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Cruises

Ventus Australis: Darwin’s Route (Ushuaia to Ushuaia)

Argentina, Chile, Patagonia

9 days

Summary

Departing from Ushuaia (Argentina), retrace the route of Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle on this expedition cruise through the Fuegian Archipelago. Our adventurous eight-day (seven-night) itinerary includes legendary Cape Horn and historic Wulaia Bay, as well as Glacier Alley, the penguins of Tuckers and Magdalena islands, and the spectacular fjords that harbor Pía and Águila glaciers. Along the way you’ll also encounter Patagonia’s massive ice fields, lush sub-polar forests and secluded beaches.

About the vessel:
Ventus Australis is the name announced for the new state-of-the-art ship being built for Australis Expedition cruise line. The name – Latin for “Southern Wind” – reflects Tierra del Fuego’s distinctive weather, a factor that has long determined the region’s socio-cultural development and that so impressed the early mariners who endeavored to explore Patagonia’s southernmost waterways. Tailor-made for exploring the remote southern tip of South America, all aspects of the 210-passenger ship — including size, length, draft and engine power — are designed to give Ventus Australis the extreme maneuverability necessary to navigate narrow fjords and channels where no other cruise ships can venture. Asenav, the internationally acclaimed Chilean shipyard, is creating our latest masterpiece, just as they did with the three other expedition ships for Australis. Ventus Australis will feature the latest regulations regarding safety at sea and protecting the marine environment, as all of our fleet does. When it goes into service in early 2018, Ventus Australis will give travelers a chance to experience the remoteness of Patagonia and step ashore at fabled Cape Horn.

Highlights

  • Explore pristine Chilean national parks and ice-capped volcanoes
  • Discover Patagonia’s unrivalled sea life
  • Marvel at the Chilean fjords’ breath-taking glaciers
  • Follow Darwin’s historic footsteps to the “End of the Earth”

Inclusions

  • Accommodation in selected cabin
  • All meals and open bar incl. wines, beverages and liquor
  • Shore excursions and onboard entertainment

ITINERARY

Day 1 Ushuaia/Cruise

Check in at 409 San Martín Ave. in downtown Ushuaia between 10AM and 5 PM. Board the cruise at 5.30pm.

Included in your cruise package:
· Breakfast, lunch and dinner
· Open Bar (while staff are on duty)
· Daily land excursions as scheduled by the ships
· Whisky and hot chocolate during the excursions
· All on board activities

After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for one of the most remote corners of planet Earth. During the night we traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as we turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.

Day 2 Cape Horn – Wulaia Bay/Cruise

By early morning, Ventus Australis is cruising across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago that includes Cape Horn National Park. Australis is the only expedition cruise ship company with permission from Chilean authorities to navigate the Murray Channel to Cape Horn, and because of its concession the only travel company allowed to land passengers at Wulaia Bay.

Weather and sea conditions permitting, we shall go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition — and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland — Cape Horn is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the “End of the Earth.” The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument.

Sailing back across Nassau Bay, we anchor at fabled Wulaia Bay, one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography. After a visit to the Australis-sponsored small museum in the old radio station — which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area — passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooden mountain behind the bay. On all of these you will be strolling through an enchanted Magellan forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic fauna to reach a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the bay.

Day 3 Pia Glacier – Glacier Alley/Cruise

Overnight we sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial Channel, Magdalena Channel and Cockburn Channel. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Ventus Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning we are entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking we take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea or a longer much more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier.

No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.

Making our way further west along the Beagle Channel, we enter another long fjord and drop anchor near Garibaldi Glacier for another shore excursion. Garibaldi is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia gaining mass rather than staying the same or slowly shrinking. This time we hike through virgin Magellanic forest to a glacial waterfall, a towering wall of ferns and moss, and spectacular viewpoints looking down on the glacier and fjord. The walk is demanding — very steep, negligible trail, rough footing — and not for everyone. For those who choose to stay onboard, our captain will point the bow towards the beautiful sky blue Garibaldi Glacier so everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks.

Day 4 Agostini Sound and Águila Glacier/Cruise

Early in the morning, we will sail through the Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound. From there it is possible to see the glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range — some of them reaching the water. This morning, we will disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon, which was formed by the melting of the Águila Glacier.

We will reach a spot right in front of that glacier with stunning views. In the afternoon, we will approach the Condor Glacier via Zodiac — and hopefully see some of the abundant Andean Condors in the area.

Day 5 Magdalena Island/Cruise

After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, we anchor off Magdalena Island, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins. At the break of dawn, weather permitting, we go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. Many other bird species are also found on the island. In September and April — when the penguins dwell elsewhere — this excursion is replaced by a rideaboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions. After a short cruise south along the strait, disembarkation at Punta Arenas is scheduled for around 11:30 AM.

Board at 6 PM. After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for one of the remotest corners of planet Earth. During the night we cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the labyrinth of channels that define the southern extreme of Patagonian. The twinkling lights of Punta Arenas gradually fade into the distance as we enter the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.

Day 6 Ainsworth Bay/Cruise

By dawn the ship is sailing up Admiralty Sound (Seno Almirantazgo), a spectacular offshoot of the Strait of Magellan that stretches nearly halfway across Tierra del Fuego. The snowcapped peaks of Karukinka Natural Park stretch along the north side of the sound, while the south shore is defined by the deep fjords and broad bays of Alberto de Agostini National Park. We go ashore at Ainsworth Bay, which harbors copious bird life and a colony of southern elephant seals which can sometimes be spotted from the Zodiacs. Two guided excursions are available: one is along the edge of a stream, peat bog and beaver habitat to a waterfall-and-moss-covered rock face tucked deep inside a pristine sub-polar forest; the other is a more strenuous hike along the crest of a glacial moraine. Both afford views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains.

Leaving Ainsworth Bay behind, we sail west along the sound to the Tucker Islets. After lunch, we board the Zodiacs again for a close-up view of the Magellan penguins that inhabit the tiny islands. More than 4,000 penguins use Tucker as a place to nest, give birth and nurture their chicks. Many other bird species also frequent the area including king cormorants, oystercatchers, Chilean skuas, kelp geese, dolphin gulls, eagles and even the occasional Andean condor. In September and April — when the penguins live elsewhere — this excursion is replaced by a short walk to a glacier at nearby stunning Brookes Bay.

Day 7 Pia Glacier – Glacier Alley/Cruise

Overnight we sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial Channel, Magdalena Channel and Cockburn Channel. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Stella Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning we are entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking we take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea or a longer much more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier.

No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.

Back onboard the ship, we continue east along the Beagle Channel through an area called Glacier Alley. Living up to its name, the passage features a number of impressive tidewater glaciers flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet on the north shore. Most of them named after European countries — Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.

Day 8 Wulaia Bay & Cape Horn/Cruise

During the morning we will be sailing through Murray Channel, going ashore at historical Wulaia Bay, originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yamana aboriginal settlements. Charles Darwin landed there in 1833 during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty of its vegetation and geography. We will take an enchanted walk through the Magellan Forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic vegetation, to reach a panoramic viewpoint. In the afternoon we will go South through Nassau Bay to reach Cape Horn National Park, where, weather permitting, we shall go ashore. The legendary Cape Horn was discovered in 1616 and is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory. For many years it was an important navigation route between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and is referred to as the ‘End of the Earth’. The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005.

Day 9 Ushuaia

Arrival in Ushuaia, Argentina’s most important city in Tierra del Fuego, and the southernmost city in the world. Disembarking is scheduled at 8:00 a.m.

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