Camping amongst Emperors
Punta Arenas to Punta Arenas
9 days/8 nights
Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Gould Bay Emperor Penguin Colony on the remote coast of the Weddell Sea. Camp on the same sea ice where thousands of birds come to raise and feed their young. Photograph majestic emperors and their chicks against a spectacular backdrop of ice cliffs, pressure ridges, and icebergs. Spot petrels and seals amongst the endless white expanse. Fall asleep to a chorus of trumpeting calls and wake to find curious penguins outside your tent.
Arrival in Punta Arenas
We ask you to arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days (48 hours) prior to your scheduled Antarctic flight. We do not hold Antarctic flights for delayed passengers or luggage.
We will come to your hotel to review your clothing and equipment. You are invited to a Welcome Briefing at our Punta Arenas office the evening before your Antarctic flight. At the briefing, we will describe the flight dispatch process, update you on the current weather, and prepare you for your arrival at Union Glacier.
Day 1 – Fly to Antarctica
Fly from Chile to Antarctica by private transport jet. Land on ice runway. Settle in at Union Glacier Camp.
Day 2 Acclimatize to Antarctica
Today is an easy day to acclimatize to Antarctic conditions. We will have an orientation to camp and life in Antarctica, review expedition logistics with our guide, and enjoy a presentation by our staff naturalist about coastal wildlife and wildlife viewing procedures.
Day 3 Fly to the rookery
After a leisurely breakfast we pack up and fly by ski aircraft to the remote south coast of the Weddell Sea. We land on multi-year sea ice near the Emperor rookery and our guides set up a cozy field camp beside the aircraft. The rest of the day is ours to explore and we have our first audience with the Emperors.
Days 4–8 Living with the Emperors
Experience the rhythms of the rookery at your own pace over the five days. Take guided walks with our ALE naturalist or do your own thing. Meal times are flexible so you can photograph and explore when the lighting and mood are just right. Watch adults display and feed their young. Listen to trumpeting and whistling calls as parents and chicks search for one another. If lucky, we’ll photograph Weddell seals lazing by tide cracks.
At the end of our last day we pack-up the aircraft and fly back to Union Glacier Camp, where we will enjoy a celebration dinner and share stories with other adventurers.
Day 9* Return to Punta Arenas, Chile
The aircraft from Punta Arenas will arrive with a new collection of avid explorers and you depart for the final leg of your Antarctic experience. Our ALE staff will meet you at Punta Arenas airport and transfer you to your hotel.
No two Antarctic experiences are exactly the same. This is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. The itinerary above highlights typical activities and experiences. Exact schedule and details will vary from trip to trip. Trip length may vary by departure.
Ride in one of our vehicles to this dramatic marble buttress overlooking the blue-ice runway. Beautiful ice pools and moraines offer endless opportunities for photography. If you’re looking for something more active, you’ll have the opportunity to hike up to the base of Elephant’s Head or all the way to the top of Rhodes Bluff for panoramic views of Union Glacier and the Heritage Range.
Named in the 1960s after geologist Benjamin Drake IV, this impressive icefall tumbles off the polar plateau into Union Glacier. Winds from the South Pole carve huge waves into the blue-ice and polish the surface into a high shine.
Charles Peak Windscoop
Discover the power of wind on ice as you wander through a sparkling turquoise corridor. If you’re truly adventurous, this is a prime place to try ice climbing with one of our experienced guides. For the less vertically inclined, you can rock hunt until your heart’s content. Just remember to leave them in place, as nothing may be removed from Antarctica.
The Beach at Rossman Cove
Another spectacular setting for blue-ice photography and panoramic views! Take cross-country skis with you or a picnic lunch and enjoy Antarctica’s version of a glacial beach getaway.
This secret canyon opens up to a beautiful valley prime for hiking, climbing, and backcountry skiing. If you’d prefer to stay closer to camp, we have a variety of activities for all abilities. You can check out a pair of cross-country skis or a fat-tire bike and take a spin around our groomed 10k loop or you can enjoy a cup of tea, an Antarctic book, or fun game in our camp library.
In the evenings, we regularly offer lectures and films tailored to your experience.
2017 departure: 15th November 2017 – ON WAIT LIST
Price per person: US$ 45,750
2018 departure: 10th – 18th November and 18th – 26th November – ON WAIT LIST
Price per person: US$ 48,250
(This Experience has a minimum number requirement)
Included in the price:
- Transfers to and from Punta Arenas airport, Chile
- Briefing with refreshments in Punta Arenas one day prior to departure
- Round trip flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica
- All flights within Antarctica as shown in your itinerary
- Meals and accommodation while in Antarctica
- Expedition Guide(s) and naturalist or lecturer
- Use of recreational equipment at Union Glacier Camp
- Activities (as describe in Adventure Options)
- Official and personalised ALE Certificate of Achievement
- A Baggage allowance of up to 55lbs (25kg) on Punta Arenas-Union Glacier flight
(Baggage allowance of up to 66lb (30kg)
Not included in the price:
- Commercial flights to and from Punta Arenas
- Flights within Antarctica, other than those shown in itinerary
- Meals and accommodation in Punta Arenas
- Airport transfers other than in Punta Arenas
- Personal equipment and clothing (polar clothing is available for rent )
- Expenses incurred in Punta Arenas due to delays
- Any excess baggage costs over confirmed baggage allowance
- Cost for the use of satellite phone whilst in Antarctica
- Insurance coverage – personal, medical, evacuation or otherwise
You can buy a phone card at Union Glacier but you need to bring USD cash as this is the only means of payment.
There are phones on site that can be used.
The plugs available at the camp are US plugs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Will it be cold?
All of our journeys take place in the Antarctic summer (November through January) when the weather is at its best. The interior of Antarctica has a cold, dry, windy climate. Average mid-season temperatures at our base camp range from 10F to 25F (-12C to -4C ). On a sunny windless day it can feel quite warm but, when the wind blows, you will be glad of warm layers and a wind jacket. Temperatures can drop as low as -22F (-30C) in early November.
- Weather at the Emperor rookery is highly variable and influenced by coastal systems. Temperatures range from
-22F (-30C) to near 32F (0C) with sunny and overcast skies and the possibility of heavy snowstorms.
Emperor Penguin Experience
Can I touch the penguins?
No. Penguins, seals and other Antarctic wildlife need to conserve energy in order to survive and raise their young. It is essential that you keep your distance and avoid causing them stress. All Antarctic wildlife are protected under the Antarctic Treaty and visitors may not touch, feed or disturb them in any way. Please see IAATO’s Emperor Penguin Viewing Guidelines.Your guide will also explain the wildlife watching procedures and will help you to follow them in the field.
Do I need to ski?
The snow around Union Glacier Camp is generally firm and fine for walking. The same is true at the South Pole, Emperor penguin rookery and other fly-in destinations. We have skis for recreational use, but you do not have to ski.
Safety, Medical and Insurance
Do I need travel insurance?
All guests are required to provide cover for medical evacuation, due to the high cost of evacuation from Antarctica. We also strongly recommend that you consider Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance, to protect you in case you need to cancel for any reason. Experiences are non-refundable within 90 days of departure.
Schedule and Itinerary
Will the itinerary be exactly the same as shown on the website?
Our itineraries are meant as a guide, to give you an idea of the kinds of activities and the flow of each Experience. However no two trips are exactly the same – and that is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. Your unique itinerary will be tailored to your interests and abilities, weather conditions and coordination with other groups on the ice. Flight schedules are flexible and you should expect delays due to the unpredictable nature of Antarctic weather, runway conditions and other logistics.
When should I arrive?
We ask that you arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days (48 hours) before your scheduled departure. This allows time for clothing and equipment checks and provides a buffer in case you should miss a flight connection or have lost luggage. An environmental and logistics briefing will be held in the evening before your Antarctic flight. We will collect your luggage and load the aircraft in the morning, one day prior to the scheduled departure.
Please note that we cannot hold Antarctic flights for guests who are delayed arriving or who have lost luggage. We recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your trip, without the stress of tight timelines.
Can I fly my drone/UAV in Antarctica?
A number of requirements apply to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/drones in Antarctica, due to concerns about privacy, interference with scientific work, use in controlled airspace, and potential impacts if lost. ALE has developed UAV Guidelines to help our guests comply. Tell us if you plan to bring a UAV and be sure to review our UAV Guidelines.
Cloting and Equipment
I’m not sure I have the correct equipment?
We provide detailed clothing and equipment lists for all of our Experiences. If you still have questions after reading our equipment lists and overview just drop us a line and we will be more than happy to help.
Can I rent clothing from you?
Guests have the option to rent custom-designed Antarctic parka and windpants, boots and polar sleeping bag from us. This may be the most practical option if you think you will not use these specialized items again. Please let us know well in advance if you would like to rent any items, as we have limited stocks and items are available on a first-come first-served basis.