Ultimate Antarctica

Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands

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As veterans of many Antarctica expeditions, we’ve drawn on our broad photo cruise experience to offer a second-to-none nature photography tour to the legendary wildlife and scenic areas of South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Because we direct all aspects of the cruise, nature photography and wildlife watching are always the foremost activities aboard ship!
"The Van Os expedition staff are experts in getting you safely into the best target-rich areas for wildlife and landscape photography. If you are looking for a hardcore Antarctic trip where your time on shore is maximized, this expedition is for you. You will be rewarded with amazing images and memories. "
- S. Pelton
We have chartered an entire ship for our clients only. During our voyage, we visit the most prolific wildlife habitats and the most spectacular landscapes at each destination, landing as much as safely possible and spending a luxurious amount of time on shore. Our philosophy is to spend more time at choice locations instead of wasting photography time making numerous landings every day. And to top off our comprehensive itinerary, we have scheduled six full days at superlative South Georgia—perhaps the most photogenic and awe-inspiring wilderness on Earth!

Throughout the voyage, participants’ photography and wildlife interests shape our plans. Unlike general interest cruises with strictly scheduled mealtimes, during our longer landings meals usually do not require participants to leave the shore. We avoid Antarctic bases, photographically unproductive historic sites, and dressing up—casual outdoor clothing is always the order of the day. Our leadership team of 10 nature photographers, naturalists and wildlife biologists is unmatched in the industry. They offer passengers exceptional photography and natural history experiences on shore and an excellent learning environment on board ship.

During our 24 days aboard ship we explore and photograph a number of near mythic locations along the Antarctic Peninsula, multiple world-renowned wildlife areas on South Georgia, and some of the most wildlife diverse and photogenic islands in the Falklands.

The sturdy research expedition ship Ushuaia allows us to travel in safety and comfort in this magical land of penguins and ice. This ice-strengthened polar vessel provides ample deck space for photography and an open bridge policy. Originally built for the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Ushuaia has been refurbished to accommodate a maximum of 78 passengers and 10 Photo Safaris staff in comfortable twin cabins and suites. We carry a fleet of Jacques Cousteau-designed Zodiac landing craft. Perfectly suited to expedition cruising, these useful nimble boats carry small groups ashore, landing on otherwise inaccessible terrain where we explore rugged, rocky headlands and broad wildlife-packed beaches.

Our itinerary allows maximum time to photograph the birds and mammals of the region, and to explore some of the most incredible seabird colonies and seal rookeries in the world. This trip hits all the regional high points! You stand right on the edge of penguin colonies comprised of more than 100,000 birds. We photograph massive king and Adélie penguin colonies and impressive albatross nesting areas, in addition to thousands of wheeling seabirds, gigantic elephant seals, feisty fur seals, and pods of killer whales navigating through impressive ice-choked channels.

Our Ultimate Antarctica cruise alleviates many of the pitfalls of other Antarctica voyages that are not exclusively tailored to photographers. When you compare the amount of time we stay in each region, the amount of time we spend on shore, smaller group size and the quality of our leaders, this tour is undoubtedly crafted as a photographic trip-of-a-lifetime. Below are just a few of the cruise attributes that, for photographers, set our trip apart from all others.

Time, Time and More Time! When you've made the effort to travel to places as remote as Antarctica and South Georgia, you want time to explore the spectacular environment at your own pace instead of wasting time commuting from landing site to landing site. The standard turnaround time for landings on the vast majority of general interest Antarctica cruises is just three hours from the time you leave the ship until the time you are required to return. Our 24-day cruise allows plenty of time to slow down and enjoy each stop along the way. Where possible, we offer extended shore landings—without skimping on the number of diverse locations we visit. These days, the trend on many Antarctica cruises is for more shipboard cruising and less time ashore.  We maximize your time ashore.

Expert Planning with Built-in Flexibility. After operating more than 30 expeditions to Antarctica we have acquired the expertise needed to plan a nature photography itinerary that is second to none. We know the wildlife hotspots and have included them in our planned itinerary. We also know when and how to be flexible in our program, both to ensure your safety and to take advantage of unexpected good weather and wildlife activity when it benefits our clients and their photography.

A Smaller Group. Cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers are now the norm in Antarctica. The logistics of getting these larger groups ashore are challenging since IAATO rules only allow a maximum of 100 passengers on shore at any location in Antarctica.  That means passengers on these larger ships must go ashore in short shifts. With the exception of the wandering albatross colony on Prion Island offshore of South Georgia—where only 50 visitors are allowed at one time—with 88 passengers and expedition staff members, and plenty of Zodiac landing craft, we can get clients to shore quickly at all locations with minimal hassles. We provide as much shore time as we can to allow you the flexibility to explore, photograph and observe wildlife at your own pace or to return to the ship as needed.

More Leaders per Client. This is one of the major differences between our cruise and others. Why is it important? First, our clients are very inquisitive and intent on learning photography tips and about the natural history of the area. With one leader for eight clients, you have excellent access to leaders when questions arise—and you have ten different leaders to interact with throughout the cruise. Second, other tours often have only three or four expedition staff members for a group larger than ours, and they often have to double as Zodiac drivers during landings. This means there are extended times when most leaders on other ships are not accessible on shore because they have to ferry clients to and from the ship. Our leaders are always accessible on shore.

Our Photography and Nature Guides. Whether you're serious about photography or just want to learn a few tips to take better photos, our photography leaders can help. Joe Van Os, John Shaw, Jeff Vanuga, Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, and Mark Thomas are all professional photographers who have led hundreds of nature photo trips all over the world. We are driven to photograph wildlife and nature!  To provide the best in nature interpretation we have dedicated expert naturalists on board—Chris Edwards, Anna Sutcliffe and Monika Shillat. They help you understand the incredible diversity of life we see around the Southern Ocean. And many of our staff are both accomplished interpretive naturalists AND professional photographers.

Prime November Dates. Our voyage is timed to travel in the Southern Ocean when courtship and early nesting activity of penguins and other species is high. At Antarctica there are many huge icebergs. Snow is a good possibility at this time of year at South Georgia and Antarctica—which greatly enhances the look of your photography. The penguin colonies are much cleaner and relatively freer of poop than later in the season.  The wandering albatross colony on Prion Island, South Georgia, is still accessible before closing to visitation for the year on November 20. The spring breeding season at the Falkland Islands is in full swing with albatrosses, geese, ducks, penguins and wading birds at the nest or tending young. By using these dates we also avoid the huge crush of travelers flying between North and South America during the December holidays.

Landing Operations. We understand that photographers carry lots of camera gear. To aid in transporting camera gear ashore we are assisted by the ship’s able-bodied seamen who carry all your photo gear up and down the ship’s gangway and while you are getting in and out of the Zodiacs. Once on shore, in certain prime wildlife and scenery locations, we ensure all can shoot a pristine “people-free” wildlife-filled landscape by directing all clients to photograph—for a short time—as a group from a prime vantage point.  On every landing we bring all passengers ashore before we disperse at a landing site, so there is no real advantage for being first in line when leaving the ship.

For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Depart from home.

Day 2 (Nov 9, 2017)

Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina. The hotel tonight is included in the tour fee.

Day 3

The morning is free to explore the southernmost city in the world. A bus tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park is optional. Stores and shops are open, presenting a chance to stock up on some personal “snacks” or purchase forgotten items. In late afternoon we board our ship and set sail to the Falkland Islands. (BD)

Day 4

We start our journey around the "Scotia Arc," traveling with the prevailing current to the Falklands. We see a variety of birds, including our first ship-following black-browed and wandering albatrosses and hundreds of petrels and other “tubenoses.” On all "at sea" days throughout the cruise, there are photography, digital workflow and natural history discussions and inspiring nature photo presentations. Plus, if wind conditions are favorable, great bird flight shots can be made on deck. (All meals are included while aboard ship.)

Days 5–7

During our three days in the Falklands we make landings on four substantially diverse islands with photogenic rockhopper penguins, beaches dotted with oystercatchers, kelp and upland geese, meadows punctuated with active Magellanic penguin burrows, and exciting black-browed albatross colonies. Other photo subjects should include striated caracaras, snowy sheathbills, king cormorants, and a host of other waterbirds.

Days 8–10

Departing the Falklands, our ship crosses the Scotia Sea. Although we are far from land, there is much to see if you are an active wildlife observer on deck or the bridge. Many birds follow the ship. Whales are a possibility. Numerous leader presentations prepare us for the landings to come. Our course takes us across the Antarctic Convergence, the invisible boundary between the cold Antarctic water and the warmer currents flowing from the South Atlantic. We start to see the first icebergs. Our next landfall is South Georgia, some 800 miles from the Falklands. With favorable weather, we arrive at South Georgia the evening of Day 10.

Days 11–16

This absolutely phenomenal island is 102 miles long and 24 miles wide—a mere speck in the vast Southern Ocean. At South Georgia, we repeatedly find ourselves in stunning colonies of king penguins, macaroni penguins and wandering albatrosses. Here, at the most spectacular island on Earth, we usually stop at only one landing site per day, but our experience at these locations surpasses what virtually any other ship offers to its passengers. Weather permitting, we visit the enormous king penguin colony of the incomparable Salisbury Plain for two very full days. The wandering albatross colony at Prion Island in the Bay of Isles is still open to us for visitation, closing to visitors for the remainder of the year a day or two after we leave. We plan to land at wildlife-packed St. Andrews Bay and choose other sites depending on landing conditions. We encounter innumerable seals throughout the landing sites, including gigantic elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals. The landscape, reminiscent of the last ice age, is dotted with vast glaciers, meltwater streams, alluvial beaches and offshore icebergs. Our six days should allow us to locate and photograph some of the more unusual nesting species, such as light-mantled sooty albatrosses, southern giant petrels and Antarctic terns. We also shoot macaroni penguins and take our time looking for the best possible photo situations in the vast king penguin colonies. There is no place on Earth like South Georgia!

Days 17–19

On these days we cross the enigmatic South Atlantic en route to Antarctica. Icebergs are now a familiar sight and, depending on timing and sea and ice conditions, we may choose to cruise an “iceberg graveyard”—where bergs ground in “shallow” water—in hopes of photographing a beautiful iceberg decorated with penguins.

Days 20–24

The Antarctic Peninsula and adjacent South Shetland Islands offer exciting photography that packs these next five days. We select landings at prime wildlife and spectacular scenic areas only, avoiding national research bases and historic sites that have meager wildlife populations. We plan to visit Paulet Island with its massive Adélie colonies, cruise the Neumayer and Lemaire Channels—the quintessential Antarctic scenery locations—and also land Zodiacs adjacent to gentoo and chinstrap penguin colonies and loafing beaches. Our leaders use their experience to select the best areas to optimize your photography and ensure our safety. We cruise by Zodiac amidst ice-choked crystalline wonderlands and also use the Zodiacs to shoot Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals and, possibly, whales as opportunities are presented. We set foot on continental Antarctica.

Days 25–26

We spend these two days at sea, crossing the renowned Drake Passage. Last minute bird flight shots are still available from the back deck and our final lectures take place in the lounge. Cape Horn looms on the horizon. The peaty smell of the vegetated rolling hills wafts in the air as we make our return trip into the Beagle Channel toward Ushuaia.

Day 27 (Dec 4)

Arriving in Ushuaia, we clear customs, disembark the ship and transfer to the airport to depart for home. (B)

Day 28

Arrive home.

About The Vessel, Ushuaia

The Antarctic expedition ship Ushuaia was originally commissioned as the R/V Researcher for the US National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1995, while in the service of the US government, the ship was the first NOAA vessel to circumnavigate the globe on a scientific voyage carrying out baseline studies to gather data critical for later comparison on the ocean's role in global climate change, the Antarctic ozone hole, and the El Niño phenomenon, among other projects.

MV Ushuaia, our 278-foot-long ship, was converted for passenger travel and refurbished as a privately-owned expedition vessel to accommodate a maximum of 86 passengers and expedition staff in 43 comfortable twin cabins and suites. Though Ushuaia is far from fancy, it is the perfect small vessel to support us in achieving our photographic goals. Many cabins are being renovated for the 2015 season. The ship features upgraded navigation and communication systems and passenger email access on the ship’s bridge. Cabins on this ice-strengthened polar vessel feature lower berths in the Suite, Superior cabins, all A and B Category cabins, and upper and lower berths in C Category cabins. Most cabins feature private baths with Category C having semi-private baths. A desk, wash basin, and ample storage space is standard in all cabins. Public areas feature a large dining room, a spacious observation lounge and bar, a lecture room with seating for all passengers, an "Antarctic" library, a changing room and a small infirmary.

The ship has a large bridge with an open bridge policy. Ushuaia is staffed by an Argentine captain highly experienced in the art of Antarctic navigation and a friendly and genuinely helpful crew. A large amount of outside deck space is available to passengers for photography, wildlife viewing or gazing at Antarctica’s spectacular scenery. A full complement of inflatable Zodiacs is available for use for shore landings and for cruising to view wildlife and explore Antarctica’s amazing icy coastline.

• View Ushuaia's Deck Plan

Rate Schedule
Standard: Twin outside cabins with portholes on Deck E, two berths (upper/lower), semi-private facilities   $17,995
Standard Plus: Twin outside cabins with portholes or windows on Deck E, two lower berths, private facilities   $18,995
Premier: Twin outside cabins with windows on Deck G, two lower berths, private facilities   $19,995
Superiors: Twin cabins with windows on Deck G, two lower berths, private facilities   $21,995
Suites: Twin cabins with windows on Deck G, two lower berths, private facilities, lounge, video, TV and fridge   $23,995

All prices above are per person based on double occupancy (except Premier Single Cabin category) from Ushuaia, Argentina and are shown in USD. The trip fee does not include airfare of any kind, transfers other than with the group, visas, excess baggage charges, airport departure taxes, tips for the ship’s crew, travel insurance, bottled water, beverages other than coffee, tea, milk and juice taken at meals, bar expenses, phone calls, faxes, email, laundry, or other items of a personal nature.


The photographic safari to The Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica definitely surpassed any expectations and pre-conceptions I had. Every day delivered a carefully planned new adventure—even days at sea were packed with lectures and activities by the team leaders to make sure we were getting the most out of the trip. Every professional, semi-professional or budding photographer needs to add this tour to their bucket list as I'm positive there are no others that would come remotely close in offering the exciting photo opportunities that we experienced. Plus, on top of all the technical and creative advice received, we also had some really fun times on board - parties, auctions etc. which resulted in us all becoming one big happy family. A huge congratulations from me to Joe and his well-oiled team.
—J. Smith

The trip of a lifetime with expert leaders and excellent ship staff. A dream vacation come true blessed with "wow" landscape & wildlife. Given the opportunity, we would re-book!!
—A. Lenartz

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Ultimate Antarctica

Nov 08, 2017 - Dec 05, 2017

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa or MasterCard. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

A deposit of 25% of the trip fee is required.  An additional 25% of the trip fee is due on 1/13/17.  Final payment is due on 6/4/17.  We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time the following fees are non-refundable:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
1/15/17 or prior:
1/16/17 to 5/5/17:
5/6/17 to 7/15/17:
7/16/17 or after:
Cancellation Fee:
50% of deposit
25% of trip fee
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

Emergency evacuation insurance is REQUIRED for this tour. As noted in Section 3 below, we send a brochure for trip insurance to US and Canadian residents. The policy offered includes the emergency evacuation coverage required for this trip. Participants purchasing trip insurance on their own—that is, not through our office—should confirm that emergency evacuation is included in their policy.

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Ultimate Antarctica
  • Visit the most diverse and photogenic of the Falkland Islands
  • Six full days of photography at incredible South Georgia
  • Photograph for five days at the Antarctic Peninsula and adjacent islands
  • An itinerary built on decades of experience in the Antarctic region
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Nov 08 - Dec 05, 2017
Fee: From $17,995 from Ushuaia, Argentina (see Rate Schedule further down the page.)
Deposit: 25% of trip fee
Limit: 78
Tour Leaders
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