Antarctica is known as the frozen wilderness due to the fact that the conditions there are so extreme that the place has no permanent human inhabitants. However, even though it is very expansive and twice as large as Australia, it is actually the third smallest continent and behind Asia, Africa, North and South America in order of size. Almost one hundred per cent of it is covered by ice that is over a metre thick on average. The only area not covered is the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
All of our Antarctic expeditions are concentrated on the western part of the continent, with the majority landing on the Peninsula, but most of them take in other destinations around it too. You will be able to explore parts of South America, as well as many of the islands in the South Atlantic Ocean and other seas that can be found in this part of the world. There is also the opportunity to cross the Antarctic Circle line of latitude; something that very few members of the public will ever get to do.
Highlights of your trip may include spotting whales, sea birds, seals and multiple species of penguin, sailing through the infamous Drake Passage and visiting the British overseas territory of The Falklands.
The Drake Passage is renowned for having some of the roughest waters on the planet, but don’t worry as your ship is perfectly prepared to travel through this renowned body of water. It is this passage that makes the act of rounding Cape Horn a treacherous activity and so riding the waves on this part of your journey may well be an adrenaline rich experience.
Try not to be too disappointed if the waters are calm during your trip though, as this is also a possibility. Because of this there are said to be two sides to the Passage; the ‘Drake shake’ when the high winds whip up a swell, and the ‘Drake lake’ when the water is almost calmness personified.
During your trip to the great white continent you are likely to see your fair share of penguins, with eight different species being found in this part of the world. Four of these (Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo and Emperor) all breed on the Antarctic mainland, but it is the latter that features most prominently on travellers’ wish lists.
Stand back in awe as you are greeted with the sight of an amazing Emperor penguin colony. Take in the sights and sounds of this event whilst trying to find the perfect angle for that one picture that you’ll treasure forever. In the months from December to March, the penguin chicks will be initially hatching into their new world and then fledging from their nests under the watchful eyes of their parents; an event that truly shouldn’t be missed.
Whether you like to go camping or not, you cannot afford to turn down the opportunity to sleep under the stars in Antarctica. This is offered as an additional activity on many of our itineraries, and so will incur additional costs, but will definitely be worth it.
When you are not relishing in the fact that you are just metres away from penguin colonies, there is also the chance to take in how silent it is in this part of the world. Complete silence is a very rare thing in the modern world and so it may well be deafening.
Hikers and trekkers alike will enjoy the opportunity to get off the ship and explore the rugged landscapes on the sub-Antarctic islands. Perhaps the most uninhabitable of these are the South Shetland Islands which lay just of the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula itself. Here the ground is largely volcanic and so provides a great terrain to walk across and see what you can uncover.
Amongst the highlights on this archipelago are Elephant Island, where Shackleton and his men were stranded, and Deception Island which offers inviting thermal pools in which you can bathe.
Providing a striking contrast to the unforgiving terrain of the South Shetland Islands are the thriving communities living in the Falklands. These much discussed islands are home to hundreds of people who have adapted to life in this region and who value the nature and beauty that surrounds them.
The Falklands are a playground for many different species of wildlife, including numerous seabirds and types of penguin, but perhaps the best thing about your visit here will be the chance to interact with people living in a British Overseas Territory.
As we enter into January, February and March, whale sightings in the Antarctic region start to proliferate. These majestic and enormous creatures often roam the waters that you will travel through; frequently popping up to welcome you into their world with a wave of their fins.
A whale sighting is a truly memorable experience and one that will be right at the top of a lot of people’s things to do whilst on their expedition. There are many species that frequent these waters, including the largest animal that has ever lived, the blue whale. For a full range of all the whales you may catch a glimpse of, take a look at our wildlife guides.