These expeditions enable you to take the God-view of a sweeping and fascinating geography or zoom down into a close-up. Explore rarely visited islands, isolated by expanses of ocean. In the Azores, linger amid towering basalt peaks, bubbling hot springs, nutrient-rich waters, emerald-green farmlands, and within a rich history. Experience the warmth and hospitality of the locals as they share a glimpse into their island life with traditional dishes, world-class wine and cheese tastings, fado music and the beauty of each destination.
Immerse yourself in the theme of island exploration and make plenty of discoveries of your own: virgin wildness, world-class whale watching, gardens in bloom, birds, and ancient lore. Discover them through curated daily activities—in our decades of exploring we’ve found the best hikes to see wildlife, where whales come to feed, and the top cuisine and cultural sites. See terraced hillsides, verdant forests and craggy canyons, and receive a world-class welcome from the friendly locals everywhere you travel.
Coming into the harbor or seeing the outline of an island on the horizon—the feeling of the sea and exploration is there, and it's amazing.
Explore with top expedition teams
See, do, and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades. Go with an expedition leader, naturalists, historians, and more.
Veteran expedition leaders are the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, the experience, and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
Sail with a team of naturalists, each passionate about the geographies they explore (and return to regularly) and who illuminate each facet through their enthusiasm and knowledge. Choose to spend time with whoever shares your interests in birding, human history, flora and fauna, and so much more.
Video chroniclers accompany every expedition, shooting vivid HD footage—with no recycled footage ever—to provide you with a professionally edited and completely authentic memento of your expedition. Working during the day, and editing into the night, they have your DVD ready for preview prior to—and available to purchase at—disembarkation.
There’s no need to dress up, ever; life aboard is casual all the way. There’s no assigned seating in the dining room—whether you choose the dining room or one of your ship's more casual dining spaces. In fact, many tables accommodate uneven numbers, making for easy mingling and the fun of sharing breakfast, lunch, or dinner with different new friends, staff, or guest speakers.
This was the final day of an extraordinary voyage that has brought us some 6,762 nautical miles from Europe via Africa to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. Today we departed
, where the central square has a large monument depicting a proud Ferdinand Magellan surveying a new land imperiously from the shoulders of the native people, tribes of varying ethnicities that Captain FitzRoy of
later called Fuegian, from their hinterland in
Tierra del Fuego
. We sailed the
, named after the first European explorer to chart his way through the maze of channels that link the Atlantic and
. Magellan, from Portugal but sailing under the patronage of the Spanish king, took six weeks to navigate these waters, entering the strait on October 21, 1520 near Islas de Virgenes before, in the words of Pigafetta (a Venetian employed to keep a journal of the voyage), “we debouched from that strait, engulfing ourselves in the Pacific Sea.” “Pacific” was to be an enduring misnomer, as Magellan was fortunate with the weather. He had become the first European to reach and name
Tierra del Fuego
, after the fires that the native peoples lit everywhere, including in their canoes. On this day, 487 years ago, All Saints’ Day 1520, he passed through Estrecho de Todos los Santos, before finally, after 373 nautical miles, reaching Cape Desire on November 28th. Our use of the term Magellanic for birds and stars in the southern hemisphere also dates from this voyage. Magellanic penguins, of the kind we saw yesterday at Isla Magdalena, were well described by Reverend Francis Fletcher aboard
anchored at Puerto Deseado in 1578:
“Great store of strange birds which could not flie at all, nor yet runne so fast that they could escape us with their lives; in body they are less than a goose, and bigger than a mallard, short and thicke sette together, having no feathers, but instead thereof a certaine hard and matted downe; their beakes are not unlike the beakes of crowes, they lodge and breed upon the land, where making earthes, as the conies doe, in the ground, they lay their eggs and bring up their young; their feeding and provision to live on is the sea, where they swimme in such sort as nature may seeme to have granted them no small prerogative in swiftnesse, both to prey upon others and themselves, to escape from any others that seeke to seize upon them; and such was the infinite resort of these birds to these ilands, that in the space of a day we killed no less than 3000.”
Francis Drake passed through these waters in that year becoming the first man to successfully lead an expedition of circumnavigation, since Magellan was killed on the island of Cebu in today’s Philippines before completing the voyage. Drake became a Protestant hero to rival Columbus and Magellan in the English national imagination and his patron was Queen Elizabeth, the “Virgin” Queen. As a protestant she felt under no obligation to be bound by the Catholic Treaty of Tordesillas, of which Pope Alexander VI had divided the New World between the two rival Catholic powers of Spain and Portugal. Elizabeth was eager to establish her own colonies in the New World. To strengthen her claims her advisor, Dr. John Dee, leaked various “fake news” stories claiming that the Welsh (the Tudors were a Welsh dynasty as was he) had discovered America before Columbus and that Welsh vocabulary could be found amongst native peoples in the Americas, north and south. In Drake’s widely read account of his voyage
(1628) he describes “birds that our Welsh sailors do call penguins.” This particular example has persisted to this day in respectable dictionaries where the etymology of “penguin” is still given as Welsh,
meaning “head” and
meaning “white.” Unfortunately for Dr. Dee, who had never seen a penguin, they have black heads; the true etymology derives from the Latin word for “plump” or “fat,” for these birds were considered a delicacy by hungry sailors.
Today was a very special day. When we awoke to the beautiful and unnaturally glassy waters of Punta Arenas harbor, we knew our excursion ahead to Isla Magdalena (home of one of Chile’s favorite penguin encounters) was blessed!
We have finally left the open ocean behind. Gone are the tropics, the blue water, and the endless horizon. We awoke today to sunny but cool temperatures and to land! Most people take for granted always seeing land. But for us on this journey it has been a long time. To see distant snowcapped mountains, buildings, trees, and especially cars certainly seemed weird.
Like always, the crew bedazzled us with their preparations for Halloween. Delicious pumpkin soup was a good indication of what was going on today. The pumpkin carving contest started it off, with a mind-blowing array of creativity. Soon the costumes appeared, followed by the entertainment……well, you had to be here to understand. It was too incredible to share with those of you who were not here.
The last time we glimpsed land was 11 days ago at Fernando de Noronho (remote islands off Brazil). So the possibility of seeing land this evening was much anticipated, as we approach the Straits of Magellan. To add to the excitement, we had high seas and gusts up to storm force, making for a dramatic backdrop against which to photograph the obliging wildlife.
We awoke to foggy conditions. Warmer air here meets the colder seas of the Falkland Current running north along the Argentine coast, slowing out progress south by about one knot from the previous days. Patagonia has become the archetypical ‘gap year’ destination for back-packers, even a clothing brand, helped in large part by Bruce Chatwin’s light travel memoir In Patagonia which was has run to multiple editions since it was first published in 1977. Patagonia was enormously influential in Darwin’s thought—its unusual fauna and flora and, above all, the abundance of fossils when he was out geologising made a lasting impression.
A generation after Darwin’s visit on board HMS Beagle, an unlikely group of prospective settlers arrived from Wales in the great bay to the south of the Valdes Peninsula to land where today the port of Puerto Madryn, a town with a sizeable aluminium smelting operation, references the home in north Wales of one of the patrons of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia, Captain Love Jones-Parry. Surviving their first winter very precariously in the shore-side caves and befriending the native tribesmen, the settlers subsequently moved across the pampas into the valley of the Rio Chubut which they settled and irrigated. Curiously today, the Chubut Valley is home to a community bilingual in Welsh and Spanish, the only place outside Wales where the Welsh language remains in everyday use. This was as the settlers intended when they set sail from Liverpool in the converted tea-clipper Mimosa in 1865, worried that the introduction of compulsory education through the medium of English would kill off the language in Wales itself and aware that emigrants to the United States tended to lose their mother tongue within just a couple of generations in the American “melting pot”. Trelew, named after another pioneer of the Welsh settlement, Lewis Jones, is home to one the most remarkable palaeontology museums in South America.
We hope soon to encounter Magellanic penguins. Curiously, dictionaries often give the etymology of penguin as coming from the Welsh pen, meaning head, and gwyn, meaning white, an inexplicable derivation in multiple ways, not least because penguins have black heads. It seems that it was Francis Drake who first made this suggestion in his account of his voyage of circumnavigation on board Golden Hind in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in order to give the British a prior claim to the Americas over Spain and Portugal. He wanted it put about that the Welsh, the original British, had discovered the New World at an earlier date and that evidence for this existed in native vocabularies. A vegetable carving demonstration in the lounge this morning got us into penguin mood.
Today visitors to Patagonia can experience both Wales and whales, the Valdes Peninsula being a popular whale-watching destination especially at this time of year when the southern right whales gather there to give birth to their calves. Off the coast, sailing by, we were accompanied by numerous black-and-white painted (pintado) petrels, dark brown giant petrels and Peale’s dolphins.
Days at sea are all about looking for wildlife. And we're constantly on the watch for fish, birds, mammals, and you never know what you’re going to see.