The solitude kingdom of winter, Antarctica for centuries was a cold and unwelcoming place. The very few adventurous travelers, that ever step foot onto its frozen land had a privilege to tell amazing stories about its savage nature. Perhaps more than anywhere else, Antarctica reminds those who visit it of the savage power of nature.
Traveling to Antarctica can be a memorable experience. It is very important to know everything you can about an Antarctica vacation before you make a choice to visit the South Pole.
For example, when is the right time to plan vacation to Antarctica and how to get there? What are the places you should definitely see and what things you should do? What to pack for a trip to the South Pole? And are there any health risks you should be aware off.
When is the right time to travel to Antarctica?
Antarctica tourist season starts in November and lasts until March. Its summer time in Antarctica, there is less ice and 24 hours of daylight. All four months offer different experiences of Antarctica. Here are some factors to consider before you decide the date of your trip:
- November is early summer in Antarctica. All birds including penguins are courting and mating.
- December and January is the height of summer. Penguins are hatching eggs and feeding chicks.
- February is best for whale-watching. Penguin chicks start to fledge.
- Cruises in February may be less crowded.
- There is a risk to wait for last tour, as wildlife may head out to the sea.
- If you want to see Ross Island’s historic huts, you have to go as late in season as possible.
Will I need a visa to go to Antarctica?
No. Antarctica do not belong to any country, therefore there is no need for visa. But you will need a valid passport since your vessel could possibly pull into nearest port. You will also need visas for any countries that your ship visits en route to Antarctica.
If you are planning on visiting Antarctica independently, you will need to acquire a permit.
How to get to Antarctica?
Approximately 80 companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a membership organization which regulates non-research travel to the region. There are several ways of getting to the Antarctica.
This can be done in summer month From October to March (daylight season). Travel is normally done by military aircraft, as part of the cargo. Commercial flights to Antarctica are limited, but can be organized from Sydney, Melbourne and Punta Arenas. Passengers rotate their position in the row to give everyone a window view.
By cruise ship
It is the most common method of visiting Antarctica. The ships typically offer a couple of excursions to the continent (usually the Antarctic Peninsula) or Antarctic islands (Deception Island, etc.).
Here are some things to think of before choosing your trip provider:
- Smaller cruise ships (50-100 passengers) can go closer to Antarctica’s nature and wildlife.
- Larger cruise ships (1200 passengers) are less prone to rough seas but have limited landing options.
- Cruise operators typically only allow 100 people on land at any one time.
A list of companies offering cruises to Antarctica:
- Abercrombie & Kent, USA. They have 20 years of Antarctica operating experience.
- Adventure Life. Small-ship Antarctica expeditions have been featured in Forbes Life and New York Times.
- Adventuresmith Antarctica Cruises. Award winning small ship cruise specialists, they work only with ships carrying 100 passengers or less.
- Bark Europa. Offers 22 day trips to Antarctica.
- Cheesemans Ecology Safaris. Their trips are the best for maximizing onshore time.
- Gap Adventures. Operates trips on their ship: the ‘M/S Expedition’. The maximum number of passengers is 120 and there are lectures by staff and naturalists on board.
- Haka Expeditions Cruises and Air Cruises to Antarctica and South Georgia.
- Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Their small expedition ships have the highest ice class ranking for cruise ships. Each vessel offers 4-5 cruises to Antarctica between December and March every year, including Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Weddell Sea.
- Journeys International. Provides small ship exploration cruises to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circle and the Weddell and Ross Seas.
- Lindblad Expeditions. Lindblad pioneered travel to Antarctica in 1966 and offers multiple trips to the Antarctic Peninsula, and longer trips which also include the Falklands and South Georgia aboard the new 148-guest National Geographic Explorer.
- Quark Expeditions. Offers everything from month-long semi-circumnavigation trips to week-long explorations of the Antarctic Peninsula, on former Russian ice-breakers and expedition ships.
- Rockjumper Birding tours operates out of South Africa and is aimed at those interested in birding.
- Geographic Expeditions. GeoEx specializes in small group adventure travel. Tours offer a variety of destinations such as Ross Sea, South Georgia Islands and penguin rookeries.
You can choose from a dozen charter sailboats. Yachts take individual passengers and support private expeditions. Compared to the more popular cruise ships, a small yacht can be more work and significantly less comfort, but typically allows more freedom and flexibility.
Here are some options to consider:
- Ocean Expeditions. Sailing yacht “Australis” offers an intimate experience of Antarctica.
- Expedition Sail. Sailing yacht ‘SEAL’ is a purpose-built expedition sailboat offering private expeditions, support for research, filming, or climbing projects, and also offers “by the bunk” trips for individuals.
- Spirit of Sydney. Australians, Darrel and Cath, own and operate Spirit of Sydney, an expedition support yacht perfectly suited to meet and exceed the requirements of Film Crews, Mountaineers, Skiers and Snowboarders, Sea Kayakers, Dry suit Divers, Scientists, Sailors of all experience levels, Whale Watchers and Adventurers of all kinds. They typically carry kayaks on board, and offer both private charters and group trips for individuals.
Would you like to impress people around you by telling about your adventures in Antarctica? I sure would!