Along with 8 other guests, Jean was able to travel on her much-anticipated trip to Antarctica at the end of 2021 with our guide, Roy Atkins. In addition to her fabulous photos, Jean has kindly detailed this short account of her trip to share with you:
“Sometimes the totally unexpected happens and against all odds our long-planned trip got the go ahead as Covid restrictions around the world began to ease. With lots of paperwork, help from the wonderful Speyside Wildlife staff and just a few PCR tests, we set sail from Ushuaia in Southern Argentina onboard our vessel, MV Plancius and were finally off on our 19-night trip of a lifetime to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands.
Our group consisted of nine guests and our guide - the well-travelled Roy Atkins. We were the only birding group on board the ship out of a total of 96 passengers - such a small friendly ship with wonderful and experienced staff and crew.
Where to begin… sailing past the most beautiful snow and iceberg scenery we were amazed by the colours of the ice, the wonderful light and the wonderful chance to get up close to the resident wildlife via small Zodiacs - both from the water and then on land. True explorers indeed.
Eight types of penguins including the elusive Emperor, five types of seal plus Orca, Minke, Pilot, Blue, Humpback and Fin Whales and for us ultra-keen birders the chance of a lifetime to see Wandering, Southern Royal, Black-browed and Light Mantled Sooty Albatross, Snow Petrel, Antarctic Prion, South Polar Skua and Southern Giant Petrel to name but a few.
Our time on board was spent either on deck watching the birds and scenery, enjoying the superb talks given by the onboard expedition guides on a variety of topics, or simply just enjoying the first-class cuisine provided at every meal whilst getting to know our fellow passengers (there was even a real live space shuttle astronaut at our table!)
Having spent 11 days in Antarctica (even getting the chance to go ashore on the actual continent itself and reaching the edge of the pack ice), there was a total eclipse of the sun to be experienced. Unfortunately, the sky was totally overcast and at 4am in morning, we only experienced the darkness that comes with totality, but what a place to experience that!
Onward from the Antarctica Peninsula we travelled to South Georgia, where we were privileged to go ashore and stand among thousands and thousands of King Penguins and their chicks, Southern Elephant and Antarctic Fur Seals - it really was the most spellbinding sight, sound and smell and we were so impressed with the crew’s diligence in ensuring both our safety and the preservation of the biosecurity of this oh so special Island.
The following day another landing on South Georgia at the settlement of Grytviken - an abandoned whaling station and the site of the grave of the heroic explorer Ernest Shackleton. We were even provided with a dram of Shackleton whisky with which to toast the great man and had the first opportunity to purchase postcards to send back home (for your information they took just over a month to arrive!)
We had three more days at sea in very rough conditions, but most of us had found our sea legs by then and we arrived for a short visit to the Falklands. Roy had arranged an additional Land Rover trip out to a Rockhopper Penguin colony for our group and we were so delighted with these cute little creatures with their grey fluffy chicks and yes, they do hop over the rocks!
Two days later and we sailed back into Ushuaia port at the end of what I have to say was the most inspiring, exciting, stunning, wildlife-packed and fun trip I have ever been on. It was good to find that our missing luggage had finally arrived, but nothing could detract from what was the ultimate trip of a lifetime. Go if you ever get the chance, you won’t regret it!”