- Posted: 30 March, 2020
- Category: Antartica
Antarctica: The Indescribable!
Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula which we also did, and the departure was from South America, particularly from Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego).
Booked my trip to Antarctica the day I read an article randomly about the climate change and how Antarctica is melting. Booked my trip to Antarctica 6 months prior to trip departure. My trip was scheduled to depart March 9th, which is towards the end of the Antarctic season.
To be honest, I didn’t do much research for this trip! My friend Sulaiman (thank you!), was the one who did all the research, asked his friend who has been previously visited Antarctica through an expedition cruise, and had forwarded me all the information needed to know.
My flight was from Kuwait (transit depending on the airline of choice), at the time I picked to travel on KLM so I stopped for a long transit in Amsterdam (its been too long since I was at Amsterdam), then to Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires a flight to the south, Ushuaia was about 3 hours something. Ofcourse there are other airlines that you could explore that takes you to Buenos Aires, and from there you could take Aerolineas Argentina (Argentinian airlines) to take you to Ushuaia.
To go to Antarctica, you can get to Antarctica by boat or plane. I took the boat option so here’s information that could help direct you to what to look for when you book, or even explore the option I picked! (This is not a sponsored Ad btw, this is my experience and these my opinions)
The season to visit Antarctica is October to March.
Usually the trip is through expedition cruises/ships!
I went with Oceanwide Expeditions, and we were on a ship called m/v Plancius. Trip length: 11 days in March (end of season!). The company is from the Netherlands.
We’ve booked for this trip 6 months ahead of trip time, but it’s the kind of trip where other people plan really ahed of time to be on board of this ship (OR VERY LAST MINUTE to get the best discounts available .. risky though!)
Prior to departure, you will be provided with an overview itinerary, how to prepare and what to pack, things that you might need, activities and a chance to sign up for the activities ahead of time and of course you’ll need to make payments pre-departure.
Pre-departure and of course before finalizing your booking you’ll need to choose which room category you’d like to be in. Now this is determined by two factors:
- If you’re traveling alone of with other people/ your comfort level sharing with others.
- Your budget.
After looking into those two factors, checkout the available rooming options and decide! There are different types of rooming, there’s Quadruple (bunk beds), Triple, Twin, and Double (Suite, biggest)!
The above is where I stayed, and the below is one of my friend’s where he shared a room with someone else. You could book whichever room category that suits you best!
When I first saw the vessel, I was a little bit worried. The vessel was parked in the port next to one of the huge cruise lines, and it looked so tiny next to it. But to be honest, I did expect it to be big either.. I guess I didn’t know what to expect at that point.
It was 89 meters high, spacious from the inside with multilevel decks (6 decks). My room was on deck 5, in the middle of the ship sort of.
How long does it really take to get to Antarctica?
The journey Itself is divided between sailing – at sea, and being in Antarctica. So its good to know how many days on ship sailing and how many days enjoying the Antarctic region.
Simplistically, 2 days sailing out, 6 days in Antarctica, 3 days sailing back.
Lake or a shake?
When I first experience the first two days going into the Drake Passage – (when I first heard of a drake passage I thought it’s a small tiny passage which we will pass by for 3 or 4 hours max, turns out it’s a 2 day thing! Hah!) the drake was as they called a lake. Which means, the wind was not as high or as strong/windy, and the ocean was not rough so the waves were so very low.
With that said, I was extremely nauseous those first two days! I actually packed with me this trip sea-sickness ALTHOUGH I do not suffer any motion sickness or anything as such and never did. I did bring them anyway for emergency and just incase.. I almost finished the whole pack!
My pills had non-drowsy sticker on them, but I was almost sleeping the entire day. (I guess that was a good thing at the time..)
On the way back, it was a drake SHAKE! The winds were strong, the waves were high (average of 6 meters), and there was an expected hurricane which we thankfully avoided.
Funny enough, the shake was worse than the lake, but the nausea was so much better! I did take pills anyway, one in the morning and one at night since I did not want to experience what I went through before – worked well for me!
Oh Btw, theres another way to reach if you’d like to avoid the Drake Passage, travelers preferring to skip the Drake Passage can fly out of Punta Arenas, Chile directly to an airstrip on an island adjacent to the Antarctic Peninsula. From there, they’ll board the expedition ship and be standing face to face with glaciers and penguins just a few hours after departing Punta Arenas.
Why didn’t I go on a larger cruise? Larger ships that do quick cruise-by’s, providing only glimpses of Antarctica, often carry upward of 500 – 2,000 passengers. Alternatively, expedition ships typically carry between just 70 and 200 passengers, but never more than 200. Smaller group sizes comply with tourism regulations on the 7th Continent, and allow for a substantially wider array of activities, including daily landings on islands and the physical continent itself, and intimate, Zodiac cruises amongst icebergs and wildlife.
This type of exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula is not possible on larger cruise ships.
- OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Expedition trips to Antarctica provide daily opportunities to get off of the ship and into the environment. For us, it was mostly sailing the coastlines of the Antarctic Peninsula whether on the ship or Zodiac cruises.
It depends on the weather, but activities varied between mountaineering, snowshoeing, Kayaking, Glacier walking, Zodiac cruises and camping!
- INDOOR (ON-SHIP) ACTIVTIES
On the ship, usually they hold different lectures on different topics such as climate, marine life and much. more. There were also some other games and entertainment items such as chess board and cards. I would advise you to take your own games too if you have anything like board games.
There’s a coffee and tea/hot water machines on our ship, so the lounge area was great for socializing, sitting and playing!
My General thoughts of the journey, staff and services.
I am really happy and impressed with the staff and the team. They were very professional, very helpful, very informative and from different nationalities so the diversity was nice too! A huge thank you to everyone, starting from the cleaning staff, kitchen staff, laundry, gangway, and ending with the expedition leader, Ian! Big thank you for all your efforts and especially with the things that happened later with Coronavirus and being stuck on the ship for 6 days more. Thank you!
Although Antarctica is the most remote continent on earth—more than 1,000 km from the nearest neighboring continent—you can actually visit it, and enjoy the voyage at your own pace and preference. Enjoy it while you still can!