For more than a century, Antarctic travel has embodied adventure. Between 50,000 and 75,000 fortunate visitors visit Antarctica each year, and although the majority go there for tourism and animal viewing, certain operators offer one-of-a-kind excursions in this magnificent environment.
Antarctica is still the one continent where you can’t simply get on a cheap airplane and go. Unless you bring your own boat to the ice, you must come with a professional operator that handles all of the logistics. Even those on a fully catered cruise may desire to attempt some of the more traditional modes of polar travel, such as skiing and kayaking.
Antarctica sea kayaking with animals
Sea kayaking, the most popular adventure sport offered by operators on the Antarctic peninsula, allows tourists to completely immerse themselves in the scenery.
Unlike aircraft and ships, kayaking puts you back in touch with nature, in sync with the waves and wind as you glide through icebergs to visit famous destinations such as Neko Harbour, Cuverville Island, and Cierva Cove – as well as hidden jewels inaccessible to bigger boats.
Moving about this blue universe, connected to the flowing arctic nature around you, seeing whales as penguins fly under your paddle, has an intimate feel to it. Sea kayaking is provided on various cruises, generally as an optional additional charge. The frequency of kayaking trips varies by operator: some provide all-inclusive packages that include up to two expeditions per day (in lieu of landings), while others may offer it as a one-time option in place of Zodiac cruises.
Antarctica ski and climbing adventures
The Antarctic Peninsula is essentially one continuous mountain range that drops straight into the sea, bordered by similarly steep islands that protrude from the turbulent straits and bays. Some of the bigger islands include massive peaks, such as Mt Français (2822m) on Anvers Island and Mt Parry (2520m) on Brabant Island, which are popular climbing and skiing destinations, while hundreds of smaller islands and promontories provide easy day trips.
Though little snow falls in the frigid Antarctic core, the peninsula coast’s marine atmosphere offers softer, skiable snow on the mountain slopes. Backcountry skiing is available here; no chair lifts are available. All expeditions are with certified guides since there are crevasses and the potential of avalanches. Even skiers with little skill can make some tracks with an iceberg-strewn ocean as a background.
Several well-known firms provide cruises that include skiing and climbing. IceAxe Expeditions, based in California, is a ski-only business that organizes regular excursions at the start of each season. Most itineraries include backcountry skiing and animal encounters, but evenings are spent securely aboard ship in well-catered luxury.
A lengthier, more difficult, and more costly alternative is to go aboard a boat like Icebird, which serves as the home base for Ski-Antarctica, a firm that has performed multiple first ascents, descents, and ski excursions on the coastal peaks and hinterland. It also provides multi-day tent experiences.
Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, which includes inland-Antarctic pioneers Adventure Network International (ANI), provides two-week ski or climb programs for people looking to go further into the huge white gap. These are distinct from the company’s long-standing activity on Mt Vinson (4892m), the continent’s highest peak and an attraction for Seven Summiteers. After a four-hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, travelers spend some time at Union Glacier acclimatizing and preparing for their journey before embarking on multi-day treks with expert guides.