A once-in-a-lifetime trip to see a coveted colony of penguins is now available, but it’s costly! Here’s everything you need to know if you love penguins and are ready to splurge!
Emperor Penguin Quest
The Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill will return in November 2023 thanks to polar explorers with Quark Expeditions. The 14-day expedition ventures to the rarely visited Antarctic island of Snow Hill, home to a colony of emperor penguins. Once there, guests will have the extremely rare opportunity to observe these fantastic penguins in their natural habitat.
The trip begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where guests will stay overnight in a hotel before being transported via private plane to the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, Argentina. After a day of exploring, guests will board the ship Ultramarine and set sail for the Beagle Channel.
On days three through five, you’ll cross through Drake Passage — the historic channel separating the Pacific and Atlantic oceans — before arriving in the Weddell Sea on day six. During this voyage, the expert polar expedition team will prepare guests for weather conditions (which will include sharing ice reports) and what to expect on the island.
Experiencing Snow Hill
Once in the Weddell Sea, the ice thickness determines how close the Ultramarine can get to Snow Hill. Over the next several days, the expedition team will work to transport each guest to Snow Hill at least once. To do this, teams will take guests via helicopter to Snow Hill, landing as close to the penguins as possible, without disturbing them.
Guests will then walk on the ice to the colony and watch as thousands of penguins work together as a team. You may even get to see one play — body surfing across the ice!
On (And Off) The Ultramarine
Weather and ice conditions determine when and how often the helicopters can land on the island. When not visiting the colony, guests can explore the area by cruising in between the ice or paddleboarding. Or they can simply stay on board the ship to rest, work out in the fitness area, or visit the spa.
On day 11 of the adventure, the Ultramarine will head back to Ushuaia and on day 14, guests will disembark and fly back to Buenos Aires.
An Educational Voyage
The main goal of the penguin quest is to see the emperor penguin colony up close, but Quark Expeditions incorporates educational programs into the itinerary as well. Biologists, polar historians, and penguin scientists will hold lectures onboard, teaching about ice formations, penguin behaviors, and the historical component of the area and its exploration.
There are also hands-on learning opportunities during which guests can get a closer look at how the ship operates and help scientists with weather observations.
Quark Expeditions is planning two trips starting in November 2023, and the number of guests is limited on each voyage.
“To make this trip even more intimate,” says Alex McNeil, director of expedition experience and innovation for Quark Expeditions, “we’ve reduced guest capacity to 150 and increased the number of expedition staff so there will be one expedition team member for every four guests—who will truly experience the expedition of a lifetime!”
This once-in-a-lifetime experience comes with a hefty price tag: starting at just under $29,000 per person. The price includes the 14-day journey plus the pre-departure hotel in Buenos Aires with breakfast, flights to and from the port in Ushuaia, and transfers from the airport to the ship and back to the airport.
If you want a room with a balcony, expect to pay around $45,000 per person, with suites starting at $48,000 and going up to $66,000 per person. There are two departure dates: November 12, 2023, and November 24, 2023. Check out Quark’s website for all the cabin prices.
About Quark Expeditions
In 2004, Quark Expeditions became the first exploration group to visit the penguin habitat on Snow Hill. Nearly 20 years later, the team is venturing to the remote island in the Weddell Sea once again to observe and study the coveted emperor penguin as well as ice formations and movements in Antarctica.
“Driven by a true expeditionary spirit—and guided by years of polar expertise—our team sailed past masses of dense ice and thick, tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea to experience the legendary rookery, which now numbers 8,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins,” said Andrew White, president of Quark Expeditions.
Seeing penguins is just one of our favorite aspects of Antarctica. And if you’re thinking of heading there, check out a physician’s tips on how to prepare for your trip.