South Georgia is a unique island in the South Atlantic Ocean. South Georgia is host to wildlife scenes that are only seen on BBC wildlife programmes, yet there is so much more to this unique set of islands. The only way to explore South Georgia is on a dedicated cruise vessel. Our South Georgia island cruise tours give you two options. Most South Georgia cruises allow you 4 days of landings. But once a year, Oceanwide Expeditions offer a Falkland Islands & South Georgia cruise which gives you 10 days of landings at various locations around South Georgia. Daily activities include easy hikes, visits to cultural or historic sites, kayaking or scuba diving. The standard South Georgia adventure cruise gives you ample time to experience the magnificent and pristine scenery and then continue on to Antarctica. But if wildlife is your thing, then the longer annual South Georgia cruise tour is a must. When it comes to wildlife you will simply be blown away by the wildlife encounters that take place on a remote beach in South Georgia. The highly professional on-board expedition team take great care in planning every landing. Each one could be a standalone South Georgia Island Tour experience. And if you fancy stretching your legs, you can go on walking tours with the team when the weather allows.
South Georgia & Falkland Islands Wildlife Cruise Expeditions & Tours
Cruise the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Via Argentina
The only way to reach South Georgia is by seagoing vessel as there is no aerodrome on South Georgia. Your specialised cruise ship will leave Ushuaia in Argentina and steam to the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands lie 838 nautical miles away from South Georgia. The Falkland Islands are a wildlife destination in their own right, and so all South Georgia cruises will spend at least two days cruising around the Falkland Islands. Your last stop will most likely be the harbour of Port Stanley as this is the last station for any ship to get vital supplies and fuel and the last location for you to send a postcard before your South Georgia wildlife cruise starts in earnest.
While on your 2 days & 2 nights’ sea crossing you will see different types of whale and sea birds. This can be an amazing crossing packed with wildlife and gorgeous sunsets, or if the weather is inclement, it can be an open sea crossing of note. A day before your South Georgia Island tour makes landfall, you will arrive at Shag Rocks. These pinnacles of stone rise up out of the South Atlantic Ocean and are a haven for sea birds. You should be able to get 45 minutes to one hour of observation of Shag Rock before your vessel continues on her last overnight leg to the Island. At the following dawn you will find yourself steaming along the coast of South Georgia, in sight of her snowy caps and steep mountain ranges. This truly is a sight to behold. Very few people make this journey and you will be one of a very small selection of people that will have done so. You will have had the privilege to experience a Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island cruise.
South Georgia Wildlife Cruises & Falkland Islands Photo Tours
The Cruise to South Georgia Island is all about wildlife and dramatic history. Each remote beach with its abundance of sub-Antarctic wildlife makes our South Georgia tours a true Antarctic wildlife safari with great photo opportunities. You should have almost guaranteed sightings of the Gentoo, King and Rockhopper Penguins and if you travel in November or December you’ll be watching the antics of fur seals with their pups. Best of all, you will literally have hundreds of thousands of birds nesting in between them.
The South Georgia wildlife is one of many attractions on a Falkland Islands and South Georgia cruise. If the weather is kind, there are daily landings by Zodiac inflatable boat, combined with walking tours and Zodiac cruises; where the inflatable boats putter around the coves and rocks of South Georgia, allowing you to spot wildlife and get up close and personal with seals and birds. In addition to this the history of South Georgia is long and fascinating. While the whaling industry had its biggest base at Grytviken, most of the northern bays have remnants of the whaling industry. Whaling, once an acceptable and highly lucrative form of fishing, is now almost completely banned worldwide. When you walk around Grytviken, you have a palpable sense of why it is so important to protect these magnificent creatures.
All our cruises that stop at South Georgia Island will try and land you at Grytviken. Other famous landing places that are on the agenda are Salisbury Plains Beach, St Andrews Bay and Prince Olafs’ Harbor. The longer South Georgia Expedition Cruise lands at even more locations. We keep mentioning this, but at each landing you will be stunned by the sheer volume of the South Georgia wildlife.
Learn About Sir Ernest Shackleton On Your South Georgia Island Cruise Tour
The Falkland Islands and South Georgia are at the southern end of the South Atlantic Ocean. The word best used to describe them would be “far flung”. In spite of this a long list of dramatic events unfolded on these remote clusters of remote islands. These events had immense influence on the maritime world stage. No cruise to south Georgia can avoid the palpable south Atlantic history. South Georgia is most famous as the island where Sir Ernest Shackleton finally made landfall after his blighted Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. This took place from 1914-1917. Whilst trying to get to the South Pole, Shackleton and his men had become caught in the ice. His ship, the Endurance could not be further from the South Georgia cruise tour ship that you will be on.
With supplies packed in every corner, and a partition in the hull for kennels that sat over the coal, the Endurance was a true Antarctic Expedition Vessel. The Endurance was trapped in the ice. All efforts to free her came to naught and the endurance was eventually crushed in the winter polar ice of the Weddell Sea. Shackleton and his men then made a heroic journey dragging three lifeboats towards the Weddell Sea . Exhausted upon reaching this, they had to stop and wait for the ice to melt. They then drifted north on an ice floe until it became too small and they set sail for Elephant Island. Most of our South Georgia cruises take in Elephant Island and give you the chance to land or zodiac cruise around the beach where Sir Shackleton left most his men. Under the care and command of his deputy expedition commander, Frank Wild, the men were all kept alive for four long months, living un upturned lifeboats. Shackleton and his ships captain Frank Worsely and three others set off on a daring last ditch effort to reach help, on South Georgia Island. Shackleton sailed across the South Atlantic to South Georgia Island in an open boat called the James Caird. They made landfall at King Haakon Bay. In a final push, Shackleton and two men then walked and climbed across the glaciers of South Georgia to arrive at the whaling station at Stromness. All of our South Georgia tours take in the excellent Grytviken Museum, where an exact replica of the James Caird can be seen. Shackelton saved every single member of his expedition team, both on the Nimrod and Endurance expeditions. World war one was still raging and his men all volunteered for the armed forces. Nearly half of them were killed on the western front. This affected Shackleton for the rest of his life.
By now, knighted Sir Ernest Shackleton returned to South Georgia in 1922 on yet another expedition. Affected by grief he sadly died in Grytviken from a heart attack. He was aged 47. His widow asked that he be buried there. The grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton is a must visit on all our Cruises to South Georgia.
Discover the History of Argentine Occupation on Your South Georgia Cruise Tour
In 1982 Argentina seized the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. A small group of 22 Royal Marines from Naval Party 8901 were on South Georgia Island and ordered to offer token resistance. Under the command of acting Lt Mills, his Marines shot down two helicopters and killed and wounded a series of Argentine marines. The corvette ARA Guericco sailed into Grytviken harbour and bombarded the Roayl Marine positions. The Royals returned fire with a Carl Gustav Rocket laucher and enfield sniper rifle. The marines shot out the windows on the bridge, hit the corvette once and then suffered numerous misfires. The corvette went away and reparirs were effected. When it returned to bombard the British forces, they were forced to surrender. This invasion did not last long. On the 25th/ 26th April 1982 facing naval gunfire and the possibility of a commando landing, the resident Argentine forces surrendered. The battle for the Falkland Islands was sadly much more protracted and took many more lives. On your cruise to the Falkland islands and South Georgia, you will be able to see the war memorial in Port Stanley, and trace the rear-guard action fought by the Royal Marines to government house. On your tour of South Georgia, you will visit Grytviken Museum, you can see some of the equipment used by the Royal Marines.
The aftermath of the Falklands War was that Argentina’s people rejected utterly any form of military leadership. Their constitution places the Argentine armed forces in a solely defensive position. The Falklands war permanently democratised Argentina. It also secured Britain’s claim on the South Atlantic Ocean and sub Antarctic islands. With old and rusty vessels, there will be no future physical claim on the Antarctic by the Argentine Navy.
You, as a traveller to South Georgia might wonder how all these stories affect you? Well – once you set foot onto the remote bays of South Georgia having spent 48 hours at sea, with not a speck of land in sight you will understand the immense feats of bravery of all of these men and women, who carved out life and death in this unforgiving but dramatic place. A visit to Shackleton’s grave, or a quiet moment of reflection in Port Stanley and Grytviken church is always on the South Georgia tours itinerary and gives a depth of meaning to your journey, making it a unique journey to join us on.
All photos on this page were taken by Francisca Jah and Farhat Jah on an expedition cruise in South Georgia Island December 2019. They were taken with Nikon D7100 and D7500 cameras and Tamron Sigma and the occasional Nikon Lens.
HOW LONG DO CRUISES STOP IN SOUTH GEORGIA?
Most of our South Georgia Island Cruises spend 4 days in and around the islands and remote bays of South Georgia. Your ice strengthened vessel will cruise around the northern bays of South Georgia allowing you to make multiple landings, Our longer cruise spends 8-10 days exploring South Georgia. This is a unique wildlife experience and only runs in November.
WHAT’s THE MAIN ATTRACTION OF SOUTH GEORGIA?
The Main attraction of South Georgia is its unbelievable wildlife. Every naturalist and photographer from around the world wants to come to the Serengeti of the South Atlantic to watch seals, penguins and whales. In addition there are so many historic sights and easy hikes to do and see.
HOW FAR IS SOUTH GEORGIA FROM THE FALKLAND ISLANDS?
It takes around two days to steam the 838nm between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. This cruise is often broken by a stop at Shag Rocks which is a haven of wildlife 70 NM from the western tip of south Georgia. The cruise crosses the southern convergence and this brings many sightings of whales and seabirds.
WHEN SHOULD I PLAN MY CRUISE TOUR TO SOUTH GEORGIA?
Cruises to South Georgia only operate in the southern hemisphere summer. The best time to go is between November and March. The fur seal pups can be seen in abundance on the beaches in December, but the weather controls everything, so if you can go at any time during the Antarctic summer you will be amazed by the experience.