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Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island

The iconic emperor penguin is the goal of this expedition for wildlife enthusiasts, as your ice-strengthened ship sails into Antarctica’s challenging and little-visited Weddell Sea. Delve deep into historically significant and ice-laden waters, heading for the remote emperor rookery on Snow Hill Island, accessible only by onboard helicopter.

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Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island

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Trip type

Weddell Sea

Trip length

11 Days


$12,100 -$17,150

Ship Comfort


Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island - 11 Days - $12,100

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • 4 full days in Antarctica = 8 planned “off ship” excursions  
  • Unique itinerary focussing on reaching remote emperor penguins
  • Sail past vast tabular icebergs and visit cacophonous penguin rookeries
  • Antarctic operational experience since 1996
  • Expedition staff to guest ratio of 1:10
  • 2 onboard helicopters allow for remote exploration
  • Robust ex-research expedition ship with just 108 passengers 

Start from Ushuaia and end at Ushuaia

Landmarks potentially visited on Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: Embarkation in Ushuaia

Start your adventure in the world's southernmost city: Ushuaia, Argentina. You'll embark the ship in the afternoon, sailing into the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel.

Days 2 & 3: At Sea

During your first two days at sea you'll make your way through the Drake Passage, feeling the cool salt breeze as the rolling sea below hums, occasionally met with a spout of sea spray courtesy of a fin whale. You'll reach the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone after passing the Antarctic Convergence: Antarctica's natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer Sub-Antarctic seas.

Both the marine and avian life change; look out for wandering albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, black-browed albatrosses, light-mantled sooty albatrosses, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson's storm petrels, blue petrels, and Antarctic petrels.

Days 4 to 7: Antarctica

Your journey to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula will navigate through the huge tabular icebergs that populate the Antarctic Sound. As you reach the Weddell Sea, the search for the emperor penguins begins. You will explore by both vessel and helicopter to maximise your chances of finding these elusive birds. You might also enjoy scenic flights, and if conditions allow, helicopter landings in otherwise inaccessible locations. Possible landings include: 

The west slopes of the Antarctic Sound: The western side of this area is only rarely seen from the air, though the landscape is truly worth the flight: layered sandstones, lava flows, glaciers, icebergs, and pack-ice extend as far as the eye can see. There are often individual emperor penguins and Adelie penguins on the ice floes, as well as kelp gulls, skuas, and various breeds of petrel. Jagged mountain peaks stab through the snow, and enormous walls of ice lie shattered on the slopes below.

Duse Bay: A soaring helicopter flight may deposit you on a rocky hillock close to an old refuge hut overlooking this bay. There's still a lot of snow and ice this time of year, but much of the walk in this location is over frost-shattered rock covered with lichen of all shapes and colours.

Seymour Island: This is where the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901 to 1904 wintered under harrowing polar conditions. Today, you'll see impressive sedimentary rock, fossils, and expansive views.

If conditions allow for deeper ventures into the Weddell Sea, zodiac trips may include:

Devil Island: Home to a large colony of Adelie penguins, this island offers a magnificent vantage point for hikers willing to foot it to the top of the hill. Melting ice sometimes forms a waterfall dropping from the cliffs close to Cape Well-met.

Brown Bluff: Maybe the most scenic location in the entire northern tip of the Antarctic Continent: sheer canyon walls, fallen boulders, beautiful volcanic creations capped with ice. A large Adelie penguin rookery lives here, with gentoo penguins and nesting snow petrels also to be found.

Gourdin Island: Chinstrap, gentoo, and Adelie penguins love this island, which is yet another landing option for your continuing Antarctic adventure.

Esperanza Base: This Argentine research station, which operates year-round and is one of only two civilian settlements in Antarctica, could serve as an alternative landing site.

Days 5 & 6: Alternative options 

If the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice the ship will attempt to visit the emperor penguin colonies there by helicopter. The flight to the landing point takes approximately 15 minutes and from there it is a 45 minute walk to the penguin rookery. The helicopter capacity is 4 to 6 passengers per flight. A short period at the rookery is required to allow for all passengers to share this unique experience.

Please be aware that safe helicopter operations are extremely sensitive to changing weather conditions. Based on data from the previous 8 voyages, there is around a 50% probability that the Snow Hill Island visit will be able to proceed. If it is not possible to visit, the ship will look for alternative opportunities, including positioning near the ice edge to look for emperors heading out to open water.  

Day 8: Deception Island

Upon reaching the submerged volcanic crater of Deception Island you'll make your final landing of the voyage, either at Pendulum Cove or Whalers Bay. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure back towards Argentina.

Days 9 & 10: At Sea

Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you're again greeted by the vast array of seabirds that you first saw initially heading south, seeming all the more familiar now.

Day 11: Disembark in Ushuaia

Every adventure must eventually come to an end. It's now time to disembark in Ushuaia, with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.

Please note: This itinerary is for guidance only as each voyage will vary depending on ice and weather conditions, and opportunities to see wildlife. Flexibility is key and all part of the adventure of an expeditionary cruise.

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What our customers think of Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island

Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island trips scored 4.7/5 from 3 reviews

Seeing the emperor penguin colony and their chicks was definitely amazing. The whole team provided a good introduction to wildlife and different Antarctic islands.

Travelled: November 2023

Tam Suet Yee - UK

Helicoptering to a landing on sea ice and then walking 20 minutes on the ice to see the grandeur of a huge emperor penguin colony. It was a beautiful blue sky day in the vastness of ice, surrounded by icebergs frozen in the sea ice. The curious penguins, proudly showing off their chicks. Fantastic experience.

Travelled: November 2023

Michael Robert Perata - USA

10/10 - This trip is very unique and exciting. Going to Antarctica is special, going to Antartica and flying helicopters to see emperor penguins are even far more! It was just so cool and so fun; one of a kind.

Travelled: November 2022

Grace Huang - USA

The most memorable moment must be the first sight of seeing the emperor penguin colony! It was amazing, just stunning! It was like a dream come true

Travelled: November 2022

Grace Huang - USA


With its original working ship roots, this vessel feels like being on a real expedition, but without the discomfort.

Alex Mudd Head of Swoop Antarctica

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Prices quoted below are per person based on two people sharing. Cabin availability changes all the time so please contact us for up-to-date details and information on specific cabin availability.



Single Supplement And Child Policy

For those travelling solo who want their own cabin, the single supplement is 1.7 times the cost of a single berth. Please contact us for details. There is no single supplement for passengers willing to share a cabin. 

Children aged 8 years old or over are permitted on this trip. On select departures, children under 16 may receive a 40% discount. Please contact us for details.


  • Voyage aboard the vessel as indicated in the itinerary
  • Accommodation and meals during the voyage on full board including snacks, coffee and tea
  • All shore excursions and zodiac activities
  • Educational lectures by expert onboard polar guides
  • Access to an onboard doctor and basic medical services
  • Loan of rubber boots and snowshoes for the voyage's duration
  • Ship-to-shore helicopter transfers (no specific amount of helicopter time guaranteed)
  • Luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on embarkation day
  • Pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia directly after disembarkation
  • Port taxes and any entry fees to landing sites


  • Flights to and from points of embarkation/disembarkation
  • Any additional pre/post land services, including meals
  • Transfers not specified in the itinerary
  • Optional adventure activities
  • Visa, passport and any vaccination expenses
  • Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Items of a personal nature - laundry, beverages, etc
  • Customary staff gratuity at the end of the voyage
  • Additional onboard purchases (i.e. gift shop)

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