Our Latin America specialist Grant recently returned from a real trip of a lifetime to Antarctica. Here, he explains why the ‘White Continent’ is so worth a visit and shares some of his favourite photos from his voyage of discovery…
Antarctica – a once in a lifetime trip!
Hear all about one of our client’s recent trips to Antarctica, Falkland Islands and South Georgia, where she discovered some of the most remote, magical and stunningly beautiful places in the world.
Written by our client, Hilary Richardson
Antarctica is a destination I have always wanted to visit since I was young. A colleague of mine went to Antarctica in the early days when it was just opening up to intrepid tourists, and later my husband and I started thinking about it seriously. Seeing as we were going that far, we decided to choose a voyage that included the Falklands and South Georgia, since the wildlife there is so superb! Prior to the cruise we spent a couple of nights in Buenos Aires, where we saw a tango show and visited the pink palace where Evita used to stand on the balcony addressing the admiring crowds. Then we headed south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and joined our cruise.
Thankfully, the sail to the Falklands was reasonably smooth. Arriving at Port Stanley, we caught sight of a row of Edwardian terraced houses, which looked as though they had been plucked straight out of English suburbia. There were plenty of Union Jacks flying – someone had even painted their rooftop as a Union Jack – unmistakeably British! We had a day to explore and there was a choice of excursions. Some people went in search of the famous rockhopper penguins, but we opted for a visit to a sheep farm as we wanted to see the way of life of the islanders.
Next up was a 2-day sail to South Georgia. On board we had lots of wildlife experts who spoke about all the birds we could see around the boat. Merel, one of the Ornithologists on board, was so knowledgeable, I was amazed! Every question was answered without hesitation and I figured that what she didn’t know about birds in this area wasn’t worth knowing. Long before you arrive at South Georgia, you see these snow-covered, jagged peaks rising dramatically out of the water and I just felt mesmerized by the natural beauty that surrounded us. South Georgia is teeming with wildlife, with a spectacular backdrop of dramatic snow-capped mountains and glaciers. We visited two beaches with colonies of thousands of king penguins dotted along the beach and up the hillsides, and in fact you can smell and hear the king penguins well before you see them! It’s a smell you won’t forget in a hurry!
Approaching wildlife is strictly forbidden, but we found that by just sitting quietly, the wildlife came to us. A particularly memorable moment was when a curious young penguin chick, with its brown fur moulting, came up and nibbled at my husband’s glove. It was spectacular to be so close to wildlife in its natural habitat and a memory I will never forget! We also enjoyed going round the old whaling station at Grytviken and seeing the rusting equipment of the formerly huge whaling industry. We visited the grave of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and learnt about his incredible rescue expedition to South Georgia from Elephant Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula. The story of how he crossed the uncharted mountains of South Georgia to get help at Stromness whaling station was just fascinating! The fact all of his men were rescued from Elephant Island with not one life lost shows what an inspiring leader he was.
Next we continued to the Antarctic Peninsula encountering en route tabular icebergs several miles long! The routes here vary depending on weather and ice conditions and in our case we could only go so far up the Lemaire Channel because it was blocked by ice. We sailed through the spectacular scenery, admiring icebergs of all shapes and sizes, some an intense blue, some striped black and white like mint humbugs. We visited Deception Island which is a flooded caldera of an ancient volcano. We landed on the black sand and went for a hike uphill to admire the view. Some of us went for a swim in the water, chasing the elusive thermal currents. You would just find a nice warm spot, before the current would change direction and the water would turn very cold! We also visited Port Lockroy, where there are a post office, museum and lots of gentoo penguins. Everywhere along the coast, snow-capped black volcanic mountains tower menacingly and you realise you are in a harsh, alien environment truly at the end of the Earth.
The grand finale was entering Paradise Bay, where the scenery was stunning – the mountains and glaciers were reflected in the still water, and the bay was full of deep blue icebergs. We cruised around the bay by zodiac, keeping a safe distance from the icebergs, and went ashore and walked up a hill before sliding down through the snow, which was terrific fun! All in all this trip was an unforgettable and a once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.
Two cruises we would recommend offering this itinerary are:
Sea Explorer: For those looking to cruise the Antarctic in style, this is our favourite option.
M/V Ortelius: With a basic rugged feel inside, the Ortelius is sensibly priced and offers good facilities and many open-deck spaces for viewing Antarctica’s amazing wildlife.
Interested in exploring the so-called ‘White Continent’? Call us now on 020 7622 1116 to find out more information on these cruises and let us help you find a departure date that fits you.