Antarctica is the southernmost continent and contains the South Pole. It is approximately 2 times the size of Australia, but much of the recorded continental size is ice shelf and the landmass is much smaller.
Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, and driest continent – much of it is Polar desert and has not seen rain in approximately 2 million years. This seems at odds with some of the coastal regions which record large amounts of snow. It also has the highest average elevation at 8200 feet, with the largest peak of Mount Vinson at just over 16000 feet. The average temperature in the coldest part of the year -63C.
Even after the discovery of Antarctica, it did not become a booming destination. Exploration and surviving in this hard climate was an incredible challenge. Luckily today, we can visit in safety and a style of accommodation that was not possible back then.
So why is it a big deal? It’s gorgeous! The pictures I have seen are amazing! The prisms of light off snow and ice are something to behold, the wildlife is fascinating, and from what I hear, pictures truly do not do this destination justice. An attitude of adventure and a great camera, along with binoculars, is a must for this destination!
What you might see
Incredible mountains, icebergs and, wildlife – whales, leopard seals, many birds including penguins, and seals are common to see
Click here for Google 360 views of Antarctica
When to book
This destination is becoming incredibly popular. Most travelers book about a year in advance.
The Antarctica cruise season begins in October and ends in March. October tends to be quite cold still, and most travel in the region begins near the end of October. In November the penguin chicks start to hatch and are a big draw. December and January are warmer and the days longer. This is high season and very popular, so typically a bit more expensive. In February the days are still long; it is usually the best month to see whales. Due to more extensive ice melt, it is also the best time to cross the Polar Circle. March starts to get colder again, and the days a bit shorter.
Accommodation, itineraries and, access vary
You can sail on a ship with very basic accommodation and amenities or in luxury…or choose somewhere in between. Itineraries typically start in South America and can spend varying times in Antarctica. You may choose to see South America more extensively and spend less time in Antarctica, or vice versa. It is also worth noting that it is subject to changeable and extreme weather, and this can cause changes to the itinerary more frequently than in other parts of the world.
How you choose to travel matters
Antarctica is very sensitive ecologically and there are guidelines in place to protect this great continent. Most if not all tour operators are part of an organization called the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and go to great lengths to handle the environment with care.
There are designated landing sites in Antarctica. If you choose a ship with less than 200 passengers you may do 2 landings per person per day. If you choose a ship with less than 500 passengers you may do 1 landing per person per day. The larger ships that visit Antarctica do so for scenic viewing only.
More ships travel to Antarctica than we are advertising here. Ask us!
A few things to note
- Most travel suppliers require you to purchase their insurance or provide proof of adequate travel and medical insurance.
- Many suppliers provide outdoor gear, including footwear and binoculars
- Most suppliers provide a team of experts – both for landings if appropriate, and to explain the unique terra and animal life you will see
Choose your style of travel, when you want to travel…and go explore! Our team is happy to help you and Dave is happy to share his experience.