I hardly knew which way to look. One magnificent vista after another unfurled as my transport shuttle sped toward Patagonia, the Argentinian region so famous for its spectacular mountains, vast glaciers, and pure turquoise lakes. As we neared El Chalten, the scenery became even more breathtaking. The pinnacles of Monte Fitz Roy (often anglicized to Mount Fitz Roy) and Cerro Torre thrust up behind the town like a thumb and four gloved fingers. I snapped a few photos with my iPhone, but tinted windows and the heads of other passengers did not make for the best photos. No worries, I thought, I have three days here to hike and take photos. I should have heard the weather gods laughing as that thought flitted through my mind. Read More
As I close my series on Antarctica, I’d like to offer one more image of this dramatic destination. This blue iceberg is one of my favorite photos from Antarctica. Our two rubber Zodiacs set off one morning to cruise around Cierva Cove. The bay was choked with icebergs ranging from tiny to gargantuan, but it was this mid-size one that caught my attention. Not only was it a gorgeous blue hue, it also had an almost perfectly circular hole at its base. Our captain hadn’t noticed the iceberg; he motored by without a glance. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Can we go back to that one, the one with the hole in it?” I asked. Read More
Like any travel writer worth his or her salt, one of my life’s goals has been to visit all seven continents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the price of Antarctic cruises…until a couple of years ago, when I discovered the secret to scoring a cheap fare. If you’re in the same boat (no pun intended), read on, because I’m going to tell you all the steps to take to find an affordable trip to Antarctica.
What Type of Antarctic Cruises are Best for You
First and foremost you should decide which type of Antarctic cruise is best for you. They basically fall into four categories:
Luxury Antarctic Cruises
I’m stating the obvious when I say that luxury Antarctic cruise ships are, well, more luxurious. Luxury ships tend to be larger, which allows them to offer a wider range of amenities. Yoga and meditation classes, spas, swimming pools, fitness centers, multiple dining rooms with private seating, fine wines and champagne, movie theaters, 24-hour butler service, and free wifi are the norm. I even read about one that offers two seven-seat helicopters and a seven-seat submarine for eye-popping exploration of the Antarctic. On the positive side, larger vessels tends to be more stable in what can be very rough seas. But a larger ship also means more passengers, up to 500 in some instances. Read More
My time in Antarctica was coming to a close when the captain announced we would arrive at the Lemaire Channel early the next morning. Located on the western side of the Waddell Peninsula, between Graham Land on the continent and Booth Island, this narrow 6.6-mile long sea passage offers one of the most spectacular sights in Antarctica. Due to its sheltered location, the sea is almost always calm. The mirrored surface reflects the rugged cliffs on either side of the channel, providing stunning scenes that are a photographer’s dream come true.
The captain had tried to enter the narrow passageway two weeks earlier but the sea ice had not yet broken up. With clear, sunny conditions during the past week, there was a good chance that it would finally be open for the season. Knowing that the call over the P.A. would come early (the captain said about 6 a.m.), I snuggled beneath my thick duvet and went to sleep early. Read More
Antarctica. The coldest, driest, windiest, most severe place on the face of the earth. It’s hard to imagine that any creature can exist in such a harsh environment. But the animals of Antarctica not only survive, they thrive, like the tiny krill, which float through the seas in great masses, providing a vital food source for the great ocean mammals. Others are more visible. Eight species of penguin call Antarctica home, as do 15 species of whale and six of seal. These are what I had come to see and I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment I set foot on the Antarctic continent, I was surrounded by penguins and seals.
But mammals aren’t the only animals in Antarctica. Every spring, more than 100 million seabirds breed along the rocky coastlines of the Waddell peninsula and on the myriad islands that surround it. Cormorants, Cape Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Skuas, and Albatross were just some of the feathered friends I spotted. One Snowy Sheathbill even hitched a ride on the deck of our ship. Read More
I saw hundreds of thousands of penguins in Antarctica. I saw thousands of icebergs. I even saw hundreds of penguins on icebergs. But this sole Adelie penguin on an iceberg in Antarctica was the most captivating of all. My jaw dropped. I’d been watching colonies of penguins at Brown Bluff make their way, hop by excruciating hop, up a mountainside to nesting grounds. They were ungainly. They often looked as if they were on the verge of tumbling back down the rocky scree. But maintaining their balance on an outcropping of rock is one thing; hopping to the top of a slick, near vertical iceberg is quite another. One of most intriguing mysteries of my trip to Antarctica will always be how this lone penguin made it to the top of this iceberg.