Antarctica booking season is upon us. If you're planning a cruise to the Great White Continent, this Antarctica advice, which probably isn't included in your trip notes, is essential...
Although conditions do get extremely cold, remember that on an expedition cruise you are there in the summer – which means that temperatures are often above freezing. Pack lots of layers so that you can add more or take some off, depending on the conditions. Also, don’t forget sun cream – even if it’s cold you will get burnt – along with a hat, sunglasses and lip balm.
Before you place a single boot on the Great White Continent you will have to watch a number of briefing videos and sign forms to declare that you will adhere to a set of rules and regulations during your visit. One of those is not to get too close to the resident wildlife (normally 5 metres from penguins) however, no one has told them this. So your best chance for a close encounter is to find a quiet spot, sit still and let the curious little sea birds come to you.
Adelie penguins (Shutterstock)
High on your packing list will be a pair of waterproof trousers – vital for heading out on shore landings where you have to hop on and off zodiacs (be warned: you will get wet). But if you can, take two pairs with you.
The first should be warm and waterproof, similar to a ski/snowboard pant, that will keep your legs toasty on zodiac cruises and when sitting still on land watching the wildlife. The second should be lightweight overtrousers made from a waterproof and breathable fabric i.e. Gore-Tex or eVent. These are better if you’re walking on land or simply moving around a lot: they can go over walking trousers (which you can warm up by adding some long johns underneath) but are far less bulky.
All trousers need to be cleaned between landings to stop contamination, so the added advantage of two pairs of trousers is that if you have two landings in one day you’re not stressing about cleaning them in between.
Every day you will witness wildlife and sights you only ever dreamed of – from giant albatross swooping alongside you out on deck, to king penguin chicks approaching you on sand, icebergs calving into the sea and whales breaching alongside your zodiac. It’s all photo-worthy, but do yourself a favour: fight the urge to have your camera out all the time and sometimes, just sometimes, allow yourself to enjoy being in the moment. Take it all in with your eyes, not just through your viewfinder.
Reflection of Iceberg, Antarctica (Shutterstock)
Look at the itinerary that your chosen ship provides, then throw it away. In Antarctica the only itinerary set in stone is the one that you can write up after your trip is complete! Weather and sea conditions are changeable – literally by the minute.
Ships will always have a plan A, but sometimes you'll have to follow plan B, C, D or even E instead. So don’t waste time worrying about not making it to a particular island or landing – EVERY landing in Antarctica is special and every single one unique. So enjoy the unpredictability of this continent – it’s the one last place that we can’t control… and it’s all the more wonderful because of it.
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Main image: Group of penguins in Antarctica (Shutterstock)
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