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.
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?
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.