What Experiences Can you Have on an Antarctic Cruise?
Some might say that any trip to Antarctica is enough of an experience in itself. However, there are additional activities you can do to add to that overall experience as well as a range of experiences you can expect on most Antarctic cruises. Below we go through these in more detial.
If you have never heard of a "Zodiac" you will get to know all about them quickly on an Antarctic Cruise. The Zodiac is a small and versatile inflatable craft that hold 10 to 12 people and is the vital link between the ship and onshore landings. Ideally you need to be reasonably able bodies to get on and off a Zodiac although crew members are there to help. Zodiacs are also used for boat excursions around icebergs and inlets and there is often the choice of going ashore or taking a Zodiac cruise around the bay. Life jackets must be worn while on the Zodiac.
Informative on board lectures from polar experts in history, wildlife and the environment are an important part of the Antarctic experience. The first lectures include safety drills and learning about the ship but these quickly pass to lectures that will enhance your experience of what you are seeing. There is also usually a daily briefing by the expedition leader where the plan for the upcoming day is discussed. Antarctic itineraries are designed to be flexible so as to take weather conditions into account so the daily briefings are an important part of the experience. Most ships will have decent lecture facilities, often a specific lecture room on ship.
One of the most exciting parts of an Antarctic Cruise is actually setting foot on the continent. There will usually be several opportunities to do so on a cruise although all landings are weather dependent and your safety is paramount. There are strict limits to the numbers of passengers who can land at any one place at one time (something to keep in mind when looking at the size of ships). Once on land you are usually restricted to a particular walking route which will be mapped out in advance. This is both for safety reasons (you don't want to fall down a crevasse) and also to minimise the impact on the the land and wildlife. Rubber boots are provided for all landings and you will need to sterilise these and your kit beforehand (instruction and assistance given onboard).
You might be looking for more activities on your Antarctic cruise, or if you like the idea of seeing Antarctica from a new perspective, then why not try a sea kayak experience? Kayaking allows you to appreciate Antarctica's silence and grandeur without the outboard engines of the zodiac. Kayaking can be done on most cruises, with the possibility to go out as many times as the conditions permit. There tends to be a fixed fee for Kayaking regardless of how many times you do it. See individual trips dossiers for further detials.
At the top of most peoples list of reasons to go to Antarctic are the wildlife viewing opportunities. For a part of the world with such a hostile environment it is amazing how much life there is on land, in the sea and air. Parts of Antarctica and the nearby Islands such as the Falklands and South Georgia can have huge concentrations of wildlife at various times of the year and you are sure to see a good variety on most trips. This tends to start with birdlife as you cross the oceans with whales and dolphins often also seen. Once at Antarctica, penguins of several varieties and seals are abundant. Each cruise will have onboard experts who will tell you all about what you are seeing.
There are few things more thrilling than taking a sleeping bag with you and going camping on the ice. This is a must-do for anyone who enjoys adventure but can make for an uncomfortable night! On the plus side you will have the camping story to end all camping stories. While you sleep, you'll listen to the creaking of ice and hear the chattering penguins before returning to the ship in the early hours of the morning to enjoy a hot shower and a welcome breakfast. Many cruises include camping.
South Georgia is often said to be the "Serengeti of the Southern Ocean" with the Island being home to a vast concentration fo wildlife against a backdrop of dramatic scenery and the knowledge you really are in the middle of nowhere! This is a photographer's paradise with up to 200,000 King penguins, Albatross and beaches crowded out with huge elephant seals. Add to this a fascinating historical tale of whalers, and explorers, not least part of the Shackleton story and if you have the chance a cruise here is not to be missed.
A friendly and remote outpost of the UK these sparsely populated islands are a wildlife enthusiasts paradise, particularly for birds as the islands host over 200 species including 5 alone of Penguins. You an also expect to see sea lions, elephant and fur seals, whales and dolphins. Add to this some beautiful and contrasting scenery (white sandy beaches!) and rich history and the Falklands are a little visited destination that won't disappoint. The islands can be visited on a variety of cruises - just ask us for more detials or see the Cruises section.
Only a few cruises are made each year to the Weddell Sea and it's ice-filled waters. Here you will see vast, flat icebergs like nowhere else. You may also see the majestic Emperor Penguins as well as the vast colony of Adelie Penguins at Paulet Island. There is also plenty of history in the Weddell as this was where Shackleton's ship Endurance became trapped in ice leading to the extraordinary story of the rescue of the crew. Just to be in this part of Antarctica brings a new dimemsion to that achievement.
One of the most remote places on Earth where you can experience nature at its best. A trip to the Ross Sea also offers a rare opportunity to visit the Sub-Antarctic Islands en-route. You also have the chance to explore historic huts from the history of Antarctic exploration. See the Ross Ice Shelf and the towering Erebus volcano. for wildlife enthusiasts there are Southern Right Whales, Petrels, Parakeets, Emperor, King, Royal, Rockhopper and Gentoo Penguins. Albatross, Elephant seals and rare New Zealand sea lions can also be seen.
Most cruises include what is known as "The Polar Plunge." Sometimes, the Polar Plunge takes place offshore, but in most cases it is done from the Zodiac or gangway. Participants wear a tethered harness, and can plunge into the polar waters either from the Zodiac side or the safety of the Gangplank. The safety of the Polar Plunge is paramount. An onboard physician attends to all participants. As guests jump or cannonball into the polar waters, guides in survival gear circle the area with Zodiacs. Having done it apparently comes with some bragging rights!
For any avid diver, the chance to dive in Antarctica is hard to resist. Scuba diving in Antarctica, however, is quite different from what you would experience in warmer waters. It is therefore strictly controlled. Divers must submit a 'dive CV' that demonstrates extensive cold water diving experience (below 5°C) and proficiency with drysuit use to ensure safety and enjoyment. Only a few ships offer diving, and only on certain departure dates. We liase with our seasoned Antarctic dive specialist Raf Jah for dive requests.
Our ATOL license is number 10287 and booking with us provides you 100% financial protection. We are members of ABTA - The Association of British Travel Agents, member number Y1699 which has a strict code of conduct we happily adhere to.