Rachel Nicoll, tour consultant for Latin America and Antarctica at Cox & Kings gives us the inside story on what’s not to be missed on a trip down south and when we say south we mean south. The Earth’s southern most continent infact!
January is an ideal time for Antarctica holidays – this is when the harsh conditions of the area subside, and wildlife spotting is at its finest. January offers longer daylight hours, slightly more comfortable temperatures, and an opportunity to spot newborn penguins and seals. Luxury tour operator Cox & Kings points out the highlights of a visit to Antarctica.
A number of penguins live in the rookeries of the Antarctic Peninsula, including gentoo, chinstrap, Adélie and the stoic emperor penguins. January is the time when many chicks are born, so keep a look out for these small, fluffy animals huddled close to their parents. It is also recommended to explore the Falklands and South Georgia islands, where you can walk among hordes of king, magellanic, macaroni and spiky-crested rockhopper penguins, while they slowly waddle along. Another highlight is watching the penguins slide across the sheer blue ice and into the freezing waters below.
Visiting the Peninsula
Guaranteed to make you feel small, the Antarctic Peninsula boasts dramatic snow-laden mountains, majestic icebergs that stretch for miles, and a wealth of sites to explore. It is possible to set foot on the mainland via Paradise Bay with its stunning vistas, or Neko Harbour, encircled by soaring glacial walls. There are also opportunities to cruise down the narrow Lemaire Channel (at times only 800m wide), which is known as one of Antartica’s most scenic passages and affords spectacular views of the rocks and ice. Lastly, head to Port Lockroy and pay a visit to the former British research base. There is a captivating museum to explore, and a unique opportunity to send a postcard back home.
Reaching the Weddell Sea
Lying on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula is the Weddell Sea, a remote and isolated area. The wilderness of the Weddell Sea makes for an impressive sight, with imposing icebergs and floating ice floes, broken off from huge ice shelves. Wildlife spotting in this part of the world is a highlight, with penguins, kelp gulls, pintado petrels and Weddell seals inhabiting the cliffs of Brown Bluff. Meanwhile, Paulet Island is home to a huge breeding colony of Adélie penguins – around 100,000 in total. This captivating region is also where the Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, was ruined by pack ice in 1915.
Kayaking in the Antarctic
Exploring the Antarctic via kayak is an enthralling, exhilarating and unique experience. As part of a small group (with an accompanying tour guide), there is a certain sense of calm and silence that cannot be experienced any other way. Appreciate the silence, breathe in the crisp, fresh air and glide past giant chunks of ice as icebergs reflect in the clear blue waters. Kayaking offers the chance for up-close and personal wildlife encounters – those who are lucky may spot penguins swimming underneath their kayaks.
Author Profile: This article was written by Rachel Nicoll, tour consultant for Latin America and Antarctica at Cox & Kings. Here is what she says about her visit to Antarctica in 2010.
I was fortunate enough to go to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia on a 21 day cruise on the MS Expedition in January 2010. It by far exceeded my expectations and was the most isolated and unexpected destination I have ever visited. The scenery was spectacular, and Antarctica is almost like exploring a different planet, with its gigantic icebergs and snow covered mountains. Along with the beauty of the area, the abundance of wildlife was out of this world. Imagine being surrounded by 250,000 penguins or sitting 2 metres from huge elephant seals. Best of all is cruising along in your zodiac, surrounded by whales, while leopard seals dart underneath and albatrosses fly above.
All images are courtesy of Cox & Kings.
Cox & Kings provide expertly planned luxury tours and tailor-made holidays world-wide.