Planning for Antarctica (Part 2): Where Am I Going?

Now in the final month of the countdown to my dream travel adventure to Antarctica, I continue sharing the planning phase (and my excitement) with you in my weekly post.  Part 1 began last week with answers to the most common questions I’ve been asked (and I’ve asked myself).  Part 2 explores where I will actually be going.

My decision to turn a dream into reality and go to Antarctica was made in the length of time it took to finish reading an article in National Geographic on the flight from London to LA during a work trip earlier this year.

The decision to go with Quark didn’t take much longer.  Their full page advertisement next to the article I was reading was text-book marketing – and it worked.  I did do a bit of research on the internet before making the final decision, but as there didn’t seem to be a great difference in price and itineraries offered by other companies and my first phone call to Quark was such a positive one, the decision was made.

The next decision was where to go – and this took a little longer.  I had narrowed it down between a 14 day expedition offering extended time in the Antarctic Peninsula region, crossing the Antarctic Circle and visiting less frequented sites, and a 20 day expedition that didn’t cross the circle but included the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.  Although I never use the phrase “once in a lifetime” when it comes to travel, if there is one location my bank account may not stretch to twice it is Antarctica and in the end the wildlife of South Georgia tipped the scales.

The other benefit of this trip is that it only passes the Drake Passage once!

But the adventure doesn’t start in Ushuaia – first I need to get there and I’ll have plenty of time to work through my Antarctica reading list on the 14 hour flight from London to Buenos Aires.  I will no doubt feel a sense of irony as I hand my Australian passport to the Argentinian immigration officials, knowing I prepaid the reciprocity fee applicable only to Australian, Canadians and Americans a week before my British passport was approved.

As tempting as it is to spend more time in Argentina’s capital, I’ll be limiting myself to an afternoon and overnight stop before an early flight to Ushuaia.  And then I’ll have three nights to start unwinding before the adventure begins, including what is quite possibly my most unique Xmas Day yet, literally at the bottom of South America.  In addition to exploring the Tierra del Fuego National Park, I look forward to some chillaxing time in Ushuaia before I say goodbye to my land legs.

“Expect the unexpected” – Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas

All itineraries offered by Polar Travel Companies come with the disclaimer “expect the unexpected” and it’s important to pack flexibility with your thermals.  One thing I do know for sure though is that my first day will be spent at sea as we head north towards the remote archipelago that has been the subject of controversy for centuries.  My camera is ready for its first real workout on what is known as the Falklands Islands or Islas Malvinas, depending on where you are from.   Unless the ‘unexpected’ happens, we will visit the East and West Islands, the town of Port Stanley and have a meet-and-greet scheduled with a few penguins and other wildlife.

After starting the expedition by illogically heading away from the southern continent, we will turn and head south and I will begin 2013 by officially entering Antarctic waters.  No doubt the unique Xmas Day I experience a few days earlier will pale in comparison to a New Years’ Day spent crossing the invisible biological boundary called the Antarctic Convergence.

Embracing Wildlife and History – South Georgia

After a couple of days at sea where I will either be grateful I brought sea-sickness medication with me or relieved I will still have ample supply for the upcoming Drake Passage, I expect to give my sea legs a short reprieve by setting foot on South Georgia.

Often referred to as the Galapagos of the Poles, the potential to observe the penguin rookeries, beaches with crowds of fur or elephant seals, a diverse birdlife population and non-native reindeer grazing in the background of the grasses, mountains and beaches of this island are amongst the reasons I choose this particular expedition.

Our landing at South Georgia follows the footsteps of many brave and curious explorers, as it was once a popular stop for a number of historic Antarctic expeditions.  We will have the opportunity to visit the grave of one of the most recognisable names in Polar exploration, Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Heading South – South Shetland Islands & Antarctic Peninsula

After four days in the South Georgia region we will head to our most southernmost location on the expedition – Antarctica!  This is where I’ll discover whether I’ve brought enough memory cards to capture the iconic landscape and wildlife of the great white wilderness.   This is where I’ll discover how many layers I need to wear on a shore landing.  And this is where I’ll discover just how cold the waters of Antarctica are when I plunge into them in a pre-meditated moment of madness.

This is where I expect to discover a part of the world like no other.

We will have four days to explore the South Shetland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula, contrasting the abundant wildlife of penguins, seals and wales with the isolation and silence of the white, icy landscape.  After experiencing Antarctica on foot, in the water, from the zodiacs and from my ‘mobile base camp’ the Ocean Diamond I will complete my expedition through the notorious Drake Passage where I fully expect to experience two days of sea-sickness but hope I may be one of the lucky few who avoid it.

It’s difficult to imagine returning to the harsh reality of the office after such a travel adventure but I do have a few days planned in El Calafete to soften the blow before I return.  And I only have a month left in the office after I return, before I complete the contract I have been working on, rent my flat out, pack by bags and use my one-way ticket out of London for my next adventure…

But first…ANTARCTICA!

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

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Planning for Antarctica (Part 1): FAQs
Inspirational Travel Quotes and Why We Travel