Active Antarctica Adventure Cruise
All the wildlife and snowcapes, with added activites and a night under the stars. Experience Antarctica more profoundly on this small-ship expedition cruise.
All your questions answered
Helping you find the right holiday for you is important to us, so here's a few common questions about this trip to help. If there's anything you'd like to know that's not covered here, send us over a message or you can also give us a call on +44 1273 676 712 and we'd be only too pleased to help.
When is the best time to go?
The Antarctic season runs during the austral summer which is late October to late March. Each month brings something different. If you have any specific interest in certain wildlife let us know and we can advise the best month. Antarctica is a very physical place, from the wild southern ocean crossing to the massive ice flows and high mountains. Nature dominates and as such, weather is always unpredictable but rarely as cold as you may think.
In October and November the peninsula will be at its most pristine and dramatic with plenty of fresh snow and huge icebergs. Photographers tend to prefer this time of year as the snow becomes less pristine later on in the season by nests and droppings and the icebergs start to reduce in size. Pack ice will prevent access to some landing sites so some shore landings may need to be cancelled.
Penguins, seals and seabirds can be seen courting at this time of year with plenty of rituals on display. Days are already long as the sun rises around 06:00 and sets about 20:30. Drake Passage crossings tend to be rougher early in the season, though impossible to predict at any time.
In December it's high summer in Antarctica and there is plenty of wildlife activity. Penguin eggs start to hatch, first in the Falklands and South Georgia, and then on the peninsula by the end of the month. Southern elephant seals can be seen guarding their pups. Seabirds are abundant. The average temperature on the peninsula rises so that days are comfortably well above freezing and night-time temperatures are only just below freezing. The sun sets for only three hours a night on the peninsula.
January through to February is the peak season. Temperatures are still a few degrees above freezing during the day and darkness still falls for only three-four hours per night. January is often the peak time for penguin lovers, you'll see chicks galore, while seal pups are very active in the water.
By February you have more chance of seeing whales and the penguins are now fledgling - and very noisy! Fledgling gentoo penguins are a particular highlight.
In March the average temperature cools a little more, though daytime temperatures tend to still stay above freezing. March is the best month to see whales and orcas as they start to migrate north. If you are very lucky you might see the Aurora Australis. Icebergs are now smaller than at the start of the season, though still very impressive.
When is peak season?
January and February are the peak months for cruises in Antarctica and the cruise operators charge high season rates during these months along with Christmas/New Year departures.
How far ahead should I book?
This somewhat depends on when you want to travel. If you have specific dates in peak season, we advise you book at least 12 months ahead to secure your dates. The more flexibility you have, the better.
How much carbon is produced on this trip and how is it mitigated?
Total carbon generated on this trip: 4,192kg per person
Carbon mitigated by us: 6,707kg per person
As Yvon Chouinard, of Patagonia, Inc. rightly declared: “To do good, you actually have to do something.”
Therefore, for every kilometre travelled by road, air and sea on your Pura Aventura holiday, we carbon balance it by a mile - i.e. by 160% of your trip's carbon, from your front door and back again, irrespective of whether we book your international travel or not.
This is one of the travel industry's most ambitious and innovative schemes and has recently been praised by Wanderlust, Condé Nast Traveller and The Independent.
Is this trip suitable for solo travellers?
Yes, this trip is perfectly suitable for solo travellers as all activities are in small groups. There are twin, triple and quadruple cabins so plenty of options if you are prepared to share. If you want a cabin for single use, there will be a supplement.
How active is this trip?
This journey is active but is resolutely not about frenetic adrenaline-fuelled adventure. Most of our clients on this trip are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. But for anyone who loves the great, truly great, outdoors and being active, this is undoubtedly one of our finest adventures. The advantage of this particular expedition is that all activities are included - most other cruises charge for activities. No previous experience is necessary and all equipment is provided. It is open to all (advanced mountaineering is the one exception - see below)
You can choose from the following:
Kayaking is in calm waters and is at a level suitable for anyone from beginner up. There is little in this world to beat the quiet splashing sound of the paddles breaking the heavy silence of Antarctic waters.
Snow shoeing is fairly gentle but requires rather more concentration than you might imagine – it’s very easy to tread on your shoes and tip yourself over! Once mastered though, it’s a fantastic sensation to crunch over the top of deep snow.
Photography - there is a professional photographer on board and this is a great opportunity to learn. The landscapes and wildlife are simply amazing and a photographer’s dream – even total beginners find themselves keen to perfect their photos.
Mountaineering is probably best thought of as high level roped walking – crampons are worn but this is not Chris Bonnington stuff, more of a human mule train along the ridges of Antarctica. That’s not to make it sound like a trudge, you are walking in the most extraordinary pristine and remote place on earth so the views are beyond most people’s imagination.
Sleep out under the stars Often referred to as "camping", but there is no tent! This is a unique opportunity to sleep out on the peninsula. After dinner your guides will take you to shore where you dig your snow-bed. There is not much more to it really but it is a one-off experience to spend the night out here and is fun. The night skies, dusk and dawn are incredible. All equipment including four season sleeping bags is included. You return to the ship for breakfast.
Advanced mountaineering This excursion is limited to a small group of six people and is offered only once per trip and only for people with previous experience bringing their own mountaineering boots. Crampons are provided.
How are the activities organized?
Activities are pre-booked via an activity form at time of booking. The guides and crew will then co-ordinate everything for you and talk you through the activity timings on board. All activities are in small groups of between 12 - 14 passengers and each group will be given a time slot.
If the weather conditions for your particular activity and slot are not suitable, your activity will be cancelled. The expedition team will usually find an extra slot for that group activity but you have to be prepared for the possibility of the weather or ice conditions affecting your activities. Your safety will always come first.
Do I need specialist gear?
Temperatures in the peninsula are not as extreme as you might think. A winter day in Scotland or the northern states of the USA is likely to be worse than what you will experience in the peninsula in summer time. The temperatures rarely drop below freezing so you are unlikely to need to buy any gear specific for this trip. However, If you don't have suitable gear you can rent it directly from the boat or in the shops in Ushuaia. You do need to pre-book and we provide full details.
Think in terms of layers - base layer, shirt, fleece, and then a windproof and waterproof outer layer will keep you sufficiently warm. Winter hiking trousers are fine for your legs.
The wind will be the main factor and it will feel much colder if the wind is up. While on the zodiac transfers, probably the coldest moments of your trip, a good hat, neck protection and good gloves are a must.
Wellington /muck boots are provided by the boat and are the most suitable footwear for all landings, snowshoeing and the basic level of mountaineering.
Only the advanced levels of mountaineering have specific boot requirements - speak to us to discuss this.
How comfortable will I be?
In Buenos Aires we like to use smaller hotels of a 3/4 star standard in the more residential neighbourhoods such as Palermo. This way you can get into the centre of the city during the daytime by taxi but at night you can simply stroll out to the local bars and restaurants near your hotel.
Down in Ushuaia, you stay in a small, owner run hotel a bit out of town where the views are better and the welcome warmer.
For the Antarctic cruise, this itinerary is based on a twin cabin with porthole and private bathroom. Upgraded cabins are available, but as with any expedition boat in these waters, facilities are robust and practical rather than luxurious. These ships were typically previously used for research purposes.
At just under 90m long and 15m wide, your ship accommodates up to 116 passengers in 53 cabins. There is plenty of communal space between the restaurant, bar area and observation deck so you have space to roam. Once in Antarctica, sitting out on deck can be just wonderful.
Will I get seasick?
Drake’s Passage is a rough stretch of sea and even on a calm crossing you are likely to feel nauseous at first. The vast majority of people adapt within half a day and then feel fine for the rest of the trip. It is not an issue for the vast majority.
And a extra note on the Drake Passage. It’s a wild stretch of sea, however, it is part of the journey, and part of the experience. It is our strong opinion that Antarctica is a place to be preserved, fiercely protected, and part of that is to make it difficult to get to. To visit Antarctica, you have to ‘earn your stripes’ and that’s the Drake Passage – or it can be when the seas are rough. The crossing is a great experience, with your guides giving talks and lectures as well as enjoying time with your fellow passengers, guides and crew.
What meals are included on board?
Once you are on board all meals are included. There is a buffet breakfast with lots of variety including freshly baked bread and fresh fruit throughout the journey. Lunch and dinner are normally buffet-style except when the sea conditions make it more comfortable to be served at the table. The ship can cater for most food preferences and health requirements if informed in advance.
Water, tea and coffee are included. Other drinks are extra. You can order drinks with your meals and put them on a tab that will be settled on the last day on board. There is also a bar at the main observation lounge where your drinks will be added to the same personal tab. No food should be taken off the ship on any of the landings. The ship follows the strict Antarctica conservation regulations.
What does a day on board look like?
07:30 - wake up call
08:00 - Breakfast
09:00-12:30 - Morning activities.
12:30 - Lunch
15:00 -18:00 - Afternoon activities
18:45 - Guide briefing and plans for next day
19:30 - Dinner
Will I be cut off from the world?
Best to assume you will be out of contact, and that is one of the joys of this trip so you can focus on the incredible landscapes and wildlife. Phones and internet are actually available though (charged as extra on board). This is always subject to the satellite connection that can be variable in a place like Antarctica. We suggest you keep these options just for emergency.
What might I not have thought of?
Antarctica has the power to change the way we look at the world and our place in it. People who visit often find it hard to explain but nature dominates to such an extent that as humans we feel totally humbled by it and very small. It is an extraordinary place. It will stay with you.
Can I make changes to this trip?
The cruise section of the trip is a fixed itinerary that will run as per program with the flexibility to adjust to any given conditions of weather, sea or ice. The Captain is in charge of the itinerary and the Expedition Leader will adapt the captains' decisions in the best interest of the passengers, but you have to expect changes in a place like Antarctica.
The land section of this trip is completely flexible and can be tailored to access Ushuaia from Chile instead of Argentina or to combine the cruise trip with any of our Latin American holidays.
What is the payment process and is my money completely safe?
We take a 15% deposit to secure your holiday, with the remainder due eight weeks before your departure.
Your money is 100% protected through our ATOL licence if your trip includes a flight booked through us, or through our ABTOT bond if it does not. Either way, this protection provides a cast-iron financial guarantee and helps you book with complete peace of mind. Because the contract between us exists here in the UK, you get this protection regardless of where you live.
As always, our covid-19 policies ensure you have complete flexibility, just in case. Throughout the pandemic we have frequently been praised by Which? as a tour operator to trust, so you're in good hands. Your safety is always our top priority and we want you to be able to fully look forward to and enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
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