An Antarctica Adventure with Our Wildfoot Expert

A trip of a lifetime: the spectacular Greg Mortimer and  Kayaking in Antarctica

Wildfoot Travel Advisor Debbie Grainger boarded an expedition cruise to Antarctica recently. Here, she gives us a first hand account of her Antarctica adventure – complete with kayaking.

I have just returned from the most amazing trip to the Antarctic peninsula. Friends and family asked me why I was so excited to be travelling to this far-away frozen planet. My answer? I loved the Arctic and all it has to offer, but people tell me daily that Antarctica is the most impressive, emotion-evoking continent you can only vaguely imagine. If you’ve been there, then you’ll know exactly what I mean – if you haven’t, then what are you waiting for? An Antarctica adventure is everything it promises to be and so much more. There wasn’t one day that I didn’t gasp in awe at the beauty, the wilderness and the wildlife.

Following a night in Buenos Aires and another in Ushuaia, our adventure really began as we stepped onboard the Greg Mortimer. My daughter, who was travelling with me, suggested at 6am on the morning of embarkation, that we go for a run from our hotel down to the port, to get our first glimpse of this much-talked about ship. So, we threw our running gear on and ran the 5km to the port and there she was. All shiny and white and sparkling in the early morning sunshine, standing in her glory against the backwash of blue skies and snowy, white mountain peaks in the background.

When we boarded later that day to begin our Antarctica adventure, we were greeted individually by a member of staff and shown to the cabin. Ours was a porthole cabin on Deck 3, which can take three passengers in either a large double bed and a single sofa bed, or two single beds plus the sofa bed. The cabin was tastefully decorated and had great storage options; with a triple wardrobe and bedside cabinets, storage under the beds, plus two more cupboards and four more drawers. There is also a desk area with a mirror, and a large smart TV where you can access the daily programme, view what the bridge can see or simply watch TV.

You can view details of the Greg Mortimer by clicking this link –

What I would like to focus on are the “green” credentials of the Greg Mortimer. Most people these days are aware of climate control and carbon emissions. Aurora, the company who permanently charters the Greg Mortimer, takes every opportunity to explain the fragile ecosystems you will encounter on an Antarctica adventure. Passengers are fully briefed on environmental guidelines, and the scientific reasons behind them, right at the start of the voyage. Their experienced guides demonstrate how to observe wildlife in ways that cause minimum impact. The environmental education continues on shore, as the more that these remote area specialists share their knowledge about the natural environments we encounter, the more rewarding an Antarctica adventure will be.

The Greg Mortimer gives off 80% less emissions into the air and sea with her Tier 3 engine using lower energy consumption. She has high fuel efficiency, reduced light pollution for minimal wildlife disruption, and lower on-board plastic use. Furthermore, the ship has state-of-the-art virtual anchoring technology, meaning it can hold its position using its own propellers and thrusters, while launching Zodiacs and kayaks without disturbing the sea floor. Virtual anchoring technology means no more anchors and chains dropping to the sea floor.

Water filtration is done on board, cleaning products are biodegradable and phosphate-free, and seafood is sustainably sourced and meets Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries standards. Elsewhere, the line’s sustainability record is good. In Svalbard, for example, participation in annual clean-ups has helped remove 20 tons of waste from beaches.


During our first day of crossing the Drake Passage, the kayakers were asked to stay behind after the IAATO guidelines talk that was given during the afternoon session. Al, the kayak team leader, ran through the list of outerwear that they provide, and the base layers they suggest you wear each day. I was surprised as to how many layers they suggested and was a bit worried that I hadn’t taken enough clothes with me. However, I needn’t have worried. The suggestion is that you wear two base layer tops and three base layer bottoms, plus two pairs of socks, a warm hat, a neck warmer, sunglasses and sunblock. I only wore two bottoms and I was warm enough, but I wore merino wool next to my skin on both upper and lower body. I really think this helped me to keep warm, as I didn’t suffer from the cold.

The following day we had another announcement, asking us to be in the mud room for 10am. We were kitted out with our drysuits and all the other equipment that we were going to need over the next few days – red and black suits for the men, and green and black for the ladies. I had expected to wear ski gloves whilst kayaking in Antarctica, so I had taken two pairs with me, plus some liner gloves so that I had at least one dry pair. However, the poggies that were supplied were fantastic. Even on the coldest days, these kept my hands lovely and warm. I did take a pair of gloves in my dry bag though, as when you went ashore, your hands got cold very quickly.

The mudroom and kayak room were to become my second home for the next six or seven days of our Antarctica adventure. They are located at the very back of the ship on Deck 3, although you access them via Deck 4 and down some steps. The mudroom has plenty of lockers where you hang your outside clothes and mud boots – you are allocated your locker by cabin number. Anyone that is going to go out on the zodiacs also uses the same mud room, so to avoid the congestion of 120 passengers all getting changed at the same time, you are called down in groups. The activities people were called first, followed by either portside or starboard for the zodiacs.

Passengers going out by zodiacs swipe their cabin card with one of the members of crew and leave the ship from one of the side openings. The opening isn’t quite level with the sea, so you have a couple of steps to descend onto a narrow, solid platform and then slide into the zodiac and off you go. It’s important to remember to wash and disinfect your boots when you get back onboard and swipe your card to say that you’re back on the ship.

For kayakers, we exit through the very back of the ship. There is a room beyond the mudroom where all the kayaks are neatly and safely tied up and stored away until they are needed. This is where you hang your drysuit, kayak skirt and PFD (personal flotation device). Your paddles and poggies (light, neoprene mitts which attach to your paddles via Velcro) are also stored here.

Tuesday November 12th was to be our first kayaking outing. That morning we had been up on deck watching Captain Oleg navigate his ship through the MacFarlane Strait, arriving into the South Shetland Islands just before lunch. Very few of the crew had sailed through this narrow strait before, so everyone was up on deck watching the ship being expertly guided.

Once we had eaten lunch, we made our way to the mudroom to force ourselves into our drysuits. We all waited rather nervously, not really knowing what we were supposed to do next, and therefore it took some time to get us all into kayaks. We watched as each kayak was lowered into the sea from the back of the ship and, individually, we made our way out of the mudroom into the kayak room. 

We already knew who we were kayaking with and which kayaks we had been assigned to, so when it was our turn we grabbed our paddles and poggies and made our way down the steps and into the zodiac. Whilst we waited, the kayak was lowered over the zodiac and into the water. We then sat astride the seat, before lowering ourselves into the kayak. Now, I have never done this in open water before, so I was a bit apprehensive about falling into the freezing cold sea, but the guides hold the kayak steady for you and it’s really easy to slide yourself in. Getting the skirt on took a little bit of getting used to, as you are floating in the sea, but we soon got the hang of it and it just became second nature after a couple of goes.

Half Moon Island was our destination and I was so excited to see my first chinstrap penguins swimming and porpoising around us in the waters. There were many skuas and shags flying above our heads, but we needed to concentrate on our paddling as the sea was fairly choppy. After about 90 minutes of paddling, we made a landing on Half Moon Island. Pulling our kayaks out of the water, we went for a little stroll in the deep snow, whilst sipping our much appreciated hot chocolate and eating our cookies.

We had only been on land for about 10 minutes when Al got a message from the bridge advising that bad weather was coming in quickly, so we immediately headed back to our kayaks, put our gear back on, and started paddling back towards the ship. Unfortunately, the wind became super strong within just a few minutes of leaving the shore and the waves got higher, which made paddling extremely difficult. To make matters worse, my paddling partner became exhausted and stopped paddling. After a few minutes of struggling to paddle a double kayak alone, one of the support kayaks pulled alongside us and asked if we were OK. My partner requested that we return to the ship in his kayak so, much to my disappointment, we clambered into the zodiac from our kayak, pulled it onboard, and set off towards the ship.

Just 300 metres from the ship the zodiac broke down! Ben called for assistance from the bridge but nobody was immediately available. We were now in a snow blizzard and the other kayakers, although finding the paddling extremely tough, were at least making progress. Then the wind turned against us, pushing the zodiac and the kayakers further from the ship. As we drifted away from the ship, another zodiac came to our rescue and towed us back. As quickly as the wind got up, it dropped again, and the kayakers eventually made it back to the ship absolutely exhausted.

That evening, Al told us that this had been the toughest “first day” outing that he had experienced in 20 years of kayak guiding!

Luckily, that was the only day we experienced rough seas and wind on our Antarctic adventure. The following kayak excursions were perfect – flat seas, sometimes blue skies and sunshine, sometimes fresh snow.

Over the next few days, we kayaked around Hydrurga Rock, Portal Point – our first continental landing. Then Cuverville Island, Plenau, Paradise Harbour – our second continental landing. We had penguins swimming around our kayaks on every excursion that we went out on. At Portal Point we had a wonderful afternoon paddling as snow fell all around us. I was soaking up the scenery and enjoying the peace and quiet that surrounded us, when all of a sudden a leopard seal popped its head out of the water, eyed us all watching in awe, and then just slipped back under the water as quickly as he had appeared.

During our fantastic days of kayaking, we were privileged to witness crabeater seals and Weddel seals bathing on ice floes, Gentoo penguins dancing their courtship dances whilst floating on the ice floats, and I never got tired of watching the penguins porpoising through the water with such ease. We learned how to navigate our kayaks through the ice and around the most stunning glaciers and ice sculptures, and listened to the ice crackling and popping all around as we slid our kayaks over. In the far distance we could hear calvings taking place, although we didn’t witness any, and saw the snowshoers and skiers hiking their way up the mountains. 

This extra activity that I opted to do on my Antarctica adventure was worth every single penny, and I urge anyone with the slightest inkling of kayaking to give it a go. You really won’t be disappointed.

People are already asking me how I feel after my trip to Antarctica. Well, this place stole my heart. It shook me to the core with its beauty, its serenity and its wildlife. It turned my life upside down and made me wish that I was 30 years younger so that I could plan my career all over again and work on one of these expedition ships.

As we sailed back towards Ushuaia over the Drake Passage, I was already planning how I could get to visit this magical continent again. I really hope I will be back for another Antarctica adventure one day.

Our Favourite Holidays for Kayaking

Inspired by hearing about this incredible Antarctica adventure? Here are some of our favourite itineraries.

Shackleton Route from Montevideo (22 days)

Inspired by Shackleton’s legend, this itinerary delivers the best of this magnificent region, departing from Montevideo and sailing through the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Encounter penguins, seals and much more in this extraordinarily biodiverse region.

Luxury Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica (23 days)

Soak up incredible scenery and outstanding wildlife as you journey through these three iconic regions on a luxury vessel. Departing from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, this unforgettable trip offers a new adventure at every turn. 

Spirit of Antarctica (12 days)

Come aboard a custom-built polar vessel for a thrilling adventure taking you through the pristine wilderness to encounter unique and abundant wildlife and an awe-inspiring landscape of towering icebergs. Enjoy a host of optional extra activities like Zodiac excursions and visits to historic sites.

South Georgia and Antarctic Odyssey (21 days)

An absolutely epic expedition through the region, departing from and returning to Ushuaia. You’ll sail the famous Drake Passage and follow Shacketon’s path to encounter truly jaw-dropping scenery and a proliferation of wildlife like nowhere else on the planet. 

Check out all our trips to Antarctica here

A Close Look At Beluga Whales

Encounters With Pumas

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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antarctic cruise vessel Argentina – Gateway To Antarctica

Gillian Landells - Polar Travel ExpertWildfoot Travel’s Polar expert Gillian Landells visited Argentina recently to board polar cruise vessel Ocean Endeavour for an antarctic cruise. Here she gives an account of her adventure along with a few pointers for those considering taking a similar trip 


Valdes Peninsula

Argentina boasts some incredible locations which are made for exploring – one such place is the Valdes Peninsula situated in Patagonia – a truly stunning wildlife hotspot and a highlight of my recent trip to South America.

Getting there

Access to the region is very easy from Buenos Aires and other domestic airports within the country with regular flights into Trelew and a lesser number into Puerto Madryn.

Arriving into Trelew will mean an overnight stay or a 1 hour transfer to Puerto Madryn itself which is the gateway to the Valdes Peninsula. The city is a prime beach destination with a promenade filled with restaurants and is a lovely base for a few nights. Plenty of accommodation options are available making for a comfortable stay.

When to visit and what you will see?

The Valdes Peninsula is an area which can be visited at any time of the year however there are certain months which draw wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world.

Orca can be seen all year around though the months of March and April see these fiercely intelligent animals demonstrate some unique behaviour involving attacks on the sea lion rookeries.

They beach themselves intentionally to catch sea lions and elephant seal pups – this behaviour has been learned and developed from one orca generation to the next and is only displayed at this particular location.

Southern Right Whales are to be found in the area between June and December before they make their way down to the waters of Antarctica. The peninsula offers calm and protected waters where the they can breed, and the mothers can nurse their calves and you are pretty much guaranteed to see these majestic creatures on a visit to the area. My experience was at the very end of the season during the middle of December (when even the guides were careful not to over promise the chances of seeing the whales) and I was treated to seeing 2 separate mothers and calves right beside the boat. An experience never to be forgotten.

From June until the middle of August, the whales are best seen from Puerto Madryn, sometimes right from the beach and from mid-August until mid-December, the main location to base yourself is Puerto Piramides. This tiny beachside town has some serious charm and with only 3 streets and plenty of accommodation options, it promises some fantastic whale sightings.

Magellanic penguins are common in the Valdes Peninsula between September to March – they will start to build their nests on arrival and bring their young up through the following months. This species mainly live in nests under bushes or in burrows and walking amongst them is entertaining indeed.

Magellanic penguins on Agentinas Valdes Peninsula

The numbers of penguins can be upwards of 300,000 and are to be found at a few locations, Punta Tombo, Punta Norte, Punta Delgada and Punta Ninfas. Seeing these creatures in this completely natural environment is something very special indeed.

Elephant seals are present in the Valdes Peninsula all year round with the breeding season being between August and November with October providing the peak numbers of these animals. There is nothing quite like seeing the huge hulk of the males up close and the sheer numbers that are grouped together on the shores.

beautiful beaches on Argentina's Valdes Peninsula

Sea lions will also be present throughout the year and you can easily see them lazing on the beaches in huge numbers. They mate between August and December with the pups being born between December and February. You can spend your time watching these animals both on land and sea as there are kayaking and snorkelling excursions available to give the ultimate interaction.

Buenos Aires

With one day in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city, there are many sights to see and it is hard to know where to start and what not to miss out. My recent trip involved a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery and it really is something to behold – anyone who has been will agree that their time there was a thought provoking experience.

Recoleta Cemetery is located in the lovely neighbourhood of Recoleta which is leafy, elegant and full of grandeur – a walk around the streets is a particularly pleasant experience with the eye always being drawn upwards to the French inspired architecture.

Taking a map when you first walk through the gates of the cemetery feels a tad strange however it is a handy tool to have as there are over 6400 mausoleums, many decorated with statues.

The style of the cemetery is what will first grab your attention, there are hundreds of little laneways, a labyrinth where you can wander around and never see the same thing twice. The mausoleums are where many of Argentina’s notable people lie in rest – writers, poets, scientists, presidents, Nobel Prize winners, some of the most wealthy and famous families in the country however most famous of all is Eva Peron – the former First Lady who was loved by many but was equally a very controversial figure.

There are statues and decorative features everywhere you look; some of the mausoleums resemble houses, hints of the fairytale imagination, marble, brass, engravings, stain glass windows. A lot have been very well maintained and some have fallen into disrepair with broken windows, a myriad of cobwebs and a look of the past about them.

There is always a queue of people wanting to pay their respects at Eva Peron’s resting place although it took her body nearly 20 years to arrive there as she was taken by the military to a graveyard in Italy where she was buried under another name. She is now in her rightful place back in Buenos Aires in a heavily fortified crypt 5 metres beneath the ground so her remains are completely protected ensuring she will rest in peace.

Eva-Peron's final resting place in Buenos Aires

A visit to the Recoleta Cemetery will give you the chance to take some beautiful photographs, listen to some haunting stories being told if you choose to take a guided tour which run every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am and if you just want to sit and take it all in then there is always a bench to be found shaded by the cemeteries many grand trees.

When to visit Antarctica? 

Planning a visit to Antarctica means travelling during the Southern hemisphere summer months namely between October and March. Expedition companies will offer various itineraries to meet the needs of adventurous passengers wanting to make the journey south.

You can choose to focus solely on the Antarctic Peninsula which is the main destination for travellers or opt to include the Antarctic Circle, visiting the Falkland Islands or South Georgia – there are many options however my voyage took me down to the Antarctic Peninsula – a 10 day round trip including flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.

What months are the best?

In truth there is no better month to travel to Antarctica, the experience will blow you away regardless of the month and each month has its highlights.

December and January are the most popular months to travel however pricing is reflected in this. If you are flexible on dates, then voyages at the start and end of the season can offer great discounts.

The start of the season (end of October through to November) will see the largest icebergs in their most pristine form, the month of December will have between 20 and 24 hours of daylight and provide some stunning photographs, January and February are the months when the penguin chicks and seal pups are born providing a chance to see these baby animals in their earliest of stages and March is particularly good for seeing whales.

What will you see?

Antarctica offers so much that your senses will be overloaded – from the sight of the majestic icebergs, to the smell of the freshest air on the planet, to the sound of a whale expelling air from its blowhole and the sight of thousands of Gentoo penguins (not to mention the smell!)

The scenery is absolutely magical and personally will be the part that I always remember from my trip to Antarctica. The tranquillity and the pristine beauty are really something to behold and although photographs will capture the look of the landscape, it cannot capture the feeling and emotion you have when you are actually there. Nowhere else on Earth will make you feel the way you do when you are there in person – the feeling of absolute wonder and thankfulness that somewhere like that exists on our planet.

Whales are to be found in abundance, all types from Humpback to Minke, from Sperm to Fin, from Blue to Right and not forgetting Orca. You will be able to see them from the ship itself and also during the zodiac excursions – they are not fazed by humans and to watch them behave in the natural way they do with all the space they could ever need is something very beautiful indeed.


Seals are very common to see with different types being spotted during your daily excursions – Weddell, Crabeater, Ross, Fur, Elephant and not forgetting the fascinating Leopard seal. For the most part they will be onshore, sleeping and genuinely not at all bothered about the human activity around them. Though after being very close to a Leopard seal on the shore of Deception Island and seeing their almost manic smile, my image of seals being cute and non-threatening was changed forever!

The bird life in Antarctica is incredible with many sightings and many species ticked off the list throughout the voyage – Wandering Albatross, Storm Petrels, Giant Petrels, Diving Petrels, Skua, Snow Petrels, Cormorants, Snowy Sheathbills – the list goes on. Right from the start of the trip along the Beagle Channel and crossing over the Drake Passage, you will see these birds and the sightings keep going during your time in Antarctica.


Birds in Antarctica cannot be mentioned without talking about the penguins – they are found in their thousands and thousands in this polar environment – you will find yourself captivated by them and their entertaining ways. The species of Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper, Adélie, Macaroni, King and Emperor can be found – they are masters of their surroundings, making nests, looking after their young, porposing through the water and mischievously stealing rocks from their neighbour’s nests. Seeing these animals in their huge numbers and to be able to sit down to observe their behaviour really is a humbling experience. Be prepared for the numerous penguin photos in your camera roll though as you take photo after photo of these beautiful creatures.

Ocean Endeavour

There are many different expedition vessels which travel down to Antarctica – all with varying levels of comfort, passenger numbers, activity options and facilities onboard however they are all designed with the polar environments in mind and to give passengers the best experience possible. The ships have ice strengthened hulls which enable them to slice through the icy environment.

Ocean Endeavour

On my recent trip to Antarctica, I stayed on the Ocean Endeavour which has a maximum capacity of 199 passengers and offers a modern style of ship along with passionate expert guides and crew who did their upmost to provide us with some incredible sights.

The ship itself is very spacious throughout meaning wherever you are on the ship, you can move around freely and with large windows situated in all the public areas and easy access to the outside decks, the outside views are never far away.

With 13 cabin categories onboard, from triple cabins to twin cabins and single cabins – some with portholes, some with windows and some situated in the interior of the ship, there really is something that will suit everyone’s requirements and budget.

If you are travelling solo, there are dedicated single cabins if you wish to have your space whilst journeying far south or if you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else then this is a great option to have some company whilst keeping the cost down. You will be allocated a cabin mate by the expedition company with males being kept together and females kept together – they will tend to allocate cabins to people of a similar age as well.

The cabins themselves are very comfortable with enough space to move around – a ensuite bathroom, small desk area with tv, storage facilities and the beds typically set up in twin style or bunk bed style.

The public areas are spread throughout the ship meaning there is plenty of space for the passengers to relax and spend their time onboard the ship. A beautiful restaurant where meals were held, the main lounge where you could relax and also where the lectures and presentations were held, the other lounge areas on different decks along with a small gym, sauna, spa and library meant you never felt crowded. There is also a polar boutique found on the ship which is a shop next to the main lounge providing lots of souvenir ideas as well as clothing – it is quite amazing how many items they stock and how many things you are able to buy as a memento to your journey.

Mealtimes are split between buffet style for breakfast and lunch – endless options to fuel yourself up for the morning and afternoon excursions with dinner being served la carte – be prepared for a mouth-watering selection of meals and lots of chatter about the days experiences. Any dietary requirements are catered for and the crew made sure that every person was made to feel special. We were personally greeted at each mealtime and over the course of the few days onboard, it made for a family atmosphere.

There was also the chance to have a BBQ on the upper outside deck of the ship – a unique experience sitting wrapped up in your outside gear with the incredible landscape surrounding whilst eating your food and chatting to your fellow passengers. It’s something to remember that is for sure!

There is an open bridge policy onboard the Ocean Endeavour meaning that full access can be given to the bridge, weather depending. It really does provide such a unique perspective to stand in the bridge, chatting to the crew and captain, looking at all the equipment and being able to look out onto the wide expanse of ocean or view the polar landscape from that kind of vantage point.

During the voyage

A major part of an expedition trip to Antarctica will be the team of expert guides who make the trip as informative and as fun as possible. They are some of the most passionate people you will meet who spend each Antarctic season showing off the beauty and wonder of this most Southerly continent to intrigued passengers. Being experts in their fields of marine biology, glaciology, ornithology, history, photography, geology (the list goes on!) they will give informal lectures and presentations during your time onboard. You will find yourself taken in by their passion for their subject and their respect for the animals that live in this harsh but beautiful land as well as the environment itself.

They will also be the people taking passengers out on the daily excursions and answering any questions you may have – they will keep you safe at all times and make sure you really are given the best experience possible.

The guides will make sure they immerse themselves into the passenger’s experience whilst onboard by sitting down at mealtimes with the guests, taking the time to talk to everyone and always being seen around the ship. Many will sit in on their fellow guides lectures and by the end of the trip when you are saying goodbye, it really does feel like you have made a bond with them as a team and individuals. Without them, these voyages cannot operate, and their commitment never wavers.


The Ocean Endeavour carries 20 zodiac boats and a selection of kayaks and stand up paddle boards – these are all stored on the upper decks of the ship to be brought down by crane to water level.

There is the option of adding on an additional soft adventure activity to your voyage in addition to the normal zodiac excursion program – this will give you a different perspective of the landscape and wildlife, getting you as close as possible to the action.

Any of these activities are best to request at the time of booking as spaces are limited and although there may be the option to sign up when you are on the ship, if it is something you are keen to participate in then the best advice is to pre-book to avoid disappointment.

Zodiac cruising and landings

On every expedition trip to Antarctica, the daily excursions off the ship are included in the cost of the voyage. Zodiacs are rigid inflatables which can hold between 8 and 10 passengers plus a guide who will drive the zodiac – you will be assisted on and off every time and lifejackets are compulsory.

Zodiac trips on an antarctic cruise vessel

You can expect to participate in these excursions twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon though it is important to remember that everything on a trip like this is weather dependant. Every evening you will be briefed by the expedition team on what the plan is for the next day; where they are hoping to visit and what activities are likely to be able to take place. If due to weather or ice conditions, things have to change then the expedition team will come up with an alternative plan with safety being first and foremost in their minds.

Zodiac trips on an antarctic cruise vessel

In Antarctica there is a regulation that all expedition companies have to follow which only allows a maximum of 100 people on the land at any one time. Ships which carry less than 100 people will be able to take full advantage of making sure every passenger experiences a landing every time an excursion takes place however that is not to say you should disregard a ship which carries more than 100 passengers. The Ocean Endeavour which I stayed on during my time in Antarctica has capacity for 199 passengers and the operation each day of disembarking everyone into zodiacs worked like a well-oiled machine. We were split into 4 groups of 50 people and as the ship has 2 separate platforms at the side of the ship, things worked very quickly and efficiently.

As well as zodiac landings where you will have time to explore by foot, take photographs and be enthralled by the wildlife on the shore, there is also plenty of zodiac cruising which will give you a different perspective of the polar landscape. Humpback whales may be breaching in front of you, penguins porpoising through the water, a leopard seal searching for food making its distinctive sound, all the while being surrounded by the most pristine icebergs and absolutely huge cliffs.

Excursions will take your breath away on countless occasions and hundreds if not thousands of photographs will be taken during them and will make sure you experience Antarctica, not just from your cabin and the outside decks of the ship but be properly immersed in it.


Typically, with kayaking in the Arctic and Antarctic, you do need to have had previous sea kayaking experience as the polar regions are not the ideal place to learn to kayak given the conditions. The kayaks will have a spray skirt and you will need to have a good level of physical fitness to participate in the programme.

As long as the weather is good, and the conditions are safe then you will be going out kayaking as many times as possible – some of the photos and video footage the kayaking group caught on my voyage was phenomenal. Two humpback whales surfacing right beside the awestruck group of 8 to 10 kayakers is something that will forever stay with them – you really are on the water level with these marine creatures.

Stand up paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is another option to consider – no experience is needed beforehand and with the activity being a mixture of surfing and kayaking, it is another way to experience life in Antarctica

On other itineraries, there is further options of camping where you spend a night on the ice, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and mountaineering – all of these are designed to enhance your experience however if you focus on the zodiac excursions with the hiking/walking then you will certainly not miss out on anything.

The Drake Passage

The infamous stretch of water which connects the tip of Argentina with the South Shetland Islands, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula is a main component of any Antarctic voyage and depending on what you have read, you may be put off completely by the stories or finding yourself drawn into the adventure of the crossing.

On my voyage, once we had left the port of Ushuaia and the calm waters of the Beagle Channel behind, 2 full days lay ahead as we crossed the Drake Passage, and no-one really knew what to expect.

Truth be told there were some moments that keeping yourself upright was a challenge and moving around the ship turned into a comedy routine however for the most part it was fine and nothing like I had read.

The expedition team onboard made sure to keep everyone busy by providing a full lecture programme on various topics such as marine biology, the history of the Antarctic treaty, glaciology and the expert photographer onboard offering tips on how best to get the most from our cameras.

We were still able to access the outside decks at times whilst crossing the Drake Passage, there were a lot of birds to be seen and just staring out at the expanse of the water knowing you were getting closer to Antarctica kept everyone going.

There was a doctor onboard who was available at all times if you felt the medication you were using wasn’t working as well as it should be or if you didn’t have anything with you at all – it was comforting to know this however thankfully I didn’t need to speak with him.

Our 2 day crossing on the way back was pretty similar, a few moments which got everyone talking namely one of our last evening meals turning into an episode of keeping the china on the table however we all agreed on our return to Ushuaia that we were happy we had sailed the Drake Passage.

It played such a big role in the whole journey and really gave me a sense of how far we were actually travelling – the distance involved is phenomenal at 500 miles each way and if you embrace it rather than fear it then it will become as much a part of adventure as the wildlife and landscapes.

If you are really not sold on the idea of sailing the Drake Passage then don’t worry, there are trips where you can fly between Punta Arenas, Chile and King George Island, South Shetlands which will cut 4 days off your journey – great if you are short on time.

Another option is to fly the Drake Passage one way and sail the other way – you will still get to experience the crossing by ship however flying will cut down the journey time by 2 days.

Passengers on an antarctic cruise vessel

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.










Another voyage begins to astonishing Antarctica

Here at WILDFOOT, we are proud to be able to offer unforgettable, tailor-made and surprisingly affordable Antarctic expedition vacations. Here, we document the beginning of the latest journey to this jaw-dropping corner of the world by one of our own senior travel advisors.

Day 1

My British Airways flight arrived into Buenos Aires at 9am so I had plenty of time to traverse the city in order to catch my flight down to Ushuaia that was departing from the internal airport. As airport transfers are notoriously expensive in Argentina I decided to put the airport shuttle to the test and I must say it passed with glowing colours. I used the ‘Tienda Leon’ transfer company and was very impressed by their efficient and polite service and state of the art of buses (with Wi-Fi), especially as the 1hr 10 min journey cost me a mere 13USD, a definite top tip for future travellers!

With a few hours to kill at the airport before my 4hr flight south, it was nearly 8pm before I made it to the ‘End of the World’, aka Ushuaia. As I stepped out of the airport I savoured my first breaths of crisp, fresh Patagonian air, this is where the true adventure was going to start! I grabbed a taxi to take me to the Arakur Hotel and Spa, reportedly the best hotel in Ushuaia. It is located just outside the town, high up on the hill side, so enjoys magnificent views over the port and down the Beagle Channel. As to be expected with this calibre of hotel, the staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful in answering the many questions guests seem to have. The hotel is relatively new and is currently undergoing extensive development due to popular demand. Having done a full day of work on Friday before embarking on a succession of flights, my bed was a welcome sight tonight, to the point, I barely remember turning the light off.

Day 2

I was determined to make the most of the beautiful day that I was being blessed with so had an early breakfast and headed into town to find the tourist information office to seek guidance as to the best way to access Tierra del Fuego. Again, I can only commend the helpfulness of the staff, providing honest advice and a good handful of useful maps. On their guidance, I took the shuttle bus into the National Park (USD24 round trip plus USD13 for the entrance fee) which is about a 30min drive, depending on which drop off point you decide to opt. Honestly, I could not have asked for better where the sun was high in the sky and no hint of the ferocious wind that this region is notorious for. Map in hand, I spent the day hiking many of the trails, savouring the incredible vistas from the various look out points. The park is a birder’s paradise, amongst the species I managed to identify were kelp geese, crested and steamer ducks, rufous-chested dotterel, kelp gulls, Magellanic and blackish oystercatchers, South American terns, various caracas, dark-bellied cinclodes, Austral parakeet and rufous-backed negrito, southern giant petrel, Chilean skuas, Chilean hawk and the much sought after Magellanic woodpeckers. 2016-12-07s-7 2016-12-07s-10 2016-12-07s-22

After a long day on my feet I decided to take the advice of a colleague of mine and went to L’Estancia for dinner, a typical Argentine meat restaurant. I had possibly the sweetest, ‘melt in your mouth’ steak I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, a ‘must do’ pit stop for any meat lover!



The Urban Birder Goes Polar!

Here at WILDFOOT we are beyond delighted to announce that The Urban Birder, David Lindo, will be joining us on our epic Antarctica – Off The Beaten Track expedition in November 2016, on board MV Akademic Ioffe operated by our close partners One Ocean Expeditions.

Our in-house wildlife experts have been huge fans of David’s for many years since he first came to our attention after enjoying his Rutland Bird Fair lectures, not to mention his appearance on BBC’s much-acclaimed Spring Watch. We have closely followed his adventures ever since. So you can imagine the excitement in our office when we found out that he was a planning a birding expedition to Antarctica!

David Lindo or as most of his fans know him, “The Urban Birder”, rose to prominence due to his attention-grabbing appearances on programmes such as BBC’s Spring Watch & The One Show, and his regular editorial contributions to the RSPB Nature’s Home magazine where he has shared his passion for birding and helped shape a new breed of birdwatching enthusiasts.

Despite David’s love of and dedication to promoting birding in large cities where one may not have usually expected to find such a wonderful array of birdlife in their natural surroundings until now, David is also open to scouring the lesser-explored areas of the world where birding opportunities take on a different shape altogether. That’s why he has chosen to explore Antarctica with us, a region renowned for breathtaking wildlife experiences that are, quite simply, out of this world.

From swooping albatrosses and giant southern petrels to 17 different species of penguin living in colonies with populations larger than some cities, Antarctica is home to some of the most majestic and remarkable birds in the world. The Urban Birder will be looking forward to spotting some of the 46 different species of birds found in this wonderfully remote region and sharing his unsurpassable knowledge with his fellow travellers.


We are extremely privileged that David has agreed to be a guest speaker on this expedition, giving fellow bird enthusiasts the opportunity to soak up some of his wisdom and share stories and tips as they enjoy their once in a lifetime trip.

If you want to be one of the lucky few who get to share this adventure with The Urban Birder then why not take a look through the itinerary for this exciting trip or contact one of our friendly wildlife experts who will be delighted to help you with any queries you may have. You really won’t want to miss this one!

The Urban Birder is venturing to a land which, simply put, couldn’t be less “urban”…and we are thrilled to be joining him!

Small Group Departure to Antarctica November/December 2017.

David will be returning to Antarctica next year and will be leading a small group. WILDFOOT Travel are delighted to be arranging from start to finish and not only inviting Urban Birder followers but also making this exciting expedition available to our WILDFOOT customers on a first come basis. This is going to be a small intimate group so spaces are extremely limited. You can also experience urban birding with David in Buenos Aries and Ushuaia before you embark the voyage to Antarctica. For further information and registration please email [email protected]


You can learn more about David Lindo by visiting his website