November 4 - Port Elizabeth, South Africa

A day of leisure to explore this busy harbor city before meeting fellow travelers at the Protea Hotel Marine, or similar hotel, in Port Elizabeth.

November 5 - Port Elizabeth
After breakfast we transfer to the pier and embark the Kapitan Khlebnikov - our home for the adventure. We sail out of Port Elizabeth around noon, heading south like so many of the early Antarctic expeditions of discovery.

November 6-9 - Southern Ocean
As we cruise the rich waters of the Southern Ocean, our expedition staff introduce the various species of birds and mammals we are likely to encounter on our voyage. Join us on deck to admire our varied escort of albatrosses, Great-winged Petrels, Kerguelen Petrels, Cory's Shearwaters and other seabirds or look out for passing whales.

November 10 - Crozet Islands
The Crozet Islands have been occupied by whalers and sealers sporadically since their discovery in 1772. Pending weather conditions and government permissions, we land at the French research station, dramatically situated among mountains, headlands, coastal cliffs and sandy beaches. Among the nesting birds are Wandering Albatross and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. From the base, we take in the spectacle of tens of thousands of nesting King Penguins - a highlight of any visit. Moulting southern elephant seals add their unique sounds and smells to the amazing display of wildlife found on these sub-Antarctic islands.

November 11-12 - At sea
Continuing south we watch the wildlife around the ship and, in-between, members of our expedition team present slide-illustrated lectures on the geology, biology and history of the region. Anticipation mounts as we scan the horizon for our first glimpse of the rugged coastline of the Kerguelen Islands.

November 13-14 - Kerguelen Island
Administered by France, Kerguelen Island is the largest landmass in the southern Indian Ocean. Some 60 miles long, and partially glaciated, it is home to no fewer than 30 species of nesting birds including Rockhopper, Macaroni, Gentoo and King Penguins. The abundant wildlife of the island includes southern elephant seals, Kerguelen fur seals, albatrosses, Giant Petrels, skuas, sheathbills and the Kerguelen Tern. Among the places we plan to visit is the French biological station at Port-aux Français, home to over 100 researchers. Elsewhere on the island, our exact landing sites will be determined by prevailing sea and weather conditions.

November 15 - Heard Island
Today we cruise along Heard Island - the highest and most southerly of the Indian Ocean islands. Dominated by Big Ben, a 9,000-foot glacier and snow-capped volcano, the island is rich in wildlife.

Huge numbers of Macaroni Penguins breed along the shores of this remote sanctuary, along with King Penguins and tens of thousands of Rockhopper and Gentoo Penguins. Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses nest on the slopes and southern elephant seals and fur seals haul out on the beaches. The island has been protected since 1987 and landings are not permitted.

November 16 - Southern Ocean
Continuing south, we watch for seabirds and whales and continue with the lecture series. Meanwhile, as a drop in temperature heralds our approach to the frozen frontier directly ahead, we encounter the first large icebergs of the voyage.

November 17-18 - In the ice
Depending on our progress, we reach the ice-edge some time today and experience firsthand the expert ice-breaking capabilities of the Kapitan Khlebnikov and learn how the ship breaks through ice. Conditions permitting, we board the helicopter for thrilling views of our vessel at work. We are now in the realm of the Emperor Penguin and Ross seal.

November 19 - Zhongshan Base and Larsemann Hills

There are several research stations located in the vicinity of the Larsemann Hills including Zhongshan, a Chinese station, which is situated on the ice-free coast in a region well-known for its wildlife. We plan to visit the base and explore the surrounding area.

November 20 - Amanda Bay Emperor Penguin Rookery
Here at this frozen cove, 9,000 Emperor Penguins congregate in a fairytale setting of granite islands, glaciers and icebergs. The Emperor Penguin, largest of the penguins, is the only bird to breed on the frozen sea - an extraordinary feat of endurance accomplished during the dark, extremely cold winter months. We are fortunate to visit at this peak time, when large numbers of appealing grey chicks in different stages of development still huddle on the ice. From our closest approach by ship, we walk over the ice to the rookeries or land by helicopter at a safe distance, taking great care not to disturb the penguins. Because of their nesting habits and inaccessibility, we will be among very few fortunate people who have ever encountered Emperor Penguins and their charming chicks.

November 21 - Davis Station
Australia's Davis Station, which we hope to visit, is set in a dramatic ice-free region of 100-foot-high hills and fjords. Over 200,000 Adélie Penguins breed in the area where leopard and Weddell seals, South Polar Skuas and Snow Petrels are numerous. Time permitting, we are treated to a tour conducted by personnel who occupy the base year-round.

November 22-23 - Cruise West Ice Shelf
Depending on the ever-challenging ice, we plan to skirt the massive West Ice Shelf in search of the rare Ross seal. Minke whales and orcas patrol the edge of the permanent fast ice in search of food and, with luck, we hope to have some thrilling close encounters.

November 24 - Solar Eclipse
A total solar eclipse is caused by the perfect alignment of the moon as it moves precisely between the sun and the earth. As the moon appears to be only very slightly larger in the sky than the sun, the total phase is only visible from a small area of the earth.

We are planning to observe this spectacular eclipse off the Queen Mary Coast, in the Davis Sea, west of the Shackleton Ice Shelf. The middle of totality here will be at 2240 UTC (November 23) but, depending on the actual ship's time for us, the eclipse will take place in the early morning hours of November 24. The most extraordinary twist to the occasion is that it will feel like an eclipse of the night-time sun (since the eclipse takes place near to the time of the southern summer solstice and we will be so far south, the sun remains above the horizon for most of the day and night).

November 25-26 - Shackleton Ice Shelf and Casey Station

Continuing along the Shackleton Ice Shelf, our naturalists will be on deck to help spot and identify seabirds and marine mammals that are indigenous to these waters. En route to the Australian Casey Base, we traverse the spectacular Petersen Bank, a region where large concentrations of tabular icebergs lay grounded on the shoals below. Adélie Penguins and South Polar Skuas nest on nearby islands.

November 27 - Ice edge

Today we have yet another experience of a lifetime. The Captain searches out a large ice floe and moors alongside for everyone to disembark. Our chefs then organise a memorable barbecue and farewell party on the ice.

November 28-December 2 - Southern Ocean

As we sail north, the lecture series continues and our staff organise a symposium to discuss the future of the great White Continent. Join our naturalists on deck or on the Bridge to watch the ever-present seabirds and to spot whales and dolphins on our way to Australia.

December 3 - Hobart, Tasmania

Arriving this morning in the historic port of Hobart, we say goodbye to the Kapitan Khlebnikov and continue home individually.

*Airfare is not included in the program. Some group flights are available on request.

Please note: Read this itinerary as a guide only; our exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife we encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition

04 Nov Day at Leisure, Port Elizabeth
05 Nov Embarkation, Port Elizabeth
06-09 Nov At Sea
10 Nov Crozet Island
11-12 Nov At Sea
13-14 Nov Kerguelen Island
15 Nov Heard Island
16 Nov At Sea
17 Nov Ice Edge
18 Nov Pack Ice
19 Nov Zhongshan Station & Larsemann Hills
20 Nov Amanda bay Emperor Rookery
21 Nov Davis Station
22-23 Nov Cruising along the West Ice Shelf
24 Nov (local time) Observe Solar Eclipse
25 Nov Shackleton Ice Shelf
26 Nov Petersen Bank & Casey Station
27 Nov Ice Edge
28 Nov
- 02 Dec
At Sea
03 Dec Disembarkation, Hobart

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Standard twin cabins are available for single occupancy at 1.7 times the share price

On the way down to Antarctica we include the rarely visited and wildlife subantarctic islands of the southern Indian Ocean - Crozet, Kerguelen and Heard. These islands offer great wildlife opportunities with Macaroni, Rockhopper, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins as well as literally tens of thousands of nesting King Penguins along with southern elephant seals, Antarctic fur seals and vast numbers of gulls, shearwaters, albatrosses and terns. In addition we plan visits to an Emperor Penguin colony where almost 10,000 Emperors have been known to congregate in a fairy tale setting of granite islands, glaciers and icebergs as well as to remote research stations such as the Australian Casey Station.

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