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See Amazing Ice-Scapes
Like nowhere else on earth, you'll see incredible ice structures which seem to glow blue in the sunlight
Young King penguins look super-cute, brown and fluffy before they develop their adult coat
Get Close Up
Many Antarctic ships offer optional trips in small craft (zodiacs) or kayaks, so you can come face to face with wildlife
Cruising in Antarctica would not be possible without specialist ships with ice-breaking capabilities - normally former research vessels
With so many unique photo opportunities Antarctica is a wildlife photographer's dream
Whilst Antarctica remains the most pristine wilderness visited only by a privileged few, there are a growing number of ways to get to this magnificent area, via specialist Antarctic tour expedition companies. If you'd like some expert advice from someone who's visited Antarctica an understands the trips and ships, contact Andrea.
Explore Antarctica by ship
Small ice-strengthened vessels can navigate their way through Antarctica's icy waters, deep into the bays and channels that only open up for a few warmer months each year. A few elite, well-equipped expedition cruise ships depart Argentina's southern tip, Ushuaia, between November and March, heading either across the notorious Drakes Passage or via the wildlife rich eastern islands of the Falklands and South Georgia.
See whales, penguins and seals
Antarctic cruises promise an inspiring insight into the most pristine wilderness on Earth. Within these waters you’re likely to encounter whales, including the great Humpbacks species. It’s quite possible you’ll see pods of Orcas swimming by as you’re chatting out on deck.
On land, you’ll encounter penguins of all shapes, sizes and colours - with their comedy waddle, they will always delight! Mix them up on a beach with some lazing, blubber-filled elephant seals and the occasional more boisterous fur seal - and you truly have a nature lover’s paradise.
Pick an itinerary that includes your favourite wildlife
The extent of wildlife you'll see differs significantly between itineraries:
- Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Island trips will take you far south encountering colossal icebergs, brash ice, Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguin colonies, whales and seals.
- Longer trips taking in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands open up the world of the colourful King Penguin, the crazy Rockhoppers and the nesting grounds of the Black-Browed Albatross
- The magical beaches of Salisbury Plain and Gold Harbour are so remote that they have evolved into astonishing wildlife havens, boasting several thousand King Penguins and their chicks, plus huge populations of Elephant and Fur Seals.
Choosing a ship to suit
Exploration of the Polar region is possible by the use of small expedition ships which are specially built or reconditioned to navigate to these remote corners of the world. Their sea faring and ice breaking capabilities offer the chance to access serene wilderness and extreme wildlife in areas previously only visited by the hardiest of explorers. What's more, you’re able to do this in the style and comfort offered by these specialist vessels.
What to consider when choosing a ship
There are many things to consider before deciding which trip will work best for you. All of the expedition ships are small enough to get you up close and personal with the wildlife and dramatic scenery, taking you on zodiac cruises and shore landings where you can immerse yourself in this wonderful place. You may however be guided by time, levels of luxury, or by the additional activities that some ships offer over others, such as sea kayaking, camping on the ice, or indeed ice climbing or cross country skiing. Specialist photographic voyages are also available if this is your passion.
South Georgia, Falklands & Antarctic Circle
While South Georgia and the Falklands offer additional wildlife highlights, like the King Penguins, heading further south into the Antarctic circle itself will introduce more dramatic scenery. If you feel too many days at sea is off-putting, you can even fly to and from the South Shetlands and meet your expedition ship there.
For a fascinating glimpse into the lives and ordeals of the early explorers, consider an itinerary that takes you through South Georgia, which has a long and fascinating history; from Captain Cook’s first landing, through to the legendary tales of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, this is a land that has a rich and varied past.
Whichever extremes tick your boxes, we guarantee you will leave your ship feeling like you have just participated in one of the great ‘once in a lifetime experiences’.
Best time to visit Antarctica
Exploration via ship is limited to the summer months of November to February, outside of which you simply could not get there by ship. During the summer period and as weather patterns change, the ice will alter and the wildlife will be in different stages of reproduction.
At the beginning of the season, the conditions are likely to be colder and the ice will still breaking up, which adds to the adventure. At this time of year, landing grounds are untouched and the icescapes perhaps at their most pristine. Although wildlife may seem less plentiful at this time, it's the optimum time to see penguins mating and building nests for their young.
Between December and January is a very popular time to travel as many penguin chicks will be hatching! By February the sea has warmed, attracting legions of krill which is the prime time to spot feeding Humpback, Minke and Orca whales. You may also find there's better access for travelling south at this time, although some wildlife may have left the shores.
Climate and clothing
The weather on an Antarctic cruise is incredibly variable. You should anticipate some wind and rain, fog and possibly rough seas, while the Drake Passage may or may not live up to its rocky reputation. On the other hand, it’s also fair to expect periods of blue skies, still, reflective water and an air of magnificent calm. Being well-dressed and prepared for changeable weather will make your trip even more enjoyable. Waterproofs and wellington boots can be hired on board and thermals are a must.
Getting there and away
If your time is limited or you lack confidence in your sea legs, you can fly directly to the north of the Antarctic Peninsula itself - direct flights are available between Punta Arenas in Chile and King George Island in the South Shetlands.
Though a longer journey, the Southern Ocean is also crossable from both Australia and New Zealand. Trips depart from/to Perth, Tasmania and Christchurch. Whichever route you take, be assured that you will be led by a crew, guides and lecturers who all share the same passion and excitement for this extraordinary journey.
We can arrange your pre-tour accommodation and flights to Ushuaia (Argentina), where you board your Antarctic expedition ship. These flights route via Buenos Aires, so why not combine your trip with a few days in this exciting city? Fly/cruise packages can also start or end in Punta Arenas in Chile. We can organise flights, accommodation and day tours to suit, or create a more complex itinerary if you prefer.
Why not also consider combining your Antarctic adventure with deeper exploration of the South American continent? If your trip to Antarctica starts or ends in Australia/New Zealand, we have lots of round the world itineraries to help you make this part of a bigger trip.