Yoram Yasur: How to travel to Antarctica
Visiting Antarctica is one of the most exciting trips you can ever do, but it is not for anyone. Although it is expensive, the people who were there agree that it is really spectacular, and an unforgettable trip. Today we tell you all the details so you have an overview about what you should think when planning a trip to Antarctica.
Choose the right time
Yoram Yasur: The Antarctic tour season covers about five months, especially during the summer in the southern hemisphere (November to March). All other times of the year are extremely cold, dark, and with lots of ice.
Although there will be fewer people around the season, much of the wildlife will have already gone to the sea. During these months, some of the things you can expect are:
- November – The ice begins to break and it is mating season for penguins and other birds.
- December / January – Penguin chicks are born and fed and raised in breeding areas.
- February / March – Penguin chicks leave the nest, adult penguins move, and whales are easy to spot.
Decide how to travel to Antarctica
Yoram Yasur: Most visitors to Antarctica travel by boat, and a few intrepid travelers go on yachts. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, but none of them is cheap, so it really comes down to comfort preferences, land visits and other services offered by the tourism organizations in question. Most trips to the Antarctic region leave from Argentina (Ushuaia, Port Stanley, Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn) and Chile (Punta Arenas).
There are also trips on icebreakers, and sometimes, with helicopters for tourists visiting colonies of emperor penguins, historic cabins, dry valleys, etc. These trips leave from places like New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. The best way to find vessel options is to visit the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) at www.iaato.org and look in their “member directory”.
Yoram Yasur: Traveling on a large ship will provide you with the highest level of comfort, but you will also have to spend time with the greatest number of people. On the high seas, these vessels are the most comfortable, but strict guidelines on the number of people who can visit the coast will limit your opportunities for land visits. Smaller vessels allow more time on land. This is due to tourist guidelines that limit landings to groups of 100 people.
Consider air travel to Antarctica
There are several companies that offer flights to Antarctica, from Punta Arenas in Chile, from Cape Town in South Africa, and from Qantas in Australia. Some flights are simply meant to fly over, and you can see Antarctica from the air, while some offer cruise options.
Other flights go straight to Antarctica and you have to stay at the base or camp set up for tourist purposes only. Please note that flights are subject to cancellations due to bad weather and other security issues. The best approach to assess flight options is to read guides written specifically for Antarctica. As with boat trips, the only thing that can be expected is to pay a considerable amount of money.
The Antarctic expeditions tend to be short-lived (about 3 hours or less) and you will always be accompanied by a guide unless you have made a private expedition.
Hazards and safety
Yoram Yasur: The Antarctic environment is dangerous for humans. The weather is very changing and always cold, even in the summer. There are dangers such as cracks in ice fields and glaciers, and fire hazards are high in a very dry environment, so handling any flammable material must be done carefully. There are no vaccination requirements for Antarctica, but you must be fit and in good health, because medical treatment will be basic.
Respect the fragility of the Antarctic environment
The Antarctic environment is fragile and apart from the expeditions and bases, there has been very little human change. Wildlife remains fearless of humans due to the lack of long-term negative interaction. It is important to respect the virgin nature of Antarctica and ensure that tourism does not have a negative impact. There are rules for visitors adopted under the Antarctic Treaty that regulate the actions of visitors to Antarctica and are worth reading as part of your preparation for the visit. Some of the basic elements to consider are:
- Do not go too close to wildlife and do nothing to disturb wildlife.
- Do not throw trash. You must pack it all.
- Do not break anything. All constructed human structures have historical value. Nor can it be written on anything like rocks or other elements of the earth.
- You can take photos of things but you can’t move them.
This is one of those trips that people cannot forget. If you don’t mind the cold, this could be the perfect trip, which will create a memory for life.