I know it’s been literally more than 6 months since I returned from my trip to Antarctica. Of course after such an EPIC adventure people want to hear about it. I’ve seriously been trying to fathom how to put a trip like this into words. It isn’t easy. I haven’t even wrapped my head around the fact, that I actually set foot on the continent of Antarctica. I don’t think it’s really ever going to properly sink in. I mean I look at the pictures and it doesn’t seem real. It just feels like I’m looking at a National Geographic magazine, not experiences from my life. But I guess that’s what’s really good about travel; the feeling of awe you get. Anyway, the trip was definitely a trip of a lifetime, and one I would recommend to anyone with a sense of adventure.
Here is a little guide if you’re interested in visiting Antarctica, and are curious about how I did it:
The company I used was Quark Expeditions. I more than highly recommend them. I don’t have enough praises for the staff, the experiences they offer, the reasonable prices (comparatively), and not to be forgotten, the food on the ship!
Antarctic Cruising Season: Visiting Antarctica is only possible during the Southern Hemisphere’s Late Spring/Summer. That makes it from about the very end of November to pretty much the end of February.
I think a lot of people are apprehensive about visiting early in the season, because they think it will be too cold, or the weather will be awful. All I have to say is that ANYTIME you visit Antarctica, you are taking a gamble on weather. That being said……
In my personal experience, the weather on our cruise could not have been BETTER! My trip was from November 29th to December 9th 2012. We had perfect sailing weather on the way down,* sunny blue skies, with above freezing air temps for the most part. Because of the mild temps and a million other variables we were able to pass through the incredible Lemaire Channel (just barely). A feat that the year before wasn’t possible until the end of February. Again, I have to emphasize that day to day the weather in Antarctica is extremely variable. For example, we were not able to make our shore landing at Port Lockroy. This was due to the fact that there was so much ice blown up against the shore. BUT… the very next day, the ice thinned out and a different cruise was able to land. That was probably less than a 24 hour span.
*The Drake Passage is the most notorious body of water on the planet. Good sailing does not mean glassy waters, but in relation to normal Drake conditions it was a piece of cake (on the way down that is, the way back was probably 10x nastier due to a storm).
One major consideration, when figuring the time of year you want to visit, is the wildlife. Early in the season you aren’t going to see the variety of wildlife you would later in the summer. You also won’t get to see the penguin chicks hatched if you visit too early. During my visit we did see a ton of wildlife, enough to be thoroughly impressed. We also got to see the Penguins with their eggs, pre hatching. That was an interesting experience in itself.
Cost: This is probably the biggest inhibitor for people when it comes to Antarctica. The cost of the cruise alone was $5026 USD per person. This was the cheapest operator and voyage available. We booked a triple share cabin but managed to get a free upgrade to a double (This made our cruise essentially worth twice what we paid!). I have to add that that price ONLY covers the cost of the cruise itself. You also have to make your way down to Ushuaia, Argentina on your own dime. Going earlier in the season is also a lot cheaper than going at the peak of the summer.
TRAVEL HACK: Word was that some of the people on our cruise managed to score our trip for about $1000 USD. They did this by not booking in advance, but by going in person to the cruise line offices in Ushuaia. They took advantage of last minute deals on beds/cabins that were unsold. I’ve also talked to people that used this tactic to score super cheap rates on trips to the Galapagos. So if you find yourself on a long trip on South America and plan on Visiting Tierra Del Fuego, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to just check in at a few of the cruise line offices, and see what they can do for you.