Travel

The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica

The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica

One of the most desirable destinations on an avid traveller’s bucket lists is Antarctica, the white continent.

Antarctica is the world’s fifth-largest continent, and nearly twice the size of Australia. It is the coldest continent on earth and is mostly covered by the Antarctic ice sheet.

Home to more than 235 animal species and 70 permanent research stations, there is more going on in Antarctica than one might imagine. There are many reasons to visit Antarctica and potentially just as many reasons not to.

Based on my recent expedition to the most isolated continent in the world, I’m sharing the pros and cons of choosing to visit one of the most remote, unique and challenging destinations.

Pros of travelling to Antarctica

Unique experience

No two trips to Antarctica are ever the same as the itinerary is at the mercy of the weather. The travel plan can change multiple times in a matter of hours and therefore the itinerary will always differ.

Visitors will rarely miss out on anything, though, as there is so much to see and the crew make every effort to give visitors the very best of Antarctica on every trip.

Incredible wildlife viewing

There are a variety of animals and birds to observe on a visit to Antarctica, including whales, seals, penguins and sea birds.

There are strict limits on how close visitors can get to the wildlife, but surprisingly there is always a good view to be had, whether it’s from a ship, cruising in the zodiac boats or on the land.

The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica
The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica
The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica

Educational opportunity

Many expeditions to Antarctica focus on educating visitors about the wildlife, history and the environment.

Some trips also involve citizen science projects, from simple on-deck activities, such as recording wildlife sightings or capturing and sharing images of seals and whales, to going out on a dedicated science boat and taking samples of ice or measuring underwater animal sounds.

These are unique experiences but may not be available on all expeditions.

Spectacular scenery

The passing scenery on an Antarctica cruise is spectacular including towering icebergs, jagged mountains, expansive glaciers, and striking rock formations. It is the pristine landscape and the epic silence that does not compare to anywhere else in the world.

Photography

The colours, landscape, wildlife and ever-changing weather are a photographer’s dream.

Capturing the experience and the sheer majesty of this incredible destination is a wonderful way to engage with what you’re seeing. Travellers will become shutterbugs even if they weren’t before embarking on the trip.

If you are lucky, the ship will have an onboard photographer and may even offer photography workshops.

Cons of travelling to Antarctica

Environmental impact

The environmental impact of taking a trip to Antarctica is significant.

The carbon footprint to get to Antarctica, from the lengthy flights and the ship voyage, does contribute some serious outputs. This can be offset with your airline and there are strict guidelines for the sustainability of the ships that travel to the white continent. In fact, the ship I travelled on was a hybrid expedition ship.

Stepping foot on the pristine wilderness is well managed yet, you’re still stepping on the ground that would otherwise not have been impacted by mankind. The mere presence of humans makes a difference to the balance of nature, no matter how small.

The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica
The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica
The pros and cons of travelling to Antarctica

Getting there is difficult

Antarctica is not crowned the most isolated continent for no reason. It is a difficult and lengthy process to get there and you do have to cross the world’s roughest stretch of water – the Drake Passage – to get there.

From Australia, visitors would take a flight to South America (more than 16 hours, plus layovers) and then an internal flight to the departure port in Ushuaia, Argentina.

It’s then a two-day crossing to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, then further sailing to reach the mainland of the continent, and of course this entire journey needs to be repeated to get home.

It’s expensive

A trip to Antarctica in not a light decision to make. It’s expensive as there are limited numbers of ships and places onboard.

The season to travel there is also limited to a window between the months of November and March. This scarcity inevitably drives up price. There is also the extra cost of getting there, the insurances, medical screenings, and any gear that you may need to purchase.

Strict regulations

When you are in Antarctica there are very strict regulations on passenger movement to protect and preserve the environment. Visitors have limited time for landings and are to stick to dedicated pathways and areas when on land.

Strict distance limitations are in place for getting close to wildlife for the protection of both parties.

If you’re thinking of travelling to Antarctica, take the time to research and plan so you can make the most of the experience and decide whether it is the right trip for you.


All images by Danielle Phyland.

Disclaimer: The writer travelled at their own expense. This is an independent review.

Danielle Phyland - writer - SHE DEFINED

Danielle Phyland

https://www.possandruby.com.au/

Danielle Phyland is an avid traveller and loves to explore all corners of the globe.

With a professional career in tourism and business development, she loves experiencing the hospitality of local businesses.

A casual crafter and passionate home cook, Danielle is based in the creative northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.