Is this your year to visit the white continent?

Travelwise

As COVID-19 vaccination rates rose this year, travel came roaring back from a virtual yearlong standstill. Because most of us consider travel and vacations a mental health necessity, being homebound for more than a year created a pent-up demand to get out and experience the world. One of the trends that travel advisors are seeing is the desire to check off bucket-list travel experiences. The pandemic made us reorder priorities, and many travelers are taking those dream trips now. If Antarctica is on your travel wish list, why not take the polar plunge and visit the White Continent this year?

Why should you visit Antarctica?

It’s an expedition of a lifetime to the least visited place on Earth. The sheer vastness of the seventh continent is awe-inspiring. The constantly shifting scenery of massive icebergs is like nature’s art gallery painted in a thousand hues of blue and white. The profound silence of the expanse is inspiring and even emotional.

And then there’s the wildlife. You’ll see a variety of whales, seals, seabirds and other wildlife. Take a Zodiac from your expedition ship to walk on fast ice (ice that’s “fastened” to the shoreline) and stand among a colony of king penguins. From a distance, you can watch leopard seals swim, hunt and haul out onto ice floes and see a massive elephant seal “beach master” defend his harem of females from other suitors.

If the overall Antarctica experience isn’t tempting enough, another reason to visit the White Continent this year is to witness a total solar eclipse that will only be visible in Antarctica at
7:34 am on December 4, 2021. If you’ve ever seen one of these celestial phenomena, you know what an extraordinary event it is. Just imagine what it will be like in Antarctica.

How to visit Antarctica

The season to visit Antarctica is November through February. Most people travel by ship, departing from Ushuaia, Argentina. From there, you cross the infamous Drake Passage, one of the most active ocean waterways in the world. Even with the modern comforts of ship stabilizers, this crossing can be an adventure.

Several tour operators sail purpose-built expedition ships to Antarctica. They have reinforced hulls for icebreaking and tend to carry fewer than 200 guests. The ships are stylishly elegant while functional. Most have libraries and auditoriums, some have spas or fitness rooms, but none have casinos.

Expedition leaders are not only guides but also teachers and storytellers who share their in-depth knowledge of the Antarctic region. Onboard photography instructors help guests capture both the stillness and life of this extreme landscape in photographs. Lectures on wildlife, ice movement and environmental concerns are presented by onboard experts who also mingle with guests for further casual discussion in their fields of expertise.

An expedition cruise to Antarctica is a bucket-list trip in every respect, including its price tag. Cruises per person for a 10-day journey include airfare to Ushuaia, a pre-cruise hotel night and expedition gear. More luxurious shipboard amenities, travel insurance and pre- or post-cruise tours will increase the total.

Is this your year to visit the White Continent? If so, consult with your favorite travel advisor for help booking your adventure of a lifetime.

About Beverly McLean 17 Articles
Beverly McLean, CTC, is affiliated with Covington Travel and can be reached at 757-286-5233 or e-mail BeverlyM@covtrav.com.

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