Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. While there are some flights to get to
Antarctica, the only real way to see Antarctica is via cruise or boat expedition, which typically explores around the Antarctic Peninsula. Just because it’s a boat tour, however, don’t think for a minute that you’ll actually stay on the boat the whole time; there’s plenty of opportunities to get off and get up close and personal with everything Antarctica has to offer. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America. It’s known for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, striking, iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum. The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins.
CAMP UNDER THE STARS
Camping in Antarctica isn’t an activity for everyone — cozying up on the frozen ground in sub-zero temperatures isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Sleeping under the infinite number of Antarctica’s twinkling stars is a surreal experience and knowing there’s nothing between you and all of Antarctica’s frozen glory is truly a magical feeling.
WALK WITH THE PENGUINS
Penguins have no land predators in Antarctica and view humans with curiosity rather than caution. Walking among the colossal colonies here, some with 500,000 penguins, rates among the most unforgettable Antarctica activities of all. There is simply no other place on earth which offers this kind of close encounter with the clowns of the polar wildlife world. Penguins are rather animated creatures and as you meander your way through their ‘hoods’, you’ll see them waddle along well-worn tracks in the ice – known as penguin highways – fight and argue over everything (including lunch), dive into the ocean and cater to the needs of their fluffy offspring. Penguin encounters are just about guaranteed on every Antarctica cruise, no matter where your itinerary takes you. The only variable is the type of penguins you’ll come across.
WITNESS BLOOD FALLS
A visual and scientific wonder, the Blood Falls is a fascinating anomaly upon which to feast your eyes. This bright-red waterfall spills from the Taylor Glacier in McMurdo’s Dry Valleys. The color is due to something truly phenomenal — life existing in the form of tiny, iron-packed microbes that were frozen in time when the glacier closed around them about two million years ago. The microbes, frozen within a small body of water, have been able to survive with no light or heat and very little oxygen. The fissure in the glacier allows the water to flow out, creating one of the most striking sights in all of Antarctica — a five-story, blood-red waterfall spilling over pure white snow.
VISIT A RESEARCH STATION
Antarctica hosts several international research stations, whose work ranges from meteorological studies to environmental research and even medical experiments. Irrespective of departure point, most Antarctica cruise expeditions offer the opportunity to visit a research base, where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the incredible work which is carried out at this most inhospitable part of the world. Station staffs are often very keen to share their research with visitors, and list the logistical intricacies of their day-to-day life. Visiting a research station in Antarctica is immensely fascinating and an activity no cruise ship passenger should ever miss.