Antarctica Travel Guide

King penguins, Antarctica | Arctic and Antarctic Travel Guide


Set sail from Ushuaia (Argentina) on a small ship cruise south towards the white continent of Antarctica or detour east to the Falkland Islands, home to English gardens and giant albatross. Stop-off in South Georgia and stand awestruck at the penguin colonies, hear the roar of elephant seals and explore the abandoned whaling stations. Cruise across the Southern Ocean and peer through your porthole to see humpback whales and pods of orcas. Enter ice-choked waters near the Antarctic Peninsula and kayak between glistening ice sculptures, swimming seals and glowing blue bergs. Camp overnight on the ice, visit scientific bases and find washed up whalebones the length of a boat.

Humpback whale, Antarctica

Antarctica wildlife

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.

Zooming around on zodiac boats

Choosing an Antarctica itinerary

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.

Get out and explore the wilderness by kayak

Best time to visit Antarctica

Exploration 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.

Your cruise ship takes you through the dramatic scenery

Choosing a ship

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.

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.

Choose the right clothing for your Antarctica adventure

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.

To plan your trip to Antarctica call us on +44 1273 320 580 or contact any of our team who’ve been there:

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