Antarctica Explorer

Small Group Photography & Wildlife Expedition

Ushuaia, Argentina

12 days


US$ 11,490

Join Secret Atlas on a 12-day in-depth Antarctica cruise with an extended focus on wildlife viewing and photography in Antarctic peninsula. This expedition is aimed at those wanting to spend the maximum amount of unhurried time ashore observing wildlife and is suited for photographers and wildlife watchers.

What makes this trip even more special is that our vessel takes just 48 guests, the smallest group size in Antarctica. When you are ashore you will be in a small group of just 12 guests for an intimate wildlife and photography experience. Traveling on a small expedition vessel gives us more flexibility, more time ashore and allows us to visit landing sites that the large cruise ships can’t visit.

Download Brochure See Dates and Rates


Explore the Antarctic peninsula on a 12-day small ship expedition cruise with just 48 guests in total. This expedition takes place on the newly refitted Polar Pioneer, the smallest and most rugged expedition cruise ship visiting South Georgia.

On this expedition we will do an exploration of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula visiting many places of interest for short hikes, wildlife watching and historical sites. As our group size is under 50 we will have access to all landing sites, some of which are off limit to larger vessels.

Expedition Highlights

  • Small group experience of just 48 guests, the smallest group size available in Antarctica.
  • A rare opportunity to join a in-depth exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula with extended time ashore to view and photograph wildlife.
  • Explore key wildlife sites on the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula.
  • Comfortable, and intimate ice-strengthened expedition vessel with sauna.
  • Encounter Antarctica’s wildlife including penguins, fur and leopard seals and whales.
  • This trip give you the maximum time ashore. All guests can fit in the Zodiacs and land at the same time, so no waiting time.
  • Numerous opportunities to photograph Antartica’s Icy and stunning landscapes from the ship and shore.
  • Led by highly experienced expedition leaders and photography guides.
  • Get closer than ever to Antarctica and kayak through crystal-clear waters surrounded by icebergs and glaciers. (Kayaking is available on this expedition for an additional cost – find details in our dates and prices section below)

Learn From our Knowledgable Guides

An Antarctica micro cruise comes with knowledgeable guides who are passionate about the region and have a wealth of knowledge about the wildlife, history, and ecology of the region. They can provide you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Antarctic ecosystem.

The Voyage

Day 1 Welcome aboard! Depart Ushuaia, Argentina Embarkation is set at 16:00 Local Time

Day 2 At Sea

Day 3 First landing on South Shetland Islands

Day 4 – 9 Exploring the Antarctic peninsula

Day 10 – 11 At Sea

Day 12 Arrive Ushuaia, Argentina. Disembarkation is set at 09:00 Local Time

* Every Antarctica Micro Cruise follows a different a route depending on the conditions and opportunities we encounter. The map and itinerary gives you an idea of the area we will explore on this expedition.

Antarctica route map

Antarctica Cruise Day by Day

Day 1


Welcome to Ushuaia, Argentina, also known by its nickname ‘The End of the World’. In the afternoon we embark on the Polar Pioneer for the expedition of a lifetime. This tough, ice-strengthened expedition vessel will be our comfortable home and base for exploring for the next 11 nights.

After settling into your cabin there will be a full safety briefing and an introduction from the expedition team. You will meet the experts who will be your guides for the duration of your voyage who have extensive knowledge about Antarctica, the history, wildlife, and geology.

In the afternoon we will sail through the Beagle channel. It is the perfect time to spend time out on deck wildlife watching and appreciating the magnificent landscapes of Patagonia.

Day 2 – 3

Crossing the Drake Passage

As we sail south we will cross the famed Drake passage that separates Antarctica from the South American continent. It is the ideal time to spend time on deck watching the dozens of wandering albatrosses that circle the ship.

During these two days at sea, our experts will get you excited for what lies ahead with a series of lectures on the wildlife, history, and environment of Antarctica. As we cross the Antarctic convergence zone the air will chill and we will spend time on deck looking for the first icebergs and keeping a sharp lookout for whales that are frequently sighted.

An amazing part of any Antarctica expedition is sighting the land of the 7th continent for the first time.

Day 4 – 9

Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula

The focus of this expedition is to spend the maximum amount of time exploring in an unhurried way which is only possible in a small group. Each day our expedition team will make decisions about where to explore based on the weather and sea ice conditions.

We will drop anchor in remote bays framed by icy mountains. Our plan is to explore key wildlife sites on the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Here we will encounter penguin rookeries up close. Gentoo’s, Adleie’s and Chin Straps are all residents here. We aim to do shore landings twice a day led by our expedition leaders. We will use the Zodiacs for short cruises to explore the icy waters in an intimate way. Keep an eye out for icebergs! There are plenty here.

The nutrient-rich icy seas are home to an abundance of wildlife including leopard, crabeater, Weddell and elephant seals, Orcas, Minke, and Humpback Whales.

If the opportunity arises sometimes it is possible to visit a scientific research station or historical site. As with all expeditions, flexibility is a must.

The beauty of an Antarctica cruise on Polar Pioneer is that all our guests can Zodiac cruise or visit the shore at the same time. The process of going ashore is much more efficient than a larger ship so our guests get to spend more time exploring and less time waiting.

Day 10 – 11

At Sea

After 7 nights of exploring Antarctica, we will sail north towards Ushuaia. Our expedition team will continue the educational presentations. It’s a good chance to relax, warm up in the sauna and enjoy a drink at the bar. The expedition leader will do a recap of the voyage and it is an opportunity to share moments and photos with your fellow explorers. As we approach the South American continent, if the conditions allow, there may be a possibility to sight the mystical Cape Horn before we make our way into the Beagle channel.

Day 12


In the morning we arrive back at the port of Ushuaia. After breakfast, we say our goodbyes after making new friends and sharing a wonderful adventure together.

The above itinerary is a guide only. A part of any Antarctica cruise is the flexibility to take advantage of the weather and ice conditions. Our expedition leader will make sure you see as much as possible.

Inside This Antarctica Cruise

Our trips are aimed at anyone with a passion for exploring Antarctica with a small group of like minded individuals on a comfortable small ship cruise and include:

small expedition ship

Expedition Vessel With 48 Guests

We believe the best way to experience an environmentally sensitive place such as Antarctica is with a small group of travelers. New expedition cruise ships now take up to 350 passengers, we believe smaller is better and that is why we take the smallest group sizes available.

Expedition Leader and Guides

An aspect of our journeys is to learn about the place you are visiting. Our onboard guides are the core of what we do and will share their passion and knowledge of Antarctica throughout the trip. We offer the best guide to guest ratio available, and have 5 expert guides, one for every 10 guests.

Zodiac landing craft for shore landings

Shore landings are the essence of every expedition and your guides will take you exploring on a daily basis. The vessel is equipped with 6 landing craft that can be used to reach remote beaches so you can experience the wilderness firsthand. The beauty of a small ship expedition is that everyone onboard can fit in a Zodiac at the same time, so no waiting to go ashore.

Climate Compensated

Caring for the environment is what we do. For every trip we run we plant trees in Greenland to offset the emissions. As a member of AECO, we follow strict guidelines to ensure minimal disturbance to wildlife and natural sites.

Meet Your Guides

Martin Berg expedition leader

Martin Berg
Expedition Leader

Martin Berg from Sweden, wears multiple hats as a biologist, photographer, and expedition leader. Following service in the Navy Marines, Martin’s journey took him to the Amazon rainforest, where he conducted vital conservation assessments and bird surveys for various NGOs. Martin’s unwavering passion for ornithology and botany has left a mark on numerous research endeavours spanning the North Atlantic Ocean, New Zealand, and Antarctica, coupled with dedicated engagement in bird preservation within the Amazon rainforest. Guiding expeditions that unveil the splendour of flora and fauna across diverse terrains is a deep-rooted passion.


He believes that – “Every animal and plant has a unique story to tell, and my goal as an expedition leader is not only to showcase their raw beauty but also to share their stories. I believe that science, tourism, and conservation go hand in hand.”

Read more
Jean Paul de la Harpe Z.

Jean Paul De La Harpe Zubiaur
Photography Expert

Jean Paul De La Harpe Zubiaur is a Nature photographer and Biologist from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. With over 20 years of experience, he has devoted a significant portion of his life to capturing his country’s natural heritage, aiming to educate and raise awareness about the importance of its conservation.


“In photography, I saw a way to express concepts, events, and most importantly, emotions, which ultimately drive human beings. I understood that in creating an image, there must be a fundamental emotional process to ensure that your message reaches as far as possible. That’s why today, I aim to photograph nature for what it is, but also for what it ‘additionally is’, attempting to forge an emotional connection with the viewer. This way, my conservation message becomes more relevant and enduring over time.”

Read more

Your Expedition Ship

MV Polar Pioneer

south georgia expedition vessel

Step aboard the legendary MV Polar Pioneer, a true polar expedition ship

MV Polar Pioneer needs no introduction. She is a veteran expedition ship with a proven track record exploring the polar regions. She returns in 2022 with a full refurbishment.

We love her because she was built for research in the polar regions before being converted into an expedition ship for polar cruises, she is 1-A Ice Class, very strong and capable to explore icy waters.

She takes just 48 passengers offering the lowest group size in Antarctica and South Georgia, her large deck space with raised areas makes her perfect for observation and photography.

There is accommodation for 48 guests across twins, triple cabins and suites, she features a large passenger saloon with bar, and an onboard sauna to warm up in after a day in the cold,

She is crewed by a team of experts with decades of experience navigating polar waters, and is the ideal ship for guests looking to go on a real expedition with an authentic expedition vessel.

She is equipped with Zodiacs that can accommodate all guests for shore landings and exploring. See her in action here.

The Polar Pioneer can transit open water crossings with ease and comfort due to its integrated dynamic water ballast system, which guarantees a great reduction of rolling in heavy seas.

As a result, Polar Pioneer is among one of the most stable vessels currently in operations in the Polar regions.

  • Capable expedition vessel with highest ice class gives the best chance of reaching the sea ice edge
  • Small group size of 48 guests ensures an intimate experience
  • Large passenger saloon with bar
  • Newly refurbished to a high standard with warm, comfortable cabins
  • Sauna
  • Equipped with 5 x zodiacs for shore landings. All guests can fit in the Zodiacs together so no waiting to go ashore.
  • Large open deck space and raised areas for photography
  • Expert team of crew and guides
  • Boots provided for shore landings

See Vessel

Antarctica Cruise Dates and Prices

Prices quoted are per person. Twin and double cabins are based on double occupancy.

1st January – 12th January 2024

Cabin Type

Persons per Cabin

Price per person

Triple Cabin with Shared Facilities 3 US$ 11,490 Book
Twin Cabin with Shared Facilities 2 US$ 12,870 Book
Twin Cabin with Private Facilities 2 US$ 13,790 Book
Mini Suite 2 US$ 14,790 Book
Captain’s Suite 2 US$ 15,990 Book

Kayaking is available on this expedition for an additional $950 per guest (limited availability).


Captain's Suite - Type A

  • For 2 Guests
  • Double bed
  • Ensuite shower and toilet
  • Lounge area with sofa
  • Located on deck 5
  • Windows
  • Corner desk & chair
  • Wardrobe
  • Cabins 501
  • 22.5 m2

Mini Suite -Type B

  • For 2 Guests
  • Double bed
  • Ensuite shower and toilet
  • Lounge area with sofa
  • Located on deck 5
  • Windows
  • Corner desk & chair
  • Wardrobe
  • Cabins 502 & 503
  • 16.8 m2

Twin with Private Facilities - Type C

  • For 2 guests
  • 2 Lower twin beds
  • Ensuite shower and toilet
  • 9.8 m²
  • Located on deck 4 & 5
  • Window
  • Wardrobe
  • Cabins 504 - 507, 400-401, 404 - 408

Twin with Shared Facilities - Type D

  • For 2 guests
  • 2 Lower twin beds
  • Sink in room
  • 9.8 m²
  • Located on deck 3
  • Porthole
  • Wardrobe
  • Cabins 302 - 310

Triple with Shared Facilities - Type E

  • For up to 3 guests
  • 2 Lower twin beds and 1 bunk bed
  • Sink in room
  • 10.2 m²
  • Located on deck 3
  • Porthole
  • Wardrobe
  • Cabins 300 & 301

Deck Plan

polar pioneer deck plan

If you have any questions about this Antarctica Cruise please get in touch

Useful Information

50 Interesting Antarctica Facts to Inspire Your Visit

Here are 50 of our favourite facts about Antarctica to help entice you into visiting this beautiful frozen continent. Read More >>
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Wildlife of Antarctica I Animals You can See on an Antarctic Micro Cruise

Antarctica is home to a stunning variety of wildlife from emperor penguins to seals and birdlife. Check out our Antarctica wildlife guide >>
Read More

What Makes a Secret Atlas Small Ship Expedition Unique?

We are obsessed with small group polar exploration and we see low group numbers as the vital ingredient. See what makes our expeditions unique >>
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Antarctica Cruise FAQ

Departure Location Ushuaia, Argentina
Arrival Location Ushuaia, Argentina
Trip Style Exploration
Physical Rating Easy
Maximum Group Size 48
Accommodation Twin Cabins, Triple and Suites
Duration 12 Days
Time of Year January
Not Included

We offer payment via the following methods:

  • Credit card
  • Payment by bank transfer

Please let us know at the time of booking your preferred method.

You have the option to pay in full at time of booking or pay in the following instalments:

30% deposit is taken at the time of booking

30% 6 months before departure

40%  90 days prior to departure

It is mandatory you take out comprehensive travel insurance at the time of booking that also covers cancellation.

Solo travellers are welcome on all our voyages. We often host solo travellers, particularly on our photo voyages so the chances are good you won’t be the only one. We offer the following accommodation options:

  • Option to share a twin cabin with another traveller of the same gender.
  • Option to have your own cabin for an additional supplement. Please contact us for this option as the price varies depending on trip and availability.

This trip is operated by a third party and is subject to Secret Atlas terms and conditions of travel. You can read the full booking terms here.

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