Traveling to the Antarctic lands is one of the most intense travel experiences in the world. This portion of the planet, happily preserved as a place of international scientific interest, is one of those few places where the true essence of travel persists in its most authentic and romantic state – adventure. www.travelrows.com
Travelers who venture through these latitudes today do not suffer the challenges and deprivations of the pioneers. The boats are safe and comfortable.
Although the passage through the dreaded Drake Pass puts, even in this XXI, the most trained stomachs to the test. But even so, sailing among the ice and visiting the beaches is something that cannot be described in words. It is one of the best travel plans that exist and until the doors of space are opened as remote as the traveler can aspire. And that’s why it’s expensive; much. A ‘cheap’ ticket for a 10-day cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula is around 5,000 dollars although it is possible to find last minute offers or special prices depending on the departure date.
When To Go
The season is short and runs from October to March coinciding with Spring and Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Most travelers opt for the months of January and February for several reasons. The first is climatic. The days are eternally long and the possibility of having clear days in full sun increases exponentially. But each month has its one: its advantages and disadvantages.
The months prior to the arrival of summer ( October-December) they’re hard. The snow covers the beaches and wildlife of Antarctica is preparing for the short and intense summer: species such as penguins or cormorants are in the process of courtship and the seals are about to give birth to their young. Midsummer runs between late December and mid-February.
The young sea lion and penguin are born and whales and killer whales begin to arrive. The days are long and the sun appears frequently. From mid-February to the end of March the days begin to get shorter and shorter and the weather begins to appear unpredictable although the ice is at its minimum point which allows it to go south. It is also the most spectacular time to observe wildlife. The whale season is at its peak.
What Trip To Choose
The first thing to keep in mind: smaller boats offer expedition trips with landings at different points; large and luxurious cruises are limited to navigating Antarctic waters and barely make landings. The shorter programs are around 10 days. You have to consider the following things:
* The first day is that of boarding and the last day of arrival. It takes two days to cross the Drake Pass in each direction and that leaves us with four days in Antarctic lands.
* The most frequent departure cities are Ushuaia, in Argentina, and Punta Arenas, in Chile. There are also departures from Puerto Madryn or even Buenos Aires.
But purely Antarctic cruises leave the two southern cities. The usual destinations are South Shetland Islands and several points of the Antarctic Peninsula. On longer cruises, other destinations such as the Georgias and Las Malvinas and the possibility of making small incursions to the Antarctic continent such as those that allow visiting colonies of the emperor penguin or camping.
It is obvious to say that, in these cases, the price rises considerably. Some agencies also organize visits to some research bases.
How to choose the right travel operator?
Before choosing a travel supplier you should check that their offers are on the list of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators. This organization ensures compliance with strict conservation standards that include, to give an example, the disinfection of the shoes of all travelers and travelers who step on Antarctic territory.
One of these rules has to do with the number of people who can be on the ground simultaneously: only 100 in most cases and 50 in very special places. That is why it is convenient to opt for small boats even without the luxuries of large cruises. Another issue to consider is the programming of activities on board. It is normal to have naturalistic experts who give lectures on the kingdom of ice.
In the South Shetland, the usual destinations are Elephant Island, King George Island, Greenwich Island, Aitcho Islets, Crescent Island, Livingston Island (Hannah Point) and Deception Island. In the northeastern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, cruise ships usually visit Paulet Island; Cerro Nevado Island and Esperanza Bay (Antarctic Peninsula). On the peninsular west coast, curdled with canals, islands with large mountains and sheltered bays, the star spots are Cuverville Island, Wiencke Island, Patermann Island and Neko Bay. Find out about the cruise route before making the choice.
The 10-day expeditions are called Classic Antarctica and usually cover two days in the South Shetland and two more in the Antarctic Peninsula. The price is around 6,000 dollars. The 14-day trips are called the Antarctic Circle, as they go further south of the 60th parallel. The axis of these trips are also the Shetland and peninsular territory although touching points further south: prices are around 8,000 dollars. The most complete trip usually takes between 20 and 24 days and part of the previous points, usually includes visits to the South Georgia and the Falklands. It is a brutal journey, but the price goes above 10,000 dollars.
Contact us for current prices and available Antarctica tours and expeditions.
Last minute offers
It is not a myth. The first option to achieve a somewhat lower price is to hire the first departures of November or the last ones of the month of March. They are usually between 15 and 20% cheaper than those scheduled in the middle of the season. The bad thing about this option is that the breeding season, in itself, has not started or is already in its last moments (in March), so the number of animals you will see will be less; and time can be more extreme. The other option is to try to catch a last minute offer in the three weeks prior to the departure of the boat or ask at the specialized agencies of Ushuaia. You can get tickets with discounts of up to 40% although it is difficult to get them.
In some companies travel insurance is included, but not in others. And here you have to take into account that most insurers use commercial flights to carry out repatriations in the event of an accident: but commercial flights do not reach Antarctica, so you must take out insurance that includes repatriation from the white continent . It is not a minor issue. You should ask the agency if the cruise you are going to hire has this insurance included. Traveling without insurance can turn out very expensive.
What to Wear?
In Antarctica temperatures rarely exceed zero degrees even in summer. It’s very cold and that demands special clothes. On boats they give you raincoats for frequent zodiac rides but you put the rest. The essentials are thermal underwear, snow equipment, waterproof jacket, a good hat, rubber boots with thermal insulation and gloves with fleece (for snow). Other essential accessories are sunglasses, sunscreen with a protection factor greater than 30 and lip balm. Despite the cold, the sun reflected in the ice can cause serious burns and blindness. In Ushuaia and Punta Arenas there are shops that rent special clothing for Antarctic expeditions.
What Do Cruises Offer?
The services included in the cruises are usually standard. Food, soft drinks, hot chocolate, water, infusions, talks and scheduled excursions. There are cruises that organize special expeditions such as kayaking trips, camping on land, diving and helicopter trips to visit the emperor penguins. These services are expensive: kayaking and diving trips can cost around 250 dollars and camping and internal flights can go to 1,000. Another service not included is alcoholic beverages. And remember that everything here is quoted in dollars although some ships accept euros although at unfavorable exchange rates. The Argentine and Chilean pesos save them for when you return to port.
The Temporary Drake Step; Fly To The Shetland
Some cruises offer the possibility to fly directly to the Shetland Islands (King George Island) from the mainland and join the cruise after the fearsome Drake Pass. The two days of crossing between the southern tip of America and the sub-Antarctic islands are hard. The waves can exceed 10 meters and some stomachs (even the most tolerant of dizziness) do not leave the trance well. Flights usually depart from Punta Arenas and make the ticket more expensive. The worst of this option is that you will miss the scientific talks. Even if you are not prone to motion sickness, do not forget to take motion sickness pills.
It is advised to travel with children over 12 years and wise to check with the travel operator the min. age as different companies may have different requirements.
Obliged to carry a good photographic equipment. In the backpack (waterproof, of course) you can not miss a tripod, a pair of lenses with sufficient magnification, a wide angle and a protective bag for the camera. On the ships there are heads of photography that will help you get the most out of your equipment. There are also lectures on nature photography and adverse conditions.
In our next article – information about currently available tours and cruises, expeditions to Antarctica and how we can help you to pick the best one. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or to ask them in comments to this article. Thank you.