So! The only way down to Antarctica is through one of the cruise lines. After doing some research on a few, what they offered, the overall cost, and available itineraries, I decided on National Geographic / Lindblad Expeditions. And that was the best decision I made for this trip!
As the most expensive trip I took in the 12 months, it was still worth every single dollar. Plus, I checked off another outrageous desire of mine! It was all-inclusive (including tips) once you met up with them at the designated meet up spot, which was a hotel in Santiago, Chile for me. We had our own chartered flight––roundtrip from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina. Their service was impeccable — they went above and beyond in making sure we felt at home. The crew was super friendly and knowledgeable — we learned so much through the talks and chatting with them individually as they were highly-available for all the guests. The food and drinks satisfied a foodie like me––yes, they had a full (free) bar on the ship. The cabins were roomy and nice — I had a nice little alcove with a window to sit and read at. The on and off ship experiences were absolutely memorable — kayaking, hiking, zodiac rides, and more. Plus, we had National Geographic photographers onboard that were available as guides to teach us how to use our cameras and shoot better photos.
According to the captain and the expedition leader, we had the perfect weather, sea conditions, and luck that allowed us to walk on a massive piece of ice (which was rare during this season), visit a newly discovered island covered with penguins, walk amongst penguin colonies, and be on crystal clear waters.
The Drake Passage is infamous for its rough, stormy waters. But according to the staff, it was “calm” even though I still experienced seasickness for the first time ever. I had no idea it was seasickness until I started hurling. Bleh… By then, taking seasickness medicine just made me more nauseous, dehydrated, and tired. I had to sleep through a whole day at sea until I got my sea legs. Ugh… but it gave me a great excuse to catch up on sleep as jet setting the world crossing multiple time zones in short periods of time did catch up with me after a while.
So you’re interested in going to Antartica, here are some tips:
- Book your trip a year in advance. I got super lucky apparently as most of the other guests booked theirs a year earlier. Guess someone backed out of the trip, which allowed me to snag that last single cabin on the ship.
- Rent all your waterproof gear ahead of time with the expedition company, especially their boots (which were insulated, too). That means you can travel lighter. Chile was summer while Antarctica was Antarctica, so you had to pack for two seasons. We got a National Geographic parka as a gift, so I didn’t need to bring a heavy jacket, but that meant I needed to have space in my luggage to bring it back with me as a souvenir. But layers, layers, layers!
- If you bring a brand new camera, it’s best to learn the basics of the camera and play with it before the trip. I brought two cameras (a DSLR-like point and shoot and a mirrorless camera), in addition to using my iPhone. Yes, it’ll pay off to bring a camera/lens with some epic zoom abilities. Do leverage the experts onboard, along with all the skilled amateur photographers (you can identify them easily by their camera gear). You can rent cameras and lens onboard, and buy last minute camera accessories on at the gift shop. Bring extra battery packs.
- Bring a waterproof backpack (or purchase a nifty branded one at the gift shop). You’ll definitely need it on the zodiacs, especially if you have a camera.
- If you can, go for 3 weeks instead of 2. I was given this exact advice and wish I took it, because it was so much fun that I didn’t want to leave yet.
- Chile’s customs are quite strict, and it’s safer (and quicker) to just declare all the items that exceed their allowance. Don’t bring food/snacks either––that’s a no go for customs. I had to declare my second camera, but that meant I waited in a much shorter line than most of the travelers.
- Feel free to bring stuff to leave behind for the crew, especially if they’re lightly used. They’d appreciate it, in addition to extra tip.
It’s ok to go as a solo traveler as you will meet other amazing, welcoming guests. Do it if you’ve ever been curious about going. It’s worth the journey. Stop coming up with more excuses, and push it out into the future. Decide to live your life to the fullest now!
Stay tuned for more Antarctica stories tomorrow. I have so much to share!
[ Story Behind the Photo ] Penguins, everywhere! We happen to be there when the baby gentoo penguins were a few weeks old. So fluffy and cute as they snuggled up close to their moms. It was a beautiful day when we landed on Danco island in Entienne Bay. I got really lucky getting this active penguin shot with the National Geographic Orion in the background. Camera zoom for the win!