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Emperors & Mountains of Dronning Maud Land

Emperor Penguins and Mountains of Dronning Maud Land

In November Emperor Penguin chicks are still in their “biggles suits” but gaining size as they emerge from a long dark winter. As summer approaches the days lengthen and the sea ice breeding ground retreats. We plan to visit the Astrid Emperor Penguin colony abutting the Nivl Ice Shelf when the sun is low in the sky to facilitate us capturing stunning images, and to quietly observe these incredible creatures in the company of a maximum of 7 guests and two guides.

Emperor Penguin chicks
Emperor Penguin chicks

Our second major objective on this trip is to fly south-west in the Twin Otter to the spectacular mountains fringing the Fenristunga (Wolf’s Tongue Glacier). Ulvetanna’s sheer north face rises some 4500 feet from the ice. Holtanna’s west face illuminated by late evening light is an incredible site. We will attempt to land at a few locations around these impressive peaks to capture beautiful images and experience true solitude.

Twin Otter, Holtanna, Drygalski Mountains
Twin Otter, Holtanna, Drygalski Mountains

In scouting the region last year we identified two extraordinary sites we’d like to share with our guests. One of these sites has not yet been visited by any humans (including us) and the other site has never been visited by tourists. If we have time and the weather allows we will attempt to visit both sites, up to one hours flight by Twin Otter from our base. In the spirit of exploration we will let this adventure unfold to the 8 lucky people who join us on this adventure off a lifetime.

Drygalski Mountains
Extraordinary views from every flight – Drygalski Mountains

More people have scaled the highest peak on every continent than have visited many of the sites we plan to visit. Over 100,000 people now voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula every year. This is a path less trodden, truly an adventure of a lifetime and is limited to just 8 people. Your host will be Islands & Ice Founder David Sinclair who has visited Antarctica over 40 times in the past 16 years.

Closer to our well appointed and very comfortable base in the Schirmacher Oasis are some incredible ice features including an extraordinary neon blue ice tunnel in the Lazarev Ice Shelf on the very edge of the Antarctic continent and an ice wall a 45 minute drive across the ice plateau from our base.

Read more about David Sinclair’s scouting trip to Dronning Maud Land in November 2023 here.

Ice Wall, Dronning Maud Land
Ice Wall, Dronning Maud Land
Ice Tunnel, Lazarev Ice Shelf, Schirmacher Oasis
Ice Tunnel, Lazarev Ice Shelf, Schirmacher Oasis


Flights between Cape Town and Dronning Maud Land in the Ilyushin 76-TD90, all internal twin otter flights to and from the Emperors, Lake Untersee and Drygalski Mountains, all internal transfers, meals, accomodation, guides, drinks, Starlink internet at Oasis Camp and special clothing and equipment.


Travel to and from Cape Town (flexible flights are recommended and arrival into Cape Town three days in advance of departure for Antarctica is required allowing time to conduct mandatory briefings and issue specialist clothing and equipment for your adventure), any additional costs incurred due to changes to flights beyond our control (in particular weather delays), evacuation, medical treatment costs and insurance (insurance is mandatory), hotel transfers for non-Antarctic flights, meals and accommodation in Cape Town (we can provide recommendations), satellite phone use in Antarctica. Baggage weight restrictions apply.

Oasis Camp
Oasis Camp

Activity level: Moderate. Walking on uneven and icy ground. Must be healthy as evacuation by air may be delayed by days due to inclement weather. Cold temperatures in the mountains (slightly warmer at sea level).

Cape Town is a fabulous city to start and finish this incredible adventure. We recommend spending time in Cape Town pre and post trip. Things to do include exploring the bays, beaches and Fynbos (the fabulous flora) of Cape Good, visiting African Penguins at Boulders Beach, watching Southern Right Whales out of Hermanus, enjoying a walk in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, taking the Cable Car to the summit of Table Mountain for fabulous views and encounters with the friendly Dassies, a trip to Robbin Island, a sunset drink and meal at some of the excellent restaurants at Camps Bay, a visit to the magnificent wineries in Stellenbosch or a wander around the colourful streets of Bo-Kaap in downtown Cape Town. For more information check out this blog post for some suggestions and images from a recent visit by David.

Cape Town
Cape Town
12-20 November 2024

7 Guests


Day 1

We will fly from Cape Town, South Africa to Novo airstrip in Dronning Maud Land and transfer to our warm and comfortable quarters amid the Shirmacher Oasis on the edge of the Lazarev Ice Shelf. We will fly between continents in the legendary Ilyushin which is also used to carry cargo, scientists and expeditioners for national Antarctic programs in the Dronning Maud Land region.

Day 2-7

Our primary objectives are to visit the Astrid Emperor Penguin Colony, magnificent Ulvetanna and Holtanna peaks flanking Fenristunga (Wolf’s Tongue Glacier) in the Drygalski Mountains and our two exceptional mystery destinations. Closer to Oasis Camp we will visit stunning ice features including a stunning and readily accessible ice tunnel on the very edge of the Antarctic continent.

Day 8

We will return to Novo airstrip for the flight back to Cape Town.

Schirmacher Oasis
Schirmacher Oasis meets the Lazarev Ice Shelf
Twin Otter Crew Ulvetanna
Twin Otter Crew in front of Ulvetanna (over 4500 foot sheer rock face)
Ilyushin – intercontinental transport


What to expect on your adventure!

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