Antarctica is the continent less travelled and a place that conjures up images of myth and fantasy for many. It is the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth with no indigenous human population and is teeming with wild life.
Unlike its northern cousin, the Antarctic has not experienced the same scale of whaling as the Arctic and as a result the wildlife are intrigued by visitors. Everywhere you look the landscape is teeming with penguins, whales, seals and sea lions playing amongst the white and blue coloured ice. The landscape is so unique and natural life runs so smoothly that you suddenly realise how insignificant humans really.
Best experienced during the summer months of November to March, tours depart from numerous locations with Argentina being the most common port ships dock in.
Tours operate anywhere from 10 days to 20 days and are varied from cruises where you rarely get off the ship to more adventurous trips including kayaking around ice bergs and spending the night sleeping on the ice. To really get a sense for the scale of place try to choose a tour that does shore landings and zodiac cruises in small rubber boats between the ice burgs.
Not only will Antarctica humble you but the last great wilderness on earth acts as a stark reminder of what potential environmental impacts could be.
Convinced to take the far journey south? Here are the top tips all girls need to know before departing for the icy southern continet:
Choose a sustainable tour operator
Antarctica is currently facing some of the worst effects of climate change due to rising temperatures. In order to limit your environmental impact on the continent make sure that the tour operator you chose is a part of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). Licensed tour operators who have signed up with the IAATO have all pledged to ensure sustainable practices in the Antarctic and we can all do our bit to protect this unique un spoilt place for generations to come.
The weather in Antarctica is unpredictable and even during the summer months it is going to be cold. After all, it is not the coldest and windiest place on earth for no reason. Investing in a good pair of thermal under layers and waterproof outer layers are going to make sure that you stay warm and dry. The last thing you want is to get sick whilst down there. Check to see if the tour company you are traveling with provides cold weather gear as some do.
Did you pack your sea legs?
The Drake Passage is one of the most feared ocean crossings in the world and can alternate between calm and ferocious quickly. Many people find that they only suffer from sea sickness on the journey on the open ocean to and from the Antarctic. Make sure you take some sea sickness medication with you, even if you do not normally get sea sick. You might not need it, but your cabin mate might be very thankful that you thought to bring it.
Things you wouldn’t think to take
Make sure you bring enough SD cards for your camera, the last thing you want is to run out of space. You will take many more pictures than you think you will.
If you have heard of the hole in the ozone layer, you might also recall that it’s over Antarctica. The sun down there is harsh and you will want to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin to avoid a nasty burn. Also consider taking a reusable water bottle with you too. Due to the cold many people forget to drink enough water and can become dehydrated quickly.
Want to save some cash?
With tours starting at around $5,000 and up and above $20,000, it’s not cheap to travel to the Antarctic. If you are looking to save some cash or are traveling on the cheap, then consider traveling to the port city of Ushuaia in Argentina where the majority of ships depart from towards the end of the summer season. During this time tour operators are looking to fill up ships and you can get a vastly reduced ticket on a cruise.
Take away memories and leave nothing behind
Due to the unique nature of Antarctic being so cold and dry, anything left behind will freeze in time. This means that it never breaks down or decomposes and will forever stay there polluting the landscape. Make sure you leave nothing behind and never take food onto the continent or its islands. This includes lens caps and making sure you don’t drop it by mistake.
Experiencing Antarctica is like nothing else and the experience will leave you wondering if it was real or if you had dreamt up the high white mountains and ice landscape.
Are you ready for Antarctica?