Explore the rugged west coast of Ireland, journey through hundreds of islands and enchanting peninsulas. See some of the highest cliffs in Europe and discover unique flora and fauna. Blessed with fine weather, we ship cruise around The Skellig Islands that includes a 6th century beehive hut monastery – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a large colony of puffins and gannets. In Scotland’s equally wild and wind-ravaged west coast, we marvel at striking basalt columns at Fingal’s Cave, learn about the country’s Christian origins at Iona Island, revel in remarkable archaeological treasures and encounter some of the largest breeding colonies of northern gannets in the world.
In true expedition style we encourage exploration and adventure, offering flexibility in challenging environments in a way that puts you among the action to see and do as much as possible. This itinerary is only a guide and subject to change due to ice and weather conditions.
Having made your way to Dublin airport, you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred to our pre-voyage hotel. Please visit the Aurora Expeditions hospitality desk, located in the lobby. Our team will run through your embarkation day, answer your questions, and give advice on the local area. They will also provide you with cabin tags for your luggage. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number.
Accommodation: The Iveagh Garden Hotel (or similar)
This morning, after breakfast, please take your luggage, clearly labelled with your name and cabin number, down to the hotel lobby and check-out. Please ensure you keep your identification and items required throughout the day in your day pack.
Gain a true insight into the Irish, and how their influence shapes the world, as we enjoy a ‘Day out in Dublin’. Our local guide entertains us with tales of the city’s character filled history. We’ll hear stories of Ireland’s creative side, manic Lord Mayors and rebellious uprisings whilst following the park-side alleys of St Stephens Green to the grand Georgian buildings of Irelands’ first university, Trinity College.
We head indoors on a guided visit of the award-winning EPIC - the Irish Emigration Museum, which introduces us to Ireland’s greatest export, its people. Discover what it means to hold Irish heritage when you meet poets and presidents, singers, and suffragettes. You’ll meet famous folk and families, from Ned Kelly to the Kennedys, as you follow your souvenir- passport to find out where they came from, why they left and the difference they’ve made to our everyday lives. There’s time to explore your own Irish roots at the Irish History Ancestry Centre or enjoy the adjacent chq centre which offers a variety of dining and retail options (lunch own expense).
Continuing our ancestry theme, we board our coach and head to the district of Glasnevin where the stories of 1.6 million people are faithfully preserved. Our guide will share fascinating stories of the colourful personalities who have been laid to rest at this beautifully restored Victorian cemetery which features epic monuments to Ireland’s past.
Before transferring to Dun Laoghaire, we’ll stretch our legs next door at Dublin’s Botanical gardens, which are famous for their exquisitely restored and planted glasshouses, notably the Turner Curvilinear Range and the Great Palm House, both recipients of the Europa Nostra award for excellence in conservation architecture. What is the shamrock, and where do shillelaghs come from? You’ll find the answers here. Our day out in Dublin ends with a scenic transfer to the port of Dun Laoghaire to board the Sylvia Earle in the late afternoon. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important safety briefings.
As we sail south along the east coast of Ireland, our series of onboard lectures begins with informative and entertaining talks from our team of experts, who will share their knowledge of the culture, history and nature of the places you will be visiting. Take the opportunity to discover our state-of-the-art vessel; explore the science centre and lounge, borrow a book from the library or keep active in the gym.
Off the coast of County Kerry, two rocky pinnacles rise from the Atlantic Ocean. The spectacular Skellig Islands are world-renowned for their ornithological and archaeological significance. Skellig Michael is known throughout the world of archaeology as the site of a well-preserved monastic outpost of the Early Christian period – now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Little Skellig is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of roughly 27,000 pairs of gannets – the second largest colony of such seabirds in the world.
Approximately 1,400 years ago a small group of men were searching for a place to practice their religion in complete solitude and isolation. These remarkable men ventured into the open ocean off southwest Ireland determined to build a monastery on one of the most extraordinarily remote locations on earth. Generation after generation of monks helped to hand-carve the 600 stone step with the simplest tools, to build a hilltop monastery 200 m (656 ft) above the pounding waves. The monastery has six corbel stone beehive huts and two boat-shaped oratories. The survival of the terraces and drystone walls to this day are testament to the skill and dedication of the monks. The monastery is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a striking example of Early Christian architecture. The archaeological remains show the dramatically spartan conditions in which the monks lived, and after enduring several Viking raids, the monks eventually left the island in the 13th century. The site has subsequently become a place of Christian pilgrimage.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) manages the Skelligs, and they no longer allow cruise ships to land on Skellig Michael. Visitor numbers to Skellig Michael in recent years have reached the maximum permitted by UNESCO and any violation of UNESCO criteria will affect the future UNESCO status of the island. From the comfort, safety and elevated height of our vessel, we will enjoy a ship cruise around both Little Skellig to get a glimpse of the incredible gannet colony, and the UNESCO World Heritage listed monastery on Skellig Michael, with onboard commentary about the islands from a local expert.
After lunch and a rest, enjoy a late-afternoon hike on Bere Island, with features over 220 kilometres of trails. Bere island features sites with rich military heritage, as well as spectacular breathtaking scenery across to Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountains.
The largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore has attracted visitors to its rugged shores for generations. The island is home to over 50 different monuments of Christian, pre-Christian and Celtic mythological heritage. The geology is an extension of the famous limestone rocks of The Burren, where limestone pavements crisscrossed with grikes, host a plethora of, often extremely rare, wildflowers such as gentian violets and orchids. The landscape of Inishmore is a patchwork of fields hemmed in by precariously balanced drystone walls.
An exploration of Inishmore includes a visit to the island's most celebrated monument, Dún Aonghusa. Occupying a site of 14 acres, Dún Aonghusa is a fort that consists of three terraced walls surrounding an inner enclosure containing a platform on the edge of a 100-m (300-ft) high cliff. The views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding areas from Dún Aonghusa are breathtakingly spectacular. Excavations carried out in the 1990s indicated that people had been living at the hilltop from c.1500 BC with the first walls and dwelling houses being erected round 1100 BC. A remarkable network of defensive stones known as a Chevaux de Frise surround the whole structure.
Late Bronze Age objects such as rings, tools, beads and foodstuffs found on site are now in Dublin’s National Museum. Archaeologists and scholars from all over the world visit the site annually, and some scholars suggest that the platform overlooking the Atlantic Ocean may have had ritual significance. The Dún Aonghusa Visitor Centre is located on the edge of Kilmurvey Craft Village and provides a wealth of information about Dún Aonghusa, the cliffs, and the Aran Islands in general. It has a number of exhibits and educational materials which are set out in a simple way affording visitors a good understanding of Dun Aonghasa prior to entering the site itself.
At Kilronan village, enjoy free time to explore the local shops and perhaps pick up some local mementos.
Dubbed a place of "savage beauty" by Oscar Wilde the Connemara lets you experience authentic Ireland. Connemara is Irish landscape at its most dramatic. With soaring mountains, scattered loughs and an intricate coastline, this remote part of Galway offers superb hiking.
Carved by glaciers, Killary Harbour has been described as Ireland´s only true fjord. It forms the border between Galway and Mayo counties and features some of the most spectacular scenery on the west coast. This deep-water inlet from the Atlantic was once a hiding place for U-boats in World War Two. The sheltered fjord is also a real treat for birdwatching, with nationally important populations of many species, including ringed plover, mute swan, whooper swan, mallard duck, tufted duck, and barnacle goose. Dolphins are often seen in the fjord, along with otters, a protected species that are known to breed at Killary Harbour. From Rosroe pier, a number of walks are possible including the Killary Harbour Coastal Walk.
Hiking at Connemara National Park
Diamond Hill Loop Walk (7 km / 4.3 mi). Grading: Difficult
Your starting point is the visitor centre at the Connemara National Park. There are gravel footpaths and wooden boardwalks on the approach to the mountains, with a steady climb up the western slopes to the summit ridge. The trail offers blanket bog ecology, extensive heather, stunning views of the mountains, Inishturk, Inishbofin and Inishshark islands and coastline and the possibility of wildlife.
To the north and east, the Twelve Bens are nothing short of sensational. To the northeast, Kylemore Abbey’s gothic turrets stand out from neighbouring Kylemore Lough; and directly north, the summit of Mweelrea, Connaught’s highest mountain, can be seen peeping out. There are some steep sections that require the use of hands. Terrain includes stone steps, trail, and surfaced minor road. It can be quite windy on top so bring appropriate clothing.
For those after an easier and shorter hike, the Lower Diamond Hill trail is an excellent option. It’s a 3 km (1.9 mi) hike that takes 1.0 -1.5 hours. The walk offers some fantastic views of the surrounding Connemara countryside, coastline and islands. Two other shorter walks starting from the visitor centre are also available if you’re after easier options.
Clare Island is a mountainous island guarding the entrance to Clew Bay in County Mayo. It is famous as the home of the pirate queen Grace O'Malley (Granuaile), who was known as a tyrant of the ocean, clan chieftain, mother, wife, survivor and brilliant politician. Although her deeds, relatively unknown outside of Ireland, the legacy of her mastery survives in the ruined monuments and the folk-consciousness on Clare Island and Ireland.
Clare is the largest and highest of Clew Bay's many islands, with dramatic coastal cliffs and spectacular views of one of Ireland's best-known peaks, Croagh Patrick. Its spectacular cliffs are home to large numbers of nesting seabirds and its hills, bogs and woodlands make it ideal for walks.
Jutting out of Sligo’s northern edge, the small peninsula of Mullaghmore sits dramatically out into the North Atlantic. Land and sea meet in dramatic confluence along the coast of County Sligo, a dazzling landscape of jagged mountain peaks that inspired the work of Nobel-winning poet William Butler Yeats. Mullaghmore resides in the shadows of iconic Benbulben mountain, undoubtedly Ireland’s most distinctive mountain, sometimes referred to as Ireland’s own Table Mountain. The most distinctive peak among the Dartry range, it was formed during the ice age by massive glaciers segmenting the landscape.
On the Benbulben Forest Walk (1.5 hours, suitable for all ages and abilities), the trail begins in a secluded forest area before opening out to stunning views of Benbulben head. Further along the walk offers superb panoramic views of Donegal Bay, Slieve League Cliffs, Mullaghmore and Classiebawn Castle. And, of course, Yeats himself is buried ‘Under bare Ben Bulben's head,’ as he predicted in one of his poems. His grave can be found in Drumcliff cemetery, not far from the foot of the mountain. The mountain’s most noted reference in Yeats’s poetry is in the work Under Ben Bulben, in which he describes horsemen who ‘ride the wintry dawn/where Ben Bulben sets the scene.’
Alternatively, choose the Mullaghmore Head Walk (2.5 hours, suitable for all ages and abilities). This is an easy walk along the stunning coastline of Mullaghmore which consists of a mixture of footpaths, off-road walking trails and public roads, which offer stunning panoramic views of Donegal Bay and Slieve League beyond, as well as of Benbulben and the Dartry Mountains.
Mullaghmore village, is largely the vision of Henry John Temple, better known as Lord Palmerston, who served two terms in office as British Prime Minister. He inherited a large estate of 10,000 acres in north Sligo, and not only instigated the building of Classiebawn Castle, the dominant landmark of the area, but also the magnificent stone harbour and the main buildings that characterise the village today.
After your morning of hiking, return to the ship for lunch and rest. Late afternoon, we hope to enjoy a walk in a magical setting near Sligo town, where we step out of the modern world, into a peaceful, green and natural land that feels a million miles away. Tall walls of mossy rock trickling with water surround you, while an array of trees, shrubs, and ferns creep up from the ground. The sounds from the world outside are silenced, leaving you alone in this fairy tale wonderland.
Ireland is blessed with impressive natural scenery: vast valleys, glittering lakes, and cliffs hoisted up from the Atlantic. The jewel in the crown of Donegal is the Inishowen Peninsula. At the peninsula’s tip is Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point. Soak in the dramatic scenery and see for yourself why Malin Head was chosen as a filming location for the Star Wars movie The Last Jedi.
In the afternoon, we visit Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attractions, the Giant’s Causeway. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway consists of some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns to create what looks like a giant pathway of stepping-stones that start on land and disappear into the ocean.
Crossing the North Channel into Scotland, we sail north to the Argyll Coast and Islands, recognised as a Mission Blue Hope Spot, the first one in mainland UK. Sail among dramatic landscapes of rolling green hills, where stone castles overlook the sea that conceal shipwrecks from the Spanish Armada to WWII losses. There is an abundance of marine biodiversity within the waters of the Argyll Coast and Islands. The region is home to dolphins, whales, seals, otters and birds. The Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area was created in 2014 to protect the area’s deep, glacier-carved seabed troughs and a critically endangered species – the flapper skate, the largest of all the world’s skates.
The tiny island of Iona is barely 5 kilometres (3 miles) long. It is renowned as the birthplace of Christianity in Britain and is also a burial ground of early Scottish Kings. The Irish monk, St Columba, and twelve disciples landed here and founded a monastery in 563 CE. From this base, St Columba set about converting Scotland and much of Northern England to Christianity. We plan to visit the Abbey and see the cloisters, graveyard (burial site of numerous early Scottish, Irish and French kings) as well as seeing the impressive collection of over 180 medieval carved stones and crosses.
In the afternoon, on Staffa, we hope to have the chance to explore Fingals Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Mendelssohnns Hebridean Overture. We may enter the cave in Zodiacs, or clamber ashore to walk into the mouth of the cave. On shore we will also find Puffins in abundance.
Located in the Outer Hebrides, we plan to land at the isolated and storm-battered archipelago of St Kilda, a World Heritage site, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of islanders who once tended the unique Soay sheep and harvested seabirds for food—and to pay their rent in the form of wool, meat and feathers. The isles hold Europe’s most important seabird colony and is home to Britain’s highest sea stacks (rock columns). Island hopping north-east, we aim to visit tiny specks of land that bear the brunt of violent Atlantic storms and rarely see visitors.
On Papa Westray, you can choose to visit the 5,500-year-old Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farm building that claims to be the oldest standing house in Europe and the 12th century St Boniface Kirk. Alternatively, enjoy a walk at North Hill reserve in the north of the island. The reserve is home to Arctic terns and skuas and the extremely rare Scottish primrose.
Midway between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station and is also famous for knitwear and historical shipwrecks. About five kilometres by three kilometres (three miles by two miles), Fair Isle is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mainly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island.
A birdwatcher’s paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight paths from Scandinavia, Iceland and Faroe. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins. The isle is an excellent place to view seabirds, especially puffins, at close range. Fair Isle also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. We will be welcomed by the hospitable villagers and may take a hike or visit the museum. Grey and common seals inhabit the waters around Fair Isle, and sharp eyes may spot harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, orcas and minke whales.
In the Shetland Islands, we enjoy a ship cruise at the Isle of Noss, a National Nature Reserve and Special Protection Area that offers breathtaking coastal scenery of sandstone cliffs where thousands of seabirds come to nest. We come alongside at the port of Lerwick on Mainland, the largest of the Shetland Islands, and explore the old town on a walking tour. On the south of Mainland, we plan to visit the historic lighthouse at Sumburgh Head. The storm-ravaged cliffs attract a large number of seabirds, and puffins can often be found among the grassy slopes that are adorned with wildflowers.
We then visit Mousa Broch (a fortified Iron Age tower), located on the small uninhabited island of Mousa. The fortification is the best preserved of Scotland’s 570 brochs, and one of the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe. Storm-petrels nest among its stones, which can be seen when visiting the broch at night. In daylight, a large colony of common and grey seals basks on its shores where you might also spot otter.
Discover the rich history in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. Initial impressions are misleading, as the harbour area looks modern, but the narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, which have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries are appealing.
Explore magnificent St Magnus Cathedral built from red and white sandstone and considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland before popping across the road to Tankerness House and Gardens, a restored 16th century former manse, now housing the Orkney Museum featuring archaeological artefacts from Neolithic times to the Vikings. The exhibition is a great way to whet your appetite for the archaeological gems you will find on the mainland including the unique and well-preserved 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village of Skara Brae.
Everything west of Kirkwall is known as West Mainland, an area of rich farmland, rolling hills and moorland, with dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic coastline. Some of the main archaeological attractions we may see include the standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the chambered tombs of Maes Howes that to this day still have unresolved mysteries.
One of the mainland’s main attractions is Skara Brae, the best-preserved Stone-Age village in northern Europe, located in the spectacular white sands of the Bay of Skaill. Revealed in 1850 after a storm below away the dunes, the site dates from approximately 5,000 years ago and was occupied for about 600 years, affording visitors a unique picture of the lifestyle of the original inhabitants.
Gannets are a dazzling-looking seabird. With the distinctive blush on its head and neck, black-rimmed blue eyes and beak and white plumage with black-tinged tips, it is one of the most elegant-looking seabirds in the world. On the small, uninhabited volcanic rock of Bass Rock, you can find an enormous population of northern gannets – more than 150,000 individuals, making it the largest colony of this creature in the world. Be prepared to be enthralled by the unforgettable sight and sound of thousands of these stunning creatures in flight.
Early morning, we cruise into Aberdeen, where you will be free to disembark at approximately 8.00 am. Farewell your Expedition Team and fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys. Transfer to Aberdeen airport or to your centrally located hotel.
NOTE: We do not recommend booking flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation, as we may experience delays at the conclusion of the voyage.
Lectures on wildlife, our environment, history and destinations
Whale and mammal spotting
From USD $900.00/pp
Sea Kayaking One of the most exhilarating ways to experience Antarctica, the Arctic and beyond. Sea kayaking holidays in the …
Sea kayaking holidays in the humbling wilderness of Antarctica, the Arctic, and some of the world’s most biodiverse regions, are guaranteed to stir your soul. Paddle between brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes, absorbing the majestic scenery as it unfolds before you.
In Antarctica, keep your camera on-hand for unforgettable encounters with penguins, seals and whales, and occasionally leopard seals or orcas. In the Arctic, prepare to paddle under nesting bird colonies, past massive glaciers and around large iceberg.
Led by experienced guides, you and your small group of like-minded adventurers will paddle between ice floes, brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Paddling is one of the best ways to access and intimately explore the beautiful coastlines we visit and therefore make the most of your time in the wild and remote destinations we visit.
‘Getting out amongst it’ is our philosophy, and that is exactly what we do. Weather permitting, the sea kayaking activity is normally available anytime the other expeditioners go out. Rather than travelling large distances, our aim is to ensure you see as much as possible. We paddle between 5 to 15 kilometres (2 to 4 hours) per outing, often taking a snack and a flask of hot chocolate to enjoy on our excursion.
Each small group of kayakers (up to 10 per guide) will have their own intimate exploration of the small hidden bays and coasts that are inaccessible to Zodiacs. Of course, we also make time for your own shore excursions and wildlife encounters.
The elements play an important role in our sea kayaking program. It is important that you have an adventurous attitude and understand that the weather can impact our kayaking time.
For all of our trips, you must be active in the outdoors and have an adventurous spirit. The level of experience differs slightly depending on the region you are visiting.
For most temperate and polar you should be an intermediate paddler. In South Georgia however, conditions can be more varied and you require solid paddling experience in ocean swell and wind.
For our tropical trips some prior paddling experience is needed. We may encounter wind on these trips, however the water is fairly protected.
You do not need to be an expert or know how to roll. However, you must be able to swim and you should have experience in a wet exit and assisted re-entry. You should also be proficient at putting on a spray skirt by yourself and be comfortable paddling on seas with up to half a metre swell. It is also important that you gain some practice getting into a kayak from a pier, wharf, or deep shoreline where you can’t step into the kayak from standing position. You can easily practice all of this at home, plus paddling in a variety of weather conditions, before your trip.
Our guides do not offer instructional classes for beginners. Therefore, the sea kayaking option is unsuitable for complete novices. However, there is often ample time to gain the required experience before you depart. We may be able to recommend a reputable sea kayak operator in your area for some tuition prior to the trip.
Your guide will assess your ability on the initial paddle, and if you have insufficient experience, he or she reserves the right to restrict your participation in rougher conditions.
You should be fit enough to paddle for up to three hours and climb between moving Zodiacs on the water. Regular exercise is recommended, because the fitter you are the more you will enjoy the experience. The more paddles you can do before the trip, the better. We recommend at least three outings prior to your voyage.
During summer the air temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula, Greenland and Spitsbergen are generally above freezing but can range from -4°C to +5°C / 24.8°F to 41°F. The water temperature in the polar regions is close to freezing and winds sweep off the glaciers, making paddling a chilling experience. In South Georgia, there are stronger winds and swells than in Antarctica. Scotland, Iceland, Norwegian coasts are warmer with water temperatures of around 12 °C/ 53.6°F.
The northern waters are warmer than the polar regions but water temperatures of around 12 °C/ 53.6°F mean you may opt to wear your paddle jacket on a warm, sunny day or our dry suits on a cool day. Surf landings are not likely, but you must be capable of paddling in a small swell or wind chop, with winds up to 20 knots. With that being said, we will not paddle if wind conditions are too strong and there is no sheltered area for paddling.
In Costa Rica and Panama, April is the end of the dry season. The shoulder season begins in May, bringing increased humidity. Afternoon rain showers are possible in May with temperatures ranging from 26-36 °C (80- 96 °F). Winds are generally light at this time of year. The water temperature ranges from 27 -29 °C. Surf landings are not likely, but be prepared to paddle in a small swell or wind chop, with winds up to 15 knots. Again, we will not paddle if wind conditions are too strong and there is no sheltered area for paddling.
The Sea Kayaking activity is available for an additional surcharge and includes guided excursions and kayaking equipment. Fares for this activity start from US$900, AU$1,250, £460 or €550.
Prices are indicative only and are variable. They are calculated based on the days of voyage, ability to carry out the activity and exchange rates.
Kayaking is one of the best ways to spot rare wildlife, from penguins to puffins.
Access intimate bays and coves that bigger crafts can't reach.
Our experienced sea kayak guides will help bring your chosen destination to life.
Hone your kayaking skills and gain a hobby for life!
Become lifelong friends with your small group of like-minded adventurers.
Being active every day on your holiday means you don't have to feel guilty about being spoilt by our expert chefs!
Add another layer to your once-in-a-lifetime holiday and make the most out of your time in some of the most remote places on earth.
Have the time of your life exploring some of the wildest places on earth from the water.
Our guide to paddler ratio is 1:10 and we provide an accompanying safety Zodiac. There are 26 places available in Antarctica and tropical voyages, 20 in temperate regions, South Georgia and all Arctic trips except in Franz Josef Land where the maximum is 16 kayakers.
Kayakers must be 14 or over.
Sea kayaking is offered in place of regular shore excursions. We aim to paddle as often as possible. Depending on the voyage, we generally aim to paddle twice per day.
We will give you a drybag for extra clothing, binoculars and anything that needs to be kept dry. You should also carry a water bottle. We recommend bringing a waterproof camera or phone, or ensuring you have a good quality waterproof case.
If the weather changes during our outing we will head back to the ship and perhaps join a shore excursion. The ship’s captain, expedition leader and kayak guide always maintain close contact to ensure a safe paddling experience. We do not attempt to paddle too far away from the ship. The emphasis is on experiencing the destination rather than travelling long distances.
The kayaks are made with a hard plastic and are easily paddled in swell and conducting shore landings, and through small patches of brash ice. We manoeuvre around the larger ice chunks and floes.
Kayaking in the poles offers a unique wildlife viewing experience. In Antarctica, we have many opportunities to encounter penguins, seals and whales, and occasionally we may even spot leopard seals or orcas. In the Arctic, we’ll paddle under nesting bird colonies, past massive glaciers and around large icebergs, however we maintain a safe distance from polar bears and walruses. Our guides carry rifles and flare guns in the Arctic to ensure your safety against polar bears.
Kayakers in wild temperate regions will have a unique wildlife experience, with possible encounters with seals and basking sharks. You will have the opportunity to view some of the largest sea bird colonies in the northern hemisphere.
The superb wildlife-viewing opportunities are endless in the astonishingly biodiverse nature reserves we visit. Kayaks offer a unique opportunity to view marine and land mammals, coral reefs, tropical fish, sea birds and an astonishing range of rainforest birds. We will bring our snorkelling gear with us during our paddles and take advantage of any opportunities to view marine life up close.
In the unlikely event of a capsize, your experienced guide will assist by righting the kayak, stabilising it then pumping it out. Paddlers will re-enter with the guide’s help, or with a support Zodiac. With drysuits and warm clothing underneath you will be comfortable in cold water for up to half an hour. Note that the kayaks have separate compartments with bulkheads, which means they will float after a capsize.
No. Each kayaking place is for one person only. Passengers are unable to share a kayaking place as we customise the kayaks and dry suits for each individual kayaker at the beginning of each voyage.
Scuba Diving Explore mysterious underwater worlds in Antarctica, the Arctic and beyond. Aurora Expeditions has been operating scuba diving holidays
Aurora Expeditions has been operating scuba diving holidays in the polar regions for more than 20 years. In fact, we were the first expedition cruise operators in the world to offer this ultimate polar adventure!
Regardless of the destination, our focus is to encounter remarkable wildlife and witness spectacular marine ecosystems. The select group of daring adventurers who choose this unique activity program will have unbeatable experiences and stories to share and cherish.
Whether you choose to dive in the freezing waters of Antarctica or the Arctic, in underwater worlds full of grounded icebergs and rare creatures, the experience is guaranteed to stir your soul. In temperate and tropical destinations we visit, you can explore remarkable kelp forests and swim among dugong, sea turtles and whale sharks. Marvel at brightly coloured coral, uncover historic shipwrecks or perhaps even swim between two continents – the opportunities for adventure are endless.
You can rest assured that you and your small group of divers will be in safe hands with an experienced Divemaster, who will keep a close eye on the group from a Zodiac and help you maximise your experience scuba diving in some of the wildest places on Earth.
‘Getting out amongst it’ is our philosophy, and that is exactly what we do. Weather permitting, you will dive while other expeditioners are doing their activities – kayaking, snorkelling, or exploring ashore. Our experienced dive guides are skilled at finding the best opportunities to dive, while taking into account the ever-changing weather and sea ice conditions. We aim to offer you the best quality dive experience while maintaining the highest safety standards.
Antarctic and Arctic diving reveals a world of ice, where you will see glaciers, gigantic icebergs and a unique blend of marine, making for a very special experience. With numerous diving opportunities along your voyage, no two days will be alike – a truly inspiring and unforgettable experience awaits.
We try to get you off the ship to dive up to two times per day (except for sea days). However, we are always at the mercy of the weather and changes to the voyage itinerary to take advantage of unique opportunities like wildlife sightings. Embracing the unexpected is part of the excitement of expedition-style travel!
Scuba diving in Antarctica and the Arctic reveals worlds of hidden ice, where you will observe glaciers, gigantic icebergs and fascinating marine life underwater, making for a very special experience.
In polar regions, the dive sites vary from shallow ice diving, diving along a wall or around a grounded iceberg. The maximum depth is 20 metres / 65 feet. The combination of sunlight and the extraordinary formations of ice cause an overwhelming, ever-changing spectre of colours, with a fantastic variety of shades and brilliance. Diving in polar areas offers opportunities to witness spectacular ice formations in addition to interesting marine life.
In a wetsuit or perhaps even a drysuit, you can explore remarkable kelp forests, swim among sonorous whales, uncover historic ship-wrecks and even swim between two continents!
While Iceland is renowned for its dramatic terrestrial landscape, many people don’t know that it offers excellent scuba diving opportunities for those with drysuit diving experience. Here you can dive between tectonic plates, experience hydrogen sulfide bubbles within a geothermal spring, and see a huge variety of marine life in the fjords and ocean.
The United Kingdom is full of diving hotspots and hundreds of shipwrecks that divers come from all over the world to explore.
Embark on a wreck dive, encounter majestic marine wildlife including dugong, sea turtles and whale shark, or marvel at brightly-coloured coral. Discover some of Earth’s most biodiverse marine ecosystems, many of which have been designated as ‘Hope Spots’ by Mission Blue.
When diving in tropical destinations such as Costa Rica and Panama, you will see an incredible array of marine life. Caño Island Biological Reserve boasts some of the best diving spots in the country. Because of the clear see, divers will have visibility of between 10-30 metres / 30-100 feet. In addition to colourful coral gardens, you may find bull and nurse sharks, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and the occasional humpback whale. As for fish, get ready to see damselfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, porcupine fish, goatfish, goby, and perhaps an octopus.
Our diving activity is not for beginners. Requirements vary slightly depending on the region you are diving in. For polar destinations, you must be at least an Advanced Open Water Diver and Drysuit Specialty certified diver with at least 30 drysuit dives. You are also required to complete a minimum of 10 dives in the 12 months before your trip, with a minimum of 5 of those dives in a drysuit. For temperate and tropical regions, you must be at least an Advanced Open Water Diver with a minimum of 30 logged dives. You are also required to complete a minimum of 6 of those dives within 12 months of your trip.
Before departure you must show an internationally accepted diving certificate, diver’s logbook and a current diving medical (no more than 6 months old) from your doctor confirming that you are in suitable physical health to participate in our diving activity. A divemaster will review your form for suitability and experience before approving your diving spot.
The initial dive will be a ‘check-out’ dive so each diver can check and adjust their weights and equipment. If our divemaster feels that you do not meet the necessary experience, they have the right to exclude you from participating in the dive program. This decision will be made for your own safety and for the safety of the other divers.
A higher level of diving experience is required for the polar regions because of the remoteness of the location. Diving is no fun if you are cold and uncomfortable. When you are diving in cold water, you consume more air, expend more energy, and can become more fatigued. You may also find it more difficult to perform complex tasks that require manual dexterity in cold water.
We pride ourselves on taking adventurous souls to some of the most wild and remote destinations on earth, which offer endless opportunities for adventure activities like scuba diving. However, at all times safety is our highest priority.
Diving in remote polar areas is not more dangerous than normal scuba diving, but it is more equipment and labour intensive. We don’t have a decompression chamber and offer only basic medical services on board, so cannot accept risky ventures from any of the divers in this activity program.
All dives are conducted using a buddy system of two or three divers. If you are not travelling with a buddy who is diving, we will pair you up with other divers on your expedition. All divers are expected to have enough experience to read their compass, depth gauges and look out for each other in order to have a safe dive.
Before each dive, your Divemaster will brief you about the location, the weather, sea or ice conditions and the procedure of the dive. All divers are required to follow the instructions of the Divemaster and guides at all times. All participants are expected to fully understand and accept the risks involved in polar diving and participate at their own choice.
The Scuba Diving activity is available for an additional surcharge and includes guided excursions and kayaking equipment. Fares for this activity start from US$940, AU$1,300, £770 or €860.
Prices are indicative only and are variable. They are calculated based on the days of voyage, ability to carry out the activity and exchange rates.
Earn the ultimate bragging rights for diving where only a select group of daring adventurers have ventured before.
Swim with penguins, whales, seals and dolphins and marvel at otherworldly creatures few get to see.
Gain experience diving in destinations unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Find the best opportunities and get the most out of every dive with the help of our experienced Divemasters.
Forge lifelong friendships with your small group of like-minded adventurers.
Being active every day on your holiday means you don't have to feel guilty about being spoilt by our expert chefs!
Add another layer to your once-in-a-lifetime holiday and make the most out of your time in some of the most remote places on earth.
Let’s face it – if you have the required experience to participate in our diving activity, it's one of your all-time favourite hobbies!
We limit our diving groups to a maximum of 6 divers in cold water destinations and 8 divers in warm water destinations. While you are in the water, your guide will be on board the Zodiac keeping a close eye on the group, ready to provide assistance and to give you advice and tips on how to maximise your experience on each of your dives.
You should be 14 or older to participate in our scuba diving program. Please note the minimum age required to complete most Junior Advanced Open Water Diver courses is 12. Drysuit Diver specialty courses require a minimum age of 10.
Aside from days at sea, we plan to dive up to twice per day. However, there are certain factors that are out of our control, including weather conditions and availability of anchorages. Voyage itineraries are only a guideline and safety is always the priority.
Weather can be hard to predict and can vary from day to day. Because of this, we often need to adjust our ‘itineraries’ to take advantage of favourable weather and ice conditions. Our flexible approach means we can alter the itinerary to incorporate wildlife sightings and other one-of-a-kind opportunities. Embracing the unexpected is part of the excitement of expedition-style travel. A flexible approach and a sense of humour will make the voyage more enjoyable for you and your fellow expeditioners.
Exclusive Zodiac cruising will be offered if the conditions for diving are not suitable.
English is the main language used for our dive operation. For safety reasons, you must be proficient in English in order to participate in our scuba diving activity.
In the polar regions, you will encounter marine life seemingly from another planet, such as the giant isopods and salps. Take your time to explore and enjoy an environment few divers have ever experienced. Observe kelp walls, sea snails, spider crabs, sea butterflies, jellyfish, squid, sea squirts, squat lobsters, starfish, krill anemones, peacock worms and countless fish species. In Antarctica you may have the opportunity to dive with penguins, whales and seals, which race fearlessly by, graceful in a way that’s not possible above the surface.
Get lost in kelp forests in temperate regions, or swim with sonorous whales. In tropical regions, marvel at colourful coral gardens frequented by damselfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, porcupine fish, goatfish, goby and octopus. Delight in swimming with playful dolphins and curious seals as you make your way through the spectacular underwater ecosystems. Keep a lookout for bull and nurse sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and the occasional humpback whale.
No. Each diving place is for one person only.
While diving is generally an equipment intensive activity, diving in polar regions requires an extensive amount of additional equipment because of the cold weather and water. On board we have two compressors, steel cylinders and lead weights. The cylinders we provide are steel 12.2 litres by Faber, with dual outlet valve, yoke and DIN compatible filled to 220 bar. Lead weights are available in 0.5, 1, 3 and 4 kilograms (1, 2, 6.6 and 9 pounds).
All divers must bring their own personal equipment. This will depend on where you are diving and a detailed list will be shared with you when you express interest in adding this activity to your voyage. We also have a limited number of hire equipment available onboard.
In polar regions, where the ocean water can be as cold as -1˚C/30˚F, a drysuit is the only thing that will keep you dry during a dive. The type of dry suit you use is not important so long as it fits you correctly and you are proficient in using it.
Insulating undergarments will trap air against your body to keep you warm. The colder the water, the more (or thicker) layers of undergarments you will need. We recommend wearing two or three layers, depending on your drysuit. The first layer should be a type of material that helps wick any moisture away from the body, while the second and third layers should be should thicker insulating material, such as fleece, synthetic pile or thinsulate. The one-piece jumpsuit style is the most common and comfortable configuration of dive wear and is available in a variety of thickness depending on your drysuit and the water temperature.
The right accessories will also help you have a more comfortable experience. We recommend a 5-10mm neoprene hood with face and neck seal, regular 5-7mm neoprene semi-dry gloves or mitts, and three-finger mitts over five-finger gloves.
Finally, it is important to bring a warm hat and gloves to wear before and after each dive, and a wind and waterproof spray jacket to keep the cold wind off your drysuit.
Aurora Expeditions is proud to have some of the world’s best dive masters on our staff, so you can rest assured that you are in safe hands. Our guides have dived all over the world and in some of the most remote and challenging locations. Our team of experienced Divemasters has over 20 years’ polar diving experience. YourDivemaster will ensure that you adhere to Standard Safety Diving Practices at all times, provide you with detailed briefings and share best practice procedures to ensure a safe diving experience.
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*Terms & Conditions apply. Valid on select ship voyages only. Offer is valid on new bookings only aboard the Greg Mortimer or Sylvia Earle which must be booked and deposited by February 28, 2023. Promotion is subject to availability at the time of booking and capacity controlled. The promotion is only available in conjunction with the back to back voyage discount or the loyalty program offer, and not available with any other offer. The promotion can be withdrawn at any time and is not redeemable for cash. Normal booking terms and conditions apply. To confirm your booking, a completed booking form and non-refundable deposit of $2,500 pp in the booking currency is required within 7 days of reserved berth/s. Additional terms and conditions may apply. Please see full terms and conditions.
^Terms & Conditions apply. Additional 5% discount valid on both voyages but two voyages must connect back to back in terms of dates to be eligible. Offer is valid on new bookings only aboard the Greg Mortimer or Sylvia Earle. Promotions are subject to availability at the time of booking and capacity controlled. The promotion is only available in conjunction with early bird voyage discount or the loyalty program offer, and not available with any other offer. The offer can be withdrawn at any time and are not redeemable for cash. Normal booking terms and conditions apply. Please see full terms and conditions.