So last year I was in Ushuaia for a couple of days, and saw just a few too many far too awesome photo's on the screensaver of my guesthouse's computers, which catapulted Antarctica rather closer to the top of my wishlist than it's really healthy for it to be. So I'm currently starting to think about it for ~ January 2013. I know there's been quite a few travellerspoint members who've gone already, so I'm hoping you all could share some practicalities about who you went with (searching the forums, I've seen Quark Expeditions and GAP adventures mentioned several times, but I know there's more than just those two companies), and for how long / on which route. How many people on board, what was the age mix like, how many landings per day, etc? In retrospect, would you have wanted to be on a smaller ship, or go further, or have the opportunity to do more of ... or on the other hand, was the trip long enough as it was already?
I'm aware of the costs of trips to Antarctica, and of the possible ways to get good deals. If you went with the cheapest option, did you ever find yourself wishing you'd gone for a more expensive option instead? Or if you did, did you feel that was worth it?
The other consideration for me is the damage tourism does to the Antarctic environment and wildlife. I realize this damage must exist in the abstract, but I don't really know what form(s) it takes exactly. Does anyone know of any resources which make that clear? And does anyone know of any charitable organizations which work to fight / ameliorate / offset that damage to which I could contribute to at least in a small way make up for the damage I'd be causing? Preferably something local or directly effective, rather than a huge behemoth organization with a huge warchest like WWF.
[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jan-2012, at 05:11 by Sander ]
After a lot of research I went with Quark and I'd highly recommend them. They were very environmentally friendly in terms of how they handled everything - including a lot of optional lectures about the local terrain. The damage is from many, many things, inadvertent pollution, emissions from the boats, accidental impacts on the wildlife, etc.
It was a very small group when I went, just 33 of us and we landed typically 3-4 times a day at different areas and got to explore a lot. It wasn't cheap in the least, but compared to almost everyone else I've spoken to it was by far one of the most intensive as to visiting the continent.
As to age mix it was broad from 18-73 with most being 30s-40s. Was there for 14 days and it wasn't long enough.
One of the best reasons to go with a small group is that under the antarctic treaty only a certain amount of people from any ship are allowed to land on the continent each day. Some of the groups, especially the cheaper options really limit how often you can land (because of ship size, group size, and even for financial reasons - i.e. needing more zodiacs, drivers, staff, etc, to accommodate more frequent landings).
I'd strongly suggest you make sure you find out how often you'll get to land, what zodiac expeditions you'll have included and where you'll go (weather permitting obviously) before you agree to book.
I can't speak for the staff, naturalists, lecturers and such with other groups, but the folks at Quark were very impressive - and I say that as someone who knows an awful lot about that stuff from a professional point of view. Would go back with them anytime.
Thanks for that reply; very useful!
A group size of 33 is small indeed! Was that late in the season? What was the capacity of the ship? I thought when I looked at Quark that all of their ships had a capacity of ~100 people.
They do usually have a capacity of about 100, but as Antarctica is pricy they probably don't sell them all.
and it was late in the season I was there in late February into early March.
We are seriously considering Antarctica for our 25 Wedding Anniversary trip Dec 2012 or Jan 2013. Quark is one we are definitely considering. Any other suggestions besides Quark or when/how to get the best discount/fare? I saw some great last minute fares but unfortunately because of work we have to make plans far ahead.
[ Edit: Edited on 01-Feb-2012, at 11:46 by wilkwise ]
I am actually sitting in a hostel in Ushuaia right now. We turned up a week ago and are heading to Antarctica in 3 days!! The last minute tickets that they sell down here are well worth not booking ahead and paying full price.
We secured a spot on the ship Antarctic Dream that usually sells for more than $8000 - we paid less than $4000!
I'll let you know how it went when we get back in a couple of weeks :D
Kyle, I look forward to reading about your trip. Safe journey.