Traveling to Antarctica: A Wish Fulfilled

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I have officially stepped foot on all seven continents of the world.

As odd as it may sound, going to Antarctica had been on the top of my bucket list over the last decade. It started with my senior trip in high school, when I went on an Alaskan cruise with a group of friends instead of traveling to traditional teen destinations such as Hawaii or Mexico. For a California girl who hates the cold, I became oddly captivated by the remote, icy wilderness—untainted by people but a sanctuary for animals you would never be able to find anywhere else.

I wasn’t aware that going to Antarctica was a possibility until I was in college, after hearing a friend tell me about all the exotic places his parents would travel to, including Antarctica. I secretly added it to my list of “Things to Do Before I Die” which eventually became “Things to Do Before I Have Kids.”

Traveling to Antarctica isn’t cheap, especially if you actually want to step onto the continent. It’s not a journey that the typical cruise line makes, so Mr. Wonderful and I joined a company called Quark Expeditions, along with scientists, researchers, and other travel enthusiasts. It was a smallish ship of less than 200, with a surprisingly high number of passengers in their 20s and 30s, looking for an adventure and wanting to step foot on their seventh continent.

But what if Antarctica isn’t all that great, I wondered, as our ship set sail through the infamous Drake Passage. This was to be the biggest splurge of our Round-The-World trip and I was worried it would end up being a big waste of money. But as we made our first landing, and a little Gentoo penguin waddled towards me, Mr. Wonderful and I grinned at each other. This wasn’t just great. This was frickin’ awesome.

The wildlife on the trip was simply incredible. I loved that the animals were unafraid of us, as Petrels and various species of Albatross birds flew overhead, letting the wind carry them forward. Elephant seals drifted by as they slept on their personal icebergs. Orcas were spotted in the distance as immense humpback whales swam so close to the ship that I could count the bumps on its back.

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But the highlight for me, of course, were the penguins. I had expected to spot one or two, but instead we saw entire colonies of these adorable birds and witnessed their various life stages as individual stories unfolded before us. Mating, nesting, battling for rocks, death.

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On a whim, Mr. Wonderful and I joined a climbing group and learned how to use an ice axe to make our way along the ridge of a mountain. As we paused near the summit, breathless from exertion, we took in the surreal landscape that surrounded us. Miles of white ice stretched out before us in every direction. Icebergs rimmed with turquoise floated serenely below. The world seemed so peaceful, so quiet, except for the occasional avalanche from the mountain next to us. With our fellow passengers looking just a millimeter tall from our perch, I suddenly realized how very small we were in this remote place. And yet strangely, so complete.

Antarctica-iPhone-3What is the next destination you would love to travel to?

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh I love your Antarctica pics! And love your description of the wildlife over there! What an adventure! I remember being very touched by the Penguins documentary movie! Thanks for sharing! I feel like I was transported there just reading your post, haha! Was it very uncomfortable cold?

    • lifeunrefined says

      Thanks Olyvia! I’m glad I was able to “transport” you, that’s my goal. :) We went in Antarctica’s “summer” so it wasn’t too bad..mostly 30s F and sometimes it got up to 50 degrees!

  2. Christine says

    Great to hear about your trip! I love that you got to see so much wildlife and learned to climb using an ice pick! Sounds fun. I’m not sure where I would love to travel to. Anywhere really! Just getting out is a feat for me these days. :). Glad your trip was so awesome!

    • lifeunrefined says

      One day soon you’ll get to travel again, and it’ll be even better because you have a beautiful daughter to share it with. :)

    • lifeunrefined says

      Thanks Vicky! I would definitely recommend putting Antarctica on your bucket list! It was such a special experience.

  3. says

    Your photos are breathtaking! Wow, wow… and it so happens that Antartica is on my bucket list! It’s one of the final two continents I have yet to visit, the other being Australia. For how many days were you on land? And how did you deal with the cold?

    • lifeunrefined says

      For most trips to Antarctica, you fly to the tip of South America and catch a ship/boat. We went with Quark Expeditions (expensive but I recommend them) on a 12-day journey. I believe for 7 or 8 days we were able to step on land. The more expensive the trip, the more time you will have on land. And for some of the huge cruise chains, you only sail by Antarctica and never even get to step on land. So do your research before you put your money down! As for the cold, summer in Antarctica is comparable to a normal snowy winter day in the mountains. Wear lots of layers and you’ll be fine! Quark Expeditions (the company we went with) also provided boots to wear, and big parkas. Let me know if you have more questions!

  4. Linda Manns Linneman says

    This sounds like a wonderful trip to take. The scenery is beautiful. I am so happy you got to do this. Thank you so much for sharing

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