What makes voyaging to the farthest ends of the Earth (literally) so appealing to travelers? Specifically, to the seventh continent – Antarctica. Is it the allure of giant ice formations? Hundreds of thousands of penguins? Reaching the South Pole? For many, they’d answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions and more.
Expedition ship is the most common way to venture to Antarctica. Many travelers from the United States depart and return through Ushuaia, Argentina (which can make for some great pre and post tours if time allows). The journey is a unique mix of mountains and marine.
In January, our team at Pique Travel sent clients on two different adventures to this mysterious and breathtaking destination. Kristin Jonason traveled on Quark Expeditions (watch this video to get a sense for what the expedition was like for Kristin). According to Kristin, Quark was a great partner and took amazing care of them the entire trip - especially when their luggage was lost and didn’t make it onto the ship.
“There were always informative and engaging lectures happening, which was beneficial on those days as sea as we crossed the Drake Passage,” says Kristin. “All of the expedition staff were very knowledgeable and passionate about Antarctica and its history, geology and biology.”
For Cam and Cathy Guthrie, who sailed on Lindblad Expeditions (National Geographic), the entire trip was rich and rewarding. Here’s a video snapshot of what their adventure was like.
“There are so many highlights for us, but a couple stand out,” says Cam. “For example, we appreciated the ship’s ‘open bridge’ policy, where guests could come up any time to join the captain or bridge officer. Here we could monitor the ship’s progress on the GPS and chat with the crew. Staff naturalists were usually on the bridge too, scanning the ocean with binoculars, identifying the birds and sea mammals we encountered.”
According to Cam, their ship, the Explorer, had an observation lounge on the top deck with large windows along its length on both sides. They found themselves there often as it was a great place for whale watching and viewing the icebergs they passed.
In addition to all the sights and experiences, Kristin loved that her expedition had several special experiences on board throughout the voyage. A live-auction to benefit Quark’s wildlife and eco initiatives, a barbeque dinner on the deck, the polar plunge and champagne toasts with the captain. Each of which made the trip extra fun and special. (Many of Pique Travel’s expedition partners offer similar experiences on their sailings.)
“One of my favorite days on the entire expedition was our last day in the Antarctica Peninsula in Wilhelmina Bay,” says Kristin. “We were on the zodiacs and our guide spotted humpback whales about five miles away from the boat.
We decided to go for the adventure and drive 20 minutes to get there. We saw three pods of humpback whales and they kept coming up to breathe and showing us their magnificent tails. We followed them around and watched them for almost an hour. As a result, I have too many pictures of whale tails to even count!”
Kristin also had a memorable, unique experience as she camped on the ice. Quark provided them with all of the necessary equipment for one night of camping on the ice – sleeping pad, sleeping mag, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and a bivy sack (instead of sleeping inside of a tent). “After dinner one night, we took a zodiac to an island out of sight from the ship, so it really felt like we were ‘alone’ and ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ After getting settled, we stayed up for a while, soaking it all in and appreciating the light of the never-setting sun,” she says.
Cam and Cathy loved the daily activities as they made their way down the coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. “We disembarked the ship every day to cruise in zodiacs, kayak, or put ashore to walk next to penguin colonies,” says Cam. “The history was fascinating as well as we visited abandoned research and whaling stations.”
According to both sets of travelers, January was a great time to visit Antarctica. “Every day was between 20-35 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Kristin. “Balmy compared to some of our Minnesota winter I had been experiencing!”
Want to learn more about travel to Antarctica? Email Linda at email@example.com.