THE FORWARD GUIDE TO ANTARCTICA
We want you to fall in love with Antarctica just like we have. It is a big area, with distinctly different regions. The Forward Guide to Antarctica will introduce them to you, and help you choose where to go, when to go and what you’re likely to see.
We hope this guide inspires you to take your first Forward Traveller Antarctica steps, and start your journey with us.
GETTING TO ANTARCTICA
Cruise from Australia – 7 days
Cruise from New Zealand – 6 days
Cruise from Ushuaia Argentina – 2 days
Fly from Punta Arenas, Chile – 2 hours
Which is why all our Antarctic expeditions leave from the bottom of South America. You can cruise from Ushuaia in Argentina, or fly/cruise from Punta Arenas in Chile.
WHERE: THE DIFFERENT ANTARCTIC REGIONS
- THE DRAKE PASSSAGE
‘The Drake’ instils fear or excitement, usually depending upon how strong your ‘sea legs’ are. Crossing The Drake is considered a rite of passage for many Antarctic travellers.
The 600km long stretch of open ocean between Cape Horn and Antarctica can be the roughest water on the planet. The entire waters of the Southern Ocean are squished through the narrow opening where Antarctica reaches north and South America is furthest south. It is a bit like fitting the camel through the eye of a needle. You cross the Drake at right angles to the current, and adding in high winds, you can expect a bumpy ride.
It is impossible to know if The Drake will be a ‘lake’ or a ‘shake’, but what we do know is the ships we use, the Akademik Ioffe, and Akademik Sergey Vavilov, are the MOST stable ships operating in Antarctica.
- ANTARCTIC PENINSULA
The Antarctic Peninsula is mainland Antarctica. If you do not set foot upon it, you have not truly been to Antarctica. All our Antarctic expeditions travel to the Peninsula.
It is the most northern part of Antarctica, so is the first to thaw, the last to freeze, and the warmest. There is more wildlife here than in the rest of the Antarctic Continent. Incredible icebergs, massive glaciers and rugged snow covered mountains provide the scenery, while curious penguins and fearless whales and seals entertain us.
- THE WEDDELL SEA
The rarely visited and ice-choked Weddell Sea is a beautiful region filled with gigantic tabular icebergs. This area is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of staggering size and is the realm of the emperor penguin, the largest of the penguins. It was in the Weddell Sea that Shackleton and his men drifted north on the ice after their ship was lost in the ice months earlier. Navigating through the heavily iced water causes people to pause and consider the bravery and/or foolhardiness of those early explorers who travelled these waters a hundred years before us.
- SOUTH GEORGIA
Visiting South Georgia is stepping inside a David Attenborough documentary. Stunningly beautiful and isolated, the island has no human population, but millions of penguins, seals and birds. Walking amongst them is possibly the most sought after wildlife quest on the planet.
200,000 king penguins live on Salisbury Plain and St Andew’s Bay.
It is just 165km long and has 11 mountain over 2,000m high.
It was central to the Whaling industry till mid 1960’s.
It is forever linked to Sir Ernest Shackleton who lies at rest here.
- THE FALKLAND ISLANDS
The very British Falkland Islands are a haven of wildlife, and their abundance and accessibility makes them a huge drawcard.
King penguins share the beaches with gentoos, rockhoppers, and magellanics. Large albatross colonies are scattered across the islands, and Stanley, the capital, is a microcosm of British life. Enter one of Stanley’s pubs and you’ll be instantly transported to rural Britain, with décor, atmosphere, warm beer, and accents of a place far away.
For travellers whose interests include wildlife, wilderness, walking, or war history, then the diversity of exploring the Falklands Islands is a must.
- OPEN OCEAN
Do not dismiss the ocean as empty space. The ocean is where the Albatross rule the air and huge whales own the water. Blue, finn and sei whales are found here, and seeing them is remarkable. The wandering albatross has a body the size of a Labrador, and a wing span up to 3m. Watching them skim the wild ocean so gracefully is a thrill equivalent to waddling penguins waddling.
Patagonia refers to the sparsely populated, and incredibly beautiful region at the bottom of South America, and is shared by Argentina and Chile. Visiting Patagonia in conjunction with Antarctica, is a great idea. Northern Patagonia is home to forests, lakes, volcanoes and endearing villages with fine chocolates to tempt you. Southern Patagonia showcases rugged wilderness including Torres del Paine, perhaps South America’s greatest National Park, and the breathtaking Perito Moreno glacier. Conveniently, at the southern tip of Patagonia you’ll find the Argentinian city of Ushuaia and the Chilean city of Punta Arenas.
WHEN: ANTARCTIC SEASONS
The Antarctic season begins in October and continues until late March. During these months, there is no bad time to go to Antarctica, yet there may be a better time based on what your primary interests are.
SPRING: EARLY SEASON OCTOBER – EARLY DECEMBER
- Untouched landscapes covered with fresh snow making it appear its most pristine.
- Mating season. See birds and mammals displaying impressive rituals, especially elephant seals on South Georgia.
- Wildflowers in bloom on South Georgia and The Falklands.
- Snowshoeing and skiing on offer.
FULL SUMMER: MID DECEMBER – JANUARY
- Longest days for more time to watch and enjoy. Great light for photography.
- Penguin chicks start to emerge with the warmer weather.
- This is the only time for visiting the Antarctic Circle due to the least amount of ice.
- More whales arriving
- The coolest White Christmas on Earth
LATE SUMMER: FEBRUARY – MARCH
- Days shortening giving stunning sunrises and sunsets.
- Best whale watching as the whales finish eating and prepare to migrate
- Penguin chicks are more active, starting to moult, and entering the water.
- Leopard seals actively prowling the shore waiting for those penguins
CRUISE OR EXPEDITION
- Ships carrying more than 500 passengers are not allowed to make landings.
- Ships carrying over 200 passengers have a very limited number of sites available for landing.
- Only 100 passengers are allowed to visit a site at one time. So ships with more than 100 passengers will likely offer a rotation system of shore excursions, with passengers being assigned morning or afternoon excursions.
- Ships with less than 100 passengers can have all passengers participate in all excursions, giving them the best hands on experience.
- Our preferred Antarctic partner, One Ocean Expeditions has a passengers limit of 96 people.
See our Antarctic page for our Journeys and our full Antarctic brochure.