There's no better way to truly appreciate the immensity, majesty and raw beauty of the Antarctic wilderness than to immerse yourself in the landscape on a series of activities and shore landings. One of the critical factors in appraising Antarctica cruises is the frequency of the shore landings and zodiac boat trips and the availability of activities. So let's have a look at five of the best things to do in Antarctica, all of which are staples of most cruises.
The activity most look forward to when visiting the Antarctic Peninsula, not to mention the Falklands and South Georgia, is the prospect of getting up close to remote and beautiful wildlife, often on an extraordinary scale. Whether you are a keen wildlife photographer, a wildlife enthusiast or simply someone who gets a thrill out of observing out of the ordinary creatures in their natural habitats, the Antarctic Peninsula will surpass even your wildest expectations.
A wide variety of penguin species inhabit the peninsula and on the Falklands and South Georgia, seen gathered in vast colonies, feeding their young chicks or making the journey to go foraging in the sea. These include gentoo, adelie, chinstrap, king and macaroni varieties. You will also encounter a variety of seal species, such as fur, crabeater, leopard and Weddel seals, not to mention the lumbering elephant seals. In the water look out for humpback, minke and even killer whales, especially prevalent in February.
Wildlife encounters on the Sea Spirit
Zodiac boat trips
As well as being used to shuttle you between the cruise vessel and the land, a core activity of any Antarctica cruise is the chance to venture out into the narrow channels in a smaller zodiac boat. These nimble vessels are able to cover ground quickly and have the maneuverability to be able to get closer to the wildlife of the peninsula, without disturbing it. The zodiac boats also provide a wonderful vantage point from which to survey and photograph the region's immense electric-blue icebergs, particularly in Paradise Bay, also home to penguins, seals and maybe even whales.
The zodiac boats get you close to the water, but get into a kayak and it's an even deeper level of immersion and connection with the landscape. It might seem a little daunting at first to the first time kayaker, but this is a safe and fun way to experience this remarkable environment, perhaps reaching into otherwise inaccessible parts. The quiet nature of kayaking can also get you closer to the wildlife and give you time to reflect upon the beauty which surrounds you.
Kayak groups are led by experienced guides, usually with limited numbers. Some cruises offer excursions for more experienced kayakers.
Kayaking on the Ocean Nova
Snowshoeing & Hiking
Of course, one of the moments most anticipated by any first-time traveller to Antarctica is the very first time you set foot on the world's most remote and least-visited continent. Your first step will surely be a memorable one, but it is only the beginning of your adventures on the frozen continent.
Having been transported from the ship by smaller zodiac boats, you will then form part of a small group, led by a highly experienced guide, undertaking walks which vary from leisurely strolls to more serious undertakings, or perhaps in pursuit of a special interest. Most walks on Antarctic generally last up to two hours, with some areas of more challenging terrain and often in cold conditions - no one comes to Antarctica for a stroll in the park! The safety of travellers is paramount at all times, so you won't be traversing glaciers or allowed to go wandering off on your own.
Those who choose to include a visit to South Georgia mught have the opportunity to undertake a 6km hike which traces part of the epic path followed by legendary explorer Sir Ernest Shakleton.
Walking on Antarctica from the Sea Spirit
Camping on Antarctica
One sure-fire way to take the expedition value of your trip to Antarctica up another notch is to spend a night away from the comfort of your cabin and nestled in a tent on the Antarctic Peninsula. Relive the experiences of the early explorers, who would have also spent their nights in much the same way, albeit with the provisions and comforts and more rudimentary equipment. They too would have heard the same cracking of icebergs, gazed out to the same starry night sky and shared that same sense of intrepid exploration.
Just like the question of whether to cruise across the Drake passage of fly over it, the prospect of spending a night out in the elements, surrounded by snow and ice, will doubtlessly elicit a sense of excitement in some and dread in others. And just like the crossing of the notorious Drake, the ships and their staff have a number of ways to increase your comfort, enhance your experience and keep you safe at all times. This means providing the right equipment, helping you establish and break down the tent and staying with you through the night, whilst remaining in contact with the nearby ship.
Camping on a Plancius Antarctica cruise
Inspired to visit Antarctica to undertake these activities and more on a specialist cruise to the frozen continent? Consult our tours below or see our selection of Antarctica cruises to gain inspiration for your own intrepid adventure.
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The Explorer Tour
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Discover Argentina's Lake District and breathtaking Antarctica on a luxury 10-night expedition cruise to one of the world's true wildernesses of towering glaciers, penguin col…
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The Lemaire Classic Tour
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Head straight to Ushuaia to embark on a classic ten night Sea Spirit expedition cruise to the remote South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula