May 19, 2019

Photos by Muench Workshops. 

Antarctica infographic

For many winter photographers, Antarctica is perhaps the most desirable location in the world to visit. It is, after all, eternally winter. Sure, the continent experiences a summer season but the frozen tundra never ceases to disappear from the shores. Extremely remote and utterly inhospitable for human settlements, Antarctica proves a sense of mystery and wonder.

Vallerret’s Top Picks:

Your cruise ship will likely already have a planned itinerary for you so once you book the tickets, there’s probably little room to change your schedule. When booking your ticket, check to make sure the things you want to see and do are included.

1. Falkland Islands: Ships leaving from Ushuaia often make a stop at the Falkland Islands found north of Antarctica. Land birds make up most of the wildlife on the Islands including five species of penguins. Marine mammals such as the elephant seal and South American fur seal also call the Falkland Islands home.



seals in antarctica
Photo by Muench Workshops.

2. South Georgia: Similar to the Falklands, South Georgia is a remote and inhospitable island home to a diverse list of wildlife. One of the most notable things about South Georgia is the King Penguin Colony. If you’ve ever dreamed of photographing a sea of thousands of penguins, South Georgia is the place for you. It’s a major breeding spot for King penguins and their presence is overwhelming. The island is also home to Macaroni Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, and Gentoo Penguins as well as elephant seals, fur seals, and albatross.

penguins in antarcticaPhoto by Muench Workshops.

3. Antarctica Peninsula: As you continue further south, you’ll encounter more sea ice before eventually arriving at the main event, the Antarctica Peninsula. You’ll slowly sail through towering icebergs where whale sightings are not uncommon. You’ll have days where you explore the Antarctic shores on foot where you can better photograph the rare wildlife.

antarctica peninsulaPhoto by Muench Workshops.

4. King George Island

King George Island was once the thriving base for the whaling industry but as whales became more protected, King George Island has transformed into a wildlife retreat and nesting hub. Structures from the whaling industry still remain so while human presence can be found, this area is largely dominated by wildlife. Surprisingly, they do have a post office here so if you're keen on sending a postcard from the bottom of the world, this is your spot. 

penguins in antarctica
Photo by Muench Workshops.

5. South Shetland Islands

This beautiful mountainous region stretches for more than 500km and is home to whales, penguins and seals. The islands is also home to King George (where you will find most of the research stations in Antarctica, Livingston (a popular nesting area for penguins and seals), Deception Island (known for its geothermal activity and hot springs), and Elephant Islands where British explorer Ernest Shackleton famously bunkered down for an entire winter. Remnants of his ship can still be found to this day. 

Antarctica
Photo by Muench Workshops.

 

Best time of the year to visit:

As you can imagine, winters in Antarctica are…cold. So cold, in fact, you can only visit in the summer. There are 40 permanent research stations on the content but once winter has started, there is no leaving or arriving. The sea ice expands hundreds of kilometers completely isolating Antarctica until spring arrives and begins to melt the ice.

November and December are courting season for penguins and seabirds, elephant and fur seals establish their breeding territories and spring wildflowers begin to bloom in the Falklands and South Georgia.

December and January: These are typically the warmest months in Antarctica. During this time, penguin chicks begin to hatch and seal pups become visible on South Georgia and the Falklands.

February and March: Whale sightings are coming during these months. The penguin chicks begin to fledge and fur seals become more plentiful. The receding sea ice means ships can explore more of the area than before.

Iceberg in antarcticaPhoto by Muench Workshops.

How to get there:

The majority of people traveling to Antarctica arrive on a cruise ship. You can set sail from Argentina, Chile or New Zealand but the closest, most direct passage is from Ushuaia, Argentina through the Drake Passage. A ship from Argentina takes 2 days whereas a ship from New Zealand can take 7 days. You can fly to Antarctica then board your cruise ship as you explore the continent, however, this is far less common and more expensive than a boat from Argentina.

Ships can carry anywhere from 45 to 280 passengers, however, only 100 passengers at a time are allowed on shore so it’s best to book a smaller cruise ship. This will eliminate having to take turns and wait as some of your crew heads to the shore. Furthermore, you can book photography specific cruises so you know you’ll be lead and surrounded by other fellow photographers.

Cruise ship antarcticaPhoto by Muench Workshops.

The Weather Scoop:

Despite being the coldest place on earth in the winter, Antarctica’s summers are relatively mild. Sure, you’ll still need to bundle up to be outside but it’s likely not going to be as cold as you’d expect. Of course, weather conditions here are as fickle as anywhere and it’s common for a storm to roll in quickly, but for the most part, you can expect temperatures around 0°C.

penguins jumping into water Photo by Muench Workshops.

How to get around:

Because you’ll be on an all-inclusive cruise, you won’t need to worry about getting around. You’ll be led by professionals so you can sit back, relax and focus on your photography.

Bed for the night:

There are no hotels or towns in Antarctica so your one and only option is to stay on the boat.

Cost to travel:

As you can imagine, an all-inclusive cruise ship for a few weeks is not going to be a cheap affair. Some cruises can be found for near 6,000 euro while longer, more inclusive cruises can cost upwards of 18,000 Euro. The price totally depends on how long you want to travel for, what activities you want to partake in and where you go. The good news is everything is typically included in the costs so once you’ve paid for your trip, you can quite literally sit back and relax. 

Must have packing list

  • Lenses
  • Extra batteries (at least double of what you’d normally take)
  • Filters
  • Sturdy tripod
  • Shutter release
  • Laptop for post-processing
  • Powerbank to charge batteries
  • Power adapters (check with your cruise ship about what plugs they use)
  • 3-4 SD 64GB SD cards
  • External hard drive to back up your photos
  • Microfiber Cloths
  • Photography gloves
  • Parka: You’ll need this but don’t worry about bringing one. Most cruise ships provide parkas to all of their guests.
  • Insulating jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Merino wool base layers
  • Merino wool socks
  • Knee-high waterproof boots: Often your ship will provide this so check with your provider.
  • Warm hat
  • High SPF Sunscreen
  • Binoculars
  • Lightweight Day Pack
  • Sunglasses
  • Seasickness Medication

 

Why Antarctica can be a challenge:


The biggest hurdle to getting to Antarctica is by far is how expensive it is. Resources on the White Continent are scarce so traveling that far south is no easy or cheap feat. As a bucket list item for many photographers, this trip may require years and years of saving before the dream becomes a reality. Once you’ve saved up, you’ll be limited to the activities of the boat. While you can find smaller boats, all of your activities will be done in a group so finding smaller boats will definitely benefit you.

Why we love Antarctica:

Despite its unique challenges, seeing Antarctica is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. As one of the last wild frontiers of the world, it’s an extreme privilege to be able to witness the towering glaciers than span for hundreds of kilometers or watch rare species thrive in their natural habitat. Being so far away and remote gives you an experience few people in the world get to have and we promise you’ll leave Antarctica wanting more.




penguin in antarctica
Photo by Muench Workshops.

If you enjoyed this post, check out these other great topics!

 


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