Antarctica’s surreal remoteness, extreme cold, enormous ice shelves and mountain ranges, and myriad exotic life forms invariably challenge you to embrace life fully. Everyone – scientist, support worker, government official and tourist – who comes to this isolated continent, must ‘earn’ it, whether by sea voyage or flight. Ice and weather, not clocks and calendars, determine the itinerary and the timetable of all travel here. Today, it’s even possible for visitors to climb Antarctic peaks or kayak icy waters. But there is nothing quite like the craggy crevasses of a magnificent glacier or the sheer expanse of the polar ice cap.Wildlife
Preserved by the Antarctic Treaty, Antarctica is home to some of the world’s most extraordinary species. Some, such as the enormous whales, migrate from afar, while others, including the Weddell seal and emperor penguin, remain close to the continent. Millions of seabirds skim the Southern Ocean, the world’s most abundant, and species such as albatrosses and petrels circle the waters. Wildlife is generally unafraid of humans: visitors usually elicit no more than an uninterested yawn from seals and penguins focused on their young.History
The names of explorers and their sovereigns and benefactors are written on Antarctica’s shores. Renowned explorers from Cook to Amundsen and Scott all tried to penetrate this vast, mysterious land: each with varying degrees of success. Visitors can follow in their footsteps and imagine what it was like to forge through the pack ice on a creaking wooden boat or to haul sledges across the polar plateau. Some of the historic huts actually remain, preserved frozen in rime ice, to tell the story of adventures long past.Inspiration
Antarctica possesses an unnameable quality. Call it inspiration, call it grandeur…it is simply the indescribable feeling of being a small speck in a vast, harshly beautiful land. A land where striated ice towers float among geometric pancake ice, literally untouched mountains rear from marine mist, and wildlife lives, year in and year out, to its own rhythms, quite apart from human concerns. To let our minds soar in a place nearly free of humankind’s imprint: this is magic.
From the sub-Antarctic islands to the ice-choked continent, Antarctica’s fabled creatures thrive in their unique environment. Whale- and penguin-watch from ship or shore; spy beachmaster elephant seals noisily defending their turf; or sit back and enjoy the seabirds whirling and calling alongside craggy cliffs.History
Follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest explorers; there’s plenty to see from their pioneering expeditions.Adventure
Antarctica is a land made for adventure. Even just being there constitutes the experience of a lifetime. But for those looking to skate closer to the edge, there’s more – from inland mountain ranges to daring scuba diving.Icebergs & Glaciers
Prepare to be wowed by the dazzling array of light-struck ice formations around the Antarctic. Whether a wee floating berg, an enormous tabular iceberg, newly calved, or the crenelated tongue of a glacier, Antarctica has it all.Science
Antarctica is a vast, unique landscape reserved for science. Researchers from all over the globe come to study the mysteries of the continent and of the universe. Once in a while you might spot these investigators at work.Remote Reaches
Even on Antarctica there are places that only the most fortunate or intrepid get to experience. It is a rare day when a non-scientist comes to most East Antarctic bases, and some sub-Antarctic islands are visited just a couple of times a year.
Hotels. There are no hotels in Antarctica. All tourist accommodation is aboard expedition ships. Some tour operators include a one-night pre-tour stay in a hotel in Argentina, Chile, New Zealand or Tasmania.Do people live in Antarctica?
The people who travel to or live in Antarctica fall into two main groups, those who live and work on scientific research stations or bases, and tourists. No-one lives in Antarctica indefinitely in the way that they do in the rest of the world. It has no commercial industries, no towns or cities, no permanent residents.Does Antarctica have an airport?
Transport in Antarctica takes place by air, using fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Runways and helicopter pads have to be kept snow free to ensure safe take off and landing conditions. Antarctica has 20 airports, but there are no developed public-access airports or landing facilities.Is there any flight to Antarctica?
Can I fly to Antarctica? Yes - There are Fly-Cruise trips to Antarctica whereby you can take a flight to Frei Station (Chilean) on King George Island (South Shetlands Group) in around two hours flying from Punta Arenas, Chile. The aircraft used are usually 70 passenger BAE 146-200.
Antarctica offers a wealth of amazing activities as part of most tours. Wildlife-watching will bring you up close to whales, seals, seabirds and penguins. Shore visits via Zodiac let you explore habitats and craggy rock and ice formations. Photography is a top activity, as you take in the flora and fauna, plus magnificent icebergs and terrain. Study shipboard with lectures by Antarctica experts, and wildlife or adventure videos. On shore, explore historic huts and unique Antarctic museums.Adventure activities include sea kayaking for experienced paddlers, scuba diving for advanced divers, or brief camping and mountain-climbing trips. Some tours offer flights to the interior and the chance to climb, ski, camp or trek. Sleeping
Most visitors to Antarctica will arrive on a cruise ship, each of which has its own types of cabins. There are no hotels on the land – camps are run by tour operators.Eating
Visitors to Antarctica will eat aboard ship or at the bases run by their tour operators, and the price is included in the tour cost. The style and quality of food is usually well covered by tour operators in their promotional material, and if you have specific wishes or needs you should flag them up well in advance of departure, or even before booking your trip.Drinking & Nightlife
Cruise ships usually have bar and drinking options, though the price of alcohol may not be included in the tour price (check in advance). Larger ships will have more options, though life aboard ship can be quite convivial, no matter the size.Research stations can have raucous nightlife, with the 24-hour sunshine of summer or the extreme isolation of winter, but most tourists won't gain access to the shore-side bars. Entertainment
On-board lectures, films and events are the main form of entertainment aboard ship. They usually offer excellent background information for excursions and activities around the continent.Shopping
Ships usually have small gift shops with Antarctic-themed gear and some basic toiletries and sundries. Also, when your tour includes a stop at an Antarctic base, you will find that a few of the most popular bases have gift shops. Usually tourists do not have access to research base commissaries, which are exclusively for the use of workers and scientists.Travel with Children
Children are still relatively rare visitors to Antarctica. Antarctica’s amazing landscapes and abundant wildlife are exciting for young people, but sea time can be tedious. Help children learn about Antarctic topics before and during the voyage and encourage them to question ship staff. Meredith Hooper is a great author of children’s Antarctic stories.LGBT Travellers
If in doubt that gay and lesbian travelers are welcome, check with your tour operator to get the feel of what the social scene is like on your prospective cruise.
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