Au na­turel so­journ to ANTARTICA

It is a vast con­ti­nent of ice, snow, glaciers and su­perla­tives – and it has be­come the must go-to hol­i­day spot. COURT­NEY DEVEREUX ex­plores the sud­den in­ter­est in the windi­est, dri­est and cold­est place on earth.

Travel Digest - - FRONT PAGE -

Antarc­tica is a land of ex­tremes, there is nowhere on earth quiet like it. As far as travel des­ti­na­tions go, it is sur­pris­ing the des­ti­na­tion of Antarc­tica has re­cently seen a large growth in pop­u­lar­ity. The ques­tion re­mains as to why this Ice cov­ered land is on ev­ery­one’s bucket list?

Why go?

It’s the fi­nal fron­tier and its wild beauty is the stuff of leg­end, as is its ca­pac­ity for ad­ven­ture. Whales, seals and pen­guins are here by the thou­sands. Cruis­ing past ice­bergs al­lows pas­sen­gers to gaze into a mid­night sun­set and when on the land, feel the crunch of ice un­der boots as they walk where few have ever stepped. Antarc­tica has to be seen to be be­lieved.

How to get there?

It its typ­i­cal for those want­ing to travel to Antarc­tica to go through a com­mer­cial ex­pe­di­tion. Many types of ex­pe­di­tions are avail­able, how­ever this will usu­ally in­volve a cruise. Christchurch-based ex­pe­di­tion com­pany Her­itage Ex­pe­di­tions has a num­ber of voy­ages de­part­ing Bluff. One up­com­ing 27-day voy­age de­parts 15 De­cem­ber and calls in at the Sub-Antarc­tic Is­lands, be­fore ar­riv­ing at the East Antarc­tic coast­line of Cape Deni­son. This voy­age in­cludes a visit to Mac­quarie Is­land, be­fore fin­ish­ing at Ho­bart.

Ad­ven­ture Travel spe­cial­izes in tours to the Antarc­tic, pro­vid­ing des­ti­na­tions, travel spe­cials and even cus­tom tours – mostly through Lin­blad Ex­pe­di­tion tours.

The ma­jor­ity of the tours avail­able start as a cruise in Ushuaia, Ar­gentina. From there, pri­vate groups of be­tween 90 to 100 peo­ple sail through the Drake Pas­sage and land in the Antarc­tica Penin­sula on day five. Day 10 the ship leaves and ar­rives back in Ar­gentina on day 13.

The Drake Pas­sage that sep­a­rates Ar­gentina from Antarc­tica is the rough­est stretch of water in the world and can only be con­quered by ex­pe­di­tion big cruise ships.

In­trepid Travel of­fers sev­eral Antarc­tic pack­ages rang­ing from 11 days to 17 days. Most of these deals, like Ad­ven­ture Travel deals, will have pas­sen­gers sail­ing through the Drake Pas­sage from Ushuaia, Ar­gentina. Although some of the longer pack­ages also in­clude by­pass­ing the Drake Pas­sage with an in­cluded flight into King Ge­orge Is­land, then spend­ing four un­for­get­table days at sea ex­plor­ing the Antarc­tic Penin­sula.

Don’t want a long cruise?

A cruise isn’t the only way to see this unique land­scape. As well as In­trepid Travel’s Antarc­tic Ex­press, there is an ex­press ex­pe­di­tion called Cross­ing the Cir­cle. Through this trip, visi­tors fly be­tween Punta Are­nas all the way to the Antarc­tic Penin­sula, then by boat to the Antarc­tic Cir­cle. Although this trip is shorter than cruis­ing at 11 days per trip, the price is dou­ble what you would pay for a full ocean voy­age. Also this pack­age is re­served for large groups, rather than the 90 to 100 pas­sen­ger cruises.

Ad­ven­ture Travel also of­fers Antarc­tic, South Ge­or­gia and Falk­lands Is­land tours, with spe­cials run­ning through from June till Septem­ber 2016. Ven­tur­ing to the end of the earth takes ex­pe­ri­ence and Ad­ven­ture Travel’s Lin­blad Ex­pe­di­tions have over 50 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence turn­ing va­ca­tion­ers into ac­tive ex­plor­ers.

What to do there?

Most pri­vate tours in­clude hik­ing, snow shoe­ing, sea kayak­ing, ski­ing, cruis­ing the Antarc­tic Cir­cle, search­ing for pen­guins, en­coun­ter­ing leop­ard seals and other wildlife. There is an amaz­ing amount of wildlife to be found in Antarc­tica and you are never far from a pen­guin.

It is not only close en­coun­ters with wildlife and the glaciers, but ex­pert guides bring the na­ture and his­tory of this unique con­ti­nent to life. An Antarc­tic trip is a trip of a life­time – as a tourist you will get to see a part of the world that is dif­fi­cult to get to at best.

Why is it grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity?

Lin­blad Ex­pe­di­tion leader Adam Cropp at­tributes the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity to the range of fleets and up­com­ing ex­pe­di­tions. The Lin­blad fleet has 10 ships, with only two go­ing through Antarc­tica – their hard han­dling Na­tional Geo­graphic Orion and their lux­ury Na­tional Geo­graphic Ex­plorer. Their eight to 24 night ex­pe­di­tions in­clude Drake Pas­sage and the Falk­land Is­lands. The ma­jor­ity of their clien­tele are mid­dle-aged peo­ple who for the first time have the money for this trip and this is where the in­creased de­mand is com­ing from.

The added lux­ury of cruis­ing can com­bine the ex­cite­ment of a dif­fer­ent unique wildlife con­ti­nent, with the safety and com­fort of a five-star ho­tel. Antarc­tica is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent place in it­self – with no re­cep­tion, you are com­pletely cut off from the rest of the world. The scenery, the wildlife and even the voy­age there is an ad­ven­ture on its own.

Work­ing in Antarc­tica

Antarc­tica is not only a thriv­ing tourist at­trac­tion; it is also be­com­ing in­creas­ing sought af­ter in terms of em­ploy­ment. Any en­thu­si­as­tic gen­er­al­ist can get jobs in Antarc­tica – mostly six-month con­tracts, although there are po­si­tions for four to six months go­ing, as well as longer con­tracts.

Jobs range from sci­en­tists, all the way to sup­port work­ers and every­thing in be­tween, from cooks, elec­tri­cians, boat han­dlers, ra­dio op­er­a­tors, doc­tors, div­ing of­fi­cer and fire fight­ers.

To get a job in Antarc­tica, it is best to con­tact Antarc­tica New Zealand, the gov­ern­ment agency charged with man­ag­ing Scott Base, New Zealand’s main re­search

sta­tion in Antarc­tica. Each year around 26 tem­po­rary staff are em­ployed to run the base. Some staff will work at Scott Base for the sum­mer only (Septem­ber to Fe­bru­ary) and some will con­tinue through the win­ter un­til the fol­low­ing sea­son’s tem­po­rary staff ar­rive.

A small group ad­mire the Antarc­tic Glaciers.

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