What It’s Really Like to Visit Antarctica

What It's Really Like to Visit Antarctica

No polar bears, but plenty of other animals

seal antarcticaNicoElNino/Getty Images

People always ask me if I saw a lot of polar bears on my trip—the answer is no, because polar bears are in the Arctic (the north) and penguins are in the Antarctic (the south). However, if you're into penguins, seals, whales, and other wildlife, you won't be disappointed. There are seals galore, including leopard, crabeater, Weddell, and southern elephant varieties. I saw plenty of leopard and elephant seals during my visit. Plus, there's a chance to see many different types of whales, including humpback, blue, fin, and killer whales. I even got to see a large pod of humpbacks blowing water through their spout, which was a truly amazing sight. If you need a polar bear fix, check out these polar bear pictures that will melt your heart.

It's so quiet

glacier antarcticaCourtesy Judy Koutsky

Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent size-wise, and it's almost completely covered in ice. There are no hotels, no roads, and no people. (Well, there are scientists, but they aren't in the tourist spots.) The cruise-ship captains from the various ships talk to one another and try to coordinate so not everyone is going to the same spot at the same time. The result is that cruise passengers, especially on a small ship, feel the solitude of the destination.

As a solo traveler, it felt almost spiritual to be in the world's coldest, iciest, windiest, driest, and highest place on earth. I made sure to separate myself from other cruise passengers when I was on land in order to take the time to really appreciate and enjoy the quiet, the whiteness, the vastness. To be in a place where humans don't take over, to be in a place where animals are the main attraction and I'm the minority is such a mindful, meditative experience. Even on the zodiac rides, everyone was quiet, and the only sounds were the ice crackling, the penguins talking, or the seals barking. It was incredibly soothing and peaceful. Here are another 12 of the most peaceful places on Earth.

The sunsets (or lack thereof) are amazing

antarctica sunsetgoinyk/Getty Images

Yes, I expected the penguins to be amazing, and they were. Yes, I expected the icebergs and glaciers to be fabulous, and they were. But I didn't expect the sunsets. Technically, the sun doesn't set for several months during the tourism season. Instead, it goes lower on the horizon in the late evening and produces the most beautiful purples and pinks that can be enjoyed for hours. There was enough light to see, even at midnight, but the time between 9 p.m. and midnight felt truly magical. It wasn't really a sunset, but it felt like one to me. I always thought African sunsets were the best, but Antarctica sunsets are right up there because they last so long.

What It's Really Like to Visit Antarctica, Source:https://www.rd.com/advice/travel/what-its-really-like-to-visit-antarctica/

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