Beagle Channel Cruise in Ushuaia, Argentina

Beagle Channel Cruise in Ushuaia Argentina by BoozingAbroad

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The Beagle Channel Cruise was the very first thing we booked in Ushuaia, Argentina with PiraTour.  This tour had a little bit of everything to kick our nature juices into high-gear for the days ahead!  

We checked in at 9AM at the SATOUR office, which is located at the main pier in Ushuaia…in a nice, little roundabout with about a dozen other tour company offices (including PiraTour).  

We wandered aimlessly around the small pier until we found SATOUR (actually, we found PiraTour first and asked them where to check in).

Beagle Channel Cruise info:

  • Tour: Departs at 9:30 am and 4:00 pm from the Tourist Pier
  • Price:
    • Catamaran: Adult $28 USD / Minors (ages 3 to 11) $15 USD
    • Yacht: Adult $32 / Minors (ages 3 to 9) $16 USD
      • NOT included: Port fee AR$ 20 ($.50 USD)

At check-in, you’ll receive your “tickets” in the form of a lanyard, which you will need as your entry to get on your boat. Head towards the port office where you will need to pay the port fee (not included in your tour price) which was $20 ARS per person (about $0.50 USD) when we were there in March 2019.      

Table of Contents

Once we entered the port, and having been up since about 2:30AM, we were, of course, looking for a bottle of wine to take on our tour….in all fairness, it felt like early afternoon to us with our early morning.  Anyways, with it being a Sunday morning and a national holiday, there were very few places open in the actual port.

There were several stores lining the boardwalk, including a few souvenir shops, a wine shop, and a specialty alcohol shop, but none of them were open yet.

So, bummed that we would have to wait for our wine, we boarded our Beagle Channel cruise boat, a catamaran.

Our tour was actually so small that they combined us with another tour and on a bigger boat.  Much to our surprise — and relief — our new catamaran had a small snack bar and was selling bottles of wine! Happy Birthday Samantha! No really, it was her birthday.

As we pulled out of the port, the Beagle Channel cruise tour guide, who was bilingual, gave us a quick overview of what we would be seeing on our trip along the Beagle Channel.  

Sailing away from the city, we got our first true glimpse of the massive snow-capped mountains that dwarfed Ushuaia in the foreground. A beautiful sight indeed! 

Come fly away!

Only a few minutes into sailing, we came upon the Isla de los Pájaros, or Bird Island….which is literally an island of birds.  Honestly though, we couldn’t think of a better name for this small island which is really more of an over-sized rock.

This little slice of land was covered, literally covered, by what had to be thousands of seabirds, Magellanic Cormorants to be exact.

From afar, these black and white creatures actually looked like penguins, which got Samantha extremely excited, only to get closer and see they were just regular birds. As an animal lover though, she was content.  

But, the sheer number of birds on this little island was actually quite impressive.  

It was hard to tell where one bird stopped and the next bird started!

Seal of Approval 

After sputtering around the Bird Island for a few minutes, but somehow taking 50ish pictures, we continued on the Beagle Channel cruise to Sea Lion Island.  

Can you guess what’s on the island? Someone did not have their creative hat on when they named these places! What we thought were seals, and looked like seals, were, in fact, sea lions, as the island’s name would suggest.  

Did you know that the difference between a sea lion and a seal is that sea lions bark loudly, “walk” on land using their flippers and have visible ear flaps, but a seal wriggles on its stomach (picture a seal doing the “Worm” and try not to smile) and lacks those ear flaps.  

We definitely learned something new that day!

These sea lions were something else though.  You could tell they were used to the boats stopping by throughout the day based on their ho-hum attitude to the people clamoring at the front of the boat for pictures.  

Some of them were even posing for the camera, or at least that’s how it seemed, as they basked in the sunny weather.

Yes, we speak Shine language…get it? Lighthouse. 

The captain steered our boat towards the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse, an iconic, and still operating, lighthouse about 5 nautical miles east of Ushuaia.  

However, with a few minutes before we got there, we decided it was finally time…Brushing off the weird looks we got from people who were wondering why we were drinking at 10AM, we took our yummy red wine, in cups perfect for the occasion, out onto the deck to enjoy the scenery.  

Although it was rather chilly and very windy out on the open water, the pristine waters and picturesque mountains as the backdrop were a perfect way to enjoy some birthday wine!

Right about the time we were finishing up our wine was the time we were approaching the lighthouse.  Cameras at the ready, we circled the island on which the lighthouse was located and were surprised to see hundreds more of those cormorant birds again.  These guys were everywhere!

We really couldn’t get over the beauty of the reflection of the lighthouse in the still, blue waters with the bright, blue sky above.  Pictures can’t begin to convey the beauty! Remember to marvel in the beauty with your eyes, too, not just through your camera lens. That goes for all travel experiences!

Whale, whale, whale, what have we here? 

From the lighthouse, we headed over to another island in the channel, but not before we stopped in the middle of the vast channel for apparently no reason.  Only there was a reason….a humpback whale sighting!

We’ve always seen pictures and videos of humpback whales that other people have captured on their tours and been super jealous, but to see it for ourselves was pretty darn cool!  

This wasn’t even advertised as part of the tour because it is in no way a guarantee that you’ll see whales, but we got to see them lifting their tail fins out of the water on a few occasions.

Once you see them breach or show their fins, keep your camera fixed on the water and be patient (hard for Samantha) because they will likely resurface and you’ll want to be ready when they do!

Island time 

Different than the previous islands which were inhabited by birds or sea lions (or both), we actually got to get off the boat for a bit at this island and walk up to its highest point to take in our surroundings.  That’s where we snapped these pretty awe-inspiring photos!

Our tour guide, who had been providing information throughout the tour, in both Spanish and English, had a large map and was showing people where we had been on our tour so far and just giving the lay of the Beagle Channel and it’s history.  It was very helpful to understand where we were in relation to everything around us!

After a short walk back to the boat, it was time to head back to Ushuaia as the Beagle Channel cruise was ending.  

On the ride back, we snapped a few more (okay, a lot more) pictures of the different wildlife we saw and the mountains cascading high above the city.  

Once back in port, those shops that were all closed earlier had now opened, so we stopped in to look at more wine, and also to buy a postcard from the End of the World!

Things to know about the Beagle Channel Cruise: 

  • Our tickets were purchased online beforehand to reserve our spot.  
  • Again, the Beagle Channel Cruise ticket price did not include the port fee, which has to be paid in cash on the day of your tour.  When you book, PiraTour should inform you of the current fee.
  • Our ticket even came with a free coffee or tea, a perfect pick-me-up to recharge for the day.
  • Also, remember to dress appropriately for being on a boat, out on the open water, in a city so far south it is the most popular launching point for cruises to Antarctica…..point being, it can get very cold and windy!  
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses too!                 

Overall, we highly recommend this Beagle Channel tour with PiraTour.  

From the bilingual guide and the beautiful scenery and wildlife, to the Malbec wine available for purchase onboard, this tour was informative, beautiful, and the perfect start to our week in Argentina!  

After visiting Ushuaia, we traveled on to El Calafate on our 10 day itinierary

For more information on Argentina, click on the image below:

Things to do in Ushuaia Argentina by BoozingAbroad
Walking with Penguins in Ushuaia, Argentina by Boozing Abroad
Things to do in El Calafate by Boozing Abroad
Hiking Guide for Cerro Torre (Laguna Torre) from El Chaltén, Argentina by Boozing Abroad

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