Antarctica is world-renowned as one of the last true wildernesses on earth. This is largely thanks to the Antarctic Treaty which prevents any infrastructure or permanent human impact upon the land. When the Antarctic Peninsula first comes into sight from your ship, you’re instantly struck by just how remote and wild Antarctica truly is. A land of rock, ice and endless sea where the sounds of waves, wind and seabirds permeate the air.
Thanks to its unique landscape and wildlife, Antarctica is now becoming one of the premiere destinations for adventurous travellers. In our modern and connected world, it’s often difficult to find a truly unique area that hasn’t got tourists crawling all over it. Antarctica is that landscape.
So, to help you start planning your adventure, I’ve written the best things to do in Antarctica.
Meet Cute Penguins
Lets face it, meeting cute penguins is one of the main reasons people visit Antarctica. These charismatic creatures will often waddle right up to you, giving you the perfect chance to snap a photo or two. During your trip you’ll see colonies of both adelie and chinstrap penguins. If you have the time (and money), I seriously suggest visiting South Georgia Island. You’ll witness colonies of king penguins over 2 million strong, not to mention 4 ton male elephant seals guarding their harem of females!
Go In Search Of Giants
One of my favourite things during my Antarctic adventure was taking zodiac trips each day to search for wildlife. The guides were very knowledgable and knew all the best spots. We saw plenty of lounging seals and, to my delight, several species of whale! One minke came right up to our small boat and looked us in the eye. That is definitely something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon! If you’re keen to spot as many whales as possible, then you should visit late in the season when they’re most active. Look out for orca, minke, and humpbacks.
Kayak Next To A Seal
Most operators, prior to departure, will give you the chance to book added activities during your cruise. One of most popular is sea kayaking. Although it costs extra – roughly $600-800 – it’s absolutely worth it. You get multiple trips during the cruise and all the equipment is provided for by the operator. You can explore icebergs, shallow bays, and quietly view seals sleeping on ice-floats. Kayaking really gives you the chance to explore the raw landscape in peace and solitude.
Visit The Lemaire Channel
The Lemaire Channel is one of the most picturesque locations in Antarctica. Stretching for 7 miles between Kiev Peninsula and Booth Island, Lemaire Channel is affectionally referred to as ‘Kodak Gap’ due to it’s photogenic landscape. Thanks to its secluded location, the waters in the channel are generally very calm, creating magnificent reflections off the surrounding glaciers and cliffs. The channel is also one of the best places to see whales, especially later in the season.
Take The Freezing Leap
One of the best things to do in Antarctica, particularly for adrenalin junkies, is the Polar Plunge. This involves being harnessed to a rope and jumping into the icy waters from your ship! I might also add that you do it without the aid of a wetsuit! Let me assure you that it is not a pleasant moment when you hit the water – in fact, it’s a horrible moment! However, after a stiff drink and a hot shower, the memory you’re left with brings a big smile to your face.
Unlike standard cruises to the Med or the Caribbean, Antarctic cruises offer daily lectures from onboard experts. These lectures can be anything from geography and geology, to wildlife and photography. If you’re thinking ‘oh god, that sound a bit like school’, then think again. These lectures are absolutely fascinating, especially as you’re actually sailing through the landscape that is being discussed. Often, the more expensive cruises have more experts onboard and better lecture facilities.
Camp On The Cracking Ice
Like kayaking, camping is one of the added activities often offered by Antarctic operators. Very few people can actually say they camped out in Antartica! There really is nothing quite like camping out on the ice, listening to the sounds of seabirds and cracking ice. Don’t panic though – this is just the constantly moving ice making these noises. If you’re worried about sleeping, make sure to bring thermals and some ear plugs!