Traveler Jenny has been obsessed with visiting Antarctica for as long as she can remember, and this past winter she was able to make her dream a reality. Here, she shares the story of her adventure in hopes that she’ll inspire more travelers to make their own travel dreams come true, no matter how impossible they may seem.
Recently, I went digging through old memory boxes and there were stacks of old National Geographic and Discovery Magazine covers, articles and stories, all featuring Antarctica. I even found my late Grammy’s first edition copy of Endurance, the true story about Sir Ernest Shackelton’s ill-fated expedition. Still, I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to Antarctica in my lifetime. But as fate would have it, I was able to save up and go on Go Ahead’s Antarctica Cruise, which was—hands down—the best experience of my life.
To start, I flew to Ushuaia by way of Buenos Aries. The southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia is a quaint city very reminiscent of a Swiss mountain village. Our group had a bit of time to hike up the mountains and people were able to rent gear for our voyage (such as winter coats and pants) if they didn’t bring them. When we boarded the M/V Ushuaia, we met with the other travelers on board (80 passengers total) and the expedition staff that would lead us through our Antarctica education and exploration of the islands and mainland.
Our first two days at sea were spent crossing the infamous Drake Passage, the notoriously rough stretch of water between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica’s South Sheltand Islands. Luckily for us, the Drake was very calm on our way down. On the two days spent traveling back, we clipped the edge of a storm and experienced 30-foot seas. But to be honest, I loved it all! The rougher seas made me feel even more like a real explorer.
After two days at sea, the ship crew woke us up in the wee hours of the morning to let us know that we could set our sights, for the very first time, on Antarctica—not an island of Antarctica, but the actual mainland! When I first saw Antarctica from the deck of the ship, I cried. I was so excited, awestruck, happy… no words can or will ever describe how excited I was to be there at last.
The days that followed were incredible. We explored the mainland and surrounding islands and took in amazing sights such as penguins, seals, whales, birds and sunken whaling ships. The landscape alone was so breathtaking that I couldn’t even imagine a place like that existed on earth. When we hiked up the side of Nekko Harbor, home to over a thousand penguins, you could literally hear the glacial ice pack cracking and breathing. Everything was so pristine and fresh. On some days we did dry landings where we would board the Zodiac boats and go to either an island or mainland Antarctica. From there we would follow the expedition staff for a walk around the area. Each landing lasted for about two hours, which was perfect—any longer and the cold would have started to break through my rubber boots and three pairs of thermal socks.
Wet landings were always a blast; we would climb onto the Zodiacs and zoom around harbors, coves and icebergs to get a closer look. On one particular outing we made our way through an icepack and stopped right in front of two Weddell seals. They were so adorable and it was incredible to get as close as we did. I still can’t believe the amount of wildlife we saw: thousands of penguins, fur seals, Weddell seals, blue whales and a plethora of indigenous birds.
Needless to say, my tour to Antarctica was one of the most unbelievably exciting experience I’ve ever had. I’m confident that, for me, nothing will ever top visiting the continent and I hope I can inspire more people to go—there is no other place like it on Earth.
Is a tour of Antarctica on your travel wish list?