To some, traveling to another continent is wildly intimidating. But flying to a continent with no permanent human habitation is quite the adventure. Ian Cambata, Travel Leaders 365 President, recently took the journey, embarking on a 10-day cruise to this icy wonderland and returning with some tips and tricks to keep in mind before taking off to the Southern Hemisphere.
To learn more about this incredibly massive and intriguing destination, visit National Geographic’s free resource library here:
How does one get to Antarctica?
“We flew on a charter flight from Punta Arenas -> King George Island and boarded the ship there. We also disembarked the ship at King George Island and flew via Charter back to Punta Arenas,” Ian shared. The process took time, but the payoff was well worth it.
There are a few other ways to approach the trip including;
Traveling Aboard the Ship:
This adventure took place aboard Aurora Expiditions’s XBow ship – a moderate sized vessel offering a more sustainable option than previous designs. Along for the ride were about 85 other travelers, 15 team members, and 20 crew staff.
On top of this luxurious ship sits a hot tub for travelers to enjoy expansive views and watch glorious sunsets while soaking in warmth and relaxation.
National Geographic reports, “Antarctica has an extremely cold, dry climate. Winter temperatures along Antarctica’s coast generally range from -10° Celsius to -30° Celsius (14° Fahrenheit to -22° Fahrenheit). During the summer, coastal areas hover around 0°C (32°F) but can reach temperatures as high as 9°C (48°F).”
While onboard the magnificent ship, travelers enjoyed extravagant feasts including bountiful buffets with daily specials. Breakfasts included an exhibit of various stations, all fresh and delicious.
The Penguins, and other inspiring wildlife: Travelers were able to see lots of friendly penguins mingling, seals eating, and whales coexisitng, to name a few. Thankfully there are a few rules visitors must follow to keep wildlife and curious humans safe. Guests should avoid getting too close to the wild animals and refrain from feeding or disturbing them. Remember, there are no known natives or any human population in Antarctica, so these adorable animals may be as enthralled with our presence as we are with them. However, the penguins didn’t seem to catch the safety memo. Ian found himself trying to put some space between himself and a friendly penguin who got a bit curious and wandered too close, following along on their hike! In their natural habitat, where the penguins thrive, Ian was able to see and capture these enchanting creatures up close.
An Icy Polar Plunge: We all know what this entails; diving into frigid water is an adventure anywhere – but to swim in the waters of the Antarctic is something else entirely. Guests brave enough to endure this frigid plunge are not necessarily alone. According to National Geographic, “the ocean, […] teems with fish and other marine life. In fact, the waters surrounding Antarctica are among the most diverse on the planet.”
Guests waited until the boat was situated at the southernmost point of their journey and lined up in the mudroom at the stern of their ship. They then jumped into the freezing water and did their best to swim to a nearby floating dock.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience is not for the faint of heart but invites thrill-seekers and explorers alike.
Exploring Multi Cultural Expedition Huts: Scientists from all over the world built structures in the 20’s to carry out research and expiditions. Although abandoned now, these structures still stand and have become a type of preserved museum. Visitors are able to explore these warm homes filled with books and some packaged survivals meals, frozen in time.
Beware – there are some critical weight restrictions to be aware of while packing! Packing lightly for a trip to one of the chilliest places on earth is a bit of an art form. But worry not, there was a fantastic laundry service available on board.
However, upon arrival, Aurora Expiditions gave the guests a few necessary clothing items to sail the seas comfortably. This welcome kit included: a heavy coat, zip-up fleece for lounging, waterproof pants, gloves, boots, and a hat.
Also included in Ian’s luggage; motion sickness solutions, lotion (including sun protection), and a pocket-sized video recorder. One thing he regrets leaving behind? An HDMI adaptor for an iPhone (the Apple store didn’t quite make it to the Antarctic).