Is Antarctica worth it? 5 questions probably on your mind
Committing to an Antarctic adventure is no joke. No matter how you slice it, it’s more expensive than most other travels. You could literally spend months in certain places throughout Asia, Africa or South America for the same amount of money it costs you to spend less than two weeks in Antarctica.
For travelers looking to make their dollar go as far as it can, that is a big decision and not an easy one to make. I once spent four months eating nothing but rice and tuna to save money. How does such a brain compute spending thousands in one fell swoop?
Having finally taken the leap myself, I would like to help others who are debating whether or not to make their Antarctic dreams come true.
Questions you are likely asking yourself
Will I see everything I want to see? There are no guarantees in the Antarctic seas but the best way to maximize your odds of seeing your most favored wildlife and scenery is by doing your research. Find out at what point in the season you are most likely to see the big things on your list and figure out where exactly they are and when, so that you choose the right expedition.
What will the weather be like? The weather can be wild and unpredictable but in the summer months, it is not as cold as you might imagine. When I was there in February, we had days above zero degrees celsius – outright balmy for a Canadian! And although the wind and precipitation can be uncomfortable, you can stay warm by dressing in layers and having the right gear. Waterproof gloves are a good idea.
Will I get seasick? The sea can get rough in Antarctic waters, particularly the Drake Strait between South America and the white continent. Our group dealt with a Force 11 storm so we had a good taste of how rocky it can get.
If you normally don’t get motion sickness, then you should be okay for the most part after a couple of days of acclimating. If you are a little susceptible, then it’s worth taking pills before and during the rough times and you should handle it fine.
If you are prone to motion sickness, there’s a good chance you will get seasick during rough conditions. But if you are proactive, you can mitigate the effects. Pills, keeping a full stomach and finding the best places on the ship to ride it out are good strategies.
I used to get debilitating motion sickness and then a friend told me about hypnotherapy. I know it sounds cuckoo for coco puffs but it worked for me. It does not work for everyone, but if you get that terrible feeling, you are likely willing to try it and I highly suggest that you do! I also took seasickness pills while on the boat – we got 5 days of rough weather – and I was fine. To clarify, hypnotherapy helped me have a more regular reaction to seasickness and not the extreme, laid up in bed, wanting to die situation that I used to get.
How do I know how to choose the right voyage? Everyone has different priorities about what they want to see so there is not a catch all solution to picking the right one. To maximize the odds of choosing a great expedition, read thoroughly what each one entails and look up the reviews on the company, the ship and the actual experience. What is important to you? Is it seeing penguins with a crisp white snow background? Early in the season before the snow melts is best. Is seeing whales up close and personal at the top of your list? Later in the season gives you the best chance. Should you fly part of the way? Remember, it takes a couple of days to acclimate living on a boat so if you fly, you will get there faster but have less time to adjust before you are out exploring.
Sailing across the Drake Strait also gives you a chance to meet your fellow passengers before all of the landing adventures start – if sharing the experience is important to you, take that into consideration. Ship size is also very important for those who want to get off the boat as much as possible – remember just 100 people are allowed to land on Antarctica at one time so if landing is very important to you, try to get on a ship with fewer passengers.
Another important note to keep in mind is that a lot of the most concentrated wildlife species are not located in Antarctica itself but rather in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
Think about what is most vital to your experience and what you can live without and then book a tour that gives you the best chance for success.
Will it be worth the money? This is probably the question on everyone’s mind and it’s a very personal one that only you can truly answer. Due to the unpredictable conditions in Antarctica, the one guarantee I can give is that it will be an adventure. So here are a few questions to ask yourself before you book: Why is this important to me? What exactly do I want to see and if I don’t see it, can I live with that? Can I see these things somewhere else for less money? If I spend this money, how quickly can I bounce back? If the worst case scenario happens and I hate it, can I live with that knowing I tried?
Antarctica is a truly pristine wilderness that is fiercely protected by the international community. To see it is an immense privilege and now that I have, I understand the cost a lot more.
But being the budget conscious traveler that I am, I would HIGHLY recommend booking a last minute trip as this can save you up to 50% off the original price. I booked mine later in the season from Freestyle Adventure Travel and got a great deal.
Ultimately, there is no way to be able to predict the outcome of your trip but that is also what makes it an adventure! And if you could see exactly what you were in for, would you even want to?
I am personally so happy that I went and feel that it was the right time for me to go. I reached my goal of visiting all 7 continents and got to see nearly everything I wanted to see on my list, but it was more the indescribable aspects that made it worth it for me. The things you see but pictures fail to capture… the things you feel but can’t explain…
Ahhhhh, when can I go again??