Traveling to Antarctica is a once in a life-time opportunity, and one which tops the bucket lists of many travelers…including us! And, with Spectacular glacial lagoons, dramatic icebergs, vast areas of remote wilderness, breaching whales and deep-diving seals, it’s not hard to see why.
Antarctica really is the final frontier!
Almost everyone who travels to Antarctica travels on a cruise, which is a fantastic option as it combines accommodation, transport, meals and activities all in one. While camping is available in some circumstances once ashore, there is hardly any infrastructure on the continent itself, and as such cruising is best option available for accommodation purposes.
90% of cruises leave from Ushuaia, Argentina, across the Drake Passage, however some cruise companies offer departures from Australia or New Zealand, and explore the Ross Sea side of Antarctica.
For those serious about travel to the Antarctic, Lonely Planet’s Antarctica travel guide has more information.
#1 Book a Last Minute Cruise
For an average trip consisting of a 10 day cruise you should expect to pay around $5,800 US or £ 3,700.
You can, however, considerably cut down your costs by NOT booking your trip in advance. Last minute deals are readily available for those willing to show up in Ushuaia in November/December; you may need to be flexible with dates, however can potentially save a few thousand dollars.
#2 Book to Step Foot on the Continent
Make sure your itinerary includes the opportunity to step foot on the Antarctic Continent, as some cruise companies won’t allow you to get off the ship.
One of the main draws of Antarctica is the phenomenal wildlife; hundreds of emperor penguins, leopard seals, exotic birdlife; wouldn’t you actually want to walk among the spectacular wildlife you’ve traveled to the edge of the earth to see?!
Read Jonny Blair’s account of what it’s like to step onto the Antarctic Peninsula.
#3 Know Which Costs Are Included
You may think you’ve found a killer deal on a cruise to Antarctica, but be sure to double check and fully research all of the trip details and associated costs.
A lot of companies will offer hugely discounted rates, however not cover inclusions such as food or optional activities like kayaking during your trip. Make sure you’re aware what is included and what’s not, and balance this against more expensive cruises which do include everything for you.
Some itineraries also include travel to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands as part of the trip (something to consider as you’re traveling all this way!), and check for optional activities like kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, helicopter rides or camping.
#4 Don’t Overdress
Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living recommends not to overdress.
The air was clean, clear and crisp. I was ridiculously over-dressed. They had told me that Antarctica would be cold so I feared the worst. I needn’t have bothered.
Two coats and two pairs of trousers and socks was extreme, but I was already dressed for the landing as we anchored off shore. I was even sweating!
Aim for quality of clothing over quantity (also remembering you have to fit everything in your bag). Make sure your jacket is windproof, waterproof and comfortable, and that it covers your lower back.
Consider which colours look better in photos (bright colors is a good way to go). And pack a hat which covers your ears.
#5 Record Your Adventure
The old saying “photos or it didn’t happen”applies here! Be sure you’re set with enough equipment to properly chronicle your adventure.
Antarctica is a once in a lifetime trip; a continent most people only ever dream of stepping foot on; so this could well be the trip which is worth the investment in good camera equipment.
For ametuer photographers, we use a point and shoot Canon PowerShot SX50. All of our photography is shot from this camera, and the photo quality is astounding.
Carry multiple memory cards and back-up batteries with you. Cold environments drain battery power at a quicker rate than in warmer climates. We summited Mt Kilimanjaro only to find the glacial environment had killed our camera battery!
You may also consider traveling with a diary to record each day’s adventure, or alternatively a voice recorder works well for those not keen on writing. Also, think about investing in a decent pair of binoculars.