Weddell Sea – In Search Of Emperor Penguins

This is a Group Tour

11 Days From €9,900pp

A bucket list itinerary which includes taking helicopters from the ship in search of Emperor Penguins. A special one-off expedition for those with a passion for wildlife.

Tour Includes

cabin, activities, all meals, English speaking guides, full ATOL financial

Tour Excludes

international flights, travel insurance, items of a personal nature, services on the mainland


Taking helicopters in search of Emperor penguins

Observing plenty of sea birds as you cross the Drake Passage

Taking zodiac cruises around the huge icebergs

To book this tour or start creating your own tailor made itinerary call us on: 0207 407 1478 (UK) or contact us.

Tour Code(s):

OTL22-22, OTL23-22, PLA29-23


  • Nov 14 – 24 2022: 11 days on Ortelius, from €10,100
  • Nov 24 – Dec 4 2022: 11 days on Ortelius, from €10,100
  • Feb 11 – 22 2023: 12 days on Plancius, from €8,900

The Trip

Day 1: Ushuaia – Set sail along the Beagle Channel
Day 2-3: At Sea – Cross the Drake Passage
Day 4-7: Antarctic – Weddell sea and Emperor penguins
Day 8: Antarctic – Visit Deception Island
Day 9-10: At Sea – Cross the Drake Passage
Day 11: Ushuaia – Disembark

Day 1

Arrive in Ushuaia and board the boat. In the afternoon set sail along the scenic waterways of the Beagle Channel.

Day 2-3

The next couple of days will be spent crossing the Drake Passage. There will be a series of on board lectures and presentations by Antarctic experts to help you learn about the geology and wildlife of the white continent. Up on deck you will have the opportunity to see many sea birds that follow the wake of the boat.

Day 4-7

Arrive in the Antarctic. Please note that an exact itinerary will be determined by the Expedition Leader based on weather conditions at the time.

Sail into the Weddell Sea and cross the Antarctic Sound viewing huge tabular icebergs that announce your arrival in the eastern side of the Peninsula. During the next few days you will take helicopters from the ship in an attempt to find Emperor penguins. On previous voyages this has been possible, but it obviously cannot be guaranteed. You will however always enjoy seeing the Antarctic from this unqiue perspective. If conditions allow the helicopter will land on the tabular icebergs or other locations.

Possible landing sites include Brown Bluff, a scenic spot on the northern tip of the Antarctic continent. The steep canyon walls, and volcanic creations are home to thousands of Adelie penguins that nest on the slopes.

Helicopters are a great contribution to the overall enjoyment of the voyage. The western side of the Antarctic Sound is rarely seen from this unique view. The scenery of lava flows, glaciers that tumble into the sea and floating icebergs is a magical experience from the air. As you fly keep a keen eye for Emperor penguins, the focus of the trip. Giant petrels, kelp gulls, storm petrels and more can be seen scavenging below.

Another beautiful flight will be made over the huge blue icebergs close to View Point. Land on a rocky hillock near an old refuge hut that overlooks the bay. Here you can take in the scenery on a walk with your guide. If the ice allows, you will navigate further south in the Weddell Sea to visit Devil Island and Vega Island. Here a large colony of Adelie penguins can be seen and hikers can take a walk up the hill for excellent views. Further south you will also visit Seymour Island where many interesting fossils can be found.

On the way back north through the Antarctic Sound, if time permits, you may take a visit to the Argentine station Esperanza. You will still be keeping a look out for Emperor penguins on the nearby ice-floes. A last visit to Gourdin to see chinstrap, Gentoo and Adelie penguins may also be possible.

Day 5 – 6: (Alternate program if the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice – less than 50 % probability)
Helicopters provide an advantage in reaching the emperor penguin colony, but nature makes the rules in Antarctica. If conditions are favourable, you’ll spend the first two days at the penguin rookery. The helicopter operation takes a full day, and the flight duration is approximately 15 minutes. Each helicopter can accommodate 4 – 6 passengers per flight, and the landing site is carefully chosen so that the penguins are not disturbed. Upon arrival to the site, it is about a 45-minute walk to the rookery. Please keep in mind that you are in the world’s most remote area: There are no guarantees. Conditions may change rapidly, which can have a profound impact on our helicopter operations. It is important to understand and respect this. Safety is our greatest concern, and no compromises can be made.

Experience the bird’s-eye-view of Antarctica: –
Experience the bird’s-eye-view of Antarctica! Our helicopter capability on m/v Ortelius gives you the rare chance to see the famed emperor penguin rookery south of Snow Hill Island, numbering around 4,000 breeding pairs. Heavy ice may prevent entrance to this area from the Weddell Sea, and ice at the rookery itself might break up and start to melt earlier than expected. With this in mind, the aim is to stop the vessel between the Antarctic Sound and James Clark Ross Island, close to the ice edge, and find emperor penguins on their way to open water. The thrilling helicopter flights make this search possible, enabling you to land in locations otherwise inaccessible this early in the season.

If ice conditions are favourable and the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice, you have the chance for ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to Snow Hill Island (roughly 45 minutes walking distance from the emperor penguin rookery). If successful, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But please remember that nature writes the final itinerary out here: Attempts to reach Snow Hill Island during the voyages of 2012 – 19 did not always succeed. However, in 2013 and three years in a row (2017 – 2019) conditions were favourable to land by helicopter on Snow Hill Island and to visit the emperor penguin rookery.

Day 8

In the morning, you sail to Deception Island for the last landing of the voyage, either at Pendulum Cove or Whalers Bay. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.

Day 9-10

Leave the Antarctic behind and cross back over the Drake Passage. Spend time with your fellow guests sharing stories of the things you’ve seen. Go back on deck to watch for wildlife and attend lectures and presentations given by Polar experts.

Day 11

Disembark at Ushuaia.

Prices in Euros and are per person. Prices in other currencies on request.


“What an astonishing trip!! Words fail to describe Antarctica adequately. I can highly recommend SLA"

R. Higgs

"The whole trip was very well organised and a great success"

H. Bullock

"Life is art: paint your dreams. This trip has been our picasso, rembrandt, monet.....In fact our masterpiece. Thanks to david and team for setting the canvas to make our dream come true "

P & G Moss

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