SOUTHERN OCEAN - FALKLAND ISLANDS, SOUTH GEORGIA AND ANTARCTICA


The treeless landscape has a haunting rock-strewn beauty where moss-covered hills are speckled with fragrant ferns and yellow blooms of sea cabbage. The Falkland Islands reminds me of the Scottish Highlands.
At New Island, the western-most inhabited island of the Falklands archipelago, a three-hour uphill trek brings us to a bird rookery where thousands of black-browed albatrosses, rockhopper penguins, with long yellow head tassels, and blue-eyed shags nest together.
The capital, Stanley, offers several touring choices including the battlefields of the Falklands War, a sheep farm and a penguin rookery. And there's plenty of time to wander amongst brightly painted buildings in town.
The sun is shining as we stroll past the Christ Church Cathedral, with its distinctive whale jaw bone arch, past the 1982 war memorial, the Falkland Islands Museum and into a cosy English pub for a well-deserved pint. South Georgia's jaw-dropping landscape of rugged cliffs and towering snow-covered peaks definitely has the "wow factor".
It's a gorgeous summer day on the north-western shore of the Antarctic Peninsula. The air is cool and crisp with not a whisper of breeze or a cloud in the sky. Antarctica is the driest, highest, windiest and coldest continent on earth, almost twice the size of Australia.
Antarctica is the home of Happy Feet. We walk on snow at Petermann Island, encountering Adelie penguins along the path; we watch gentoo penguins diving into the icy ocean at Neko Harbour; and chinstrap penguins feeding their chicks.
When the ship returns to Ushuaia at the end of the cruise, I realise that I will miss waking up each day to vistas of glacial mountains and blue ice, to the bass-like grunts of seals and trumpeting penguin calls. And even to the unmistakable smell of guano.