Trip updates and last minute booking information for cruises to Antarctica.
Start: February 6, Almirante Brown Research Station
Finish: February 9, Ushuaia, Argentina
Killer Whales Seen: 3
Total Landings in Antarctica: 9
Total Penguin Colonies Visited: 6
Combined Weight Gained: 13.5 Pounds
Our last full day in Antartica brought us to an Argentinian research station where we went on a short hike that culminated in a magnificent view of the bay, humpback whales and our ship, the Sea Spirit. From there we took our last zodiac cruise, spotting more whales and seals and getting up close and personal with a massive glacier.
That afternoon we finally catch sight of a small pod of killer whales, the last animal species we wanted to cross off our lists. And then head to visit one last colony of chinstrap penguins on the Orne Islands. Two days later we're back in Ushuaia after a second bumpy crossing of the Drake Passage, shocked that this fantastic trip has come to an end, and dealing with the prospect of returning to our itinerant life on the road.
Start: February 5, Pleneau
Finish: February 5, Torgersen Island
Birthdays Celebrated in Antarctica: 1
Whales Within Arms Reach: 2
Species of Penguins Seen to Date: 4
By all accounts today proved to be the most memorable day we spent in Antartica, possibly of the entire trip. We start off with a zodiac cruise in an iceberg graveyard in Pleneau, then head to visit a colony of charismatic gentoo penguins. That night we celebrate Jessica's birthday and the crew throws a party in celebration of New Zealand's Waitangi Day.
The Pleneau zodiac cruise was, for me at least, the single most amazing experience on this trip. Not only did we get up close and personal with the bluest and most beautiful icebergs we've seen, but we also came within arms reach of a humpback whale and a leopard seal. In this ever-changing environment you're only guaranteed two things: it'll never be the same twice, and it will always be spectacular.
Start: February 3, Leith Cove
Finish: February 4, Pork Lockroy
12,000 Year Old Ice Cubes Drank: 8
Nights Camped in Antarctica: 1
Feet a Penguin Can Projectile Poo: 1.5
Our third night near the Antartica peninsula sees us fulfilling one of our main goals of the trip: spend a night camping in Antartica. And drink 12 year old scotch on the rocks using ice that predates modern civilization.
We also stop by the historic British Antarctic research base at Port Lockroy where we are able to send a few postcards to our parents, sure to arrive home about the same time we do.
Start: February 3, Cuverville Island
Finish: February 3, Neko Harbor
Icebergs Seen: Zillions
Whale Tail Photos Taken: 12
New Continents: 1!!!
Our second full day in the Antarctic brings us to two penguin colonies and our first landing on the continent proper. We spend the morning zodiac cruising around an iceberg field and then head to shore to catch a whiff of what is becoming an all too familiar smell: penguin poo.
In the afternoon we're off to Neko Harbor where we visit yet another penguin colony and hike up to a viewpoint and soak in the amazing scenery. In the process we witness an avalanche, a spectacular ice calving and slide back down the hill on our butts through the snow. It's an eventful and exhausting day, and proves to be the most scenic day of our journey to the ice continent.
Start: February 2, Half Moon Island
Finish: February 2, Deception Island
Penguins Seen: Umpteen Million
Seal Species Seen: 3
Thickness of Ice in the Above Photo: 110 feet
Our first full day in Antarctica brought us to two more stop on the South Shetland Islands - Half Moon Island and Deception Island. We visit our first penguin colony and get a history lesson in the early exploitation of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The knowledge and environmental awareness of the cruise staff continue to impress. Many people feel that turning Antarctica into a popular tourist destination is a horrible idea considering it contains many of the last untouched frontiers on Earth. Roughly 35,000 tourists visit Antarctica every year. Fifty years ago that number was only a couple hundred.
Fortunately our guides are very much aware of this, and go out of their way to make sure we make as little impact as possible on the environment. Nothing is left or taken but footprints and photographs. Wildlife always has the right of way, and extreme measures are taken to ensure we do not change their natural behavior.
Start: January 30, Ushuaia, Argentina
Finish: February 1, Great Wall Base, South Shetland Islands
Penguins Seen: 7
Pounds of Bacon Consumed: 2
Dramamine Tablets Taken: 12
Bank Account Status: Not Good
Years ago while planning this trip from our comfy Seattle home we very much had our hearts set on taking a cruise to Antarctica once we reached the end of the world at Ushuaia, Argentina. Our hope was to book a last minute deal at a fraction of the price, but still at the sizable cost of around $3,500 per person.
The closer we got to Ushuaia and the more research Jessica did, the more disheartened we became. Prices below $5000 were nonexistent. We can travel for nearly half a year on that money. Oh well, time to suck it up.
We've met other travelers who have done the trip and without fail they raved about it. Our favorite quote from a few Australian motorcyclists we met in Chile, and one we now repeat to others, is: "I've almost forgotten about the money, but I'll never forget about the trip." It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After all we've been through the past 17 months, we're not going to let pesky things like bank accounts get in the way of realizing one of the ultimate goals of our journey.
So...Antarctica here we come! The seventh content for Jess and Kobus (sixth for me) and hands down one of the best experiences of our lives.
In response to the onslaught of Antarctic questions, and the distinct lack of information online, here is pretty much everything we know about booking last minute cruises to Antarctica. Please keep in mind that this is based on our experience, and conditions and availability may change dramatically. If you have other info please leave a comment to help out others.
The best place to get an overview of all the ships that go to Antarctica is at http://www.polarcruises.com/. When we booked, we could get last minute rate info about three weeks in advance. Best to email too soon, and follow up as you get closer to Ushuaia. The lowest rate we heard of was $3,600 for a shared triple. Most last minute rates run in the $4-5,000 range for better suites on better ships. There are a lot of things to consider when booking, here is what we learned: