Travel in 2020 - Your Guide to Antarctica
Antarctic travel is a passion for many… and for good reason.
For Forward Travel Director David Smyth, that passion was ignited the first time he sailed through the majestic glaciers. Since then, David has made Antarctic travel a priority. And he is sharing why he thinks everyone should put Antarctica on their list for travel in 2020.
South Georgia Island
Located North of Antarctica, South Georgia Island holds a special place in David’s heart. And it’s all because of the wildlife.
“South Georgia is like stepping inside a David Attenborough documentary. It’s truly paradise on earth. South Georgia is the breeding ground for the King Penguins – I’m talking over 300,000 of them going about life, dipping in and out of the water trying to get food for their chicks. You’ll also find elephant seals lolling along the shoreline, barking at each other. Fur seals, too. South Georgia’s nature is just untouched. It’s like another world… truly one of the most amazing places I have ever experienced.”
Getting up close and personal with the wildlife is against the rules – for us, anyway. While you may not be allowed to approach the amazing creatures – the animals’ curiosity and lack of fear mean that you’ll no doubt be able to nab a one-in-a-million experience. In fact, David recalls many experiences where he has been curiously poked and prodded by a penguin.
For the history lovers, the South Georgia whaling stations are another must for travel in 2020.
Walking amongst the ruins of the abandoned whaling station at Leith Harbour is an incredible way to immerse yourself in the remnants of the whaling industry from yesteryear.
Also for your to-do list is to visit the grave of the great Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. His many visits to South Georgia led his widow to decide it was the perfect resting place when he passed in 1922. The tradition is to break a bottle of whisky or Guinness over his gravestone as a tribute to the Irishman.
David describes the Falkland Islands as “like being a time warp… in the best way possible.
The Falkland Islands are more English than England. When you get there, you’ve got all the Land Rovers, typically English pubs and pictures of the Queen hanging everywhere. It’s a very unique place to experience.”
Pubs and the Queen aside, the Falkland Islands are a wildlife treasure trove. The star of course, is the famous King Penguin. While many make the mistake of thinking that mainland Antarctica is the only home of the yellow-tinged creatures, the Falklands is another place where you will find them. David explains:
“On the Falklands, you get to see wildlife that you won’t see in Antarctica. You get to see the King Penguins, which is always exciting, but also albatross. There are not many places where the albatross come to land to breed but the Falklands is one of them. And let me tell you – it’s an amazing sight. Their wingspan can reach up to 3.5m… they’re just a massive, massive bird.”
The Falklands are also host to certain species of dolphins, whales and both Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins. Yes, Macaroni. These penguins are found in very few places around the world and the Falklands host one of the largest populations.
The history buffs will find no shortage of sites and places to see when it comes to the Falklands’ battles. The rocky hills of San Carlos and Goose Green in East Falkland are two areas that played a key role in the conflict.
Here are some sites and areas to add to your list:
- Goose Green Town Hall
- Blue Beach Military Cemetery
- San Carlos Cemetery and Museum
- The Historic Dockyard Museum
- Darwin’s Argentine Military Cemetery
- 2 Para Memorial
- The cannons and boat cemeteries of Stanley
- Pebble Island
Tips from a seasoned traveller
Put the cameras down
We all like to snap away when on holiday, but if you’re on your very first to Antarctica, David suggests not being glued to the lens.
“You just miss so much when you’re stuck behind the lens of a camera. You may grab some great photos, but you miss all those special, little moments in between. Take your photos, but also take the time to sit back and soak it all in. Otherwise you’ll come back home with 3000 photos of the same penguin and no recollection of those incredible, one-in-a-million moments…”
Head to the Peninsula
If you need a focus for your Antarctica trip, the Peninsula should be high on the list.
“For the wildlife, the Antarctic Peninsula is it. You’ll find penguins, seals, whales, and birds… Also, the icebergs. We’re talking mammoth icebergs here – some of them are the size of buildings.”