The 'Polar Pioneer' is a purpose-built, 71.6m, ice-strengthened expedition ship with active stabilizers! Accommodating a max of just 54 passengers, our ship is smaller & nimbler than most cruise ships - allowing us to head in closer to landing sites and venture where others can't - yet still providing spacious viewing platforms and decks, a lounge bar, two dining rooms, a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs, a dedicated lecture and presentation room for our photography presentations, a sauna, a medical clinic and doctor, a satellite phone and email access, daily cabin cleaning service and even laundry available. Carrying just 54 passengers Polar Pioneer allows us to offer you a far more personal and intimate experience of Antarctica & South Georgia without hoards of other tourists or time wasted stuck onboard waiting for hundreds of others to time-share the landing sites. Cabins onboard offer a range of accommodation types including triple and twin cabins as well as larger suites, all featuring outside facing portholes or windows and ample storage space for your camera gear.
Click Here for more information about the Polar Pioneer, including photos of the various cabin types etc.
Sea kayaking is an optional-extra that is available for up to 12 passengers on this voyage. Some kayaking trips are lengthy and on choppy water, so experience is required. Kayakers will have the opportunity to get out and paddle as often as possible during the voyage, conditions permitting, though being one of these 12 is subject to availability at time of booking and at an additional $1,325 USD per/person. Please note that Chris and Jess will not be kayaking, focusing their efforts on helping the photographers ashore and on the Zodiacs.
There is no 'best time' to visit South Georgia and Antarctica. Obviously people only want to visit in Summer when the weather and climate are tolerable, and the main season generally extends from early November to around about February, with the peak visitors coming around mid-December. It's not an exact science, seasons vary slightly each year, the weather of course can be unpredictable and most of the sites are jammed with wildlife for the whole summer anyway. The season is an ongoing fascinating progression of activity - for example, penguins build nests, mate and lay eggs, which later hatch, and later still the chicks fledge etc. If you go too early, the weather is less likely to be favourable, ice can prevent many of the landings and some animals and birds may not have even turned up yet. That said, the earlier you go, the more pristine the sites, the cleaner the snow, the less people have been there that season, etc. Go too late in the season and the reverse is true, messier sites, more melt, more mud, though on average there may be more whales and more chicks than eggs. As Chris and Jess have not been to this part of Antarctica or South Georgia before (Chris has been to other parts of Antarctica and Macquarie Island which has similar though less-abundant wildlife) we have consulted with many highly experienced sailors, ship captains, photographers and expedition leaders who have all spent many seasons down on Antartica and around South Georgia, we've selected late November to mid-December as our ideal window to give you all the richest, most diverse photography experience possible. By mid-November, the birds and animals are well into starting their activities for the short summer, some will still be busily fighting for territories, attracting mates while others will have already laid eggs, we may even have some early chicks. Weather-wise, this is also a more positive time, though of course even in absolute mid-summer, storms can still sweep though the area, but as we importantly keep our itinerary flexible, we are in the fortunate position of being able to modify our plans to keep you as comfortable as possible. Of course weather is outside of our control and while we do our very best to re-work itinerary to try and keep in as much as possible in the advent of bad weather, in the end, sometimes it can't be helped and we will not be held responsible or provide any refunds or compensation for anything we are forced to miss out on.
Loved by non-photographers too, our photo tour holidays offer the ultimate, small-group travel experience to the world's most wonderful and unique places - with special access away from the crowds. I love to travel, but I hate being stuck with loads of other people (especially when we've got nothing in common), being taken to the regular, over-crowded tourist attractions or wasting hours in an amazing country just relaxing by some pool. I want to get the most out of my holidays - I want to see as many different animals as I can, I want to travel through different landscapes and be shown hidden gems off the beaten path, I want to experience the culture, taste the food, meet new friends with similar interests, enjoy some luxury and importantly, I want to have the time to take some beautiful and unique photos of it all. This is what we strive for with our photography tours and workshops.
It's not enough for me to spot a distant lion, tick it off and move on - I wan't to have the option to try and get closer, on the correct side for best lighting and even wait for him to lift his head and stare directly down the barrel of my camera lens for a great photo - or to move on when I'm done - I want flexibility. I want the inside tips for the best photo location to be ready when the sun rises over the horizon and spills across the bay onto those boulders - and if I can't quite get my photo to work, it'd be awesome to have a friendly pro-photographer right there to offer advice (not one who'll stand in front of me to get the best shot themselves!). If there's a seal colony out on an island nearby, then I'd want to charter a boat tour out there just with my friends onboard so we can spend as long or as short as we want to get the photos without being crowded on a regular sight-seeing tour. If the seal colony was a bit of a tourist attraction on a local beach then I'd want to wait for the crowds to leave, and go down onto the beach after hours - just us as a small group, and a private ranger guide to photograph them at our leisure in beautiful evening lighting.
You don't even need to be a photographer to love this style of holiday - who wouldn't like a bit of luxury and a bit of extra patience from their tour leaders, or to be given the opportunity to fly over lakes covered in pink flamingos in Africa in a doors-off plane or over a beautiful coastline in a doors-off helicopter for some epic views? Stay on a private island, learn some new skills with your photography, make some new friends and have an unforgettable, unique holiday - all at the same time! Sound good? Well, there's a reason more than half of our guests come back again, and again on our photo tours!
Absolutely not! We have many non-photographers (and partners of photographers) enjoy our tours! As one guest said "It didn’t matter that I’m not a photographer - I used my iPhone. Just experiencing all these amazing locations at a relaxed pace, in comfort and without the crowds was wonderful!". The expert photography tuition is a bonus - the incredible access to experience the best places in a tiny group is the main thing! If you're traveling to take photos, or just as a holiday - in the end, it's all about seeing as many of the amazing animals as possible, experiencing the local food and culture, admiring the landscapes, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the whole unforgettable experience with a small group of friends. Whether or not you put a camera in front of your face doesn't really change this. We've had many non-photographers come on our tour, enjoying just spotting animals, identifying them, or watching their behaviour and by the end of the trip many of them do start picking up a camera (or borrowing one of ours) and start getting excited about photography too! Some have later gone on to become full-on photographers, to the delight of their partners! Either way, they have a ball and often come away with us again and again.
Most photography guests are beginner to keen-enthusiast level - so no need to stress that your photography may not be good enough - the whole point is to improve your photography, no matter what your level! Our tours are enjoyed by everyone from non-photographers, iPhone and happy-snap photographers right up to serious professionals. We start each tour with a quick photography crash-course, and our expert photography guides are there to help you throughout the whole tour. There is no better way to improve your photography than spending a solid week or two practicing, surrounded by amazingly inspiring subjects, with a small, friendly group of like-minded people. You will be amazed how much your photography will improve. We're there to offer as much or as little assistance as you'd like, at whatever level of complexity you're ready for.
The level of physical activity varies for each of our tours, however none involve strenuous hiking or anything like that. In Kenya, for example, the hardest thing you'll have to do is walk to and from your tour vehicle mostly, other destinations involve things like optional snorkelling, or may include short walks or humid conditions. We've had 83 year old guests, guests with bad knees and even heart-conditions do even what we consider our most strenuous tours, so rest assured the tour you're looking at is very likely achievable. If you're concerned, just ask us. The tour information booklet we provide for each tour gives a clearer indication of what's involved for each destination. We're very mindful of the abilities of our guests and can always provide less demanding alternatives for those wishing a break.
For each of our tours, we've carefully prepared (and keep updated) a detailed information booklet covering everything including our recommendations for what kind of camera & lenses we'd consider well suited for that trip, as well as also everything else like clothes, what type of power plug, what currency, what the climate is like, language tips and plenty of other information to help answer all your questions! We'll send you a copy of this information booklet when you book, or you can email us for one in advance. We also have a selection of lenses including telephoto lenses for hire, please email us in advance if you're interested.
We do have a selection of lenses (including macro, wide and telephoto lenses, for both Canon and Nikon) available for hire. Please just ask us about this if you're interested during your booking. There's no need for amazing camera gear though to enjoy our tours - some guests come as non-photographers or just with an iPhone camera and still absolutely love the experience of small-group, luxury and relaxed-pace travel to these very special places. It's up to you how serious you want your photography focus to be, and we do provide an information booklet for each tour including our recommendations for what kind of camera & lenses we'd consider best suited to maximise your photography for each trip. We'll send you a copy of this information booklet when you book, or you can email us for one in advance.
Fear not - more than half of our tour guests travel solo. To help you make friends before you even leave and to be reassured and aided by the advice of your fellow-travellers (and those who have gone before you), we've created an interactive Facebook group for our CBP Voyager Club members (that's anyone who's been on, or is going on any of our tours, which also gives them 10% OFF any future tours!). You can find out who's coming from your area, perhaps even meet up beforehand or fly together. This is a great resource and we encourage you to make the most of it if you're on Facebook! Anyone can read the CBP Voyager Club Facebook page, but you can only interact once you've paid your deposit.
We recommend that you book your flights and travel insurance with our dedicated, friendly travel agent Brenda as she can try and put you on the same flights and accommodations as your fellow travellers pre/post tour. Before you depart you'll be told exact details for who will be meeting you at the airport, holding what sign, and also give you contact phone numbers to call in the unlikely event that you are delayed or plans need to change.
And do not worry that most accommodation is twin-share - we're good at pairing you up with a roomie who you'll get along with - it has been the start of long-term friendships for many! We can't guarantee that we'll always be able to have you sharing with someone of the same sex - it depends on the gender split, but we do our best. You can request to purchase a single supplement (a room to yourself) if you really need to (subject to availability) though keep in mind that you're usually only in your rooms to sleep as we fill your waking hours with plenty to do, and the couple of occasions we have had guests request rooms to themselves, they end up regretting it when they see the amazing friendships that form between the other roomies.
Of course we can - even in places like Kenya we've successfully catered for vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant and vegetarian guests, and all have had a wonderful tour.
Rest assured that we do not travel through any of the major danger hot-spots like those highly warned against in travel advisory boards etc. For example, in Kenya, we do not even pass through downtown Nairobi and we operate completely away from the coast / Mombasa region and the Somali border. The fact that we like to take you to the more tranquil, less-touristy places on our tours conveniently means we only ever spend minimal time in busy, built up areas or large tourist attractions where thieves or terrorists might target - most of the places we stay at are quite rural and private, and you'll quickly feel right at home & safe.
Our cancelation policies are in line with other leading tourism operators, and you can read all about them here in our Booking Terms and Conditions. We are proud to employ industry best-practices such as holding your payments in a trust-fund and have been awarded the T-QUAL tick (Australian Government's national symbol of tourism quality).
The Voyager Club is our photo tour loyalty program! As our photo tours apparently can be very addictive (we've had guests come to more than half a dozen of our tours!), we created the Chris Bray Photography Voyager Club, giving repeat guests 5% OFF future tours with automatic Silver Membership, and then 10% OFF as Gold Members after their fifth tour with us.
Either click the 'Book Now' button above and fill in your details, or simply contact us and let us know which tour you're keen to join us on, and we'll send you a deposit invoice to secure your spot, along with the tour information booklet and our Booking Terms and Conditions.
Fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams. Enjoy a guided tour of the rustic port and beautiful surrounds before embarking Polar Pioneer in the late afternoon and setting sail along the Beagle Channel.
Between Puerto Williams and Falkland Islands you'll be entertained by the ceaseless flight of the many seabirds that follow in our wake. You may decide to join the whale watchers on the bridge, or just relax and read a favourite book. We'll be holding photography workshops to make sure everyone is up to speed with their camera settings.
We'll just be making a half-day stop in Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands to stroll along the streets lined with Victorian style houses, see an archway made of whalebone and experience what life is like living in this remote outpost. We won't waste much time here as we'd rather get you to the wildlife mecca of South Georgia as quickly as possible to spend extra time there!
Settle into a short stint of life at sea as we navigate to South Georgia Island. You can keep a look out for whales and seabirds from the bridge deck or start going through your Falkland Is. photos in the comfortable lounge area with help to critique, cull & tweak your images. On the way we'll cross the Antarctic Convergence Zone where the outside temperature will plunge by perhaps 10 degrees in just a few hours. Here we'll encounter a multitude of southern seabirds including several species of albatross, shearwaters, skuas, petrels and prions. If time and weather conditions permit, we could pass close to Shag Rocks, a fascinating group of jagged rocky islets protruding from the sea.
We have the following five full days dedicated to photographing the beautiful and astoundingly abundant wildlife that cram every inch of this famous sub-Antarctic South Georgia island! Boasting 2 million Southern Fur Seals (95% of the world's population) and half of the world's population of Southern Elephant Seals all fighting for territories and defending their females on the gravelly beaches - it's a wonder there's room for anything else. Impossible numbers of huge King Penguins also crowd the beaches, and indeed will waddle curiously right up to you as you crouch there photographing everything that's going on. Albatross breed here too, along with several other species of penguins. The island is steeped in history, with abandoned whaling villages (where King Penguins now wander the streets and seals have taken ownership of the buildings) and even the grave site of Sir Ernest Shackleton - this was the island he so famously voyaged to in the tiny open boat 'James Caird' to rescue his companions marooned back near Antarctica on Elephant Island (where we'll visit next!).
Most trips - limited by their strict schedules - don't give guests anything like five full days at South Georgia, despite guests (especially photographers) regularly saying it's even more spectacular than Antarctica itself. Photographers also report that for the first couple of days when they step ashore at the various locations on South Georgia they're often overwhelmed by the sheer incomprehensible number of animals and mixture of scenes and action going on around them (after all, South Georgia does have more wildlife per square foot than any other place on Earth), and they really wish they had a bit of extra time to calm down and focus on getting specific shots with a clear head. Well, that wish is granted with us. Wherever possible, everything will be organized around the best time for photography, and being part of such a small ship maximises the time and space you need, along with photography advice from your two expert hosts, to get the shots you want.
Re-enacting the reverse route of Shackleton's tiny open-boat voyage but this time in comfort, we'll whale-spot our way from South Georgia down to Elephant Island, right beside the Peninsula of Antarctica. Happily, Polar Pioneer is equipped with strong stabilizers to help minimize rolling due to unfavourable weather.
The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once we are surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures. The memory of the sight of your first iceberg will remain with you forever.
The barren refuge of Ernest Shackleton and his crew in 1916 after the loss of their ship Endurance in Antarctica's sea ice, this famous island is steeped in history. We'll visit Point Wild, where his men waited out more than 4 months of brutal polar winter wondering if Shackleton and his 5 crew made it in the open boat to South Georgia to organise a rescue. Amazingly he did, and he returned on a ship and rescued every single person.
A short trip from Elephant Island and we're there - Antarctica - the last true wilderness on Earth! Aboard our ship we get to explore the fjords and surrounding islands of Antarctica's peninsula for four incredible days, slipping into some of the more secret, untouched bays where the larger ships cannot access. Surrounded by glaciers, mountains and immense, beautifully sculpted icebergs we keep the itinerary flexible in order to follow the best ice and weather conditions, but we should be able to get you onshore each day, go on Zodiac cruises etc. We'll cruise past immense tabular bergs, sit amongst huge penguin rookeries, watch Weddell and Fur Seals and more. As always, our program is focused around photography, getting you in the right position, at the right time to capture hundreds of incredible photos. We'll have tutorial sessions and one-on-one private photo reviews in the comfy lounge areas onboard and relax and unwind in style when you need it as yet more amazing scenery and icebergs drift past your window. We'll see whales and seals, visit huge Chinstrap penguin rookeries and more, hopefully see Cape Pigeons, Dominican Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas, Antarctic Terns, Wilson's and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, Blue-eyed Shags, Kelp Gulls, Snowy Sheathbills, Blue-eyed Shags and in the almost 24-hr sunlight of the Antarctic Summer, the 'golden hour' of perfect, low-angle lighting just goes on and on. You'll be in photography heaven. If you do ever need to wake yourself up however, you can always take a quick, icy 'polar plunge' swim from the ship, followed by a relaxing sauna onboard. At the sea ice-edge, we have have the a chance to see some high-Antarctic species like the Maccormick Skua and Snow Petrel.
Time to head to Ushuaia - these last two days at sea will give us plenty of time to reflect on what has been a life changing and remarkable photographic tour one of the most amazing, venerable and inaccessible continents on our planet - Antarctica & South Georgia. We'll be available to help you with any last photo/video processing, critiquing, organizing & editing help you might need in order to make your photos really 'pop'!
Disembark at the resort town of Ushuaia on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the "End of the World." The windswept town, perched on a steep hill, is surrounded by the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel.
IMPORTANT - Ensure you have read our Tour Booking Conditions prior to booking. A copy will be sent with your deposit invoice, and must be signed and returned to us (an emailed scan/photo of your signed copy will suffice), before we accept and confirm your booking. The document covers everything from your rights, inclusions and payment schedule, to our cancellation policy and extent of liability.
All our tours are subject to minimum numbers. Please ensure you have read our photo tour Booking Conditions for our cancellation policy (above).
A non-refundable, non-transferable $1,000 USD booking deposit is required to secure your spot on this photo tour.
We are confident this trip will go ahead, however if we do not reach minimum numbers, we will of course return your deposit to you.
Only a moderate level of fitness is required. You basically just need to be mobile enough to clamber in and out of boats/Zodiacs possibly on to rocks and/or and slippery, icy terrain, and wander around for a morning or afternoon with your camera bag on your back. If you're concerned, feel free to email us.
Sea Sickness: While comfy, 'Polar Pioneer' is also a very solid, serious ship and is importantly equipped with active stabilisers to help minimise the rolling motion of a ship in bad weather. The captain will constantly assess the weather and to make the trip as comfy as possible for everyone, may even alter the itinerary, departing some locations early or staying a little longer to utilise the best weather windows. That said, we are based on a ship for the whole tour, so if you know that you get sea sick easily, then remember to pack some anti-sea-sickness tablets, ginger, pressure bands or whatever it is that you find works for you! (By the way, when I go sailing, I use '15mg Stugeron tablets' which I buy online from Canada - seems to be the only stuff that works for me. Jess uses transdermscop (scopolamine 1.5) patches - the benefit of these being that you don't lose the medication if you do become sick!). Don't stress out, though, there's only a handful of 'at sea' days and once we're at the islands or tucked safely on the Antarctica Peninsula we're pretty protected. And remember - there is no airstrip or helipad on South Georgia, so there truly is no other way to get to this secret world other than by ship - it's a small price to pay!
Price includes all meals and accommodation, though drinks must be purchased separately. All meals are freshly prepared by our chefs.
Price does not include flights from your home town to Punta Arenas, nor your return flight back home from Ushuaia. The tour does however include flight from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams where we meet our ship on the first day.
After you book, we will email you an extensive information document telling you everything you need to know from what camera gear to bring, currency, power plug types, etc.
We do not loan out our own camera equipment for this trip. We will bring a spare camera or two just in case but... be prepared to be self sufficient regarding your camera gear - however we do have some gear available for hire - book ahead.
Promotional images kindly provided by Aurora Expeditions & Chris Bray.