Dream journeys – Antarctica
A holiday to the White Continent of Antarctica is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience for wildlife lovers and adventure travellers. We shine a spotlight on this incredible destination and tell you how you can make this bucket list trip a reality with Kuoni.
The names of Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen and conjure thoughts of intrepid explorers, discovering the extreme and then unknown landscapes of Antarctica. The first documented sighting was made by English mariner William Smith in 1819, when he saw what is now known as Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands. A group of over twenty icy islands lying approximately 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula, these are the very same islands you can explore today.
Although you may have read the books and seen the documentaries nothing will prepare you for what you will experience on a trip to Antarctica – the wildlife, mountainous landscapes, towering icebergs and remote settlements only inhabited for a few months a year – this is an adventure like no other.
There’s no denying that the region’s wildlife is one of its major draws – the ice covered landscapes are particularly beautiful but for many people this once-in-a-lifetime trip is so tempting because of the species that call this seemingly uninhabitable world home. Three types of penguins – Adelie, chinstrap and Gentoo – can be found in the South Shetland Islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula, with the breeding, nesting and brooding taking place throughout the Antarctic summer (October onwards).
During the southern hemisphere’s summer months southern right whales feed in the waters around the South Shetland Islands and during a cruise it may be possible to spot one or more of these fascinating creatures as they tend to be relatively active at the water’s surface. Other species of whales that can be found in the southern ocean and possibly spotted on a polar cruise are Antarctic minke whales and orcas.
Antarctica is unique for many reasons both naturally and culturally, one of which is the fact that it has no official government. This huge expanse of land is owned by no other country, has no native population and is ruled by the Antarctic Treaty System. Amongst other regulations the treaty states that this remote continent can be claimed by no nation, with the area to be used for peaceful purposes only, and it is a scientific preserve that allows the freedom of scientific investigations by any country.
Antarctic cruises holidays
Depending on your tastes and the comfort levels you require there are a couple of options for your dream trip to Antarctica.
Seabourn Cruise Line offers the most luxurious Antarctic cruise option in the world. You can experience the ultimate expedition cruise and the chance to see the unique landscapes of Patagonia and Antarctica in style on board Seabourn Quest which has been modified for the icy Antarctic waters. Seabourn are renowned for their exceptional service, fine dining, luxury suites and signature touches which come as standard. During each cruise – which lasts 21 days and takes you from Buenos Aires in Argentina to Valparaiso in Chile – there will be an expedition team made up of 17 members, including geologists, naturalists and scientists, who will be on hand to share their knowledge and experience. You will spend 6 days in Antarctica and with no set itinerary to follow once you have arrived as the landings and destinations are based on the best wildlife viewing opportunities available.
Antarctica XXI, with its expedition icebreaker ship Ocean Nova, offers a more stripped back expedition fly-cruise experience. You will take off from Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia and touch down two hours later on King George Island – avoiding the sometimes rough waters of the Drake Passage – the stretch of the Southern Ocean between South America and Antarctica. This also allows you more time to explore the South Shetland Islands than the majority of expedition cruises. If you are looking for a more intimate experience then this is the perfect option as the MV Ocean Nova has a capacity of just 68 passengers. Antarctica XXI’s trips offer a little more flexibility with a four, six or eight night adventure which can be added to your South America tailor made itinerary or you could opt for our featured 10 night package which includes a stay in Santiago at the beginning and end of your holiday.
Both cruises offer a wide variety of included excursions once you reach the great white continent, transferring by zodiac boat with both dry and wet landings. Equipment, such as boots, is provided so all you need is layers, layers and more layers (be sure check at time of booking what your packing requirements are)!
This feature was published on 23 January 2015. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Emma Tibbetts.