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  • sueaitken7


I’m coming to the end of the most amazing trip to Antarctica. It really has been a fabulous holiday combining wildlife and the most spectacular scenery you can imagine. The landscapes are jaw-dropping and the size and scale of your surroundings is pretty humbling. So this is an account of my trip combined with a few pointers if a visit to Antarctica is on your Bucket List.

First up, the only way of getting here is on an Expedition cruise. Cruising may not be your bag (it’s not mine!) but this is really the only way of getting here. There are quite a few companies that travel the Antarctic Route, leaving from Southern Chile or Argentina and cruises are a minimum of 10 nights, most are 14 nights. The choice of cruise line is very important because, unlike a Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise, you’ll be spending quite a lot of time at sea travelling from place to place.

We pushed the boat out (excuse the pun) and went for the luxury cruise line Silversea – which has proved to be a class act. Excellent service, great food and a stellar expedition team with knowledgeable experts and highly proficient when it comes to getting you on and off the ship. A few minor niggles – but nothing substantial.

We were very keen to see King Penguins, and there are hundreds of thousands of these in South Georgia – so we selected an itinerary that included this island. This meant that we initially had to sail 3 days East to get there. Unfortunately, Avian Flu has hit the island extremely hard, and we were unable to land. But we did get to see huge numbers of them by cruising the coast in a small Zodiac. It was amazing to see them waddling about on the shore.

We were able to land in Grytviken, an old whaling port, where there’s a museum a shop, a Post Office, a church and about 30 inhabitants. Plus a few fur seals and some king penguins.

We sailed past what’s currently the world’s largest iceberg – A23a which is three times the size of New York City and larger than the Isle of Wight. It was a spectacular sight as it stretched off into the distance. It took us 2 hours to move past this enormous chunk of ice.

Another thing to bear in mind before embarking on an Expedition Cruise to Antarctica is that the itinerary must be flexible. The weather changes incredibly rapidly, so the team had to adjust the route according to weather patterns. For example, we had plans to go to landing sites around the Weddell Sea where the weather was supposed to be favourable the following day, only to wake up and find ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm with massive amounts of sea ice. So unfortunately plans for the Weddell had to be ditched for an alternative route with better weather.

Finally, 10 days after we boarded the ship in Puerto Williams, we got to land on the Antarctic Peninsular and spent a couple of hours watching Gentoo and Adelie penguins frolicking on the shore. It was wonderful finally to set foot on the White Continent and to see the comical antics of the penguins rushing in and out of the water. That afternoon, we explored by Zodiac amidst beautiful landscapes, navigating between icebergs and watching penguins erupt from the sea to land on enormous platforms of ice. There were also a number of fledgling chicks with their mothers.

Our final landing in Antarctica was in Portal Point where we were very lucky with the weather and where we had blue skies that set off the pristine, snowy scenery beautifully. It really was a lovely spot to wander around – spotting the odd seal chilling out on the rocks.

We explored the area a bit more in the afternoon on a Zodiac cruise – watching Chinstrap Penguins jumping in and out of the water and climbing the slopes of rocky crags. There were also quite a few Humpback Whales in the area, and I finally got to take a decent photo of a whale tail (called a fluke). I was very happy about that as I’d missed out several times on previous sightings.

And now we’re sailing back to Chile. It will be two days at sea before we get there. It’s been a fabulous holiday. Antarctica definitely doesn’t disappoint, and I have plenty of memories and hundreds of photos to look back at to remind me of what an amazing place I’ve been privileged enough to visit. Goodbye Antarctica – it’s been grand.

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