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Antarctica from another angle

Whether it’s the frigid weather, the blue and white landscape, or the fact that penguins trump the number of people thousand-fold, Antarctica is truly a winter wonderland. If you’re planning to visit this frozen continent—then get ready, because you’ll never look at our planet the same way again. And, if you’re looking to take it to the next level, I’ve got a couple of experiences that’ll get you closer than you’d imagined possible—kayaking and camping.

Don’t just cruise Antarctica—camp it

Aside from explorers and scientists, few adventurers have actually slept under Antarctica’s skies. Here you’ll experience the sounds of heaving ice, the fresh scent of the sea and the crisp air of the polar night. So, what better way to really be part of the Antarctic experience? Follow in the footsteps of those bold explorers and experience the continent with a night ashore. Here, you’ll have additional time to enjoy the beauty of Antarctica from your campsite, with ample opportunities for photography and quiet refection.

Now don’t worry, you don’t have to be Les Stroud to camp on this icy tundra — in fact, previous camping experience isn’t necessary. But that doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy—you’ll be asked to pitch in and help organize the campsite for the evening. All you really need to bring is a sense of adventure and an extra fleece (okay, a hat, gloves or mittens, and extra thick socks are a necessity for a chilly evening—and a good windproof, waterproof parka and pants are always a good idea, too). Your other equipment, of course, will be covered. Stowed away on the ship are two-man tents, insulating mats and sleeping bags (rated to 20 below).

Your ship’s Captain and Expedition Leader will consider weather conditions and landscape to determine a safe location — so it’s impossible predict exactly where you’ll be camping. But after setting up camp, you’ll have time to explore the nearby area. Because the campsite is in an ecologically sensitive environment, you’ll need to closely follow the instructions of your Expedition Leader. That means you won’t be able to bring food ashore; but don’t worry — the team will have rations on hand in the event that conditions delay your scheduled return. This way, you’ll get to experience nature and leave a minimum of evidence of your adventure under the stars.

That means, moreover, that toilet facilities are ‘rustic’ at best. The team will provide a portable toilet—which campers must use. That’s because the staff will return all waste to the ship for proper disposal. Of course, your fellow campers will do their best to provide a certain level of privacy but — take it from me —you’ll want to make full use of the restrooms onboard prior to disembarking!

Sure, you’ll leave behind a few of creature comforts in order to experience the quiet majesty of a cool, open-air experience of a lifetime. But the sounds, the vistas, the weather—all intensified by the crucible of a night ashore—are worth it!

Been there. Paddled that.

Kayaking in Antarctica isn’t just an outdoor adventure; it’s an opportunity to experience the continent at a whole other level—sea level! Here, you’ll have the opportunity to go eye-to-eye with inquisitive Antarctic wildlife—no other activity gets you as close to the natural environment as kayaking.

Excursions are dependent on weather but, trust me, you’ll want to get out paddling at every possible opportunity. This means kayaking is often offered concurrently with other activities, such as Zodiac cruising and shore landings. Your guides will hold pre-excursion meetings to help you choose your activity, with the aim that over the course of the cruise you will achieve your preferred balance of time on shore and time on the water.

Of course, the number of kayaking opportunities on a given cruise depends on other things like itinerary and weather conditions, too. Together with the Captain and Expedition Leader, your guides will determine which excursions are appropriate based on weather and ice conditions—and site suitability. They’ll do their best to offer kayaking as often as these factors allow but, like all things in Antarctica, there are no guarantees.

Conclusion

This is real adventure in an extreme environment, so you should have a working knowledge of strokes, entries and exits. You see, when it comes to Antarctica, the weather is unpredictable, and currents can change within seconds, so it’s important that you’re a strong paddler. (I told you—Antarctica ain’t always easy!) But if you’re a novice and really keen on taking part in this experience, you’d benefit from a few sea-kayaking lessons at home before you make your way down south.