Adventures on an Antarctica Cruise: Greg Mortimer

Aboard The Greg Mortimer Antarctica Cruise Ship

Debbie Antarctica Expert WildFoot Travel

Debbie Antarctica Expert WildFoot Travel

Wildfoot Travel’s Polar expedition expert Debbie Grainger continues her account of her recent trip aboard the luxury expedition cruise ship The Greg Mortimer.

In my last article, I gave a detailed account of my recent trip to the Antarctic Peninsula along with my amazing kayaking adventures. This time, I continue my write-up of the Greg Mortimer and explain why a small Antarctica cruise ship is preferable to a larger ship.

Greg Mortimer Vessel Facts

The Greg Mortimer was built in 2019 and hosts up to 132 passengers in 76 cabins, as well as between 71 and 80 crew members. Flying the Bahamas flag, this adventure cruise ship travels comfortably at approximately 10-12 knots. Well known to be the first passenger ship to boast the X-BOW® icebreaker hull, a Norwegian design feature that makes for seamless and efficient movement through the water, the Greg Mortimer also has a class 6 rating that allows it to operate all year in the extreme polar environments. The ability to sail further and take on more remote waters, tricky conditions and rugged coastlines sets an adventure on this ship apart from the rest.

Landing Restrictions In Antarctica

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) – is an industry group that has resolved to set the highest possible tourism operating standards in its effort to protect the local environment. Their carefully implemented rules mean that only 100 people can set foot on land, at any one time. Plus, only one ship is permitted at a landing site at a time, meaning that you still feel on your own in this unique and pristine environment that perpetually surrounds you on your Antarctica cruise.

Greg Mortimer, and her sister ship, the Sylvia Earle (launched in October 2021), only carry an average of 126 passengers. At Wildfoot Travel, when we make a booking, we have to check that non-kayaking spaces are available because Aurora will not take more than 100 “landing” passengers on any one voyage. This enables them to maximise passenger time on land; everyone lands together and group rotation is not necessary, as it is on larger vessels. This is one of the key reasons to make sure that you book as early as possible.

Boarding Zodiacs Aboard The Greg Mortimer In Antarctica

On a typical day, the enthusiastic, experienced expedition team aims to get you all onto land at least twice a day. The team leader makes an announcement letting passengers know what time the zodiacs will start their trips over to the landing point. You are called to the mud room in two groups – starboard side and portside. This is alternated for each landing, giving everyone the chance of being off and on their way to land first.

To access the mud room, you go to the back of Deck 4 and down the steps to Deck 3. Each cabin has their own locker where you keep your outer gear, boots and life jacket. Once you are ready to disembark, you “swipe out” with your room key – this is so the crew have a log of every passenger’s whereabouts, and to keep tabs on the number of passengers landing. The zodiac platforms open out from both sides of the mud room, although only 1 is normally used. The kayakers have their own platform at the back of the vessel, which keeps them out of the way of the zodiacs, meaning that exiting the Greg Mortimer is always quick and efficient, resulting in more time ashore.

What You Will See

For anyone who has ever dreamed of being an explorer, this is about as close as you can get: total immersion in the landscape, whether you are on land, in a kayak, on a zodiac or still onboard the ship. Towering icebergs create the backdrop to your Antarctic seascape and as you travel out into the icy seas on the zodiac, more stunning glacial features drop into the deep blue waters of the ocean. Travelling by zodiac offers the opportunity to reach the tiny hidden coves and bays that remain beautifully undisturbed and untouched. These wonderful pieces of paradise are home to many of the resident wildlife, such as penguins. You’ll also be able to spot seals, whales and a plethora of birdlife, and your expert guide will be on hand to answer any wildlife questions you may have along the way.

The zodiacs flit to and fro, transporting passengers 10 at a time to land. Once you have landed, it’s up to you how long you stay out there. My daughter always tried to be on one of the first zodiacs out and the last one back, to maximise the amount of time given with the wildlife and the landscape.

A Couple of Do’s and Don’ts Onboard a Zodiac

  • It is so important to layer up when you head off the main ship. The weather can change in a moment! Pack sunglasses – the glare can be quite debilitating. Also, if it snows, sunglasses or goggles can be a welcome protection.
  • Just take one bag – keep everything together so there is less chance of losing something. Gripping each other by the wrist (sailor’s grip) when manoeuvring on and off the boat is the safest way to help each other.
  • Cameras should always be kept around the neck. Have a lens wipe handy too, as splashing is commonplace. Wear your life jacket.
  • Listen to safety instructions.
  • There is no toilet on board, so make sure you go before the excursion.

The Small Antarctica Cruise Ship Experience

Another reason to choose a small vessel is that you encounter more solitude and greater flexibility if tides, currents, ice or weather dictate a schedule change. Due to thick sea ice, we encountered a couple of itinerary changes, however this had absolutely no impact on our time ashore. Had we been on a larger Antarctica cruise ship, we may not have been able to have had a landing on those days.

Who Was Greg Mortimer?

Greg Mortimer was the first Australian to summit Mount Everest, K2, Annapurna II and Chongtar without the use of extra oxygen. He was an acclaimed mountaineer and adventurer who established many new climbing routes in Antarctica and pioneered ship-based adventure travel to both Antarctica and the Arctic.

Greg’s first mountaineering experience was watching climbers on the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains and from this moment he knew what he wanted to do. While studying geochemistry and geology at Macquarie University he spent every spare moment climbing in New Zealand, the UK, the Alps and South America. After graduating Greg worked as a geologist and a survival training instructor but also as a Scientific Affairs Advisor for the New Zealand Antarctic Division. Shortly after he began climbing the big peaks he pioneered a new route on Everest that is now known as “Greg’s Gully’.

In the early 1990s Greg Mortimer set up a company to take tourists to Antarctica by ship. Aurora Expeditions hosted the ultimate in adventure travel – an Antarctica cruise, Greg Mortimer style. Trips included mountain climbing, sea kayaking, and scuba diving in both the Antarctic and Arctic. He received three Australian Geographic Society medals and the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to mountaineering.

Luxurious But An Expedition Ship In Every Way

There is no getting away from the fact that the Greg Mortimer and the Sylvia Earle offer luxury. The cabins are large and spacious with great storage facilities, and beautiful soft furnishings and photos decorate the interior. Every meal was well-presented and delicious, and the service from the waiting staff was impeccable; There is a small, but well-equipped gym onboard as well as a lovely sauna.

Facilities on Board

We could wax lyrical forever and day about the incredible range of facilities onboard this Antarctica cruise. Greg Mortimer most definitely has your comfort and convenience at the very forefront of the ship’s design. Here are a select few facilities worthy of note:

It does however, still have the feeling of a true expedition ship; the expedition team mingled with the passengers around dining tables every mealtime and the lectures were always informative and engaging. We were also encouraged to be out on deck looking for wildlife opportunities as much as possible, whilst some of the expedition team explained in greater detail what we were witnessing. Aurora has an “open bridge” policy which means that you can pop into the bridge and have a chat with the crew any time and learn all about the navigational equipment onboard.

State of The Art Features

Designed and built by the Norwegian Ulstein Group of ship builders, the Greg Mortimer is the first passenger carrying ship to feature the Ulstein’s state of the art bow, known as the X-BOW®. The innovative design enables for more efficient, safe, sustainable and stable travel in the tricky waters of the polar regions. The bow, along with the Rolls Royce dynamic stabilisers provide more comfort when sailing through extreme and rough conditions.

Lecture Theatre and Lounge

Throughout the trip we use the theatre to host local wildlife specialists, naturalists and expedition leaders who offer presentations on their area of interest – a wonderful way to expand your knowledge. The theatre is comfortable and well laid out. There are cocktail tables, swivel chairs, and high-backed bar stools to give everyone a chance to have a clear view. There is a state of the art sound system and several screens so you are guaranteed not to miss a thing.

Dining Bars and Lounges

Serving everything from breakfast through to dinner, the delightful dining room features tables for different numbers of guests. Dinner is a four-course affair served to everyone at the same time, in order to encourage socialising and the formation of new connections. Menus vary and everyone is catered for. Teas and coffees are available all day and house wine, beers and other drinks are served with meals.

Our bars serve wines, beers, cocktails and Champagne and are the central hubs of the ship’s social scene. With a daily happy hour, it is in the bars that you will find plenty of opportunity to mingle.

Observation Decks

We have several observation decks onboard designed for wildlife watching and photography mainly, although people love to just meet up and marvel at the scenery from them too. The one on deck 5 is sheltered, and an area on deck 7 doubles up as a sun deck. We are also very proud of our hydraulic viewing platforms that expand out from near the bow, offering even more of an immersive wildlife viewing experience.

There’s More

The ship also features a spa, sauna and gym, a library and a mudroom, which is perfect for storing and drying out your boots and waterproofs between excursions.

The brilliant design of the bow means that windows can be located closer to the water than in older ships. Guests can view down into the ocean and straight ahead. Passengers get the incredible opportunity to witness the magnificence of an iceberg as it appears ahead on the horizon.

The streamlined shape of the bow and hull also make for a more efficient use of fuel, more stability and less speed loss in waves. There is minimal spray and less bow impact, therefore not as much slamming and vibration as there would be otherwise.

Photography Workshops

On all of the Antarctica cruises, there is a dedicated photographer. We found the photo workshop to be so educational and informative on our trip – learning lots of little tips on how best to position our cameras, lighting techniques and hints on how to choose the right moment to click, so that you get that unique photo.

Capturing Wildlife Through the Lens

Hard to believe that this is the only continent on Earth that humans have been unable to inhabit. The constantly freezing temperatures and unpredictable ferocity of the storms have made the region quite inhospitable. Antarctica has no terrestrial animals and yet the region is well known as a haven for wildlife photographers. In the sea and on the shores, wildlife prevails and throughout the summer the species that have adapted to make this continent their home become the perfect photographic subjects.

One day you may capture a fighting Elephant Seal, while the next an Emperor Penguin with its tiny chick making their way to the shoreline. The beauty of photographing these species in the wild is the unpredictability of their behaviour. Every photo is a once in a lifetime shot, and with the incredible backdrop landscape of the spectacular untouched mountains and glistening glaciers, your take-home pics will be unique in more ways than one. You may find here too that the animals are quite used to being the centre of attention and have no fear of photographers. They seem indifferent to your presence and so you can click away with no worry they will run or fly away.

During the summer, it never gets dark and the axis of the earth means that even at midnight the ethereal hues of the sun’s rays create even more of a special atmosphere.

Responsible Travel

Such an important factor these days: due to the combination of streamlined Ulstein X-BOW and the Rolls Royce dynamic stabilisers, the crossing of the Drake Passage is more comfortable and stable. The reason for this is that the shape of the X-Bow cuts through the swell so that passengers feel less vibration and disturbance. The shape also makes for a quicker crossing, meaning that you arrive in the South Shetlands by lunchtime on day 2, as opposed to day 3 on other Antarctica cruise vessels. Another bonus, environmentally speaking, is that the shape also helps reduce fuel consumption by up to 60%, and in a world that is constantly thinking of how to protect our planet, the Greg Mortimer boasts the lowest polluting marine engines in the world. Her state-of-the-art engines deliver an 80% reduction in emissions!

The onboard desalination plant even converts seawater to freshwater that’s safe to drink. This means they can carry less freshwater on sea crossings, further reducing fuel consumption. And then there is the virtual anchoring that I briefly mentioned last time. This is a combination of GPS, steering technology, propellers and thrusters, which allow the vessel to hold position. This protects the sea floor and minimises the damage caused by conventional anchors.

Plastic: Most single-use plastic items have been replaced with sustainable alternatives, whilst Aurora’s aim is to eliminate single-use plastic altogether.

Dining: All onboard seafood is sourced in accordance with the Marine Stewardship Council guidelines

Cleaning products: Biodegradable, phosphate free and non-bioaccumulative products are used as much as possible.

Recycling: Bins are provided onboard to separate waste and recyclable items to help reduce landfill

Beach Clean-ups: A proud member of the Sea Green – a new waste recycling initiative at the Port of Ushuaia. Other beach clean-up initiatives such as Clean up Svalbard are also supported.

We are excited to announce that Aurora Expeditions also runs cruises on the Greg Mortimer’s sister vessel, Sylvia Earle. Aptly named after the first woman to become Chief Scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this Antarctica cruise ship offers fuel efficiency, smoother crossings and an enhanced forward viewing experience for its passengers in the form of a glass atrium lounge in the bow.

Hosting 126 passengers Sylvia Earle has an A1 Ice Class rating. Following in the footsteps of its sister ship, this Antarctica cruise vessel boasts the lowest polluting marine engines in the world and virtual anchoring too. On board facilities are stylish, modern and of the highest quality so you can expect the very best when you book an Antarctica cruise aboard the Sylvia Earle.

Check out these Expedition Cruises Aboard The Greg Mortimer with No Solo supplement

South Georgia and Antarctica Odyssey

Join in the fun on this exciting Antarctica cruise. Greg Mortimer’s innovative designers created a ship tailormade for making the most of an adventure wildlife trip in this incredible part of the world, that can be as extreme as it is beautiful. There’ll be opportunities to kayak, snowshoe and explore on a zodiac, as well as visit historical and scientific sites. Boarding the ship in Stanley in the Falkland Islands, you’ll set sail on the most amazing adventure through this unique and humbling wildlife paradise.

Spirit of Antarctica

One of our most exciting expeditions onboard the polar vessel, Greg Mortimer, is a classic. Everyday, amid the backdrop of the most breathtaking scenery, you’ll fully immerse in the very fabric of the Antarctic Peninsula. The zodiac excursions are a highlight but you can also try your hand at kayaking, snowshoeing or even camping on the ice plateaus while onboard, spotting wildlife from the decks or attending lectures in the theatre are just a couple of the huge number of activities to look forward to. Stepping foot on the most magnificent continent on Earth is humbling enough but when you witness the spectacular wild landscapes and the majestic wildlife, this becomes a truly unforgettable experience.

Antarctic Explorer
By missing out the crossings of the Drake Passage this fly/sail tip offers maximum time to explore the Antarctic continent. Joining the Antarctic cruise, Greg Mortimer – a ship custom built for your comfort and safety in this majestic wilderness, you’ll discover the stunning wild heart of this most remote and untouched continent. Towering icebergs and jaw-dropping natural formations form the backdrop to your every day, while before your very eyes wildlife abounds. From the vantage points of the ship or from a kayak or zodiac you can really immerse yourself in the lives of all the wonderful creatures that have made this place their home. Trips to historic and scientific sites are also included and the resident photography guide is onhand to help you preserve the memories you make on the most unforgettable of trips.

The End of The World… It isn’t so bad


Zoe The Antarctic ExplorerWildfoot Travel’s Polar travel expert Zoe Savage-Morton climbed aboard The RCGS Resolute recently on a wildlife expedition cruise bound for Antarctica .
Here she gives us a first hand account of the trip, along with some great photographs and a list of 20 amazing things you can do in Antarctica.

A journey with One Ocean Expeditions and the RCGS Resolute, March 2019

Over ten days, the Antarctic and its neighbour the Drake Passage was going to be home. It was going to show itself in all its glory, as well as when it’s at its most frightening, darkest and brightest moments, but the Antarctic was also going to be the most breath-taking and extraordinary experience. Only 30,000 people a year have the opportunity to visit the Antarctic,  here is what I discovered on my privileged, educational trip of a lifetime to the Antarctica.

100 Orca’s surrounded our ship, breaching, feeding, chasing and surfing the wake. The Whale Scientists onboard were euphoric and bursting with laughter, astounded expressions, with cameras aimed and firing to capture those lifetime moments. It was an incredible experience, and it was only day two. We crossed the Antarctic Convergence, sighted the South Shetland Islands, but not yet reached the Antarctic Peninsula; this was going to be amazing.

Whales Off The Bow In Antarctica
Orca watching off the bow.

Cruise or Expedition?

Lars-Eric Lindblad began taking travellers into regions only visited by scientists and explorers in 1966 – the rest, as they say, is history. The differences between an expedition and a cruise, although simple, are huge. As cruise ships get larger, expedition ships get smaller – the primary purpose of an expedition is to have an up close and personal experience with the scenery, the land, the wildlife and the sea.

An expedition ship along with all the comforts of a cruise ship (comfortable cabins, restaurants, bars, a spa and a gym), will carry a fleet of rigid inflatable boats or zodiacs to get you ashore quickly and closer to the action. They have a supply of kayaks for those wanting to get on the water, rubber boots for safeguarding this precious environment and often supplying outerwear for guests’ comfort.

In addition to the regular crew on an expedition ship, it’s staffed with a group of experienced professional photographers, mountaineers, historians, glaciologists, ornithologists, molecular biologists, whale scientists, marine and wildlife specialists, all of whom are eager to impart their knowledge on you. This is done through presentations, lectures and classes presented in well-designed lecture theatres, filling your days through to mid-evening. After all that, you will happily fall into your bed at 10pm to revive for the next day.

On a cruise, it’s a very different experience. You can lie by the pool, order cocktails and lunch, wander around the decks, perhaps even jog, dress for dinner, watch a show at night, a flutter at the casino, a few rounds on the dance floor and then bed at 1am – no zodiacs in sight.

What do you know about the Antarctic?

Other than what Sir David Attenborough has taught me over the years on the television, I knew very little about the Antarctic. It has always been mysterious and to an extent, unbelievable. Once you have been, you will return with a more profound sensitivity to the issues of polar conservation, supporting my belief that there is no greater teacher than personal experience in anything we do in life. Environmentally responsible tourism encourages such learning.

Do you know about the Antarctic Convergence and how it was thought to protect the Antarctic, the Bio-Diversity of the region, Krill Fisheries and their effect on the day-to-day life within the Antarctic, the long human history within the area? Or about the interesting stories of heroes and cowards, great feats and disappointments? Why didn’t Scott like Shackleton and vice versa? How do humpback whales feed? Where will you find Emperor Penguins? How the polar ice is reducing and what this means to the phytoplankton? You will gain more of an understanding and appreciation after visiting the Antarctic, as you gain a more profound sensitivity and strong desire to make more of an effort to remove the world of plastics and protect the land, its inhabitants and the world that we live in.


RCGS Resolute

A purpose built expedition vessel, the RCGS Resolute is a modern, well appointed, ice-strengthened vessel, offering an authentic Antarctic expedition experience with a touch of comfort, with an extremely qualified and experienced expedition crew. Carrying up to 146 passengers, the staff to guest ratio is 1:4, so there is always someone available to answer your questions on a landing, in a zodiac or onboard.

One Ocean has an open door policy on their ships, meaning when you leave your cabin, you don’t lock it. However, it can be locked once you’re in your cabin for peace of mind. Safes are also available in each cabin. Some fellow passengers during my Antarctica experience didn’t lock their cabin doors or use the safes, which demonstrates the secure feeling the ship has.

There are observation areas both inside and out. Weather permitting, the larger outside areas are used for BBQ lunches and dinners. Small and large spaces mean guests can escape from it all or join in if they wish. There are two separate bar and lounges, and two separate eating areas to offer variety – the bistro is light and airy, a welcome bright option with access to a large deck area at the back.

The number of guests means smaller zodiac groups for landing, information seminars, lectures and classes. A very personal touch is offered when you arrive. An expedition crew member presents your cabin and its features; they then become your point of call for any assistance throughout your journey.  Once in my cabin, my expedition gear and aluminium water bottle to be used for the duration of the trip were waiting for me (no plastic cups on board).

Onboard facilities and amenities ensure that there’s enough to keep everyone busy – or not, depending on your preference, and there isn’t a place on board where you can’t get a good view of outside.

A nice touch as you disembark, each guest is given a USB with a copy of the daily trip notes that are on your TV screen each day, along with the onboard photographer’s photos and anything else that One Ocean feel you would enjoy – a prized possession.

Cabin on an expedition cruise ship in AntarcticaMy comfortable and spacious cabin

Polar Parker on an expedition cruise ship in Antarctica

Expedition gear – pre ordered, ready and waiting


Crossing the’ dreaded’ Drake

The Drake is known for being the wildest, roughest, most trying and dangerous stretch of water in the world. It’s not the friendliest crossing for those who suffer from motion sickness, which was my biggest concern at the time.  Fortunately, travelling south, the Drake was kind. An experienced expedition member, making his 59th crossing advised me, it was the kindest he’d ever experienced, which was a relief and interesting based on his personal experiences. Our return crossing was significantly different. Our experienced captain, expedition crew and the modern stabilisers on the ship made all the difference.

After a smooth arrival and check-in to the ship, ship life as we crossed over the Drake Passage was a preparation and learning experience. We met our fellow travellers, the Whale Scientists onboard and our established and well-experienced Expedition Crew. The quality and bios of this team as a whole were outstanding.

We were in the presence of WWF, California Ocean Alliance, two media teams including the ABC, professional photographers, Mountaineers, Historians, Glaciologists, Ornithologists, Molecular Biologists, Whale Scientists, Marine and Wildlife specialists, in addition to a well-experienced crew and a team of One Ocean Adventure Concierges. We were in the presence of conservation, preservation and sustainable tourism specialists for the next ten days – Ambassadors to the last great wilderness.

Lectures and information sessions take up the two days going south, along with spotting Wandering Albatross, Giant Petrels and tiny Wilson Storm Petrels. It’s recommended to have a good pair of binoculars and to have your camera set in ‘sport’ mode to catch these birds in flight at great speed. We are advised on what to expect when we arrive at the Peninsula, the laws of the land and sea, IAATO regulations, bio-security and how what we do, and how we do it affects our experience.

The two days travelling back across the Drake were full of euphoria, experiences relived, revelling in our achievements with new lifetime friends made.

The Drake Passage. Gateway To Antarctica

A peaceful Drake – 3 metre swell

Citizen Scientists

Citizen science is often described as public participation. The scientific research is conducted by amateurs (onboard guests) – nonprofessional scientists helping the real scientists’ outcomes, promoting advancements in scientific research and more importantly, increasing the public’s understanding of the research they are doing, why they do it and the science behind it.

On this occasion, after our encounter with the Orca pod, the Citizen Scientist programme encourages guests to share their experiences. The Whale Scientists onboard wanted us to share our photos, especially those with whales showing clear markings, along with the coordinates of where each photo is taken, the scientists would then use the information in their work.

It’s a good feeling to be a part of something so great and essential, turning my trip to the Antarctic more memorable and special.

A whale tag.Whale tags in antarctica

Landings & Zodiac Cruises

Bundled up in your layers and carrying your dry bag full of lenses, water bottle and extra gloves – just in case, is a shaky affair. How to get in and out of the zodiac is very important. The sailor’s grip is going to be your best friend – this is where your fitness level comes in. You need to have some balance, strength and confidence to stand and deal with the swell comfortably.

Calls to disembark onto zodiacs are rotated by deck, allowing each deck a chance to be first out. The first guests are out at 9am and then every 15 to 30 minutes depending on weather and the number of guests.

Zodiac in Antarctica

Once in the zodiac, sitting comfortably on the side, dry bag securely between your feet, you’ll feel invincible as you skim over the top of the Antarctic Sea feeling and hearing ‘bergy bits’ hit the solid base of the zodiac. It’s quite a noise that vibrates through the boat. Landing on the Antarctic Peninsula (an exciting moment I must add), is again an experience until you get your zodiac legs good and proper. When you land, the surface can vary from ice to seawater to slippery rocky outcrops, but rest assured, there’s always a helping hand from an expedition crew member.

A Zodiac Cruise In Antarctica

Where you land is governed by IAATO, booked months in advance. Landings range from Research Stations, penguin or seal colonies, to ice landings. There are lots of landing rules, all to do with common sense and protecting the environment. As we crossed the Drake Passage, we had a compulsory talk on environmental policies and concerns relating to the Antarctic. If you didn’t attend, you couldn’t land. Your name was marked off on an attendance sheet. The Antarctic Treaty stipulates that only 100 people are allowed to land at any one time and to be on a small ship with only 100 guests onboard at the time, we had no concerns about not getting to land when the opportunity arose.

Zodiac Cruise In Antarctica

A zodiac cruise – why would you want to? My first thoughts as we head out in the zodiac is that it’s immense. A substantial wide open space of still and silent iceberg filled water – a tranquil setting. This is soon dispelled by the first breach of a humpback whale, from then on, more whales became visible, we could see and hear the whales’ fins slapping across the waters, breaching and spy hopping, penguins porpoising beside us, solitary fur seals, remarkable cliffs of ice, pancake ice and icebergs. I made sure that I captured every moment possible; it’s too easy to get caught up in the camera, and I was told to put the camera down and enjoy every second of this once in a lifetime trip to the Antarctica. It was wise advice. I put down my camera and relaxed, taking in the surroundings. The bay began to freeze, moody colours arose and heavy clouds.

Our Zodiac driver turned the zodiac engine off. The quiet was beyond silence, we floated silently and listened to nothing. A peacefulness and stillness that’s quite something; it’s serene and beautiful and a fantastic opportunity to reflect. There was a loud bang now and then, similar to the sound of a gunshot – it was the ice cracking and moving, adding to the mysteriousness of the Antarctic.


Kayaking is probably one of the most intimate ways to experience the Antarctic. One Ocean runs a full package aimed at those with a little more agility and fitness and wanting to spend time on the water. It’s an ongoing activity, and by day three, the group are jumping in and out of their kayaks with ease after days one and two, getting used to the requirements and procedures. Therefore, the option to get out for a day isn’t available, as they prefer not to slow the group down with new people joining. What people might not realise is that if you’re kayaking, you’re potentially missing time on the ice. Plus, – 4-8 days kayaking is a costly commitment!

I opted out for kayaking, but those who joined shared their experiences, gliding through the quiet waters, paddling around astounding icebergs, penguins porpoising past, whales breaching close by and a leopard seal spy hopping checking them out, was an inspiring experience.

Antarctic Weather Systems

If you’ve researched a trip to the Antarctic, you will no doubt be aware of the most unpredictable biggest diva of them all – the Antarctic Weather.  You will have read that all itineraries are weather dependent, the Expedition Leader and Captain of the ship will decide on a final agenda each day. Daily activities are weather dependent.

We experienced the weather at its best and its least desirable, but it was unforgettable to witness first-hand. During the trip, we encountered a blizzard on our first Peninsula landing, a calm visiting Vernadsky research station, severe weather system crossing back over the Drake, a real batten down the hatches, porthole covered experience. But we lived to tell the incredible tale, and it’s all part of the Antarctic Experience.

Zodiac in an antarctic blizzard
A blizzard covered zodiac

Zoe In Antarctica

A moment of calm in the blizzard


What to Wear

Layers are the key to comfort and warmth. On top, wear an anti-wicking thermal underlayer, fleece and windbreaker, on the bottom, wear an anti-wicking thermal underlayer, trousers (I wore Craghoppers, fleece lined over my thermals). Weatherproof outerwear on top and bottom provided warmth, but bear in mind, if you get wet, you will get cold.

While onboard, wear comfortable trousers or jeans, you won’t be wearing your thermals or outer trousers, as it’s too warm and unnecessary when you head outside for a few minutes to spot a whale or the first sighted iceberg. I headed back to my cabin and changed into jeans before lunch, dinner or a seminar if we were coming straight back in – the beauty of a small ship, nothing’s too far to ‘pop’ back to.

Footwear, as long it’s fully enclosed and non-slip, it just needs to be comfortable. No heavy walking boots are required, and you won’t be wearing your footwear (unless you take your rubber boots and they will have to pass bio-security).

If you’re planning your trip of a lifetime and a cruise to the Antarctic is on your bucket list, get in touch with one of Wildfoot Travel’s polar experts today who will help you plan your experience.

In the meantime, here is my list of 20 things to do in the Antarctic.

20 Things to do in the Antarctic

  1. Camping under the stars
  2. Kayaking
  3. Visit a Science research centre
  4. Take a Polar plunge
  5. Ski on snowy mountains
  6. Cross the Drake
  7. Practice photography
  8. Learn about the human and whaling history
  9. Visit a live volcano
  10. Scuba Dive or snorkel
  11. Whale watch
  12. Become a part of the ’Citizen Science’ project
  13. Run a marathon
  14. Hike
  15. Trek to the South Pole
  16. Hang out with Penguins and Sea Lions
  17. Send a post card from Port Lockroy or Vernadsky
  18. Drink Antarctic fermented vodka @ Verdandsky
  19. Study and learn with polar experts, Biologists, Scientists, Glaciologists……
  20. Follow in Scott’s and Shackleton’s footsteps

Zoe Savage-Morton

Polar Expert


A few more photos from Zoe’s Trip

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Lots of people on deck aboard an antarctic cruise vessel Packing For An Antarctic Expedition Cruise

Wildfoot Travel Expert Gillian Landells heads off to Antarctica in a few days. We interrupted her packing to ask her if she had any words of advice to share.
In true form Gillian came back with this informative, in-depth article – and still managed to finish packing her bags in time

So, you’ve booked your once in a lifetime Polar expedition. Congratulations, I know this will be one of the most life changing experiences you have ever had. But right now your mind is filled with the question of what to pack and how to prepare for a trip like this. Luckily for you, this is the exact process I’m going through right now – as I leave for Antarctica in a matter of days.
So I’m writing a few notes, in the hope that they may help you plan for your trip. Here are a handful of pointers which may help you pack your bags better.

The destination 

Packing for Antarctica is a daunting, slightly overwhelming task.  You imagine the coldest climate on earth and immediately start packing clothes which are meant to withstand the extreme cold. In reality though you are going to this area of the world in its summer time. Yes it will be cold.  But not as cold as you think. Temperatures can hover between -10C to +12C but usually will sit around freezing point with the chill factor taken into consideration.
The conditions are changeable though – a bright sunny morning can turn into showers, light snow and biting cold winds. So be prepared for change and you should be just fine.

Clothing  – head to toe 


I’m going to start from the head going down to the feet covering all the items you will likely need to make sure you enjoy your Antarctic experience whilst keeping warm, dry and comfortable.

people wearing warm hats on deck on an antarctic cruise
A hat is a vital accessory in antarctica. Make sure it will will cover your ears.

The hat you take needs to ideally cover your ears as well as your head whilst a neck gaiter needs to be able to cover your face. Taking items which have a dual purpose is the name of the game. You may not look your most attractive but where you are going it is not exactly going to be Milan Fashion Week!

Sunglasses especially polarised ones will help protect your eyes from the glare of the sun.  The sunlight reflecting off the majestic icebergs will stun you in more ways than one!

Sun protection is essential in Antarctica – for both your eyes and your skin

On the subject of the sun, taking a high factor sunscreen with you is a must.  Your position in Antarctica will have you underneath the ozone layer at its thinnest so don’t get caught out and do apply that sunscreen generously.


For this next part, think of yourself as an onion. Wearing lots of layers.
You want to be able to remove a layer at a time if you are feeling too warm and add layers if you are feeling the cold.  The simple theory is that each layer traps a pocket of air providing more warmth than one heavy layer.

Base layers like thermal underwear, tops and long johns are so important in order to have a thin layer of material against your skin. Avoid cotton which holds moisture or perspiration, leading to cold and discomfort. Instead opt for manmade hydrophobic fabrics, which repel moisture away from the skin ‘wicking’ it upwards and outwards to the next layer, keeping you warm, dry and comfortable. These fabrics also dry very quickly, which means you can give them a quick wash through and hang them up to dry if you need.
These principle have been followed by mountaineers for decades so I would recommend that for advice on the right base layers to choose, try any dedicated ‘outdoor’ retailer.

Next follows the mid layers which include fleece tops or sweaters. Once again, fleece is a hydrophobic material, efficiently wicking moisture away from the body toward the air but at the same time insulating very efficiently. Good fleece is warm whilst very light and quick drying.

Walking up a snowy hill in antarctica
Breathable outer gear and moisture wicking layers below will allow water vapour from perspiration to escape if you are working up a sweat on an activity.

Your final layer will be your parka.  If you’re lucky your expedition company will give you a complimentary parka whilst onboard which is yours to keep at the end of the voyage.

These are usually bright in colour so you will stand out from the ice, extremely good quality and made up of different layers.

If you do not have a parka included and need to buy one then make sure it is a lightweight, wind and weather resistant shell with insulation. Your parka is probably one of the most important items you will be wearing during your expedition so make sure you buy wisely.

Your parka should always be made from a waterproof but ‘breathable’ material. This allows moisture to travel out into the air but does not allow and water to penetrate from the outside. It may all sound like black magic but you’d don’t need to understand how it works. Just check that your outer layer is breathable as well as waterproof. Again, any good outdoor retailer will give you the advice you need.


Now let’s keep those hands warm shall we? Two pairs of gloves are recommended.  A thin pair against your skin and a thicker pair on top. I would also pack an extra pair in case you lose them somewhere along the line.


As you will be going out in zodiac cruises 2 to 3 times a day, keeping dry is essential.
Taking a couple of pairs of waterproof trousers will be invaluable and putting a pair on over your base layers before heading off on zodiac trips and onshore activities will become like second nature to you whilst on your trip.
You will thank me when you’re able sit down on the snowy ground taking in your surroundings and some inquisitive penguins whilst keeping dry and warm!

people heading ashore on a zodiac in the antarctic
Waterproof over trousers are a must for Zodiac trips, of which there will be many.

Make sure they have zips (and probably Velcro fastening as well) to allow you to put them on and take them off whilst you have big boots on.


When it comes to socks, pack as many as you can! During your time in the Antarctic you will be wearing two pairs at a time – the first pair being thin and ideally made of polypropylene. The second pair will be worn on top – thick and woollen is recommended. The combination of the two layers should keep your feet nice and warm. Dry feet make for a happy explorer!

Most expedition companies will provide you with a pair of rubber waterproof boots for use during your trip – if you are not sure if yours does provide them please ask your trusty travel consultant who will advise you! These boots will be worn on every zodiac outing and will form a vital piece of your Antarctic kit.

Pulling rubber waterproof boots on before boarding a zodiac from a polar cruise ship
Pulling rubber waterproof boots on and off is an experience you will get to know well as you enjoy regular zodiac trips.

If you have to purchase your own pair make sure they are rubber, mid calf or higher in height, that they have a non-skid sole and most important completely waterproof.
This pair of boots will become your best friend on this trip so invest in a proper pair and you will not look back.

Onboard clothing 

Apart from your numerous layers don’t forget to pack some jeans and comfortable tops for your time spent onboard the ship. There will be times you will be looking forward to escaping your waterproof trousers and thermals so pack your normal everyday clothes so you can relax in comfort.

A pair of light slip on shoes are a great thing to pack to wear around the ship; your feet will welcome the change from the rubber waterproof boots which practical as they are don’t exactly let your feet breathe!

people enjoying a drink and chat in the bar on an antarctic cruise vessel.
Be comfortable an relaxed on board and you will enjoy the social experience much more

Dining on most vessels is a casual experience so don’t worry about taking your ballgown. However, on the last night some people like to dress a little more formally for dinner, a smart casual outfit will suffice but the rule is that you should always wear what you feel comfortable in.


Now you have all these items of clothing, you need a bag or case to pack them into. The most popular luggage is the large wheeled duffel bags or a large backpack – if you can find a weather resistant or waterproof one even better.

You will need a day pack as well which will come with you on your zodiac trips, it will serve as a home for your camera, spare pair of socks, snacks, an extra pair of gloves, a spare camera battery and memory card. Nothing too heavy but some essentials will you will want with you whilst being off the ship exploring.

A spray proof bag is another good thing to remember; you can store your camera in it to protect it from the spray whilst travelling in the zodiacs.
Salt water and cameras do not mix so use the spray proof bag and place that in the day pack; you will need that camera working during your time in the Antarctic so look after it the best you can.

Snap happy

Now that we’ve run through clothing let’s move on to the other components of your suitcase.

As you will be setting off to a place of absolute natural beauty, a camera is a must.
Now I am no professional photographer but I do have a keen interest so this is definitely a time to improve my skills. I’ve packed a trusty DSLR Canon camera with a selection of lenses – a wide angle for capturing those amazing scenic shots and a couple which will be good for capturing animals in the distance.

Your interest and your level of photography will depend on what camera you take with you but even a simple point and click will be enough so don’t worry about having to shell out for an all singing, all dancing model. The scenery and wildlife will be so incredible that it will make your job as a photographer very easy indeed.

A lady taking photographs from the bow of an antarctic cruise vessel.
Antarctica is packed with photographic opportunities. Make sure you are prepared to make the most of them.

I would suggest making sure you are competent enough with the basic functions of your camera whether in still or video mode – the last thing you want to do is miss a shot due to messing about trying to set the camera up.

A tripod is recommended to keep shaky hands to a minimum – these are very lightweight and fold up nicely so it is a good investment for a trip like this.

If there is one very important piece of advice I would give it would be make sure you have a few spare batteries and memory cards – the cold saps the energy from batteries so much quicker than you will be used to. Keep batteries charged up and take a spare battery and memory card out with you on the Zodiac trips.

Money, money, money

Another question is what money do you take for your Antarctic trip?
Most of the components of your trip are included in the overall cost which you will have paid before you leave. Some vessels include alcohol and soft drinks during the voyage, others don’t so make sure you know which category you fall into.

Onboard you can add items to your cabin account as you go along, any drinks from the bar, laundry, wifi or data packages and simply pay at the end of your trip. Debit or credit cards are accepted with the main currency onboard being US Dollars.  A little cash in US Dollars is always handy to take with you as well.

Gratuities tend not to be included and these are best paid for in cash – it is completely up to each individual what they decide to pay. A guide is 20 US Dollars per person per day – the gratuities are collected anonymously at the end of the trip and will be shared equally between all staff and crew members.

Do also make sure to you let your bank know you’re going abroad and the destination – the last thing you want is a blocked card transaction at the end of your trip!


I mentioned about wifi or data packages whilst onboard – each vessel is different but most nowadays have moved with the times and have packages available to passengers. This may involve purchasing a card with a certain amount of data on it – this can be used to check emails, send messages and keep in touch with family and friends.

Don’t imagine being able to stream movies or upload all your photos to Facebook – as the connection is controlled by satellite the strength may not be what you’re used to at home. Don’t fret, this is normal but do keep this is mind. Simple communication is fine, streaming an entire season of Game of Thrones is pushing things too far.

Handy extras

Some other handy things to pack include ear plugs and an eye mask which should help you sleep during a night time which will never really feel like night time – the Antarctic summer is famed for its twenty hours of daylight!

An adaptor or converter for your electrical items is very important, do ask what kind outlet your ship will have or if you want to be safe pack an universal world wide adaptor – that way you will have covered all bases. Keeping all your items charged especially camera batteries will become like second nature to you on a trip like this.


The crossing of the the Drake Passage is something that a lot of people look forward to due to the two days sailing each way and the feeling of a proper adventure beginning or ending. Despite all the excitement, this will be your time to chill onboard so packing a book or a Kindle will be something you will be thankful for. Writing a daily journal or blog, listening to music, getting to know your fellow passengers, sharing photos and listening to informal lectures given by the expert guides onboard are all ways to pass the time during the crossing.

A lot of the Polar vessels will have a library onboard with books on all things Polar just waiting to be read so pick up a book and see what you can find out! You may also want to take your own wildlife book with you so can read up on all the incredible species you will experience firsthand.

Waves crashing over the bow of an antarctic cruise vessel in the notorious drake passage
The Drake Passage. Gateway to Antarctica. A stretch of water notorious for its unpredictable sea states.

On the subject of the Drake Passage, it is a good idea to take medication with you if you are prone to feeling the effects of the sea. There are tablets, bands and patches readily available to help you in case you experience the ‘Drake Shake’ – do seek advice from a pharmacist before you depart and remember there is always a doctor onboard the vessel! Let’s hope I will experience the ‘Drake Lake’ during the next few days!


Now one last thing I forgot to mention is to take your swimsuit – I know what you’re thinking why would you possibly want to take your swimsuit to Antarctica?!
Aside from the fact that your hotel before or after your cruise may have a swimming pool and some Polar vessels also have a hot tub onboard, a lot of vessels will include the possibility of taking part in a Polar Plunge – yes jumping into the freezing waters of the Antarctic is not for everyone but equally this trip will have been like anything you have ever experienced before so why not have a go?!

Two ladies in the hot tub on the deck of an antarctic cruise ship.
Some polar cruise vessels have a hot tub on deck.

A warmer climate

Possibly like myself you are so busy thinking about the land of snow and ice that you have forgotten about pre or post Antarctica. As most vessels will depart from Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina which is not exactly warm even during their summer time, you may need your layers there.

Though if you have some more time on your hands and want to experience more of what Argentina has to offer then remember temperatures will be between 25C and 35C in most parts of the country. I am due to visit Buenos Aires and the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Valdes Peninsula, which are both feeling the heat just now. Just as well I thought to check the temperatures before I left!

So dig out those shorts and tshirts – you can squeeze them in the last remaining space in your bag, though your bag may be saying otherwise at this point.

Last words of wisdom

Preparation is key to a trip of a lifetime like this  – and lots of layers!
Most expedition companies will have a packing list which will be sent to you before you depart your home country. These offer a handy way to tick off items as you pack.

I hope that by my sharing this packing experience with you that it will make things easier and give you food for thought. If in doubt remember you can never have enough socks!!

If you haven’t booked your trip yet you can find out more about all our cruises to antarctica here















The emporer penguins of Antarctica's snow Hill Island Snow Hill Island


Travel Expert Gillian Landells checks out the polar cruise liners refit

Wildfoot’s polar travel expert Gillian Landells tells us about her favourite polar cruise destination, Snow Hill Island, Land Of The Emperor Penguins.  As a wildlife enthusiast and keen amateur photographer, she reveals why she feels drawn to this remote island wilderness. Continue reading

Wildlife spotting on board an Antarctic Expedition Cruise Ship The Drake Passage

Natalie. Wildfoot travel's Antarctica Cruise Expert AdvisorWildfoot Travel expert Natalie Greenhalgh explains about the legendary stretch of water know as the Drake Passage and what it means to those venturing to Antarctica.

The Drake Passage…an infamous 600-mile-wide passage between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Island’s of Antarctica. For some, this crossing is all part of an exciting adventure. For others, severe sea-sickness can prevent them from fulfilling a life-long dream of visiting Antarctica. Reputed as the roughest sea-passage in the world, the Drake Passage is the stuff of legends and crossing it is often an experience that passengers on Antarctica cruises look forward to the most. For those who have experienced it they would say there’s something quite exhilarating about taking on rolling waves aboard an ice-strengthened Antarctica expedition vessel.

What makes the Drake Passage so infamously rough is the fact that this is the spot where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Seas converge, creating a roaring current mix known as the “Drake Shake”. Currents at this latitude meet no resistance from any landmass making this the only unhindered flow of ocean on the planet. Luckily, nowadays expedition vessels are equipped with stabilizers to absorb much of the swaying. Thanks to the advancement in sea sickness medication, most Antarctica cruise ship passengers get by with just a queasy stomach. At times, the passage is so unpredictable that it can, also be eerily calm, referred to as the “Drake Lake”. But if all of this makes your stomach churn and you think you just can’t face this crossing, there is another option.

Antarctica XXI have made it possible to fly across the Drake Passage
Antarctica XXI have made it possible to fly across the Drake Passage, saving time and worry for anxious sailors.

Antarctica XX1 were the first company that came along and introduced the Fly-Cruise option. Instead of enduring the 2-day passage, you can fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands and meet your cruise to explore Antarctica. You vastly cut your travel time down from a 2-day crossing to a 2-hour flight, giving you more time to spend exploring Chile if you wish.

Flying across the Drake Passage, landing in Antarctica
Flying across the Drake Passage, arriving in Antarctica fresh and raring to get on with the adventure.

Zodiac racing out towards the polar cruise
Zodiacs will take you out to board your polar cruise vessel. An exciting start to your Antarctic adventure!

Of course, the flight operation is weather dependent and delays may happen. However, in the 14-year history of the company, only 1 flight was delayed to the point where clients could not make it to Antarctica at all.

Simon Rowland, Wildfoot Travel’s Managing Director took a Fly the Drake expedition recently on MV Ocean Nova. Simon had this to say about his trip.

“One of the most fulfilling expeditions I’ve taken part in. Kayaking in Antarctica is a must for those seeking even more adventure and it’s an aspirational way to see the wildlife even more up close with no more than 10 other kayakers.
The fact that from your hotel in Punta Arenas to the start of this unique Polar adventure in this winter wonderland environment is just over 2 hours. Quite remarkable. If you are time sensitive or just don’t wish to contemplate the Drake Passage, this is certainly the trip for you!”

Simon Rowland kayaking on his excursion on his Antarctica XXI 'Fly The Drake' trip to Antarctica
Simon enjoying the optional kayaking excursion on his Antarctica XXI ‘Fly The Drake’ trip.

We also work closely with Quark Expeditions who offer the option of flying to the South Shetlands and also the option of taking on the Drake Passage on one of their fantastic expedition vessels: Island Sky; Ocean Diamond; Ocean Adventurer and Ocean Endeavour to name a few.

Wildlife spotting aboard a Quark Expeditions Polar Cruise Vessel.
Wildlife spotting aboard a Quark Expeditions Antarctic Cruise Vessel.

So if you fancy this intrepid adventurous crossing and can imagine yourself cheering on the waves, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to spot spectacular wildlife watching along the Drake. Ships in the passage are often good platforms for the sighting of whales, dolphins and seabirds including giant petrels, albatrosses and penguins. And what a way to be rewarded when you arrive…you’ve made it to Antarctica!

Find out about all our trips to Antarctica here.


Paulina Ramirez form Antarctica XXI stopped by our office the other day to discuss forthcoming trips. While she was with us, we asked her to tell us what was so special about ‘Flying The Drake’.  You can hear what Paulina had to say in this short video.










Sights of whales and dolphins in the Beagle Channel, and a fond farewell

Our travel adviser’s astonishing journey to the Antarctic finally comes to an end with these last two entries in which they describe their experiences, including a fruitful trip down the Beagle Channel. Read all about what they got up to, before contacting WILDFOOT’s specialists in polar travel about how you can create similar memories of your own.

Day 13

After quite a bumpy ride overnight it was good to wake up to calm seas once again. Despite the rough seas we had made good progress and we were on schedule to enter the Beagle Channel by lunch time. This morning’s schedule followed a similar pattern to yesterday, lectures interspersed with deck time. As we entered the Beagle Channel a pod of fin whales was spotted, it turned out to be one of our best whale sightings of the trip with them staying within just a few metres of our vessel for 10-15 minutes. By mid-afternoon the sun was shining bright, a sight we had become only too familiar with and nearly everyone was out on deck, when the PA crackled into life and the words “bow-riding dolphins” were uttered. A group of ten or so Peale’s Dolphins were bow-riding and stayed with us for about 20 minutes allowing us all to get some great photos. I was particularly happy with this sighting as it was a new species for me and gave me hope that we might yet see the striking Commerson dolphin which are renowned for following vessels up the Beagle Channel and if not, just another reason to come back one day.2016-12-10s-82

As is protocol on such voyages the last night was dedicated to presentations, the showing of the slide show that John (the official photographer) had compiled, the Captain’s Dinner and of course the obligatory few drinks to celebrate our successful voyage.

Day 14

As we opened our eyes to the sound of Michela for the final time we pulled into the port, our fantastic voyage finally over. Disembarkation was a seamless operation, they quickly ferried us by bus us to our chosen destinations, whether it be to a hotel in town or to the airport for a connecting flight, before we knew it the crew and expedition team were frantically preparing to welcome the next group on board.2016-12-11s-20

Every voyage to Antarctica is different but I don’t believe this wonderful continent can ever disappoint. Undoubtedly we were very lucky with the weather and wildlife sightings but by far the biggest contributing factor to the success of this voyage was the crew and expedition team. It is for this reason that WILDFOOT place great importance on choosing the right vessel and itinerary for all our clients, depending on their individual needs and preferences. This was my first trip to the magical white continent however I hope one day to go again, it is simply the most amazing place on the planet, if it is not on your bucket list already, it should be.






Half Moon Island bird spotting is followed by inspiring lectures as our Antarctica expedition nears its end

Our senior travel advisor is reflecting on the imminent end of their remarkable Antarctic trip, but the fun wasn’t over just yet. In their latest journal entries on their Antarctica holidays, WILDFOOT’s intrepid traveller looks back on their final landing site and some highly inspiring lectures.

Day 11

I woke to the startling fact that this was going to be a last full day of activities as tonight we would head north to start our return journey over Drake Passage. This morning’s landing was at Yankee Harbour, on the south-western side of Greenwich Island which is known for its nesting gentoo penguins. It is thought that over 4,000 pairs now call its well developed, raised–beach terraces home and as was becoming habit with this trip, we struck lucky again with many chicks already on display. Previously we had only seen very young chicks (a couple of days old) however here they seemed much further advanced with our ornithologist estimating that some might be almost a month old, which was quite surprising considering how early in the season it was. There were also some juvenile elephant seals to be seen wallowing near the water’s edge.


During lunch we sailed a short distance to Half Moon Island, which was sadly to be our last landing site. As the name suggests it is a crescent shaped island and offers wonderful views of the picturesque mountains and glaciers of nearby Livingstone Island. It is a favoured site amongst the expedition vessels as it has a large chinstrap rookery and the serrated and crevassed cliffs are also home to Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills and Wilson’s storm petrels, all of which we managed to get good looks of. As the afternoon lingered to a close and we were ushered back to the zodiacs for the last time, there was a definite sadness amongst us all. It was hard to comprehend that this wonderful adventure was rapidly drawing to a close and that we would shortly be waving this magical white continent goodbye.2016-12-13s-49

Day 12

By the time we woke we were well into the Drake and there was a light swell and a little wind. Much of today was spent flittering between the various lectures that were being offered and spending time out on deck looking for seabirds and cetaceans. I strongly recommend going to as many lectures as possible, the expedition teams are always a fountain of knowledge on these sorts of voyages and some of them will even do talks about their personal experiences which are just awe inspiring. For example, our assistant expedition leader, Marta, joined a sailing expedition across Drake Passage to Antarctica in 2013 whilst Jonathan overwintered in Antarctica at two different research stations. In terms of birdlife, we had an escort of Wilson’s storm petrels, black-browed albatrosses and sooty shearwaters for much of the day, on occasion they were joined by an imperial shag or a wandering albatross.2016-12-07s-7


As the day progressed the waves increased and consequently the numbers at meal times decreased, but this is all a part of the experience. I genuinely believe that without a bit of ‘rock and roll’ on Drake Passage you haven’t earnt the splendour that is Antarctica, it goes hand in hand!

Check out latest cruises to Antarctica here






Seal and whale spotting and an unscheduled cruise of Spert Island

If there is one type of holiday where you can very much expect the unexpected, it is polar cruises to Antarctica like those provided by WILDFOOT. Again, our travel advisor had much to say about her incredible experiences on the latest day of her trip, including a visit to a site that is inaccessible for much of the year.

Day 10

Overnight we had sailed to Cierva Cove and the plan was to do a zodiac cruise this morning. The cove is known for its rugged mountain line and abundance of icebergs and with the still, mirror like water the scene was only enhanced by the incredible reflections. We spent almost three hours cruising amongst the brash ice and icebergs, absorbing the splendour of this place. We also struck lucky with leopard seals and had two close encounters, one with a curious individual that came and played around our zodiac and another with a big fat one asleep on a small ice floe that barely opened its eyes to acknowledge our presence.2016-12-12s-182016-12-12s-76

Shortly after returning from our morning excursion a call was made that some minke whales had been spotted on the port side, so we quickly dashed outside to see a small pod travelling at the surface. They kept their distance from the ship but gave us our best views of the voyage so far and a reasonable chance of getting a few decent record shots, I suspect they were much closer when the watch officer on the bridge spotted them!

After an alfresco lunch out on deck we had a landing at Mikkelsen Harbour, which is home to a gentoo colony and a small Argentinian refuge, which to be honest consisted of nothing more than a small hut. We also found a small haul out of Weddell seals on some ice and a couple of crab eating seals on the pebble beach which were slightly more active than previous seals we had seen. The colony had no shortage of predators either, with not only nesting skuas, but a few pairs of southern giant petrels.

Back on board we assumed that was it for the day, however an announcement was made that due to the favourable weather they were going to try for a third activity, a zodiac cruise of Spert Island. Spert Island is very rarely accessed due to its position, it is situated in open waters which are notorious for large swell, making zodiac cruising virtually impossible for much of the year. There seemed to be a real excitement amongst the crew about this site, many claiming that it was a favourite due to its unique characteristics, evidently there is nowhere else like it on the peninsular. Therefore, we delayed dinner and boarded the zodiacs once more to start our exploration of this fascinating area. As we crept closer in zodiacs, narrow waterways were revealed, providing access to a hidden network of grounded icebergs, towering archways and maze-like water. Other zodiacs created a sense of scale whilst the cape petrels nesting high in the rock arches provided the soundtrack to the iconic scene around us. On reflection, I can completely understand why there was great excitement about this site, in terms of landscape this was by far the most dramatic and unexpected, it was not what most would imagine of Antarctica.2016-12-12s-44

After dinner was complete we went back out on deck for another hour or so, just continuing to soak it all in. Words, photos and film just cannot do it justice.

Find out more about our cruises to Antarctica here 




Reflecting on a magical day at Orne Harbour

The ninth day of our senior travel advisor’s trip to Antarctica involved a spot of ‘penguin gliding’ and ‘polar plunging’, in calmer conditions than one might expect from educational cruise expeditions to Antarctica like those that WILDFOOT can offer.

Day 9

To the surprise of many I had the best night’s sleep of the trip thus far and in fact only woke to the sound of my companions packing up. In my opinion there is no better way to be at one with nature than sleeping out, I would highly recommend the camping and promise you that it is not half as cold or uncomfortable as you might expect. Back on board it was time for a hot shower and a spot of breakfast before the morning landing on to Cuverville Island, thought to be one of the largest gentoo colonies. Of course, the penguins occupied us with their funny rituals and behaviour, however it was the view from the top which stole the show. Looking down over the penguin rookeries and out to sea we could spot the Sea Spirit dwarfed by huge ice bergs and surrounded by glistening brash ice, it is the shallow waters between Cuverville and Ronge islands that trap and ground these icebergs. For those that couldn’t face the quite challenging hike to the top, (due to the thick fresh snow), there was plenty to keep them occupied at the shoreline with brown sub Antarctic skuas doing their best to steal eggs from any parent who was careless enough to leave their nest unguarded. In fact there was quite a plethora of birdlife to be spotted including the southern giant petrel, Antarctic petrel, Antarctic fulmar, Wilson’s storm petrel, rock cormorant, kelp gull and the Antarctic tern.

We cruised to Orne Harbour over lunch and the weather just seemed to be going from strength to strength, there was barely a cloud in the sky and not a whisper of a breeze to be felt. Once again we had to pinch ourselves that we were actually in Antarctica, supposedly one of the harshest environments anywhere in the world, we certainly hadn’t seen any evidence of it so far. Although Orne Harbour is thought to host a hardy colony of chinstrap penguins, this afternoon’s focus was not necessarily the wildlife but the view. The view from the saddle reaches to the southern Gerlache Strait and Wiencke, Anvers and Babant Islands, it is also one of the few places where you can step on the Antarctic mainland. After a bounty of photos had been taken, many of us tried all sorts of ingenious methods of descending the mountain, the most popular being the ‘penguin slide’, face first on your stomach with your arms behind you – once again the atmosphere of the group was electric.

The daring amongst us then headed back to the boat for the famous ‘polar plunge’. Having resisted the temptation to swim in ice waters on such trips previously, I’m not quite sure what came over me today to make me do it, I can only put it down to the great sense of camaraderie that had formed between a big group of us, as they say ‘all for one and one for all’.

A perfect day was only to be topped off by a superb humpback sighting after dinner. The vessel was literally surrounded by these gentle giants, in every direction there were blows to be seen, glistening in the beautiful evening light, it was simply magical.





Experiencing the magnificence of Brown Bluff

Could our senior travel adviser’s latest trip to the Antarctic become any more spellbinding? It certainly could, with their visit to the astonishing site of Brown Bluff on day seven of their holiday. Below, they detail their experiences. Enquire now to WILDFOOT about booking your own Antarctica wildlife cruise.

Day 7

I woke particularly early this morning and decided to draw back the curtains to my balcony, only to find the most picture-perfect scene before my very eyes, we were surrounded by beautiful tabular icebergs, gleaming in the early morning light. Once again, we were being treated to fabulous weather which was allowing ‘Plan A’ to be executed this morning, we were going to land at Brown Bluff! This magnificent site is known for its large penguin rockeries and dramatic scenery however it also has a notorious reputation for bad weather and quickly shifting ice flows, to the point that the Sea Spirit didn’t manage to land there last season with any level of success, making our visit even more special. Within minutes of us landing it was quite clear to see why this was a favourite site amongst the expedition staff, the sheer size of the nesting colonies was quite something to behold. Within just a few metres of the shoreline there were nesting gentoos and Adelies as far as you could see, it is thought to be one of the largest colonies on the peninsular. Despite being early in the season, we were lucky enough to see several induvials with chicks, some just a few days old. It can be somewhat overwhelming at these colonies, not knowing where to look as you are surrounded by activity, personally I think the best option is to find a suitable spot to take a seat and let the action come to you. If you keep moving from one place to another, you are likely to miss the finer intricacies of these adorable animals. These little charismatic creatures are an endless source of fascination and entertainment and quite rightly deserve the attention they get. Our landing is aborted slightly earlier than expected as the Captain spots that the ice is rapidly encroaching the ship, so thinks it is best we make a hasty exit to avoid getting blocked in – a gentle reminder that we are very much at the mercy of Mother Nature.2016-12-09s-12016-12-09s-17

Back on board lunch is served out on deck to maximize the glorious weather, these al fresco dining sessions are always well received. As we sail to our afternoon landing site of Gourdin Island we pass countless tabular icebergs, each totally unique but equally beautiful. These incredible floating towers are the result of caving in the Weddell Sea, some of the bergs we pass are three times the height of our ship and almost a kilometre in length, it is difficult to convey their sheer size in a photo alone.2016-12-09s-89

This afternoon is a split landing, two groups of fifty, as determined by IATTO’s guidelines who state that Gourdin Island is of a particularly high environmental importance and vulnerability. En route to the island, our first leopard seal is spotted playing amongst the icebergs, the speed and agility it shows in the water hinders any great photography chances unfortunately, but we are left hopeful that this might not be our only sighting of this incredible predator. As we pull up to land there are a couple of inquisitive Weddell seals waiting for us, more than happy to pose for our cameras. Gourdin Island is home to all three brushtail penguins and a small hike to the top allowed for wonderful views down the Bransfield Strait.2016-12-09s-92

Today, has certainly been a day to remember with some of the most stunningly beautiful scenery I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing and of course more penguins than I could bear to count!