Antarctica has no permanent population, has very little vegetation and has chilblain inducing temperatures of -89°C (-129°F) in the winter, so why is a trip to Antarctica so high on many eco traveller’s wishlists?
Why Visit Antarctica?
The coldest and most barren continent on the planet boasts abundant and varied wildlife that congregate to make an impressive southerly ecosystem.
Penguins, humpback whales, blue whales, southern right whales, orcas, fur seals and albatross are only a few of the species that draw travellers keen to get a glimpse of the animals in their own back yard.
- Spend a day bird watching with trained ornithologists
- Scuba dive in the chilliest waters in the world
- Photograph icebergs from a kayak
- Go ice-camping overnight in the vast snow plains
Although there is no permanent population, 1,000 to 4,000 scientists, researchers and support workers call Antarctica home for many months of the year.
The research carried out isn’t all about Antarctic wildlife and marine life. Glaciology, astronomy, atmospheric physics and chemistry, weather forecast, geology, palaeontology and medicine are also very popular subjects for rigorous study. So if you’re planning on doing a PHD any time soon a good thesis subject will help get you a land-based stay.
Located approximately 600 miles from the southern tip of South America and about 1,500 miles from Australia, Antarctica isn’t the easiest place to travel to. Still, almost 40,000 travellers manage to make the trip every year.
A cruise/ferry will take around two days if travelling from South America. Most trips depart from Ushuaia, Argentina or Punta Arenas, Chile.
And to prove you’ve been there, why not send a postcard from the only post office on the continent which is in the old British station of Port Lockroy.
Booking a Trip to Antarctica
Almost all accommodation is ship-based, unless you’ve arranged to carry out research in one of the science bases, and you may be required to share a cabin as trips to the continent are limited.
When booking your trip, ask for the tour operator’s green credentials, how they approach the animals and what they do to keep their impact to a minimum. Opt for a tour company that employs wildlife experts, scientists, historians and past pole explorers as they will be more likely to have a vested interest in the area.