There were several ports that I was excited for different reasons to visit and Ushuaia was one of them. This is the southernmost city in the world and the furthest from the equator I have ever traveled. Years ago I sailed around the South Island of New Zealand and thought that I was really south then but this is so much more.
There were many good excursion opportunities here and yet, we could only do one. Should we do the train to the end of the world? Take a tour in Torres del Paine and see the national park. They were all so tempting but what I did was to rent a 26 passenger boat through Patagonia Adventure Explorers. I rented the entire boat! I ran the Roll Call on Cruise Critic for this cruise and I knew that I could fill all those seats and I did, very easily. The price was $1350 AR (about $70 USD) and you could pay by credit card or cash at their stand by the dock. I did have to pay a deposit of $25 per person and every single person paid me back. For several, they paid me on the cruise which we had pre-arranged since they lived either in Canada or the UK and couldn’t easily send me the money in US dollars. For those who read my blog for credit card point advice, paying the $25 pp deposit with my credit card gave me three points per dollar spent with the credit card I used as it was coded “travel”. Back to the story.
The departure was at 3:00 in the afternoon which gave us time after we docked to walk around the area, go to the local crafter’s market (walk to the left of the cruise ship), take photos of the Andes overlooking the town, purchase some postcards and stamps. Stamps are very expensive – I think for six postcards and stamps it cost us about $60 USD. There is a mail drop as you walk back to the ship on the pier. Ushuaia had more shops than I thought they would as well as hostels for those exploring Patagonia. There was even a Hard Rock Cafe.
TIP – Across from where the tour vendors have set up shop is an information office. If you go inside you can ask for a certificate that you went to the End of the World. I’m glad we did because the ship did not give us anything – either going to the end of the World or going to Cape Horn. Make sure you bring a folder to put this full size certificate in. While you are there, consider making a small donation to the Tourist Information Office.
We boarded the ship and off we went. Since it was filled with people in the Roll Call and we had met a few days earlier at the Meet and Greet, we all felt like we knew each other and it made for a fun time. Going out in the Beagle Channel on a small boat enabled us to get up close to some of the Channel island where some of the wildlife live. We were able to get up close and personal. Once again, the weather favored us with smooth water, very little wind and brilliant blue skies – what could be more perfect. You could sit inside, outside or on top! There was plenty of room for us to move around on and for all of us to get the photos that we wanted. We had a wonderful tour guide who grew up in Ushuaia and knew all about the history here, climate and change that has been happening in the Ushuaia area with tourists and cruise ships.
The first island we went to we all thought was inhabited with penguins but they were in fact cormorants – thousands of them. Lying in the middle was a big old sea lion. Speaking of sea lions, do you know how to tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion. Seals have ear holes with no flap covering their ears; small flippers and wiggle on their bellies to get around. Sea lions have ear flaps, and much larger flippers which they use to walk on. So, if you see one walking on its flippers, you know that it is a sea lion.
On some of the other islands, we would see the sea lions lazily resting on these hard rock surfaces. I have no idea how they could get comfortable there but they seemed to be. Some of the sea lions even appear to be posing for us.
We circled around the Lighthouse at the End of the World, also known as Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse which is on one of the northeastern-most island of the five or more Les Eclaireurs islands in Beagle Channel.As we were sailing to another island where we would get out and take a hike, we went inside and was served a local liquor with biscuits to eat. As we were eating and drinking our guide held up a map and told us stories about where we had been and where we were going. He also told us about the native population and how there are only a few true natives left.
We got to the island, stepped out and given a short lesson on the fauna and flora of the island. It was windy here on the island. It had a short easy hike to the top or, you could have stayed on the ship as a member of my group did.
Even though we were going to be spending 14 days at sea, taking a small boat excursion in the Beagle Channel brought up closer to the wildlife than we would get on almost all of our excursions. Learning the history of the area from our guide added to our learning about this area.
I highly recommend you join your Roll Call on Cruise Critic to find opportunities like this that others have organized or organize one yourself like I did. The great part about that is you get to set the agenda and decide what your group will see and do.
Next: Glaciers and Cape Horn