The Antarctic summer runs October through March
While Antarctica may not be a part of South America, we here at #SouthAmTrav love it all the same. And while the frozen continent may have once been a destination for the wealthy few who could afford it, today’s adventure seekers are finding it much more agreeable on the pocketbook. If you’re considering a trip to the bottom of the planet, here are some tips and pointers to help you make the most of the experience.
Pristine blue icebergs and blindingly white snow
There is no doubt that the first people to make it down to the seventh continent after a long, brutal winter will be treated to the brightest and best that snow and ice have to offer. Early season icebergs are particularly spectacular given the blue color that comes from air trapped inside the ice. As temperatures rise, this air is slowly released and the bergs return to their traditional white color by mid-season. Icebergs are also at their most impressive and intimidating early in the season before sun, wind and waves have a chance to soften their edges. Over the course of the summer icebergs fall victim to cracking and pitting, which can be a wonderful sight to behold as well. However, the clean, crisp edges and sharp, jagged chunks of ice that mark the early season will definitely make for ideal Antarctic selfies!
Active wildlife including penguin breeding and nesting
The summer months are a flurry of activity for Antarctic wildlife, and the early season offers some of the best viewing conditions. The beaches are full of activity as they teem with flocks of penguins such as the chinstrap (pictured to the left). The final two months of the year are breeding season for the chinstrap, as well as several other breeds. Everywhere you look penguins can be seen courting and nesting in massive colonies. They will also feed just offshore, hunting for fish and krill in order to feed their young and prepare for the upcoming winter. Watch closely and you may just see a penguin steal some pebbles from the nest of another, just to waddle back and discover that some of his own pebbles are missing too! Nothing beats penguin games.
The Antarctic peninsula is loaded with hot spots that deserve to be on your itinerary. We’ll take a quick look at three places that need to be on your list. Starting on Cuverville Island, you’ll find the largest colony of Gentoo penguins on the entire peninsula, thus earning the island a special designation by Birdlife International. The mossy cliffs on the edge of the island are also home to a wide variety of sea birds. Neko Harbor offers up breathtaking views of Gentoo penguin colonies and large glaciers surrounding water still as glass. Climb up to the highest peak overlooking the harbor to take in this peaceful scene (unless you’re lucky enough to see a chunk of glacier go crashing into the water!). Lastly, Deception Island continues to be part of an active volcano and comes complete with a black sand beach. You can actually notice warm pockets as you make your way around the island, and the location remains popular with those who enjoy a ‘polar swim’ thanks to the favorable conditions. Deception Island is a must-see thanks to the fur seals and large colonies of chinstrap penguins that call the island home.
Space is already extremely limited for early season 2014 expeditions, so those interested might begin thinking about an early season 2015 tour. Great rates can be found early in the season before the typical mid-season rush hits. Or, you can stay tuned for our Late Season Antarctica summary next week that will give details about why February and March are the ideal months for an Antarctic excursion. Availability for the late season is still good so consider contacting our Travel Team for more information, or try your hand at our three step custom tour form that allows you to select other popular South American destinations for your trip.