For travellers, Antarctica is the last frontier. Twice the size of Australia, entirely frozen with sub-zero temperatures and completely cut off from the world, its main inhabitants are large colonies of penguins, seals, whales and varieties of seabirds. Gritty adventurers will love exploring the icy tundra, visiting the world’s most southern post office, braving the Polar Plunge and visiting South Georgia Island along the way.
Kayak alongside humpback whales
Cutting across the ice-strewn waters of Antarctica is an enthralling experience - not only for the landscape but also for the magical wildlife displays that you encounter. One particularly spectacular experience is the chance to kayak close to humpback whales, watching them swoop out of the water beside you and feeling the spray on your face as they splash back in. As well as humpback whales, you might also encounter orcas and seals on your kayak tour, which makes for a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience.
Visit the world's most southerly post office
Between November and March, you can visit the world’s most remote post office in Port Lockroy, which is part of the British Antarctica Territory and sits on an outcrop named Goudier Island. Over 2,000 Gentoo penguins have made Port Lockroy their home, and the comical neighbours are responsible for the site’s nickname, ‘Penguin Post Office’. Over 80,000 letters and postcards are sent from the ‘Penguin Post Office’ every year. As it sits right on the southernmost tip of the earth, it almost never gets dark and in the middle of the summer the sun shines for 23 hours a day.
Take part in the Polar plunge
If you feel you’re brave enough to take on the sub-zero, polar temperatures, then you will love the buzz of plunging into Arctic waters. Tied to a tether for safety, you can experience the heart-racing, ear-pounding thrill of jumping into the icy waters, monitored by experts who can pull you back in whenever you need. Many people report a lasting ‘high’ afterwards, which is one of the appeals of swimming in the sub-freezing Arctic sea (in case you were wondering).
See Penguins up close
Antarctica is penguin central. From speedy gentoos which can swim up to 35km per hour, adorable chinstraps with bike-helmet-like markings on their heads and majestic emperors who live up to their name and can grow to 5 feet tall (and have smart tuxedo-like markings on their bodies), there are gaggles of them all around. If you’d like the rare chance to see emperors – the tallest and heaviest of all penguins – then a trip to the legendary Snow Hill is a must.
Visit research bases on King George Island
King George Island, the largest of the South Shetlands Island, is a popular stop on the way to Antarctica – and is accessible by plane from Punta Arenas for those wishing to skip crossing the Drake Passage. There, you can see gentoo, adelie and chinstrap penguins, seals and orcas. As well as boasting amazing wildlife and scenery, the island is home to research bases from eight countries including Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. At the end of the summer season each year (February to March), adventure athletes have an exciting challenge to tackle in the form of the Antarctica Marathon. It takes place at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, with participants braving the icy terrain and an average temperature of -20C at an altitude of 700 metres.
See incredible wildlife on South Georgia Island
The island of South Georgia, famously explored by Earnest Shackleton in 1914 on his third trip to Antarctica, is one of the richest wildlife spots, with approximately 160 glaciers (which make up 57% of the island). Once the base for a huge whaling industry in the 20th century, today it is an incredible destination to see king penguins, seals, southern right whales, petrels and albatrosses. South Georgia Island is unsurprisingly a fantastic place to snap some great shots, with majestic peaks that can be as high as 9,000 feet. Why not re-trace Shakleton’s footsteps by combining South Georgia Island with the South Shetland Islands, Elephant Island and the Falkland Islands?
If you'd like to find out more on how to get to the white continent, check out our Guide to Antarctica and our Antarctica itineraries or if you think you've got what it takes to brave the polar chill, make an enquiry or call our experts on 020 7337 9010.