Antarctica is perhaps the only destination that remains enough of a logistical & financial challenge to be considered as a once-in-a-lifetime dream for most.
It’s the elusive seventh continent to tick off the bucket list, and there is a reason Antarctica comes with the price tag. There is nothing that compares. The scale, the scenery and your awe will be unparalleled.
I recently ticked the destination off on One Ocean Expeditions’ purpose-built (and practically brand new) RCGS Resolute. This ship balances the creature comforts one expects from a traditional cruise, with the expedition spirit you should possess for this destination.
Here are five reasons you should really consider:
ICE ICE BABY
This is the continent of ice. It is beauty overload 24/7. A new vocab will quickly roll off the tongue – tabular icebergs – colossal slabs broken off an ice shelf that dwarf our ship; bergy bits – bobbing ice sculptures now smaller than a house; and growlers – the debris littering the ocean like a chunky ice soup.
It’s a natural art gallery with icebergs melted into familiar shapes, be it a castle or dragon.
The backdrop is towering craggy mountains smothered in deep ice sheets, with ancient glaciers squeezing through, crackled and wrinkly like a sunken pavlova. With 80 percent of the peninsula covered in ice, bare land mass becomes a distant memory. It’s staggering how frozen water can display in so many colours, textures and formations. Be prepared to churn through the camera memory cards.
Ice is surprisingly noisy, and being at sea level with no motor amplifies this to epic surround-sound.
One Ocean Expeditions runs a small kayaking program each trip with professional guides. Exploring by paddle power heightens the scale, the senses and your vulnerability.
Kayaking here presents unique hazards like toppling icebergs and calving glacier waves, and the temperatures demand a lot of gear. Think of it like dressing for a day on the ski slopes, then wrestle into a dry suit, slip on a spray skirt and life jacket, then adorn with booties, beanie and gloves – and now you are ready to paddle in Antarctica.
Bumping through brash ice and around icebergs is like dodgem cars. Ice crackles like milk poured over Rice Bubbles, and the constantly moving glaciers pop and thunder like fireworks. You’ll also get unique visitors – be it porpoising penguins skimming along, inquisitive seals giving the kayak a nudge and nibble, or humpback whales popping up mere metres away.
ELITE CLUB MEMBERSHIP
Bragging rights don’t get much cooler than boasting you’ve been to the latitude of 66°33′ s. It requires ideal conditions to reach as far south as the Antarctic Circle. With champers in hand to celebrate crossing the invisible line, you may also be able to boast being the southern-most ship on the map.
Half of the adventure is simply getting across Drakes Passage, notoriously the roughest stretch of water in the world. Even with moderate seas, it’s a fun bucking bronco ride, giving you a permanent drunken-like stagger.
The upward surge of the ship gives your steps astronaut weightlessness, before the downward pressure compacts into your knees like you’ve doubled your body weight. For those wanting to stay tucked up in bed, room service is only a phone call away.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE LOCALS
Here you are guaranteed front row seats to authentic wildlife encounters. You’ll fire off dozens of photos of your first penguin, then soon realise these feathered friends are cloned in the thousands. Observing these goofs is a slapstick comedy – such nimble rockets in the water that are hilariously ill-equipped and useless on shore.
Similarly land-challenged are the seals. These blubbery slugs lounge a few lazy metres from the waterline. We, the foreign bright red creatures, apparently pose no threat and provoke little more than a disinterested glance.
And then there are the whales. You can easily tick off humpback, minke and orca sightings. Hit the hot spot of Charlotte Bay, an area offering a plentiful smorgasbord to dozens of content whales. The bay is so still that the whoosh of the blowhole release is heard well beyond eyesight.
The immense mammals can be seen logging – simply resting on the surface like floating logs – or feeding in the most graceful motion that barely triggers a ripple. You’ll be hypnotised by these ethereal creatures, begging for just one more show of the tail.
HIKE & YOU SHALL RECEIVE
Your first step onto the Antarctic continent – it’s pretty awesome. But in poor weather, it’s no leisurely stroll.
Howling winds make standing upright a risky maneuver. Instead, you have to hunch forward and focus on kicking secure footholds into the crusty ice. Your body will be a snug sauna within the protective gear, however. It’s a humbling small taste of the brutal conditions the polar explorers once faced blindly and bravely.
A stop at Deception Island will also tick off ‘must climb an active volcano’. It’s a two-hour challenging hike over a mixed bag of terrain. One minute it’s a four-point crawl up a steep ridgeline, the next lugging through ankle-deep volcanic crumble, to a comical dance on slippery ice sheets like a newborn fowl trying to find it’s feet.
After days of Drake’s Passage cabin fever, plus decadent multi-course dining, any active shore time is a satisfying calorie burn and the rewarding views redefine postcard perfect.
For more information about small group expeditions, the best time to visit and what you can do in Antarctica, visit https://www.oneoceanexpeditions.com/
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- READ: Chinese tourists told not to touch penguins
Have you started saving for your expedition to Antarctica?
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