Antarctica: things to know before you go
Travel Specialist Sophie shares some tips for travelling to Antarctica.
1. Prepare for all weather types
Antarctica is cold and you will definitely need lots of layers but remember that you’ll be there during the Antarctic summer when temperatures are often above freezing. I took layers with me that I could add or remove according to how cold it was. Also, remember that inside the boat it’s warm with the heating so you’re likely to be wearing trousers and T shirts. I even took flip flops for inside the boat.
Don’t forget waterproof gear either. Getting off Zodiacs on shore landings is wet and although your rubber boots will protect your feet, waterproof trousers are also vital. I took 2 pairs – one pair of ski pants that kept me warm and dry for less active excursions and one pair which was lightweight and went over my walking trousers and thermal leggings for excursions with more walking.
2. Prepare for changes to the itinerary
Weather and sea conditions change regularly and as such changes to itineraries will likely happen. Your safety is paramount so if the sea looks too rough or the wind starts to pick up, changes will be made. Don’t focus on visiting a particular island in case you can’t visit it; instead, enjoy the fact that you’re in one of the most remote and awe-inspiring places on earth!
3. Don’t forget the essentials
Lip balm, sun screen and moisturiser are essential. The weather can be harsh and even when the sun is shining, the wind can whip around your face so it’s important to protect yourself. Other essentials include ear plugs and sea sickness tablets. There will be a doctor on board who can provide sea sick medication but it’s worth speaking to your GP before you travel to get advice and be prepared.
4. Listen to the expedition staff
We are privileged to be able to explore Antarctica and the expedition staff is there to make sure we get the most out of the experience whilst still protecting the flora and fauna. If they mark a path, don’t deviate from the route they’ve marked as there is a good reason it’s there – there could be a colony of penguins nearby or a sheer drop on the other side of the path that you can’t see! Usually we’re allowed 5 metres from penguins (the staff will advise) but penguins don’t know this. If you crouch down quietly and stay still, the curious adolescents may come and investigate.
5. Bring spare camera batteries
The cold weather in Antarctica causes camera batteries to drain more quickly so make sure you take spare batteries as well as spare memory cards. I used an SLR, a GoPro and my iPhone and got great photos on all devices. I think it’s also important at times to put the camera away and just appreciate your incredible surroundings. I’m no photographer (can you tell by the use of an iPhone?!) and knew I would not get many decent shots of the whales so I decided to put down my camera and just enjoy the experience of being there.
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