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M/V Ortelius

Ortelius was originally the Marina Svetaeva. Built in Gdynia, Poland in 1989, it served as a special-purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science. Later it was re-flagged and renamed after the Dutch/Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598), who in 1570 published the first modern world atlas: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Theater of the World. At that time his atlas was the most expensive book ever printed. Ortelius is classed by Lloyd’s Register in London and flies the Dutch flag.

The vessel has the highest ice-class notation (UL1, equivalent to 1A) and is therefor suitable to navigate in solid one-year sea ice as well as loose multi-year pack ice. Ortelius can accommodate up to 108 passengers and has an abundance of open-deck spaces. It is manned by 22 highly experienced nautical crew members, 19 hotel staff, eight expedition specialists (one expedition leader, one assistant, and six lecturer-guides), and one doctor. Wild Focus Expeditions is chartering one half of the ship with 50 passengers, will have a separate expedition team and will have a different itinerary than the other charter passengers. Wild Focus will work with the captain and crew of the Ortelius to find the most exciting wildlife possibilities during the entire trip.

Though our voyages are primarily meant to offer our passengers an exploratory wildlife program with as much time ashore as possible, Ortelius offers all the comforts of a standard hotel ― along with a bar and lecture room. Flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities. As such, Ortelius carries 10 Zodiacs with 60hp Yamaha engines.

In keeping with the spirit of expedition, dress on board is informal. Bring casual and comfortable clothing for all activities, and keep in mind that much of the scenery can be appreciated from deck ― which can be slippery. Bring sturdy shoes with no-slip soles, and make sure your parka is never far away in case one of our crew shouts “Whales!” over the loudspeaker and you have to dash outside in a moment’s notice. Opt for layers, as it is comfortably warm aboard the ship though often cold on deck.

You will receive pre-trip information and a handbook prior to the trip.

  • Day 1


    Arrive in Puerto Madryn

    Arrive in Puerto Madryn from your international flight. We would like our guests to arrive at least one day prior to embarkation to allow for late or missed flights. We are unable to hold the ship from launching due to travel complications.

    (Lodging and Meals while on land are on your own)

  • Day 2

    Sandy Argentine Beaches

    You embark from Puerto Madryn in the afternoon, your prow aimed for the Falkland Islands. Golfo Nuevo is renowned for its visiting southern right whales, so you have a good chance of spotting one as you sail toward the open ocean.

    Day 2

  • Days 3 - 4


    Sea Life, Sea Birds

    Though you’re now at sea, there’s rarely a lonesome moment here. Several species of bird follow the vessel southeast, such as albatrosses, storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.

  • Days 5 - 6

    The Falklands

    The Falkland (Malvinas) Islands offer an abundance of wildlife that is easily approachable, though caution is always advised. These islands are largely unknown gems, the site of a 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. Not only do various species of bird live here, but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters.

    Steeple Jason – Home to the world’s largest black-browed albatross colony (roughly 113,000), Steeple Jason is a wild and rarely visited island buffeted by wind and waves. Weather and swell conditions dictate the journey here.
     Carcass Island – Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wrens and tussock-birds) live here. 
    Other sites that we may offer as an alternative:
    Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here. 
    West Point Island – Thick with black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins.
    Grave Cove – Nesting gentoo penguins and excellent hiking opportunities abound here.

    Days 5 - 6

  • Days 7 - 8


    On to South Georgia: Days at Sea

    En route to South Georgia, you now cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within the space of a few hours, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.

    You will have engaging presentations and workshops onboard during our days at sea. Workshops will cover topics such as photography techniques, polar and sea ice, navigation, astronomy, geology, and botany. In-depth presentations that explore the life of polar whales, land mammals, penguins and all of the animals that call these regions home will also be offered during our expedition.

  • Days 9 - 12

    South Georgia

    Today you arrive in South Georgia. It is a jewel to be treasured as it is extremely beautiful. No one can fail to be stirred by the sight of the rugged grandeur of the mountains and glaciers set in a sea that may be so calm that the surface reflects every detail of the landscape, or so rough that mere survival is the only thought. Its colonies of penguins, other birds and seals provide some of the greatest, and most approachable, concentrations of wildlife in the world. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging and so will largely dictate the program.
    The locations that we hope to visit include:
    Prion Island – The home of the great wandering albatrosses. The previous summer’s wandering albatross chicks are almost ready to fledge, and adults are seeking out their old partners after a year and a half at sea.
     Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for southern elephant seals. Only during this time of year do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the four-ton bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. 
     Fortuna Bay – Near beaches inhabited by various penguins and seals, you have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall, and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.
     Leith Harbour, Stromness, Husvik – Those sites remember on whaling industry in the early 20th century. Elephant and fur seals breed and moult here. Gentoo penguins also occupy the landing sites. Antarctic prions and South Georgia dive petrels may be observed, especially in the area of Husvik.   
     Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
    Cooper Bay – Offers the largest chinstrap penguin population and gentoo and also macaroni penguins are present. Antarctic terns, white-chinnes petrels, blue-eyed shags and light-mantled sooty albatrosses can be spotted too.   
     King Haakon Bay – British explorer Ernest Shackleton reached King Haakon Bay during his journey of 800 sea-miles by open boat “James Caird” from Elephant Island. From here he crossed to Stromness to ask for help to rescue his party at Elephant Island after they had left the Weddell Sea where their ship got crushed by ice. Elephant seals dominate the beaches. Birdwatchers will look out for South Georgia pipits, Antarctic prions as well as common diving and blue petrels.     

    Days 9 - 12

  • Day 13 - 14


    Southward bound the the Antarctic Peninsula

    There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels trailing the vessel south. Depending  on sea conditions and weather, you might be able to visit Orcadas Base, an Argentine scientific station on Laurie Island in the South Orkney archipelago. The science staff will be happy to show you the facility, where you will have expansive views of the surrounding glaciers.

  • Days 15

    Last Push to Antarctica

    Antarctica is renown for one thing in particular: ice. We will start to see enormous ice bergs and will also have a fair chance of spotting fin whales.  There will not be a dull moment on our voyage south. This is also an excellent place to see Antarctic petrels flying around our ship.


    Days 15

  • Day 16 - 19


    Awe-inspiring Antarctica

    Weather and sea-ice permitting, we hope to enter the Weddell Sea. Here, colossal tabular icebergs welcome our arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Paulet Island, with its large population of Adélie penguins is a hopeful stop for us. You might also visit Brown Bluff, located in the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound, where you could have your first chance to set foot on the Antarctic Continent itself.

    If due to ice conditions, it is not favorable to enter the Weddell Sea from the east, our ship will set course for Elephant Island and head into Bransfield Strait, between South Shetland Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Since we will be in the Antarctic early in the season (by design), the ice will dictate our movements. We hope for big ice bergs that will provide us with breathtaking beauty, but at the same time, they will control our itinerary. So from this point, we will attempt to access the Antarctic Sound from the northwest.

    The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist making for moody landscapes. Gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins and southern giant petrels live here. Chinstrap penguins and Weddell seals often haul out onto the beach near Càmara Base, an Argentine scientific research station on Half Moon Island.

    On Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows, a channel on the southeast side of Deception Island,  and then makes its way into the flooded caldera. Here you can find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels. A number of kelp gulls, brown skuas, south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns are found here as well.

    This extended expedition gives us the chance to sail even farther south down the icy coast of the western Antarctic Peninsula. In the Gerlache Strait are several opportunities for great landings where you might set foot on the Continent, surrounded by brilliant landscapes of alpine peaks and mammoth glaciers calving at sea level. Gentoo penguins, leopard seals, Weddell seals, humpback whales, and minke whales are often seen here.

  • Days 20 - 21

    Days on Familiar Seas with Familiar Friends

    Conditions at sea will determine our exact departure. We will have two days at sea where we will escorted by the vast array of seabirds that we saw during our passage south. Our two days at sea will be busy with presentations onboard ship. We will finally have time to review our photographs and videos taken during the expedition. You can work with the photographers onboard to help you with your editing and processing techniques. You will finally have time to take in all that you saw and experienced on your Antarctic expedition.


    Days 20 - 21

  • Day 22

    Arrive in Ushuaia, the World’s Southernmost City

    Sadly, our expedition has come to an end and it is time to disembark from our home for the last three weeks. We will arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina,  commonly held to be the world’s most southern city. It is located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, nicknamed the “End of the World”.  Your adventure to the South Pole is at an end, but its memories will travel with you to wherever your next adventure lies.


  • All leaders, transport, landing fees, permits, port taxes, passenger fees including the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) passenger fee
  • Accommodations during the voyage
  • Coffee and tea throughout the voyage
  • Voyage aboard the M/V Ortelius for 20 nights in twin share rooms
  • All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship
  • Assistance on arrival and departure at each destination
  • All shore excursions and activities by Zodiac
  • Onboard lectures by noted naturalists and photographers during sea days
  • Wild Focus trip leaders, experienced guides, zodiac drivers and expedition staff
  • Expedition log after your voyage
  • Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes during landings
  • Pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation)
  • Comprehensive pre-departure materials

Not Included

  • International airfare
  • All airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights
  • Pre- and post-voyage land arrangements (Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia)
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Government arrival and departure taxes
  • Meals ashore
  • Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is strongly recommended)
  • Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, *beverage charges and telecommunications charges
  • Gratuity at the end of voyages for stewards and other ship staff aboard. We suggest budgeting about $10 – $15 per participant per day for ship crew.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance – required. Please visit our page on travel insurance: https://wildfocusexpeditions.com/travel-insurance/
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, room service, and alcoholic beverages.

*Beverages including soft drinks and liquor can be purchased in USD on the ship during the voyage.

Our Antarctica expedition does not require a high level of fitness. You should be able to walk up and down stairs on the ship and on the gangway that we use to load and unload zodiacs (with the assistance of expedition crew and staff). During landings on shore, you must be able to walk on rocky and uneven terrain. You can choose to walk for short or longer distances. Some landings may offer short or longer hikes on sometimes steep and uneven terrain. These hikes are optional and details will be provided in advance of each landing. Please contact us if you have any health concerns or questions regarding your health that may make this trip challenging. for you.
If you have concerns with seasickness, please consult your doctor. We highly suggest bringing medication that treats seasickness. Doctor prescribed medication such as scopolamine patches (Transderm Scop) is the best way to prevent nausea associated with motion sickness. They require a prescription and should not be used with people who have or had glaucoma. They are much more effective than the motion sickness antihistamine meclizine (Antivert or Bonine) in our experience as they don’t cause extreme drowsiness. But again, please contact your physician.
Travel insurance is required for this expedition: (https://wildfocusexpeditions.com/travel-insurance/)