The final frontier for anyone with a sense of adventure is surely an Antarctica holiday. Just a few years ago, only whalers, seal hunters, intrepid explorers and scientists had even seen this amazing place with its breathtaking scenery and wealth of wildlife.
Now, thanks to demand from travellers with a thirst to broaden their horizons, Antarctica cruises have made it accessible. You will not find the huge liners that ply the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, but there is a choice more comfortable ships like the L’Austral, Silver Explorer, Hanseatic and Bremen who can undertake Antarctica trips with a degree of luxury that cannot be found on the more traditional Russian ice-breaker.
All these Antarctica cruises will carry teams of specialist lecturers, and zodiacs for landing. The choice you make depends on your interest: if your objective is the magnificent scenery, the blue and white panorama of glaciers and icebergs, with the possibility of sighting some wildlife, then you can happily choose a shorter itinerary to the Antarctic Peninsula on one of the larger ships. But, if you want to wander along a beach with thousands of King Penguins, have fur seal pups frisking around you and look into the liquid eyes of a languorous elephant seal as she lounges on the shore, then you have to choose a longer Antarctica cruise which features at least 3 days in South Georgia, and, for the possibility of landing on the most exciting beaches, go for one of the smaller ships.
Don’t be deterred because you think an Antarctica trip may be too cold or tough going – it does not have to be! Temperatures rarely fall below freezing – if they do, wrap up. If the sea gets rough (and it can!), it’s temporary and it’s worth it.
Longer Antarctica cruises may take in the Falklands at West Point Island where you can see rockhopper and gentoo penguins and black browed albatross as well as Stanley – a popular call for most ships – at its best, with brilliant sunshine enhancing its pretty painted houses, monuments to longago and more recent battles, and a fascinating museum.
When visiting South Georgia, most ships call at Grytviken, where the tradition is to visit Shackleton’s grave and drink a toast to him. You can see the restored Norwegian church, the remains of the whaling station, the museum of exploration, whaling and wild life, and may meet the research team stationed there – but the glory of South Georgia is its profusion of wildlife, more than anywhere else on the voyage. Landings at Gold Harbour will be unforgettable: a long, curving beach, framed by mountains and glaciers and, as far as the eye can see, thousands of King Penguins. The South Orkneys is renowned for its translucent blue icebergs and heading further South, there are colonies of Chinstrap, Adelie and Gentoo penguins. The Sounds, Passages and Channels of the Antarctica will great you with gorgeous panoramas of glaciers, ice cliffs like castle walls and craggy mountains, sometimes reflected in the mirror-like water. You may see pods of Orcas and humpbacks, flocks of penguins and seals.
Penguins in Antarctica
Most Antarctic cruises will visit Paradise Bay, with the opportunity to play in the snow and for zodiac cruises. Then there is ‘Iceberg Alley’ – no sculptor could ever match the magnificence of nature’s masterpieces! Deception Island offers a chance for a swim in the hot springs and a chance to wander among the desolate ruins of Whalers’ Bay.
Take an Antarctica holiday, it will be the holiday experience of a lifetime!