Classified as the coldest, driest and windiest continent on earth, Antarctica is one of the last true frontiers in adventure travel. This white continent features stunning mountain landscapes, some of the largest icebergs in the world and wildlife galore.
Antarctica has presented itself as a destination trapped in time since its discovery in 1820, untapped by the destructions of humanity that mass tourism can often bring. Indeed, the serenity and vastness of the Antarctic is unparalleled to any other location found in the world.
The South Pole sets the scene for the ultimate adventure, and one of the most popular ways to explore this continent is by cruise. A destination often difficult to visit due to its harsh environment, Pontant’s luxury Antarctica cruises make the expedition-type trip easier. Their smaller, yacht-style ships provide an intimate approach, with an emphasis on authenticity and passion for travel. Each trip includes a set itinerary featuring unmissable sites, destinations and activities.
Here are five adventures you can’t miss on any Antarctica cruise…
Experience Unique Wildlife
Antarctica offers some of the most stunning wildlife in the world, and is home to a diverse array of native fauna, including penguins, whales, seabirds and seals.
Across the barren coast of Antarctica, one will find king penguins, the second largest penguin species in the world, in their natural habitat diving for fish near their colony. Right offshore, curious humpback whales breach the surface and dine on krill. In fact, an Antarctic cruise provides the opportunity to witness some of the most stunning wildlife in the world, without even having to step foot off the ship.
Take a Hike
Almost all cruises make stops at top on-land destinations, providing travelers the opportunity to hop off the ship and trek through icy terrain, discovering animals one would normally only encounter in a zoo.
For instance, panoramic cliffs and green plains make up the crescent shaped Fortuna Bay. Follow in the footsteps of explorer Ernest Shackleton and stumble upon one of the 50,000 king penguin couples that reside here. Alternatively, Deception Island is one of the safest harbors in Antarctica, and features the caldera of a volcano, with nearly half of the landscape covered in glaciers. The other half of the island provides the perfect terrain for a hike.
Visit Research and Whaling Stations
Antarctica is home to many research stations with anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 researchers residing in the tundra each year. Each cruise makes one or more stops at former or active research stations, as well as a number of historical whaling stations.
Port Lockroy, discovered by a French explorer in 1903, is one of the most visited places in Antarctica. Its little museum brings visitors from around the world to experience the 1950s style base – you can even send a postcard from the southernmost post office in the world!
In contrast, Half Moon Island is a small volcanic strip of land only accessible by sea and helicopter, which finds itself along a jagged coastline with whales frequenting its perimeter. Formerly an Argentine research station, it serves as a reminder of the past, as visitors can encounter a diverse number of animals ranging from penguins to fur seals.
The remnants of a former whaling station, Grytviken serves as a highlight of South Georgia Island with one of the best harbors in the area. Famous for the gravesite of adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton, this town is a historical point of interest with a backdrop of old whale bones and shipwrecks. It also remains home to a functioning church!
Take A Shore Excursion
Although the ship is warm and cozy, travelers are given the opportunity to hop on a Zodiac boat and head to shore with experienced naturalist guides.
Receiving its name from a whaling station and factory in operation between 1911 and 1924, walk around Neko Harbor and encounter breeding penguins, Weddell seals taking a break on shore and nesting Skua birds.
Cooper Bay, named after Captain James Cook, offers cliffs towering over blue water and colonies of Macaroni penguins. These are just a couple of the many outings you can expect on an Antarctic cruise.
Cross the Infamous Drake Passage
Existing as one of the roughest, yet shortest routes to Antarctica, most cruises make a Drake Passage Crossing. Located between the Cape Horn and South Shetland Islands, this is where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans meet. With no landmasses nearby to control currents, this passage experiences some of the choppiest waters in the world.
Earning its reputation from the days of wooden boats and a lack of GPS, this once dangerous route is now much safer due to modern day technology and ship construction. Still, once you make it through, it becomes a sort of right of passage that you will likely recount for years to come.
Now, tell us, is an Antarctica Cruise on your bucket list?