Antarctica. The fifth largest continent. What are the best places to visit in Antarctica? There are not that many, so I can’t really create a list. Instead I will just tell you about the coldest, driest, windiest southernmost continent on planet earth. Not much can survive here as the temperatures can easily drop down to -70 degrees Celsius. That’s cold enough to turn you into a mini iceberg so that you become part of the landscape.
Antarctica was the last place ever to be discovered and not owned by any one country; instead it is governed by 12 countries. The only people that live there are scientists and only on a temporary basis, but there are few native organisms like algae, bacteria, fungi etc. and some animals, like penguins, seals, etc. Africa is or has been called the ‘Dark Continent’, but I think that it should be Antarctica. Or at least call it that for half of the year when you never ever see the sun and there is complete darkness. Then for 4 months out of the year during the summertime, the sun comes up and never sets again until the start of winter. We can then call it, ‘When will this ever end so that I can get some sleep!’
There are a few ways in which you can visit Antarctica. It’s quite expensive, but truly spectacular. The first way, but not the most common way is to fly over the continent and see it from high above. This is perfect for people looking for a day out. Once the flyover is done, you can return to where you came from. Flights depart only from Australia (Sidney or Melbourne) and tickets can range between $1199 Australian dollars for economy class, which are your normal sardine can fittings to $7999 for a full length sleeper seat in the front ice class cabin where you can even enjoy a glass of champagne. Just don’t get drunk and fall asleep. You’ll miss the entire trip. With these day trips you need to plan ahead, because the flights do not take a lot of passengers and the waiting list is quite long.
You can also land on Antarctica for a longer trip. I will advise you though to pack those long johns and mittens. Flights for these types of holidays depart from Australia, South Africa, Chile or Argentina. The flights are not as frequent and a lot less predictable. You can find plenty of deals from holiday adventure companies which involve landing on Antarctica, camping, climbing and skiing. A very popular trip is to fly from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island and stay overnight in a camp for tourists.
A third option before we get to the cruise ship tours, is a flight/cruise option. This is perfect for those adventurers that want to see the ice and wildlife up close, but don’t want to stay on a ship for too long. These prices will typically range between $10,000 – $14,000 for a 2-week trip. You also need to be aware of the weather, because it can ruin your trip. Flights can easily get cancelled, because of the volatility of the extreme weather conditions at the bottom of the world.
The best time to visit is between November and March, which is Antarctica’s tour season. In November the ice starts to break and it is mating season for penguins and birds. During December and January you can see the penguin chicks hatch and being cared for by their parents. During the last couple of months, the chicks start to fledge, the adults are molting and you can easily spot the whales.
Cruise ship deals are not the cheapest and you can expect to easily pay $5000 American Dollars at the minimum, which will only include the bare necessities and probably not the best seating options. You can get cheap last minute deals from places like Ashuaia in Argentina, but you would need to be in town or very close by, be flexible and able to leave at a minute’s notice.
You would really need to read up on what you will need when visiting Antarctica, like clothes etc, which should be waterproof. Most cruise ships will have gear for hire, but there is no guarantee that it will be a great fit. At least you won’t have to get vaccinated and if you do, I can almost certainly guarantee that the virus you got vaccinated with will jump out of your system and make a break for it as soon as it feels the freezing temperatures.
A few More Things to do
There is no law that says you have to stick to a 60,000 ton cruise ship when you want to see the wildlife. Kayaking is a great experience and some people have even said that it’s an experience of a life time. You get to float around pieces of ice where leopard seals lie on top and catching a few rays and penguins are playing in the water, jumping and swimming all around you.
This is only for the brave. I don’t even like to go in water that is colder than my usual bath, but if you have the guts you can take a dip in the ocean at sub zero temperatures. If you really want, you can skinny dip, but just make sure that it’s that type of beach. I don’t want you scaring the penguins back inland.
Zooming around icebergs and between the ice to see the wildlife up close in an inflatable motorised boat is a must when you get the chance to visit Antarctica. Whales can easily pop up and say hello when passing by. Just remember, it’s a whale and not a horse. Stay in your boat.
Visit Deception Island and Port Lockroy
Port Lockroy is a museum and post office. Visitors during the five months can easily mail 18,000 letters. It’s more of a novelty, just to say that you have mailed a letter from Antarctica and the proceeds of the stamps the staff sell are what keeps the post office afloat.
Deception Island is another popular tourist attraction and situated on an active volcano. The island is extremely friendly and always gives a warm welcome. If, for some reason, you have run out of money and are unable to return home, you can always wait for the volcano to blow and catch a ride home.
Richard Attenborough has covered Antarctica extensively in many of his documentaries and it is no surprise that Antarctica ended up on my bucket list because of that.
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