Antarctica Travel: The Long and Short of It
What is it like to travel to Antarctica? Planning a trip to Antarctica may seem like a daunting task; after all, it is nearly twice the size of Australia. It is hard to decide where to begin. A good place to start would be to ask yourself what sort of trip best suits you. How much time can you dedicate to your travels? What fits your budget? What do you want to experience? To help assist you in your decision, Adventure Life Journeys offers two options of Antarctica trip lengths. When planning your trip, keep in mind that at least four days will be spent at sea.
A shorter trip to the frozen continent lasts anywhere from 9 to 12 days, taking you to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. After deporting from Ushuaia, Argentina, your ship travels through the Beagle Channel. Protected from winds by the Argentinean Andes and the hills of Chile, the waters of the channel are quite calm. This directly contrasts the exciting swells of the Drake Passage that follows the Beagle Channel. Named for the 16th century explorer, Sir Francis Drake, this passage is known for some of the rockiest waters in all the oceans. Enjoy the adventure, and be sure to hold on!
Around the third day - as though a reward for weathering the wavy storm - arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula. Spend a number of days exploring this region of the continent including the Lemaire Channel, Paradise and Hope Bay, and Wiencke Island. Zodiac crafts transport visitors from the ship to land. Located just north of the peninsula are the South Shetland Islands. Those enjoying Antarctic travel frequently visit Elephant, Livingston, King George, and Deception Island of the South Shetlands. The peninsula and its surrounding islands are a favorite breeding ground for a vast variety and number of seabirds, penguins, and seals. The coastline seems to dance and sway covered in millions of these marine animals. Depending on your itinerary, you may have the opportunity to kayak, camp or scuba dive. Please keep in mind the extreme conditions of this unique continent; such options may be more suitable for only the sufficiently experienced.
The last couple days of your Antarctica travels will take you back through the Drake Passage and Beagle Channel to your port in Ushuaia.
In addition to the Antarctic Peninsula, a longer trip ensures a visit to the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia. Longer packages last from 12 to 23 days. As with a shorter trip, your ship departs from Ushuaia, and travels through the Beagle Channel. On the third day, you should reach the Falklands. Explore the large East and West Falklands, or visit the tiny Sea Lion Island. Trek lightly among the wildlife, including the Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins. After a couple days at sea, arrive at South Georgia. Known historically for its connection with the sealing and whaling industry, South Georgia also offers fantastic site seeing with its sharp and commanding mountains. During the right season, the seal population of South Georgia can reach over three million. Five million pairs of macaroni penguins also nest on this island. Similar to some of the shorter Antarctica trips, kayaking, camping or scuba diving may be offered in your travel package.
The final days of your journey experience the turbulent Drake Passage, and revisit the composed Beagle Channel. Take time to reflect on your adventures, catch up on some journal writing, and visit with other passengers until returning to Ushuaia.
Whether taking a short trip, or opting for a longer one, take advantage of the lectures offered on board during the days leading up to your arrival on Antarctica. The continent's natural history, weather, wildlife, and safety tips are just some of the topics covered. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for albatross. These large seabirds love to soar in the updraft of the ship, their wings casting impressive shadows along the deck's surface.
Opportunities for site seeing, on and off the ship, are by no means jeopardized by the lack of sunlight. In the austral summer, expect at least 20 hours of sunlight a day. As a result, you may experience some insomnia for the first day or two. Another sun-matter to keep in mind is sunburn. The increased amount of daylight, combined with the reflection off the ice and snow, can make the sun particularly dangerous in Antarctica travel. Be sure to wear sunscreen.
After deciding on your length of trip, Adventure Life Journeys offers four categories of ships for your Antarctica travel. Each variety offers shorter and longer travel options, and carries Zodiac crafts for land exploration. Regardless of the ship, you are sure to meet a diversity of interesting people who share your passion for travel.
Originally used for research purposes, these ships have been converted to accompany travelers, but still maintain their expedition cruising characteristics. The passenger capacity of these ships is smaller (45-55) allowing for a more private and personal feel. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and many cabins are shared, however, accommodations are comfortable. A number of ships have a lounge and bar area, a small library, infirmary, and a great viewing deck, making the research ships ideal for many travelers.
Ice Breakers/Research Ships
These ships allow for more space and capacity then the smaller research ships (95-110). A larger size gives added comfort, but they are still small enough to enter tight locations. Many of the ice breakers have private facilities included in their accommodations. Amenities are similar to the smaller research ships, but in addition include a laundry facility, gift shop, and exercise room.
Expedition Cruise Ships
Expedition cruise ships carry anywhere from 110 to 125 passengers. Accommodations are roomier and have ample storage and seating areas. These larger ships allow for smoother sailing, which is well appreciated in some of the rockier regions of the Drake Passage. Meals are prepared with great detail by European chefs. These ships also include a workout facility, gift shop, hair salon, open deck, onsite doctors, laundry, and satellite access, including email and internet.
Luxury Expedition Ships
Passenger capacity for these ships is from 105 to 200. They are designed with a cruise in mind; you can expect deluxe accommodations on the luxury ships. Spacious private rooms contain a queen-sized bed, TV/VCR, climate control, as well as sufficient storage. Public spaces include lounges, pool, sauna, salon, hospital, boutique, exercise room, library, internet services, lecture halls, and a cinema. View wildlife from the large open decks, and panoramic seating areas.