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Explorer’s Journal: Voyage Antarctica with Destination Expert Jeanie

In this edition of Explorer’s Journal, Destination Expert Jeanie O’Halloran ventures to the coldest, most remote place on Earth: Antarctica. Keep reading as she breaks down what an Antarctica expedition is like so that you can be well-prepared for an unforgettable journey to the White Continent.

Hello fellow explorers! It’s Destination Expert, Jeanie here to take you along with me on my journey to The White Continent. Antarctica is geographically the closest landmass to South America, which made it quite easy for me to visit as I currently call Santiago, Chile home.

How to get to Antarctica

To get started, I took a 3.5-hr. flight south to Punta Arenas – the capital city of Chile’s most southern region – as I overlooked the Strait of Magellan. Upon checking in to my hotel at the main square, I headed downstairs for a briefing and to collect my boots that I would need on land excursions in Antarctica. At dinnertime, we were advised to be on standby the following day as the airline waited for appropriate weather to fly.

By mid-afternoon the following day, we were notified of an expected 9PM departure. I used the day to explore Punta Arenas before heading to the airport, completely dressed in all the necessary clothing for Antarctica!

SA Expeditions Antarctica Airways and Antarctica 21 Magellan Explorer cruise
Before every Antarctica landing, the crew briefs every passenger on decontamination protocols and eco-friendly procedures to follow on the Antarctica expedition. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

The flight to Antarctica took 2 hours. I was pleasantly surprised with a nice amount of legroom and a decent snack and beverage service aboard. We landed to a windy Antarctica where an airline vehicle transported us to the beach. There, we put on our lifejackets and boarded the zodiacs for an exciting (and bumpy) ride to our cruise, the Magellan Explorer.

Onboard the Magellan Explorer

SA Expeditions and Antarctica 21 Magellan Explorer cruise
It’s not as cold as you’d think! The temperature can be warm enough to enjoy some coffee and tea on the sun deck. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

My stay on the Magellan Explorer surprised me on every front. I could not have imagined a more comfortable cruise in such a remote part of the world. My cabin was sufficiently spacious, with its own private veranda where I could enjoy a hot coffee in the morning as I kept an eye out for whales and penguins passing by.

The ensuite featured a heated towel rack and underfloor heating, which were so appreciated after returning from an excursion. The ship itself offers a sauna, gym, library, and lounge/bar area which is used for briefings and post-dinner lectures.

Staff provided varied buffets for breakfast and lunch, while dinner was a four-course affair, and each evening we were offered a new house wine to try with our meal. My favorite was the hot fruit crumbles at lunch, a perfect way to warm up after a morning out in the elements.

Antarctica wildlife and excursions

Orca, leopard seal, and seal in Antarctica zodiac cruise
Spotting whales, leopard seals, and elephant seals on our excursions! (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

How your time is spent in Antarctica will all depend on weather, and being flexible and open-minded will help ensure you have an enjoyable trip. Assuming conditions are good, you generally get to enjoy two outings a day – normally one hike and one zodiac cruise. Depending on the boat, you might also get to try out some adventure excursions, such as kayaking, camping, and even a polar plunge! While my trip in particular was cut short due to adverse flying conditions, I was more than satisfied with everything I saw and did. As a child, one of my favorite toys was a rubber Orca Whale which I played with at bath time. Finally, at the age of 32, I got to see an Orca for the very first time! In addition, we saw plenty of penguins, humpback whales, elephant seals, and leopard seals.

Prepping for the weather

SA Expeditions Destination Expert Jeanie O'Halloran clothing in Antarctica cruise
Dress for success, Antarctica edition. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

Preparation is key for Antarctica, and it’s important to have the right gear. The climate is milder than most would imagine. However, wind and rain can quickly complicate things. It’s important to dress in layers: one thermal layer, one fleece, and one rain parka, as well as waterproof trousers such as ski pants.

I found ski goggles better than sunglasses as they stopped the wind getting to my eyes, and though I thought I’d never use a balaclava, it really was useful when protecting my cheeks from the wind and sun. Cruises which allow you to arrive and depart by plane (such as the Magellan Explorer) rely heavily on optimal flying conditions. While this sometimes means starting your journey later than expected or finishing earlier, it allows you to completely skip the rough Drake Passage Crossing – something my sensitive stomach was grateful for!

SA Expeditions Antarctica zodiac cruise
Your future Antarctica zodiac excursion. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

Are you ready embark on this once-in-a-lifetime journey? Pack your thermal and boots, and take on this incredible Fly to Antarctica Expedition from Chile! If you’re up for the exhilaration, you can even cruise the infamous Drake Passage on the Antarctica Plancius Cruise via Argentina. Connect with a Destination Expert to start planning your Antarctic adventure!

About the author: Born and raised in Ireland, Jeanie O’Halloran has long been a part of SA Expeditions and has since become a leader of our destination team. Currently based in Santiago, Chile, Jeanie is a certified sommelier, a voracious bookworm, an avid world traveler, and she's helped hundreds of guests explore our unique world in unforgettable ways.

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