Antarctica, the name itself resonates with exclusivity in travel. Even thinking of going to Antarctica brings chills. Long back, I attended a travel talk where this young gentleman was talking about his Antarctica expedition. It was truly breathtaking and inspiring. Since then, I have wanted to go there too but then forgot about it somewhere amidst the drudges of life. Then recently, I came across HolidayMe travel website that rekindled my aspirations about this extreme trip.
One of the few remaining wildernesses of our planet, Antarctica is a harsh continent, to survive. Harsh and desolate, Antarctica remains dark and frozen for six months while the other six months see days of 24-hours sunlight, melting ice and plenty of native animal activities. Remote and expensive, Antarctica is amongst the most inconceivably demanding tourist destination yet there is a steady rise in number of adventurist tourists. There appears to be a rush to tick-off the seventh continent off from various travel checklists.
Here’s a low-down on my learning from the research on the most difficult expedition one can ever undertake, Antarctica.
Best Time To Visit Antarctica
The best time to visit Antarctica is during summer months from November to March. Sun rays bathe the vast continent 24 hours and allows ample opportunity for shore excursions, treks, sled-treks and to explore the fragile wildlife of the continent. You can see packs of penguins, whales and other native species like Wandering Albatross, Southern Fur Seal, Snowy Sheathbill, Antarctic Skua, Snow Petrel, etc amidst pristine snow.
Modes of Travel
Travelling to Antarctica is limited to cruise liners and small ships. Most of the ships sail from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands while a few leave from Punta Arenas in Chile, Buenos Aires in Argentina, or Puerto Madryn in Argentina. Ships cater to groups between 45 to 280 passengers. Smaller ships allow more time for shore visits while larger ships have to follow the strict rule of not allowing more than 100 persons to land on shore. Look out for cruises that are approved by International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). You can even hire yachts but they are quite expensive.
Flights are available from Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa but are limited and expensive. Bad weather often forces the flights to abort landings on the continent which requires a great degree of technical expertise.
In Antarctica, you won’t find plush hotels. Most of the research labs are controlled by governments of several countries and are often off-limits to tourists unless you are authorised to visit such labs. Therefore, the best option is to remain on ships where you can get meals and hot drinks while you cruise the icy waters of Antarctica and occasionally enjoy shore adventures along with periodic lessons by geologists, conservationists, marine biologists, glaciologists, ornithologists and seasoned photographers.
Tips for Planning Antarctica Trip
Prepare Your Body
Extreme low temperatures often below freezing point is challenging even for the seasoned travelers. Check with a doctor to ensure that you are ready for the demanding trip. Do pack in requisite medicines. Ensure that you are in good physical condition. You must be capable to walk for 5-6 hours at a stretch. Off shore excursion to Antarctica are great but you need to have high levels of physical fitness to get the very best of your treks. Functional training, good cardio form, endurance, strength and stamina training goes a long way in helping you enjoy Antarctica.
Choose Travel Gears Carefully
Opt for good like sturdy shoes, high quality woollen gloves and socks, thermal inners, windcheaters and waterproof jackets, thermal flasks, torch with extra batteries, high SPF sunscreen lotion, headgears and quality sunglasses are essentials of the trip.
Plan Finances To Fund The Trip
Financial planning is also required as the trip is going to burn a hole in your bank balance. Don’t forget to purchase good travel insurance as well.
Be A Responsible Traveller
Antarctica is a fragile land. Hence, be responsible and be conscious of carbon footprints that you leave behind. Avoid littering and going close to the wildlife. Don’t carry rocks, fossils, eggs and stones as souvenirs from the continent. Be careful while hiking in the continent and always listen to the expert advice offered by the trained guides. Avoid hiking on your own as this continent is very difficult to survive and mounting a rescue mission is a very challenging task. Be safe, be curious and enjoy the trip of your lifetime in Antarctica.