I was fortunate enough to sail on Ventus Australis for my first Australis cruise in March 2018, as part of a personally tailored tour for 23 people by Sundance Spirit.
When I first saw the ship I was initially concerned about its size, this was only because I've done trips on large liners that carry thousands of passengers. I was happy however, from the moment I stepped on board.
The ship has been cleverly designed with open areas for guests on levels 1 to 5, there are wide spacious corridors and the rooms have incredibly large windows that add to the sense of space, also enabling travellers to experience the beauty of their surroundings from their rooms, common areas or outside decks. Naturally the ship also needs to be as small as possible to navigate the narrow Patagonian fjords.
Australis are one of the few cruise ship companies that navigate the Tierra del Fuego archipelago and Cape Horn and they have exclusive landing rights in some locations. Day 1, we boarded on Friday 16th March from Punta Arenas in Chile for our 4 night cruise, which was the ship's 11th voyage and we sailed across the Strait of Magellan overnight.
We experienced our first two zodiac excursions on Day 2, a landing to visit Ainsworth Bay and another to see Magellanic Penguins that were due to migrate very soon. Magellanic Penguins are classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
In Patagonia the weather can be extremely changeable, we were already used to a wide range of weather in any given day and Day 3 of our cruise was one of the stand-out memories of this. We only had one zodiac trip scheduled and the morning had been very overcast and raining, so quite a few travellers were opting not to go out. I was planning to go yet had a few doubts when for a while it was raining so hard you could barely see but when the time came for a final decision I was a definite 'yes'.
I didn't get any photos of the zodiac excursion as I knew I wouldn't be able to take any pictures with my camera in the wet but the zodiac trip became one of those incredible 'once in a lifetime' experiences' as it began to snow when we were in the zodiac. As the snow fell we navigated through a sea of small icebergs to get to Pia Glacier, it was beautiful.
We had a break in the weather as we did our on-shore excursion and later that day after re-boarding we sailed through a section of the Beagle Channel known as Glacier Alley.
On Day 4 we had an early start and we were approved to disembark at Cape Horn, which is only possible in very specific conditions for safety reasons. Of the 11 sailings Ventus Australis had undertaken we were only the 6th group to go ashore at Cape Horn.
Experiencing sunrise at Cape Horn, the world's most southernmost point was a special experience. Again the weather kept changing with hail at times and sunshine at others, all accompanied with high winds.
The Chilean Navy maintain the permanent lighthouse on the island, there is also a tiny chapel and modern Albatross monument in memory of all the sailors that have lost their lives around Cape Horn.
In the afternoon we did our last zodiac excursion visiting Wulaia Bay, where we had some fantastic views from our hike and we were able to see one of last views of 'our ship'.
Sadly we had to depart on Day 5 after breakfast having arrived in Ushuaia Argentina but we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the cruise. In addition to great excursions there was lots of lovely food and wine and occasionally we were lucky enough to see dolphins or seals in the water around us.
Exploring some of the most pristine parts of our planet is such a joy. It also reinforces why it is so important that we take care of our planet, protecting unique places and unique animals for generations to come.
View the Patagonia photo gallery to see more photos from the full 2 week trip.