The white continent at the bottom of the world is far from a lifeless, barren land. Antarctica is a wilderness like no other, untamed and untamable, a vast landscape of snow and ice inhabited by some of the hardiest wildlife on the planet. To cruise the frigid waters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a humbling adventure to see Mother Nature at its most pure and undisturbed. Here we look at what awaits responsible travelers on an expedition to Antarctica.
Setting Sail in the Wake of Charles Darwin
At the far bottom of the great South American continent, between Chile and Argentina, the Patagonian Fjords are the gateway to Antarctica and a stunning spectacle in their own right. The Beagle Channel, named after Darwin’s famous ship, the HMS Beagle, is the first taste of Antarctica, with vast glaciers meeting choppy grey seas and great mountains towering into the sky. The Beagle Channel empties into the Drake Passage, and from there, it’s directly south until reaching Earth’s coldest, driest and windiest continent.
In Search of Antarctica’s Wildlife
The Antarctic Peninsula is home to animals able to withstand its harsh climate. Visitors will get the opportunity to observe them from a respectful distance without disturbing the natural rhythm of life. While emperor penguins are more challenging to spot, Adelie, Gentoo, and Chinstrap penguins delight with their cartoon-cute behavior. And it is during the milder cruising season of November to March that fluffy little chicks are born.
Where there are penguins, there are leopard seals, and small boat excursions along the iceberg-laden Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor might reveal hunting adults, and in their wake, the larger orcas further up the perfectly choreographed food chain. Keep an eye out for Crabeater seals, elephant seals, humpback whales, and Minkes, who can be spotted between the packed ice. For an awe-inspiring experience, try kayaking along the channels, where the silence of the kayak will allow for up-close animal encounters. For a different view of a landscape ruled by wildlife, step ashore and visit Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum.
The Falkland Islands: the Edge of Antarctica
Dragging yourself away from the dazzling white land of Antarctica is hard, but a trip to the Falkland Islands on the return journey is a final surprise in this other-worldly place. More penguin colonies await, with King and Rockhopper penguins added into the melee. It is a prime location to spot the gargantuan albatross too, as they soar on the winds above the ship.
Less than 3,000 people live in the Falkland Islands. You can learn about their fascinating history in the capital of Stanley, where the Falkland Islands Museum tells the stories of maritime exploration, natural history, and the 1982 Falklands War. The windswept islands and their abundance of wildlife are the final leg on a journey filled with natural wonders.
If the thought of Antarctica has awoken your inner intrepid explorer, get in touch and let us start planning an expedition you’ll never forget.
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