There are a few places on the planet that wet the appetite of any wildlife photographer and South Georgia is definitely high on that list. It’s sheer remoteness in the South Atlantic, allied to its colourful history and it’s simply vast numbers of certain species such as Elephant Seal, Fur Seal, King Penguin make it a mecca for many travelling in this corner of the world. For many years we have wanted to pull together a truly focused small group trip to enjoy the drama of this dramatic island away from the larger vessels that are the more normal way of visiting, often briefly on the way elsewhere, and have managed to secure the services of leading yachtsman Skip Novak and his ocean-going yacht Pelagic Australis to both take us from and back to Stanley, Falkland Islands where our adventure will begin, but also share his extensive knowledge of the wildlife of the island itself. With key locations such as St Andrews Bay, Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbour, Prion Island and Right Whale Bay are all on our agenda and we will have all the flexibility the weather will allow to maximise our time at the best locations. This will be a hard trip given the nature of the travel involved but it will be a truly rewarding adventure too.
Itinerary Open +Close -
Day 1: We propose to organise our transport to Port Stanley in the Falklands using the MOD service from Brize Norton airfield in Oxfordshire. The 18-hour flights leave in the evening and involve a stop (for re-fuelling and the chance to stretch our legs) at Ascension Island on the way. Although more expensive than the route via Santiago this is a much quicker route that runs more than the one day a week the alternative offers hence our choice of this as our way there and back: we will talk about the process for booking these flights with you once you have a confirmed place on the trip with us.
Day 2: After our long flight we will arrive at Mount Pleasant airfield and transfer to the harbour in Stanley and our home for the next 3 weeks – Pelagic Australis. We will enjoy an evening meal, a very thorough briefing for the journey ahead and final stretch our legs on the nearby shore and get ready for our early start the next morning!
Days 3 – 7: We will benefit (if that’s the word) from the prevailing winds behind us during our passage to South Georgia as we head in a generally south-westerly direction. Dependent on the weather itself it will take up to 4 days to reach the northerly tip of the island. It’s impossible to predict sea conditions but they will not be smooth throughout for sure and so we need to be prepared for this and the associated challenges but the rewards when we reach South Georgia itself will be well worth it. On calmer days we would expect the boat to be followed by dolphins and seabirds, which will provide incidental photographic opportunities. This 4-day allowance is the maximum time it should take us though.
Days 8 – 16: We will look to have a minimum of 8 very full days working our way in a south-easterly direction along the lee of South Georgia as we look to get the best shelter from the prevailing winds. The weather itself will determine the amount of time we can actually spend ashore but when we are this is where the benefits of being in such a small group will really come to the fore. We should all be able to land in one go, have maximum flexibility (subject to any access regulations in breeding colonies such as the Wandering Albatross at Prion Island) to explore where we choose and stay ashore pretty much from dawn to dusk should we choose, and subject only to our plans in terms of moving on. We will look to keep this phase of the trip as flexible as possible to maximise our quality photography time but key locations such as Salisbury Plain (and its 100,000 King Penguins), St Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour, Right Whale Bay and its vast Elephant and Fur Seal colonies, King Haakon Bay, and Stromness Harbour among the many options, along no doubt with some secret spots of Skip’s too! Rest assured we will absolutely look to maximise every moment we can ashore during this phase of the trip and before the long journey back begins.
Days 17 – 23: The precise day we leave South Georgia for our return to Stanley in the Falklands will be determined by the weather and at the sole discretion of the ships captain: we have to work with suitable breaks in the weather to minimise the length of time it will take (we are into the prevailing winds going back) and also ensure safe passage too. It could take up to 7 days for the journey as a whole though.
Day 24: This morning we will transfer from Stanley to the airport at Mount Pleasant for the long flight back to Brize Norton, again with a short refuelling/leg-stretching stop at Ascension Island.
Day 25: Arrive back at Brize Norton in UK.