Antarctica (often called the 7th continent) is the coldest, windiest and driest place on the planet - so why would anyone choose to go there?! I'll readily admit that before I had the opportunity to go in 2023, it wasn't top of my bucket list, visiting Iceland and the Dolomites were. But after spending 5 weeks in Antarctica as a Sony Ambassador onboard Intrepid Travel's Ocean Endeavour, I came back changed forever by the experience. Whether you are a landscape lover, wildlife guru or climate ambassador, there are so many reasons to put Antarctica at the very top of your must-visit list! Here's why you need to go:
Need I say more?! Penguins are everywhere, and these adorable creatures will steal your heart! The 4 main species of penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula in order of size smallest to largest are: Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo and Emperor. It's unlikely you will see Emperor Penguins unless your trip goes to a very southerly latitude as they are generally only found between 66 and 77 degrees latitude and Antarctic trips from Ushuaia don't generally go much beyond 66 degrees. But the smaller penguin species are equally delightful, Adelie penguins (the smallest species, who like to live on the ice when they are not breeding and migrate up to 13,000km), Chinstrap penguins (their funny little helmet head features make them look both serious and endearing and they are thought to be the most abundant species) and Gentoo (the fastest underwater swimmers at speeds of up to 36km/hr and recognisable by their orange feet and beaks).
No matter which penguin species ends up being your favourite, their antics are sure to win you over!
And I can confirm that this quote "It's practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry" is entirely true - in fact you'll probably find yourself grinning from ear to ear after any encounter!
If there's one thing you won't believe in Antarctica, it's the incredible shapes, textures and size of the icebergs and ice formations in this frozen landscape. Whether you're floating on the ship past ginormous ice structures, cruising on a zodiac amongst the smaller brash ice, or marvelling at reflections of the icy mountains in calm water, opportunities abound to capture unique views. The vivid blue colour tones of the ice are quite spellbinding, not to mention the unique textures you'll find. The darker the ice, the older the ice - I can now say I've had a gin with 1,000 year old ice in it!
Travelling to such southerly latitudes during the Antarctic summer makes for long days and short nights, and that means golden hour, sunrise and sunset will last for hours - this is a photographer's dream. You can expect to be up at 4am and the light to still look amazing at 7am - so be prepared to lose a bit of sleep if you want the opportunity to capture the most beautiful light. Sunset is easier since you'll already be up, but you might find yourself dashing out mid-dinner to capture golden hour light, and find yourself still yawning and taking photos at 11pm!
Spending a couple of weeks onboard a ship with up to 200 passengers gives you endless opportunities to make connections with fellow kindred spirit travellers from all over the world. Whether it's a conversation over breakfast about places you've been in the world, or sharing a unique wildlife moment during the voyage, you are bound to make connections with some very interesting people. Then there's the awesome polar guide team who individually and collectively make the trip so memorable with their knowledge and passion for Antarctica - a team that comes together from many nationalities with special skills and the ability to both educate and entertain along the way.
No matter whether you are an experienced wildlife watcher, or a complete novice, there will be so many unique encounters with a vast array of bird, whale and seal species, that you will come away with a newfound appreciation for the incredible ecosystem that exists in this remote region. While there is never a guarantee of seeing any specific animal (you are on an expedition after all!), the fact that at any minute any number of rare and incredible animals might just pop up to say hello is thrilling - my favourite, unexpected close-up encounters were with leopard seals and humpback whales, but yours might be completely different!
There's a rich history in Antarctica spanning hundreds of years - from the age of exploration in the early 1900's and the astonishing feats of explorers like Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, to the future where Antarctica is already playing an important part in the rapid climate change we're seeing across the planet. It's hard to look past the signs of a warming Earth, and the hope is that we all come back from an experience like this ready and willing Antarctic Ambassadors, determined to do our part to minimise our footprint to help protect this fragile and critical ecosystem, any impacts here will be felt the whole wold over.
There is nothing on Earth that can compare to being in Antarctica, it's unique, spellbinding, magical and every minute of every day brings something different to see, experience and absorb. It's so hard to put into words when you return home what it is like to be there, you'll feel Antarctica under your skin from the moment you arrive, and it's a feeling that will stay with you forever.
If Antarctica is on your bucket list, I'd love you to come with me in 2025. I'm hosting two photography tours to Antarctica with Intrepid Travel on 25 Feb and 9 March (leaving from Ushuaia, Argentina).
Check out the tour information on my page: Antarctica 2025 Photography Tours and get in touch!
Sign up to my newsletter to get all the good stuff!