The 6 most active things you can do on an Antarctic cruise
February 21st, 2022 / Burnham Arlidge
For the adventurous and active folks out there, Antarctica offers plenty of opportunities to get your legs moving and your heart pumping.
Whilst much of an Antarctic cruise is spent on the ship, there are daily shore excursion and activities on offer to guests who want them. Shore landings last for several hours at least and there will be set routes for guests to walk around and enjoy the landscape and wildlife. Whilst these hikes are very moderate, they still allow travelers to get their legs moving properly.
For guests wanting a little more activity however, there are a number of options that many Antarctic operators offer. Below we have listed our favorite 6 activities we think you should try in Antarctica. Please note that not all operators offer all these activities, make sure to speak to a specialist to find the right itinerary for you.
If you are looking for an active Antarctic crise, then we suggest the Basecamp cruise.
Sea kayaking is one of the most popular activities you can do in Antarctica. Almost all operators offer kayaking as an extra option, but you’ll need to book early as it fills up quickly.
Sea kayaking allows you to experience Antarctica from an entirely new perspective. Kayaking 360 degrees around an iceberg gives you an incredible vantage point of the landscape, not to mention amazing photo opportunities.
Kayaking also has the advantage of being much quieter than a zodiac. This gives you the chance to get close to the wildlife in a way that zodiacs cannot. Seals and penguins are far less likely to move away from kayaks, giving you the chance to see these beautiful animals up close. It is also not uncommon for whales to approach kayakers as they are very curious creatures. Being feet from a whale is truly unforgettable and worth the extra $900 it costs to kayak.
It is worth noting that kayaking will be attempted most days whilst you are in Antarctica. However, rough seas and poor weather may prevent this. Previous kayaking experience is recommended.
There is nothing in Antarctica that is going to get your heart racing as much as the polar plunge. The polar plunge does what it says on the tin – guests plunge into the cold Antarctic water wearing nothing but their shorts or bikini.
Once again, most operators will offer the polar plunge. Some operators will operate the plunge from the boat, whilst others will go ashore to do it. Deception Island is one of the most popular landing points for the polar plunge as the waters are ever so slightly warmer thanks to the island being a caldera of an active volcano.
The polar plunge is free of charge and open to any guest who wants to give it a go. Afterwards your expedition tram will offer you a stiff drink or two to help get the blood flowing again.
Snorkeling and Diving
For those guests who want to stay in the water longer and explore the world beneath the ice, there is the option to either snorkel or dive in Antarctica.
Because diving is fairly niche, very few operators offer this activity. You will need plenty of previous cold-water diving experience and be able to prove this on your dive log book. For those lucky enough to do it, an entire new world opens up beneath the water. Glowing white icebergs are an absolute highlight, especially when you see the size of them beneath.
Snorkeling is one of the newest activities on offer in Antarctica and only several operators offer it currently. Unlike diving however, no previous experience is required and this gives most guests the opportunity to experience the world beneath the waves, if only from the surface.
Make sure for both diving and snorkeling that you book your slot well in advance.
Snowshoeing is the ideal option for people who love hiking and want to get a little deeper into Antarctic territory during shore landings. Whilst ashore, guests will be given a number of snowshoeing options from easy to hard. Snowshoe hikes last from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on which option you choose, and you will always be accompanied by an experienced guide.
You do not have to be extremely fit to do the basic hikes, but a good level of fitness will certainly help your enjoyment levels. The snowshoes will be provided by the operator, but we recommend bringing a water bottle, hiking poles and sunglasses.
Only a handful of operators offer snowshoeing and generally it will be included in the cruise price.
Stand up paddleboarding
Like snorkeling, paddle boarding is one of the new activity options that has hit Antarctica. This hardly comes as a surprise given its popularity rise over the last few years. Like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or ‘SUPing’ gives you the chance to explore the bays of Antarctica from new angles.
Quietly paddle by sea ice where seals sleep, or make your away around an iceberg and marvel at its formation. You can stand up, kneel down, or even lie on your paddle board and stare up at the sky if you prefer.
No previous experience is required, but being confident around water is definitely an asset. Only one operator offers paddle boarding at this stage, but more will no doubt follow. You will be paddle boarding in sheltered bays and inlets, but bear in mind that paddle boarding is very much at the mercy of the weather.
Mountaineering is for the adventurous folks aboard the ship. It is essentially a more extreme version of snowshoeing. You will need to be in fairly good shape as the hike will last either half a day or a full day depending on what you choose. If you can handle a full day hike including some hills, then you will be fit enough to do the activity.
There will only be one hike each trip, but if there is space you may be offered more. Your guide will attach ropes to each guest for safety and at some points, such as the glaciated or steep sections, you will swap out the snowshoes for crampons.
Please remember that if you plan on doing any of the above activities, you will need to purchase adequate travel insurance that covers you for each activity.
About the Author Burnham Arlidge
Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has visited some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet - his most memorable experience is Antarctica!
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