Image ©Shutterstock – Pole2PoleImages
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience why not consider a true ‘holiday on ice’? Antarctica is simply glorious – the largest wilderness on earth is untouched, awe-inspiring and about as far as you can get from a ‘run of the mill’ holiday destination.
“The stark landscapes of this polar desert have their own distinctive beauty.”
© Shutterstock – Foto-4440
The world’s highest continent also boasts one of the most severe climates, strong winds and extreme dryness, but the stark, unique landscapes of this polar desert have their own distinctive beauty.
Some 98% of Antarctica is covered in ice which can be as much as 2km thick. But it also has rivers, mountains – and six months of darkness. The main tourist season is the austral summer (November to March), when there is daylight for almost 24 hours a day!
It is impossible to visit Antarctica without feeling as if you were on one of those famous expeditions we all learnt about at school. Today the resident population is primarily made up of scientists, based in several dozen research stations, and travellers can visit both present-day and historic research stations and can also visit the old whaling station on Deception Island.
Exploring the White Continent on board a purpose-built expedition vessel is a fabulous way to experience this unique place. You can relax in warmth and comfort as the boat navigates the icebergs and fjords, then take an excursion on an inflatable zodiac boat to visit Elephant Island, Anvers or Wiencke islands or the South Shetlands, hiking through the snow to get closer to the glaciers and wildlife and visit historic buildings. You can even go sea kayaking and showshoeing, while each evening presentations from expert guides help you learn even more about this glorious place.
Happily, advances in cold-weather clothing mean you can be toasty warm and comfortable as you venture out onboard a zodiac or stand out on deck to watch the Southern Lights put on a spectacular show. The Aurora Australis are not as frequently seen as their northern counterpart the Aurora Borealis, but when they do appear they are astonishingly beautiful, adding purple, orange, pink and gold to the blue and green of the Northern Lights.
© Shutterstock – Vladsilver
Along with the vast, spectacular landscapes and seascapes, you also get vast, spectacular mammals in the form of the many whale species found in the waters of Antarctica. Blue whales, orcas, minke, humpback and sperm whales all thrive here in the summer months when they gather to feed in the Southern Ocean.
© shutterstock – reisegraf.ch
© shutterstock – reisegraf.ch
© shutterstock – Jared Cohn
“The creatures that can survive in this white wilderness are enchanting.”
While you don’t get the wealth of wildlife that you’ll see on a safari, for example, what you do see is very special. The creatures that can survive in this white wilderness are enchanting – who doesn’t love a penguin? And Antarctica has six different species of this wonderfully charismatic, flightless bird – adelie, southern rockhopper, king, chinstrap, gentoo and emperor.
The ocean is the source of nourishment for most of the wildlife. In order to survive here they need to be warm-blooded and they also need to quite large – those layers of fat are essential. Southern fur seals, Weddell and Crabeater seals, the intimidating leopard seals and huge elephant seals make their home in the icy water and on the surrounding ice and rocks.
In a continent where your spine will be tingling nearly all the time (and no, not because you’ll be cold!) the sight of the highly endangered wandering albatross, that iconic and legendary protector of seafarers, soaring above you is something you are unlikely ever to forget. The snow petrel, with its pure white plumage, is quite lovely, as is the agile Arctic tern. The feisty South Polar skua boasts a wingspan of up to 140cm, while the distinctive, blue-eyed shag, can dive to a depth of more than 100m.
Enjoy an Antarctic Adventure with Tribes
For a luxurious take on an Antarctic adventure, our Antarctic Peninsula Adventure 2021 is hard to beat. You’ll stay on board the splendid RCGS Resolute, with its gorgeous dining room with 270-degree views, heated salt-water swimming pool and sheltered Jacuzzi. Spending time on the 360-degree observation deck is a must, while the on-board laboratory is a fascinating place to learn from the researchers and naturalists. Guests are always welcome on the bridge, so if you want to learn about navigation, this is your chance!
Our Classic Antarctica Fly and Cruise holiday flies you from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island where you board one of the small but very comfortable expedition vessels operated by Antarctica21 and travel through the South Shetland Islands and the western cost of the Antarctic Peninsula.