A place where nature reigns supreme, and humans are mere visitors.
As I boarded Seabourn Venture in Ushuaia, Argentina in mid December, my heart raced with excitement. I was embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime luxury adventure to the Falkland Islands and Antarctica, and I couldn't wait to see what this incredible journey had in store.
The air was crisp and the skies were clear as I stepped onto the ship, eager for what was to come. This was not just any trip, it was a chance to explore one of the last true wildernesses on earth . A place where nature reigns supreme, and humans are mere visitors.
Sailing through the Beagle Channel, Le Maire Strait, and the South Atlantic Ocean, I was surrounded by nothing but the vast ocean and endless sky. I spent my days at sea basking in the breathtaking views, listening to the sound of the waves, and watching the sea birds circle our ship.
Finally, we arrived in New Island, Falkland Islands. This was our first stop, and I was eager to explore.
We hiked to a rockhopper penguin colony and were treated to a front-row seat to the incredible interactions between the penguins, their chicks, and the black browed albatross who were also nested there.
The sound of their calls filled the air, and the smell of the sea and their guano was a unique experience I will never forget.
Photo - Jeff Colhoun
We visited Saunders Island and Steeple Jason Island, where we saw Gentoo Penguins wandering around searching for pebbles to adorn their nests. It was magical to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat for the first time. I was in awe of the way they gracefully moved through their environment.
Next, we crossed the Drake Passage and Lemaire Channel into Antarctica. As we approached this incredible continent, I felt a sense of awe and wonder. I was about to experience something truly unique and unforgettable.
We sea kayaked in the Argentine Islands, and I was struck by the beauty of the surrounding landscape. As we paddled through the glistening waters, I was completely taken aback by the sheer natural beauty that surrounded me.
The towering cliffs of ice and snow, the pristine glaciers, and the crystal clear waters all created a truly breathtaking panorama. I felt as if I was transported to a different world, one of pure, unadulterated wilderness.
That afternoon we explored Yalour Island, I found myself wandering close to the Adelie Penguin colonies. I was entranced by their playful antics, particularly their unique habit of tobogganing across the island on their bellies.
These curious creatures carried on with their daily routines, seemingly unaware of my presence. The view of the Penola Strait to the west was breathtaking, with icebergs floating by and humpback whales frolicking among the waves. It was an unforgettable afternoon spent surrounded by the beauty of nature.
Further south, we went through the Gullet, and the high, snow-covered peaks on both sides of Seabourn Venture looked unreal. Unfortunately, the passage was closed by heavy sea ice, but our ship was able to back up and enter 'The Gunnel'. As we continued on, we encountered denser and denser pack ice, but eventually, we reached and crossed 67 degrees South latitude.
We spent Christmas in Marguerite Bay, and I was in awe of the impressive mountains and glaciers that surrounded us. In the late morning, we arrived at Blind Bay, a place that was first surveyed in 1936 by the British Graham Land Expedition.
Our ship approached the area, knowing full well that it was a dead-end, but the Captain found what he was looking for - pack ice. Seabourn Venture slowly broke through the thick ice and stopped about a quarter mile in, allowing us to get out and explore this incredible place.
Boxing Day brought us to Stonington Island, the most southerly destination of our voyage. This narrow, rocky island was surrounded by glaciers and mountains, and I felt like I was in a different world.
The Zodiac tours brought us close up to gentoo penguins in their natural habitats, and I was struck by their beauty and grace. These birds moved with a regal elegance, diving and swimming in the icy water with remarkable agility.
Petermann Island was our next stop, named after geographer August Petermann by a German expedition in 1873-1874. As we approached the island, we could see a cairn built by the French Antarctic Expedition of 1908-1910, who had overwintered on the island.
The island was home to a colony of Gentoo penguins, and as we stepped off the zodiacs, the sound of their calls filled the air. The smell of guano mixed with the salty sea air was strong, but it was a small price to pay for the experience of being surrounded by these fascinating creatures.
We walked along the rocky shore, watching as the penguins waddled and swam, diving into the icy water to catch fish. The chicks were especially cute, with their fluffy down and playful antics. We were careful not to get too close, as we didn't want to disturb their natural habitats.
As we left Petermann Island, we encountered a Crabeater seal floating on a bergy bit. We were filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of this remote and pristine wilderness. The icy waters and snow-capped mountains were a stark contrast to the lush greenery of my home in California, and it was a privilege to be able to witness it all in person.
The next day, we celebrated our last day south of the Antarctic Circle, despite some heavy swells and a bit of wind. The Expedition Team was able to land the zodiacs against the rocky coast of Detaille Island, which was now home to a small museum. Base W, a British base from the late 50s, was of particular interest due to its state of preservation.
Our second to last day was on Cuverville Island, where we found another Gentoo penguin colony. The sound of their calls echoed across the island as we stepped off the zodiacs, and we all took a moment to simply stand and listen.
Deception Island was our last stop of the trip. An active volcano with gentoo and chinstrap penguins. We were struck by the sheer beauty of the place, with its snow-capped peaks and crystal-clear waters.
As we boarded the Seabourn Venture to head back to Ushuaia, we were filled with a sense of sadness and awe. This luxury adventure to the Falkland Islands and Antarctica was truly unforgettable, and I will cherish the memories of the breathtaking views, the incredible wildlife, and the pristine wilderness forever.