It’s the last frontier, the coldest, windiest and driest continent — and everyone wants to go. No longer just for the hardcore adventurer, today Antarctica is welcoming all.
Come face-to-face with semi-tame penguins, watch majestic albatross in their courtship rituals or be awestruck by breaching whales in the frigid waters of the Antarctic Peninsula or sub-Antarctic South Georgia. The sight, sound and smell of the rowdy rookeries will be a lasting memory. It’s a wildlife bonanza during the southern summer as sea mammals, pelagic birds and rare whales of all shapes and sizes join your holiday of a lifetime.
You might think Antarctica is devoid of things to do, but you’d be wrong. Tour operators offer a surprising array of activities ranging from hiking, wildlife spotting, Zodiac (sightseeing) cruises, ice camping, snorkelling, photography tuition and kayaking. All of these are designed to immerse the visitor in the wonder of this otherworldly landscape. The new wave of super ships being launched will even include mini submarines, underwater viewing windows and jet-powered helicopters.
Many people visit the White Continent because of a fascination with polar and exploration history. All the names are there: Shackleton, Scott, Mawson, Wilkins and more. Stand where these amazing men stood, sail the same waters and relive some of the heroic age of exploration. Lecturers and historians accompany these voyages to complete the experience. You can even visit historic sites and graves of men who didn’t make it home.
Once upon a time, the vessels used for tourist voyages were repurposed working ships. Sturdy and tough, for sure, but light on for onboard comfort. Nowadays you can be communing with seals and penguins one minute and sipping champagne and caviar the next. Luxury cabins, internet, fine dining and plush lounges, bars and theatres are now almost common in the modern fleet. Some new ships will lift the bar even further.
If you can’t make it aboard a ship, why not take a charter flight in a 747? These special ‘flight seeing’ trips will have you cruising low over icebergs, scientific bases, glaciers and the famous peaks like the smouldering volcano, Mount Erebus. Trouble is, you’ll most likely want to get aboard a ship afterwards and see it all up close. New Year’s Eve is a popular flight complete with champagne and polar frivolities.
By Roderick Eime