The Mare Australis Chile

| February 21, 2011

Latin America Sarah Morgan experienced the varied wildlife and dramatic scenery of Patagonia on a cruise aboard the Mare Australis.

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Day 1 – Setting Sail
It’s 8pm and we’ve had time to settle into our cabin, meet the crew and listen to the safety briefing in the lounge with a glass of bubbly in hand. As we set off on our adventure from Punta Arenas, through the channels of Southern Patagonia to Ushuaia, we enjoy our first of many delicious meals in the dining room of the Mare Australis. Over the next few days we will visit some of the most spectacular and remote parts of South America and weather permitting, reach its tip at Cape Horn.

Day 2 – Ainsworth Bay and Tuckers Islets
After a huge breakfast buffet we had a quick briefing for our disembarkation from the ship and boarded the Zodiac boats for a short ride to the point of our first excursion. Fed by the melt-water of the Marinelli glacier, the coastal inlet of Ainsworth Bay and surrounding land, is the chosen breeding ground for a colony of elephant seals. Arguably, not the prettiest of animals, elephant seals are certainly impressive in size and aggression.

In the afternoon we grabbed our cameras again for the second excursion. This time we were to stay on the Zodiacs in order to circumnavigate the Tuckers Islets, where Magellanic penguins arrive in spring in order to breed. We were able to observe large numbers of these lovable animals on the beach, as well as sightings of condors in flight and large colonies of cormorants.

Day 3 – Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley
We had a long way to travel before reaching Pia glacier, so during the morning we were treated to a couple of lectures in the lounge - including bird life, glaciology, as well as talks on explorers such as Darwin and Captain Fitz Roy, who first navigated these waters. I found these lectures, enhanced by the knowledge, enthusiasm and humour of the naturalist guides, really added to my enjoyment of the cruise. It was fascinating to learn about the region whilst watching the landscape roll past outside.

Conditions did not permit us to disembark the ship at Pia Glacier, but we nonetheless had spectacular views of it from out on deck. It was a cold and windy, but awe-inspiring experience. We then continued on our path along “Glacier Alley”, a series of huge glaciers. It was raining now, so this time I enjoyed the views from comfort of the bar. Fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow – Cape Horn day.

Day 4 – Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay
We woke early to the sound of the Zodiacs being lowered into the water. We needn’t have worried as the sea had calmed down and we were about to disembark and visit Cape Horn.

A staircase led us up to the Cape Horn Monument and to the lighthouse, where a family of four had been living isolated on the island for a whole year. Before they kidnapped us for some fresh conversation, we escaped back to the boat for breakfast! We were all rather pleased with ourselves as not many people can honestly say they’ve been to the end of the world.

In the afternoon we stopped in Wulaia Bay for a short walk up the hillside for a stunning panoramic view over the bay. It was an incredibly peaceful and beautiful end to our exploration of Tierra del Fuego.

We boarded the Mare for the last time to continue to Ushuaia. I t felt very strange approaching the city lights during dinner. In four days we had seen just one other boat, but we were now back to civilisation and the real (slightly less-adventurous) world!

View Cox & Kings' Splendours of Chile tour  to the end of the world aboard Cruceros Australis' new ship the Stella Australis (see the Tour Extensions). Or, contact one of our Latin America experts for a tailor-made itinerary. 


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