My Journey to Antarctica - an Expert Review
Antarctica is one of those bucket-list destinations that many dream of visiting, yet one that perhaps seems out of reach for most.
I never imagined I would actually get there, but in December 2012, found myself embarking on the adventure of a lifetime with Peregrine Adventures (Quark Expeditions), set to explore one of the most remote, wild and untouched parts of our planet.
Being a wildlife nut, I opted to go all-out and do an itinerary that incorporated the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. I didn’t know much about South Georgia until I started planning my trip, but the more I read, the more I knew I had to get there.
Penguins in South Georgia
While the wildlife viewing on the Antarctic Peninsula is incredible, South Georgia is something else entirely. This is where you will land on beaches literally covered in fur and elephant seals (and have to run the gauntlet to get by them!). Where you will visit colonies of king penguins, spread out as far as the eye can see, and marvel at nesting albatross. Where you will visit Ernest Shackleton’s grave, and learn about the whaling era and history of the region.
Then there’s the buzz of excitement as you sail further south and see your first iceberg, knowing that you’ll soon be setting foot on the white continent. That feeling of awe as whales surface and swim alongside the ship. And finally, that first breathtaking glimpse of the continent ahead through the mist.
Once on the Antarctic Peninsula, days are filled with zodiac excursions and landings. In Antarctica, there are limits on the number of people that can go ashore at any one time, but it was never an issue for us – while half the group went ashore, the other half went zodiac cruising before switching places. Everyone could get off the ship at the same time, so there was no waiting around.
The boots provided on the ship were comfortable to walk in and perfect for climbing to higher vantage points for amazing views and to visit the penguin rookeries. Visiting in December meant that the penguin chicks were starting to hatch, so it was beautiful to see the interaction between the penguin couples as they looked after their youngsters, all the while protecting their nests from neighbouring stone thieves looking to improve their own.
The yellow parkas provided for each guest are surprisingly flattering – yellow is definitely not my colour! – but most importantly, will keep you warm and dry, especially while out in the zodiacs. A lot of people started out thinking that the landings would be the best part of the trip, but it didn’t take long to realise that the zodiac excursions were just as thrilling. I had never seen a whale until this trip, and to see them so close while almost at water-level in the zodiac was the most incredible experience. It’s both a heart-stopping and heart-warming moment when a humpback whale surfaces a metre away from your zodiac and then proceeds to swim right underneath you.
It’s safe to say, Antarctica has me completely spellbound and has a very special place in my heart. Since my cruise in December 2012, I’ve returned twice more, with a fourth trip planned for January 2018 – all with Peregrine. Nothing will prepare you for the sights, sounds (and smells!) of Antarctica – as amazing as the pictures are, it is most definitely a destination that has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Kirsten Ball is a Product Specialist at Flight Centre Travel Group.