Name one continent that conjures up the most superlatives. For starters, think coldest, highest, windiest and driest continent on the planet. You’re spot on if Antarctica comes to mind!
The preferred way to experience a plethora of additional superlative experiences in this bucket list destination is to explore Antarctica in the intimate way that only a small ship can offer. That’s where small ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations (http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com) comes in. Their suggestions for layering in the “wows” add even more excitement to cruising the White Continent.
1) Stand-up Paddleboard in Antarctica: Sail on the 199-guest Ocean Endeavour to experience the calming, surreal feeling of standing and gliding on the water’s surface among ice floes. This is the only expedition ship currently offering stand-up paddleboarding as an optional (added-cost) adventure activity. The sport of stand-up paddleboarding, a hybrid of surfing and kayaking, provides a very personal perspective of Antarctica as you stand solo on the stable surf-style board, propelling your way forward with a single, long oar. Guides take out small groups of 10 paddleboarders in good weather conditions on calm bays and harbors.
2) Go the Fastest: Choose the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer, which clocks in at up to 18 knots, for the fastest Drake Passage crossing. Or opt for an air cruise, like the Antarctica Air Cruise or Antarctic Express, to shave off the days-long crossing with one-way or round-trip flights.
3) Scuba Dive in Antarctica: Sail aboard the 114-guest Plancius or the 116-guest Ortelius to experience Antarctica’s underwater world of marine life: kelp walls, sea snails, crabs, sea butterflies, jellyfish, sea-hedgehogs, starfish, krill and giant isopods. Fur and leopard seals and penguins abound. Dive sites are varied and may include shallow ice diving and diving along a wall, and entering the water from a beach or from the zodiac. The maximum depth is around 20 meters (60 feet). Scuba diving incurs an added cost and is for experienced divers only who are familiar with cold water diving and dry suit diving (at least 20 dives).
4) Cruise on the Smallest Ship: The 72-guest Ocean Nova, measuring 240 feet in length, is the smallest ship that AdventureSmith Explorations books for its Antarctica trips. This modern, Danish-designed vessel offers the most intimate of Antarctic experiences aboard a nimble ship.
5) Skinny Ski Antarctica: The 199-guest Ocean Endeavour is the only expedition ship in AdventureSmith’s catalog offering cross-country skiing as an add-on activity. Antarctica’s pristine snow makes it the perfect place to Nordic ski, with penguins providing the soundtrack. Cross-country skiing is only available on select Antarctic voyages at the beginning of the season.
6) Travel with Famed Explorers and Scientists: National Geographic The White Continent and National Geographic Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Islands expeditions offer an extensive Global Perspectives program, with scientists, artists, historians, explorers and other influentials joining their Antarctic voyages as expert guest speakers. Sailing with you are the likes of Peter Hillary, the son of Everest’s Sir Edmund Hillary; archaeologist Lee Berger, one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”; Frances Ulmer, the Chair of the US Arctic Research Commission; and Joe MacInnis, the first person to explore the ocean beneath the North Pole.
7) Pitch a Tent in Antarctica: Imagine the ultimate quiet of a night spent sleeping outdoors in Antarctica. The exposure, the remoteness, the occasional penguin passing by your tent. Sleeping out in the elements in Antarctica calls to the more adventurous. Wildlife camping on the 7th Continent is synonymous with more intimate encounters. Many expedition ships offer this add-on to your journey. Look for options aboard Expedition (132 guests), Plancius (114 guests), Ortelius (116 guests), Sea Adventurer (117 guests), Ocean Endeavour (199 guests), Ocean Diamond (189 guests) and Hebridean Sky (114 guests).
8) Ride in a Whirlybird: See Antarctica as few do: from the sky on the Weddell Sea Emperor Penguin Voyage. This expedition uses helicopters for more than just the pretty view; three days are allotted to visit remote Emperor penguin rookeries via helicopter for a fascinating once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Todd Smith, founder and director of AdventureSmith Explorations, said, “Antarctica has been ‘discovered’ by mainstream travelers and is on many ‘must-do’ vacation lists. The short season matched with limited departures aboard small ships mean most cruises sail at full capacity. We suggest that travelers book nine to 12 months in advance for the best selection of cruises, cabins and activities. This also helps ensure the best price.”
The urgency to travel here now is underscored by environmental threats in addition to global warming: overfishing, invasive species, pollution, exploitation of minerals, oil and gas and even threats from too much tourism.
“People hear reports of declining penguin populations and icebergs the size of Rhode Island breaking off and feel a sense of urgency to see Antarctica now, before it becomes spoiled. It is our hope that industry and humanity will come together to address these issues and Antarctic conservation will take hold to prevent further degradation of the polar environment,” he continued. “It is our hope that by responsibly sending travelers to experience Antarctica in person we will create an army of advocates for its protection and the larger environmental issues that affect Antarctica and the entire planet.”
For information on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises worldwide, itineraries, availability and reservations, Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or visit http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/.