by Camilla Campbell
I was lucky enough to travel down to Antarctica on the Ocean Nova at the beginning of March this year on their final cruise of the season. Antarctica was never really on my radar of places that I HAD to go to just yet, I guess I always thought it would be a holiday that I would go on when I was a bit older (I am currently 26). Boy was I wrong. A trip to Antarctica is one that everyone should experience and what better time to go than the present!
Below is my list of the top 10 reasons why everyone should visit Antarctica:
1. Wildlife. One of the main reasons I think people go to Antarctica is for the wildlife and the continent does not disappoint. Within the first 30 minutes of setting sail out of Ushuaia, we had seen swimming penguins, a range of birds and even a couple of whales off in the distance – and we hadn’t even left the Beagle Channel yet! One of the most exciting things about a trip to Antarctica is the unpredictability of your wildlife sightings. One minute you can be sitting listen to a talk on the effects of climate change on Antarctica and the next you can be standing out on the deck watching a pod of 6 whales feeding. A personal highlight for me was seeing some Elephant Seals. I could have sat and watched them all day.
2. People. Everyone knows that how enjoyable a holiday is often influenced by the people you share that holiday with – and I must say that this was one of the most enjoyable trips I have been on, solely because of the people that I got to share it with. I travelled on my own and found the other guests and staff to be more than accommodating. The staff were so friendly and were more than happy to sit and chat about the time they had spent in Antarctica. It was a great opportunity to meet people from other countries and from a large spread of backgrounds. On my trip alone there were Australians, Chinese, a couple of Americans and a Dutch person, just to name a few. All of the staff and crew were from a range of different places as well including the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, the United States so it was really great to make connections with these people, many of which I am still in contact with!
3. Food. I love food, I’m not going to lie. And the Ocean Nova served up some seriously tasty food. To be completely honest, I was a bit sceptical about what the food was going to be like (I think we are really spoiled in Australia when it comes to food) but I can’t rate it highly enough. Each morning we had a large breakfast buffet with both hot and cold options. Lunch was another buffet with salads and hot dishes including grilled fish, curry and lasagne to name a few. And dinner was sit down with an entrée, choice of a main from 3 options, and a dessert. But I must say that my favourite part was the cheese board which was set out at lunch and dinner each day. I made sure that every day I did a bit of quality control at the cheese station daily – someone had to do it!
5. The Future. Everyone knows that global warming is a real threat and Antarctica is not immune. Who knows what the future will bring but there is a very real chance that Antarctica will not be the same in the near future. It is our duty as global citizens to travel down there, see the effects of global warming and take that information back home to our family and friends. Before I went to Antarctica, I guess I was fairly uneducated about the impact that we have on the environment but this trip has totally changed the way that I think and behave in my day-to-day life. This is thanks largely to the brilliant presentations that were given on board by the Antarctic experts.
6. Landscape. If you’ve ever spoken to anyone who has been to Antarctica they will tell you that the landscape is out of this world, that it is like nowhere else on earth and I can honestly say that they weren’t lying. There is literally nowhere else on earth like Antarctica. The land masses are huge and imposing and the icebergs are like nothing else. It’s crazy to think that when you are looking at an iceberg, you are only seeing 10% of it. You really do need to travel there yourself to see it for yourself.
7. Back to Basics. Every now and then I think people get to the point where they need a holiday to completely switch off, to not have any communication to the outside world. If you’re feeling a little like this then a holiday to Antarctica is the perfect thing for you. It took us around 2 days to cross the infamous Drake Passage and as I watched my phone signal disappear I can’t tell you how excited I was. Everyone on board really took this time to get to know each other (yes that’s right, a real conversation face-to-face with another human being – crazy!), catch up on some reading, catch up on some sleep, attend presentations and so on. It’s also a really valuable time to get you ready for the next few days that you spend down in Antarctica.
8. Activities. Yes, okay, there is some quality down time whilst on the boat but as soon as you get off and set foot on the Peninsula, you can make this holiday as active as you wish. There were a group of kayakers on my trip who kayaked at every opportunity they got. There were also a group of hikers who would head out on a longer, more physical walk than the rest of the group and meet up with the rest of us. And the beauty of it is, if you sign up for either trekking or kayaking, it is totally up to you to decide when you do it and how physical you want your holiday to be.
9. South America. A trip to Antarctica is the perfect opportunity to tie in a holiday to South America. It’s no secret that the flying time from Australia to the port town of Ushuaia (the main town where most Antarctic cruises depart from) is lengthy so why not tie in your cruise with some South America land arrangements. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Buenos Aires after my cruise and it was the best thing I did. But you don’t have to head to a big city, there are some spectacular places around Ushuaia for trekking and nature activities. A couple of days either pre-or post your cruise will really break up your flying time and there are some spectacular places to see in South America so you may as well make the most of your time!
10. It’s ok to go solo. I don’t usually like to travel solo and was super nervous about going on a cruise for 10 whole days on my own. To my surprise, there was more than 1 person in the same predicament as me. As I mentioned earlier, I found that most people on my cruise had similar interests and were on the cruise to tick off a long-standing item on their bucket list. Both the cruise staff and guests were friendly and were more than welcoming – you were after all, stuck on a boat together for 10 days. It was easy to sit down next to a stranger at dinner or during the presentations and feel comfortable. So, if you are a single traveller and are nervous about booking a cruise to Antarctica for just yourself, fear not! This will be one of the best things you do in your life.
I really can’t recommend a trip to Antarctica enough. It is the most serene, spectacular place I have ever been to and I haven’t stopped talking about my trip since.
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