Discover some of the United Kingdom’s most historically significant and wildlife-rich destinations on this voyage from Portsmouth to Aberdeen. With numerous islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, a vast amount of the UK coastline is ideal for exploration by ship. In England, Wales and Scotland, there are designated Heritage Coasts, some which fall within national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and some standalone coastal strips that are protected simply because they are part of a particular location’s heritage. Stroll through charming fishing villages, visit majestic castles, cathedrals, historical homes and gardens, encounter magnificent archaeological sites, witness a dazzling array of birds, and soak up the remarkable history of a land that has been continuously inhabited for over 5,000 years.
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.
Wildlife TV presenter, Zoologist, Author, Conservationist and Public Speaker
We are offering an incredible opportunity for expeditioners to explore England’s most historically significant and wildlife-rich locations with special guest Miranda Krestovnikoff.
On this unique 14-day voyage, Miranda will provide lectures on some of her special interest topics; as an accomplished scuba diver she will join the voyage’s diving program, and as President of the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds, she will provide observations and further insights about the extraordinary bird life passengers will see on this voyage, including within RSPB sanctuaries.
Having made your way to London's Heathrow, Gatwick or London City airport, you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred to your pre-voyage hotel. 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. The remainder of your time is at leisure to enjoy London. All meals today are at your own expense.
Accommodation: Sheraton Grand London Park Lane (or similar)
Check-out and bring your luggage to the lobby ready to be delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Please ensure that your luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. Any valuables or personal items should be kept with you throughout the day.
We drive two hours south to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This open air museum is home to two of the most iconic ships in British maritime history: Mary Rose and HMS Victory. The Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship, which capsized while fighting the French in 1545, was recovered from the seabed in 1982. In dry dock alongside the Mary Rose, is HMS Victory. Constructed in the 18th century and famed for her part in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Victory was the flagship of Admiral Lord Nelson. The recreation of ‘onboard life’ returns us to height of the battle, whilst walking amongst the Dockland’s shipping relics highlights the importance of naval power in Britain's history. Please note that as a working naval base you are not permitted to leave luggage anywhere on site. Unattended items may be confiscated or destroyed.
Join your guide on your tour of this coastal city at Spice Island, where we discover some of the city’s historical buildings and defences as well as the headquarters of Britain’s America’s Cup team. We gain an insight into how Portsmouth has shaped England’s story across the centuries, as home to its favourite son, Charles Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who began writing his Sherlock Holmes stories while practising as a doctor in the seaside suburb of Southsea.
Returning to the port, settle into your cabin before attending important safety briefings and enjoy the thrill of departure as we ‘throw the lines’ and set sail. This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and our friendly Expedition Team and crew at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure.
Located on the south coast of Cornwall, Fowey has a strong Celtic connection and is steeped in maritime history. The buildings of Fowey tell the tales of its past. The ancient castles at the deep-water entrance once guarded the harbour from Spanish fleets and, in the heart of the town, the towers of the 14th-century St Fimbarrus Church and the 15th-century Place House still stand proud. Our ship will take centre stage on its mooring right in the heart of Fowey. While you immerse yourself in the Cornish lifestyle, the ship will be the talk of the town.
Depart Fowey Harbour by coach for the scenic drive to the fishing village of Gorran Haven. Set off on foot through the narrow medieval streets towards the beach, before continuing uphill to the cliffs from where the hike along the southwest coast path begins. The route takes you through wild meadows and along clifftop paths, offering magnificent panoramas.
The coastal path descends towards Turbot Point, where the sheer cliffs are known as Bodrugan’s Leap, after Sir Henry Bodrugan, who made his escape from his pursuing enemy, Sir Richard Edgcumbe of Cotehele, by leaping from the cliff into a boat that took him to safety in France. Taking in Chapel Point en route, continue to Port Mellon, a delightful cove with a long history of boat building.
As the route nears closer to the end of the walk, glimpse a first view of Mevagissey and the lovely sweep of Mevagissey Bay. As the lane descends, see splendid views of the picturesque harbour, before arriving for free time to enjoy Mevagissey at leisure. Perhaps explore the village, relax and soak up the scenery, or visit one its many charming cafes for a Cornish cream tea (not included).
Lost Gardens of Heligan
Depart Fowey for the one-hour journey to the magical Lost Gardens of Heligan. Your route crosses a peaceful countryside of small villages and granite farmhouses, giving you glimpses of life here in days gone by and the hedged fields that give way to rolling downs as you approach Heligan, which is the Cornish name for the willow tree.
The Lost Gardens, situated near the fishing village of Mevagissey, are set on 80 hectares (200 acres) and include a complex of walled gardens, greenhouses and a huge vegetable garden. The gardens are claimed as the site of the largest garden restoration in Europe.
As if from a fairytale, the 57-acre gardens were lost for 70 years beneath a mass of ivy, brambles and fallen timber. In 1991, they were ‘rediscovered’ and have been beautifully restored to incorporate rockeries, summerhouses and a crystal grotto. Explore the gardens on your own and marvel at this once-forgotten world. Stroll, or stop and perch on a bench, of which there are many dotted throughout the gardens, to enjoy the tranquil environment offered by the plants and birdlife.
As well as being named ‘Large Attraction of the Year 2018/19’ at the Cornwall Tourism Awards, the Lost Gardens of Heligan also won the prestigious British Travel Award for Best UK Leisure Attraction in both 2016 and 2017.
Enjoy some free time exploring Fowey at your own pace. Fowey is a picturesque port town dominated by its links to fishing, shipbuilding, trading and privateering. Stroll along the narrow streets, dating back as far as the 15th century, to Fowey Town Quay, from where you can enjoy fantastic views of Polruan on the opposite shore. See the ‘Rook with a Book’ sculpture created to celebrate the famous writer Daphne du Maurier, who lived in Fowey – the local area being the inspiration and setting for her well-known novels Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel and her short story, The Birds, famously adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock.
You might want to visit Readymoney Cove, walking through woodland to the ruins of St Catherine’s Castle before returning to Albert Quay where our vessel awaits.
The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of five inhabited islands and numerous uninhabited rocky islets situated 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Land’s End, the most south-westerly point of the English mainland. With a population of just over 2,000, an exceptionally mild climate, beautiful flowers and powder-soft, white sandy beaches, the isles are renowned for their outstanding natural beauty, ancient historical sites and high-quality, fresh seafood. We spend the day exploring the second largest of the islands, Tresco, which is privately owned and a subtropical gem.
Tresco offers dramatic rocky outcrops, Bronze Age burial sites, romantic castle ruins, and the world-famous Tresco Abbey Garden, which was established in the 1830s by Augustus Smith. The garden also includes the Valhalla Museum, which features a collection of ships’ figureheads salvaged from the islands’ many shipwrecks.
Tresco Abbey Gardens
This incredible, subtropical botanical paradise was established by Augustus Smith in the 19th century, around the ruins of a Benedictine abbey. A wealthy merchant banker, Smith purchased the island from the Duchy of Cornwall in the mid-1830s and began working on the gardens in 1834. Today, this horticultural paradise hosts a spectacular collection of over 20,000 exotic plants from more than 80 countries across the world’s Mediterranean climate zones. The temperate, wet, almost subtropical climate in Scilly has allowed the plants to flourish when they would not have survived in other parts of the UK. A walled enclosure around the abbey ruins acts as a windbreak, providing shelter during the winter months, when more than 300 plants are in flower.
After an hour’s guided tour, stroll the gardens at leisure to uncover the many treasures, including the magnificent Valhalla Museum, before returning to the pier.
St Mary’s Coastal Walk
St Mary’s is the largest island in the archipelago and it is from the quayside in St Mary’s harbour that this stunning walking tour commences. Starting out through the tiny ‘capital’ of Hugh Town, with its small cluster of shops, restaurants and cafes set mere moments from the soft, powdery sands and sparkling turquoise waters of Porthcressa Bay, the route continues up to Buzza Hill, home to a Bronze Age burial cairn, and a defensive gun tower built in 1803. Pause here to soak up the magnificent sweeping views over Hugh Town and across to Samson, Bryher and Tresco, before continuing to Peninnis Head, passing the 18th-century ruins of Peninnis Mill. Venture to the end of the headland and be rewarded with the glorious vista over to the Western Rocks and Bishop Rock Lighthouse, standing tall and proud at the very westerly edge of the British Isles.
Peninnis Head is the southernmost point of St Mary’s and is characterised by rugged granite outcrops that have eroded over time into rather spectacular and unusual shapes. It also provides fantastic views of Peninnis Lighthouse, perched on the very tip of the headland, as well as the islands of St Agnes, Gugh and Annet, the latter of which is uninhabited and serves as a sanctuary for many species of seabirds.
The entire Isles of Scilly is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and while it is one of the UK’s smallest designated areas, it is also one of the richest and most diverse. Marvel in the peace and wonder offered by these isles, before retracing steps back to Hugh Town and enjoying views of Old Quay, a scheduled monument built in 1601. The walk concludes back at the quayside in the bustling working harbour.
The clear waters surrounding the Isles of Scilly support myriad marine life and migrant birds, drawn by the temperate climate, winds and oceanic current. Discover what Scilly has to offer as our vessel sails around the eastern isles, a group of 12 uninhabited islets forming part of the Scilly Heritage Coast. With their raw, rugged edges, these islets are a haven for wildlife and keen eyes may spot gannets, cormorants, shearwaters and the friendly Atlantic grey seals, which are among the rarest seals in the world. From mid-April, the puffin returns to breed and the Isles of Scilly is one of only a handful of sites in the UK where puffin spotting is possible. Learn more about this popular seabird as well as discovering why this fantastic natural habit is so hugely important.
Nestled in a corner of glorious Mount’s Bay, Penzance has long been one of Cornwall’s gems. Soak up the olde-worlde pirate atmosphere as you discover the cobbled alleyways, winding streets, subtropical gardens and dockside taverns for which the town is famous. And do not forget to try an authentic Cornish pastie while in town.
Scenic Drive of Cornwall’s Highlights
Your scenic exploration of Cornwall’s highlights begins with a drive to St Ives Bay on the north coast. Passing near to author Rosamunde Pilcher’s birthplace of Lelant, the journey heads east towards Camborne and Redruth. Threading through narrow country lanes, past small granite cottages and stern Methodist chapels, with old, abandoned engine houses dotting the undulating landscape, we get a sense of a time when this area was the beating heart of Cornwall’s mining industry.
Rising high over Camborne and Redruth is the spectacular tor, Carn Brea, a 27-metre (90-foot) granite column built in 1836 as a tribute to Francis Bassett, a philanthropist and member of the most important mining family in the area.
Arrive in the maritime port of Falmouth, which sits on the county’s south coast at the end of the Carrick Roads Estuary. Falmouth is the traditional gateway to the Atlantic and one of the world’s greatest sailing harbours. After a comfort break, your journey continues towards historical Pendennis Headland, where the route ascends, offering a view over the dockyard below and a spectacular vista out across Falmouth Harbour. The headland is dominated by Pendennis Castle, one of the finest of the mighty fortresses built by Henry VIII to defend the Cornwall against invasion.
The route ventures past the golden sand of Gyllyngvase Beach as you set off west to the quaint market town of Marazion. From here, pause to enjoy spectacular views of the world-renowned St Michael’s Mount. Separated from the mainland by a tidal causeway, this is no dusty museum or dormant relic of a past life. Home to a bustling island community, life on this craggy island is ruled by the tides and weather, with crystal-clear waters lapping the shores during the summer months and waves lashing the steep cliffs during winter storms.
It will then be time to board the coach for the short journey back to the vessel for lunch.
Pendeen to Botallack Coastal Walk
After a short transfer by coach from Penzance port, arrive at Pendeen, where the Pendeen Watch Lighthouse has been guiding passing vessels and warning of the dangerous waters around Pendeen for nearly 100 years. Head off on a guided exploration hike of Cornwall’s fascinating mining heritage, stopping at the dramatic clifftop setting of Levant. Levant was known as ‘the queen of Cornwall’s submarine mines’ because of its undersea levels at a depth of over 600 metres (1,968 feet), which stretched over a kilometre (one mile) out to sea. Today, the surviving buildings and ruins offer a window to another world, where men and women toiled to extract the riches of the earth from beneath the crashing waves.
Enjoy the delightful walk along the coastal path dotted with iconic mine chimneys and engine houses, to Botallack Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Botallack’s World Heritage status testifies not only to the importance of its historical features, but also to the importance of the mining landscape and the technological developments and scientific research that took place here. The Cornish had a huge influence on the development of mining throughout the world, with over 250,000 people having left Cornwall between 1815 and 1915 to work in other mining areas. It is estimated that there are six million people of Cornish descent globally. The Botallack Mine Count House and the world-famous Levant Beam Engine have both been restored by the National Trust and are key monuments at the Cornish and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.
After a fascinating exploration of the Cornish coast, board your coach for the short return journey to Penzance.
Lundy Island is owned by the National Trust and managed by the Landmark Trust. The island enjoys a milder climate than the mainland, with more hours of sunshine and less rain. The diversity of the island's flora and fauna attracts walkers, climbers and divers from near and far.
Despite its small size, Lundy Island offers a diverse range of activities to visitors. Its 4,000 years of human history comes to life through the 42 scheduled monuments and its clutch of listed buildings. Lundy’s position, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Bristol Channel to the east, creates a unique combination of environmental conditions, which have created habitats that support a variety of rare and spectacular wildlife. The rugged cliffs of the west coast are carpeted with sea grass species and are home to important seabird colonies, including puffins and Manx shearwaters. In comparison, the relatively sheltered and calm east coast boasts spectacular displays of wildflowers and provides sanctuary to migrating birds in the spring and autumn.
The diversity of marine life is as equally impressive as the life on land, with many rare and remarkable species protected in both reef and sandbank habitats. Lundy has a population of approximately 200 Atlantic grey seals that are often seen hauled out on the rocks enjoying the sun or frolicking in the water. During summer, basking sharks, the world’s second largest fish, often come to Lundy to feed in the island’s plankton-rich waters. The clifftops on the south-east coast of Lundy are said to be the best place on the island to see dolphins, whales and porpoises. Large numbers of feeding gannets can indicate the presence of a shoal of fish, which can entice a passing whale, dolphin or porpoise.
Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm are a trio of neighbouring islands named by ancient Viking visitors. They are located off the coast of southern Pembrokeshire and are celebrated for their exceptional wildlife. The islands are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and are included within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in West Wales.
Skomer, the larger island, has a thriving puffin colony and these quirky birds with their iconic black and orange beaks are a big draw for visitors. Manx shearwaters are also found on the island, and at night, listen out for the cacophony of eerie sounds they make as they return from hunting.
Nearby Skokholm is more rugged. Its cliffs slant into the Irish Sea, which crashes around its edges, creating a wild and dramatic landscape for photographers.
Tiny, isolated Grassholm is the westernmost point of Wales and is situated 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the Pembrokeshire mainland. It is known for its famous gannet colony and the dolphins, porpoise and grey seals that visit the area.
To protect the wildlife on the Pembrokeshire Islands, daily visitor numbers are heavily restricted. We are very fortunate to be able to explore the splendid coastline of the islands from our ship, or in Zodiacs or kayaks.
Expect a warm Welsh welcome in North Wales. Holyhead is the largest town on the island of Anglesey and has a reputation for being a busy ferry port. It is also the gateway to Snowdonia and the North Wales coast.
South Stack RSPB Reserve
Anglesey is a wonderful place to see seabirds! On Holy Island, you will discover the wonderful South Stack Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Reserve. The area is covered in heathland on a stretch of beautiful, dramatic sea cliffs.
South Stack RSPB Reserve is an important nesting site for seabirds. The number of seabirds that nest on the cliffs here is impressive. Here you will find puffins, guillemots, razorbills, shags, kittiwakes and fulmars.
South Stack is one of the best places to see the chough (pronounced ‘chuff’). The chough is the rarest member of the crow family in the British Isles and can be seen swooping along the cliffs year-round. An important conservation project is currently underway at the reserve to encourage choughs to breed.
Other wildlife that you may see include the rare silver-studded blue butterfly and basking adder. If you look out to the sea, you may spot porpoises and dolphins.
In summer, the heathland, which is part of the largest maritime heathland in North Wales, has an abundance of plant species, including the spotted rock rose, the county flower of Anglesey, and spathulate fleawort, which is endemic to Anglesey but only found at South Stack.
After the guided walk, enjoy some time to explore independently.
Take the scenic journey across Anglesey and the Menai Strait to Caernarfon, with its famous castle dating from 1283. Standing at the mouth of the Seiont River, the fortress with its unique polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and colour-banded masonry, dominates the walled town.
Of the four castles in northern Wales built by the order of Edward I, Caernarfon Castle is the most magnificent. The grandeur of Caernarfon Castle signifies King Edward I’s intent that it should serve as the powerful seat of English government in Wales. It is said to have been designed to echo the walls of Constantinople, the imperial power of Rome, and the ‘fairest that ever man saw’ dream-castle of Welsh myth and legend.
Caernarfon’s symbolic status was emphasised when Edward I made sure that his son, the first Prince of Wales, was born here in 1284. A statue of King Edward II can be seen above the entrance at the King’s Gate. In more recent times the heir to the UK throne, Prince Charles, was crowned Prince of Wales here in 1969.
Enter this once-impregnable castle and explore its magnificent ruins with your guide. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore further, or visit the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum, housed in two of the castle’s towers.
Caernarfon town is adjacent to the castle and a good option to spend free time before returning to Holyhead.
The Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. Its coastline features cliffs, stacks, islets and long beaches, while the hills hold important peat reserves and are deeply cut by wooded glens in the east. In recognition of its rich marine biodiversity, the Isle of Man has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Volcanoes & Vikings Walking Tour
This is one of the most beautiful walks on the island, renowned for its stunning coastal scenery, birdlife and archaeological remains. Leaving the port at Douglas, travel via the famous Fairy Bridge to Castletown, the former capital of the Isle of Man.
Follow part of the Way of the Gull, the Isle of Man’s long-distance coastal footpath around Scarlett Head, where there is an opportunity to see seabirds and various plants against a stunning backdrop of limestone outcrops and volcanic rocks. This part of the exposed southern coast has an abundance of historical sites. There are traces of ancient forts, chapels, old farms, a WWII radar station and a now disused flooded quarry, which once supplied stone for the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The historical highlights of the walk are at Chapel Hill, Balladoole. Here you can see a Bronze Age burial site, an Iron Age hillfort, a Viking ship burial site, and Keeill Vael, the remains of St Michael’s Chapel, which dates back to the 12th century. Chapel Hill has panoramic views over the south of the Island and the Iron Age Norse fort at The Enclosure of the Stallion.
Cregneash and The Sound
Depart Douglas and travel via the scenic Plains of Heaven and the Southern Hills, from where the magnificent panorama of the southern coast can be seen on the descent to Port St Mary village and the heritage hamlet of Cregneash.
Cregneash is one of the last strongholds of the Manx language, and this small village of white-washed, stone-walled thatched cottages (crofts) is one of the most picturesque villages in the Isle of Man. The residents of Cregneash play an important role in preserving the Manx heritage by using traditional methods of farming such as horse-drawn ploughs and allowing livestock to roam free. Expect to see sheep, shorthorn cows and Manx cats. Stroll around the village, venture inside the crofts to get a glimpse of traditional life and speak with the friendly folk that keep this wonderful heritage alive.
Afterwards, travel to The Sound, the most southerly point on the island and one of the most scenic places in the British Isles. Seals are often spotted lying on the rocky islet of Kitterland, and dolphins and basking sharks are also spotted in the water here. Look across to the Calf of Man, a renowned bird sanctuary where many migrating birds stop for a rest on their long journey to or from warmer climates.
Note: This is a full-day excursion and is limited to 24 people. Bookings are confirmed on a first-to-book basis.
The Isle of Man is home to spectacular wildlife and birdlife. Bird species such as hen harrier, red-billed chough, peregrine, black guillemot, Manx shearwater, puffin, arctic tern and many more can be spotted on the island in remarkable habitats of exceptional beauty. Join your guide, a specialist ornithologist, to explore some of the wonderful wildlife areas and nature reserves on the island and discover the Isle of Man’s rich, diverse birdlife. Lunch at a local pub or restaurant is included.
Islay is the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland and is known as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’. The island has a population of approximately 3,200 inhabitants and an impressive coastline that stretches for 210 kilometres (130 miles).
Aside from whisky, Islay has an abundance of wildlife and is an important location for migrating birds. You will visit the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart, where you join the ranger for a guided walk through a variety of wetland habitats. With over 200 species of birds visiting Islay, you may see oystercatchers, gannets, terns, cormorants, buzzards, barnacle geese, white-fronted geese, hen harriers and even white-tailed eagles. From the beaches, seals, dolphins and basking sharks are sometimes spotted, and if you are patient, you might even see otters.
You will also visit the Islay Woollen Mill, which was established in 1883 and is Isla’s only mill. The mill is a traditional family-run business and uses two looms dating from Victorian times. The mill has made designs that were featured in Hollywood blockbuster films such as Braveheart and Forrest Gump.
Enjoy some free town in the picturesque town of Bowmore, the capital of Islay, known for its pretty white-washed houses, tiny stone-built harbour and the famous Bowmore Round Church. Sitting at the top of Main Street, the iconic building commands impressive views over the village, Loch Indaal and beyond - it is definitely worth a visit.
We aim for the tiny island of Iona. Barely five kilometres (three miles) long, Iona is renowned as the birthplace of Christianity in Britain. It is also the burial ground of early Scottish Kings. The Irish abbot Saint Columba and 12 disciples landed here and founded a monastery in 563. From this base, Saint Columba set about converting Scotland and much of Northern England to Christianity.
On Staffa, we hope to have the chance to explore Fingal’s Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Felix Mendelssohn’s 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 puffin in abundance.
Weather permitting, we plan to land at the isolated archipelago (and World Heritage Site) of St Kilda, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of islanders who once tended the unique Soay sheep and harvested seabirds for food – paying 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.
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.
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. In the early evening meet at the Papay Pub for a drink with the locals.
During the 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.
Important note: Aurora Expeditions operates in remote and challenging environments, and in the spirit of expedition travel, we encourage you to be flexible and to adopt an adventurous attitude when joining our voyages. This itinerary is a guide only and is subject to change due to weather, sea state and other conditions beyond our control.
Lectures on wildlife, our environment, history and destinations
Whale and mammal spotting
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.
Want to book flights and accommodation with us or simply want some additional information? Click the button below and fill out the form, our expedition experts are more than happy to help.
*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.