No place on earth compares. The enormity of its icebergs and snow-white mountain ranges is overwhelming and gives you a sense of how big Earth really is. It’s not the tourist destination in the traditional sense. This part of the world has no tourist facilities, hotels or even airports. There are no ‘locals’. The only people that you will find are the temporary resident scientists at research stations. Wildlife takes ownership over this part of the planet. Orcas, seals and penguins are found in abundance. Antarctica is simply stunning.
HOW TO GET THERE
Approximately 35,000 tourists visit earth’s remotest continent each year. Almost everyone who visits Antarctica as a tourist comes on a cruise ship. There’s really no other way of getting around, eating or sleeping. Currently, all cruise operators are members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators which promotes environmentally responsible Antarctic travel. Head to www.iaato.org and find a cruise that best suits you. Book a ship that’s the right size for your travel plans. Be aware that those under 200 passengers have the right to land at most places, but those over 500 are not allowed to land at all.
WHAT TO DO
Antarctica offers so much. First and foremost, you must take in the different shades of blue views and true beauty that is Paradise Bay. For the super fit and adventurous, kayaking, scuba diving and hiking expeditions are plentiful. For the lovers of wildlife, watch out for the killer and humpback whales travelling in pods, seals lounging around and penguins roaming by the thousands. On the Ross Sea side of the continent, historians will find the place where Sir Ernest Shackleton’s and James Clark Ross’ huts remain, perfectly preserved. On the Peninsula side, you can visit the research stations and museums, such as the one at Port Lockroy.
WHEN TO GO
Cruises to Antarctica can only operate during the Antarctic summer, early November to late March. In November, the scenery is white, clean and pristine with giant icebergs. Some might say a photographer’s dream. Penguins also start to come ashore for some their courtship rituals. From December to January, penguin chicks start to hatch, the first of the seal pups become visible and the longer days create amazing photo opportunities at night. By February to early March, whale sighting at their best and a receding pack ice allows cruise ships to explore further south. Unless you want to be stuck in the sea-ice, cruises do not operate from April to October. Thick ice extends up to 600 kilometres beyond the continent making it difficult for cruise ships to travel. To add to this, temperatures are freezing and there’s hardly any daylight. In case the extreme conditions extend into November or arrive early in March, check refund policies carefully or opt for travel cover in case your cruise ship decides to abort the expedition. Start researching and organising your trip today and prepare yourself to be dazzled by an Antarctic adventure that will forever be etched in your memory.