep and think about all that you have seen and experienced on your amazing adventure to Antarctica. This is your time to share photos and reflect on the great moments of your adventure. You’ll also want to join the expedition team on deck for sightings of seabirds and whales and at presentations, as you make your way back to South America.

Tierra del Fuego National Park

Tierra del Fuego National Park

Day 14Taste of Patagonia

After a morning disembarkation in Ushuaia comes one more adventure, a short tour of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park. The park encompasses protected shoreline, forest, glaciers, lakes and mountains. Keep your eye out for sea lions and some 90 bird species, including the Andean Condor. After your tour, you will transfer to your return charter flight to Buenos Aires.

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