From the Expert’s Desk

How can the most isolated island in the world give you the most exceptional experience, you wonder? Nothing beats the rich biodiversity, majestic topography, and pristine culture that Antarctica has been able to preserve thanks to it being the most remote continent in the world.

In the age of over-tourism, our cruising expert Kiran Bhandari shares his experience and knowledge on how mindful travel will help us preserve the rugged wilderness in this continent of Antarctica.

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.” ― Andrew Denton

Antarctica is the most epic experience imaginable that words are not grandiose enough to describe, or a place that photographs can do justice to. It is just possibly the most special place on our planet!

Getting There: Antarctica, as remote as it sounds, has had visitors ever since the early 1900’s. In fact, more than 50,000 from around the world visit Antarctica every year… and that number is growing year on year. There are two main ways for tourists to get to Antarctica – a cruise crossing, or a flight across.

The cruise journey takes typically around a day and a half or two, and your cross the notorious Drake Passage. You cannot quite predict how the crossing is likely to be. Of course, some are very easy (the Drake Lake) and you won’t even know that you crossed the passage. Or they can be slightly rough (the Drake Shake). But fret not, the roughness can be handled with motion sickness medication, ginger candies, light tummies following the Drake Diet (green apples) and anti-nausea patches. With over 50,000 guests going to Antarctica, and more than 90% crossing the Drake on the ships, there isn’t anything to worry should you choose this option. 

Should you be short on time, or are worried of the Drake passage, you can choose to fly across. After 3 hours flying time, the aircraft will land on King George island, from where you will then proceed to embark on your ship.

Itineraries: Depending on the time available, your specific interests, you can choose which of these itineraries suit you.

The most common itinerary covers the Antarctica Peninsula. The Peninsula experience is usually 4 to 5 days, with typically 2 landings a day. Plus the going and coming back via the ship route, you are looking at these itineraries being 9 to 10 days.

Some guests, who want to brag about crossing the Antarctic Circle, take the itineraries which go further and cross the Antarctic Circle (66°33‘ degree South). You are looking to add 2 more days to your typical itineraries in this case. 

And there are the South Georgia itineraries. South Georgia is home to the King Penguins. Itineraries that go here, to one of the most beautiful places on the planet, also typically include visit to the Falkland Islands. You are looking at these itineraries bring around 17 to 18 days in total.

When do you visit Antarctica? Antarctica season is typically between mid November to early March. That said, Many of the most premium cruises typically operate between early December and late February, skipping November and March altogether. This is also the period when you have nearly 21 to 24 hours of daylight, and wildlife is at its most abundant. Our team is at hand to guide you in detail on how the experience is in each of these months.

How do I choose my ship? Ships are classified in different categories in Antarctica, depending on their capacity. The large 500+ passenger ships do pass by the region, and offer a look-see experience. You don’t get off the ship, and it’s a pure sightseeing experience. The expedition ships (65 guests to  250 guests) are ideally sized, comply with the regulations which allow daily landings in Antarctica, and allow an in-depth exploration of the Peninsula and a wide range of intimate nature and wildlife experiences of the region.

What do you do in Antarctica? Antarctica can never be alike for any two people – it is be what you want it to be, and you can choose which experiences you want and like based on your personal interests and fitness levels.

Expedition ships plan a roster of experiences in the region. Most provide at-least two opportunities per day, weather conditions permitting, to get off the ship and onto land or on the Zodaic cruises.

Whilst on land, you could hike up to vantage points to take in the immensity of the region: with such clean air, everything feels closer and smaller than it really is, and it just takes a bit of comparative perspective – like seeing the ship in the backdrop of the hills, to get a sense of scale of this region. The landings allow you to walk amongst the penguins or molting seals. And whilst up-close, you can experience first-hand the crazy antics of the Penguins – the master criminals who often steal rocks from one anther to make their nests; the mating calls and rituals, or the ambling long walks they take in the landscapes.

The Zodiac cruises offer a very different perspective from the sea level, allowing guests to view the glacial sculptures up close, and have up-close encounters with the porpoising penguins (as slowly as they walk, they are super swimmers), breaching whales or seals. 

The more adventurous ones can partake into experiences such as snow-shoeing, kayaking, snorkelling, camping, or my personal favourite, the polar plunge into the icy waters of Antarctica.

About the writer: Kiran Bhandari is a cruise aficionado, and he has personally cruised across Alaska, Asia, Arctic, Antarctica, Europe, Tahiti and many more destinations around the world. 


Image Courtesy : Kiran Bhandari, Silversea Cruises


Image Courtesy : Kiran Bhandari, Silversea Cruises