The ‘White Continent’ is a photogenic dream, and the last frontier for intrepid explorers.
Enter a frozen world where seals lazily watch the ships go by, and stark white icebergs stand out vividly against the deep blue sea. A once-in-a-life-time adventure awaits for anyone making this voyage across the sea. Despite the harsh conditions, Antarctica holds a remarkable concentration of wildlife, much of which has evolved to survive in this extreme environment. The deep guttural calls of penguins in their thousands are carried across the landscape on fierce winds. With their swagger-like walk and comical habits, penguins are a firm favourite with visitors. Species that can be seen include Adelie, Chinstrap, Macaroni’s, Gentoo and Rockhopper. Look to the skies and petrels, skuas and albatross glide overhead. Mammoth cetaceans including humpback, southern right and minke whales are at home in the freezing waters below, and Antarctica also boasts a large population of Orca.
Wildlife, photography and a love of the extraordinary are what draw most people to visit this remarkable place, but a little further afield there is also a historic side. Cook, Scott and Shackleton are names all closely associated with Antarctica, and for good reason. Their explorations of this vast and icy continent are legendary, and many people are interested to see the conditions through which they battled many years ago.
Cruise ships now commonly combine journeys to Antarctica with the surrounding islands including South Georgia and the Falkland Isles. These remote and barren specks of land in the middle of the ocean are beautiful in their own right. Although they are missing the magnificent pure white landscapes, what they do have is dramatic snowcapped peaks, sweeping valleys and coves, and an astounding concentration of bird life. Hundreds upon thousands of king penguin nest on South Georgia, alongside Gentoo, chinstrap and Macaroni penguins. In addition, there are 4 different albatross species, plus skua, shearwater and petrel among others. The Falkland Isles boast similar wildlife populations, with five penguin species, and many types of whale and dolphin in the surrounding waters. During a cruise to these fascinating and rarely-visited islands, it is also possible to visit abandoned whaling stations, Shackleton’s grave, historic churches and war memorials.