Here’s how to make the most out of your Antarctica cruise. Whether you’re paddling its icy waters in a kayak or exploring its snow-covered reaches on foot, you should never be bored.
With wildlife galore, the cleanest air on the planet, and more photo opportunities than you can possibly imagine, the White Continent is a bucket list destination if ever there was one. Follow these tips to make every second of your air-cruise with Antarctica XXI count.
Weather permitting, you’ll go on two Zodiac excursions every day. Just riding in a Zodiac – small inflatable boats with outboard motors – is an experience in itself, but this is just the beginning. The extremely maneuverable Zodiacs can be used for cruising (to get close to a leopard seal lazing on an ice floe, for example, or to do a drive-by of a penguin rookery) or as a bridge between the ship and the land… That’s right, you’ll actually get to explore Antarctica on your own two feet. Depending on where you are, you may check out the spot where Shackleton sheltered for four months or walk on a volcanic beach that also happens to be home to world’s largest Chinstrap penguin colony. Our Antarctica itineraries are famous for their flexibility, so be prepared for impromptu Zodiac missions to see breaching humpback whales or fantastical ice formations.
If you want to get technical, this is more of an expedition than a cruise – as evidenced by the fact that many of the staff on board are real scientists. Every evening after dinner there’s a lecture (don’t worry, you can bring a drink with you) by one of the resident experts. Every trip is different but the crew generally includes some or all of the following: marine biologists, oceanographers, glaciologists and historians, to mention but a few. As one guest said, “The scientists on board were so patient and passionate that we started to fall in love with what we saw in Antarctica.”
It doesn’t get more intimate and inspiring than paddling yourself through Antarctic waters. For a once-off fee you get to go on kayaking excursions whenever conditions allow. (Nothing is guaranteed, but the sea is generally pretty calm and guests report being able to go out as many as eight times during their cruise). You’ll glide noiselessly past icebergs and float amongst penguins, seals and – if you’re really lucky – whales. Each trip lasts about an hour-and-a-half and you’ll also get a chance to get out and walk around a bit. You do need some previous kayaking experience, but don’t worry if you’re not Olympic standard. Be sure to request this option well in advance – numbers are limited and it sells out quickly.
Perhaps you’re more of a landlubber and the idea of exploring Antarctica’s pristine landscapes holds more appeal? If you opt for the snowshoeing add-on, your mountain guide will work with the expedition leader to look for the best hiking or snowshoeing opportunities on each given day. You’ll get to walk on fresh snow and visit places very few people have ever been lucky enough to clap eyes on. This option is extremely popular with photographers, as the group is limited to 12 people and the landing points are quite remote. This option is dependent on weather conditions and hiking opportunities: most guests report going snowshoeing/hiking three or four times and doing the regular Zodiac trips the rest of the time. No experience is required but you do need to be fairly fit. And be sure to book well in advance.
This add-on takes place on the last scheduled day of your cruise, once you’ve returned to mainland South America. It’s a great way to maximize your time in the Deep South and it allows you to add another species of penguin to your list. Once you’ve landed at Punta Arenas you’ll travel by motorboat to Marta and Magdalena Islands. You’ll get out and explore Magdalena (home to more than 150,000 Magellanic Penguins) before sailing past Marta and observing its thousand-strong sea lion colony. In total you’ll spend about 4.5 hours on the water, and there’s a great chance of spotting dolphins and seabirds (including some species which aren’t found in Antarctica. In addition to the fantastic wildlife and scenery, this trip also provides a valuable time buffer if bad weather delays your return flight from Antarctica. You’ll get back to Punta Arenas at around lunch time, and spend a night in a hotel there (included) before catching your onward flight the following morning.
Keen to see Antarctica for yourself? Check out our Antarctica itineraries here or speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.