While seeing Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls in Argentina was indeed a real treat, the true highlight destination on our travel itinerary had always been Antarctica. As the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth, it is hardly a place that comes to mind when people think about vacationing, although it is also for that very reason that others would want to visit this frozen continent. I initially had my reservations as well, especially about the bitter cold and hostile environment, but after thinking about it for a little while I just couldn’t resist the opportunity for me to visit the most remote continent on the globe, since anyone that would one day like to claim that they’ve stepped on all seven continents would eventually have to make it down to Antarctica. I figured that it would be best if I made my voyage down to the Antarctic at this stage in my life when I’m still relatively young rather than wait until I get even older. However, what was initially envisioned as a “once in a lifetime” trip turned into such an eye-opening experience that now I have no doubt that I’d want to go back again for a second time, and if health and money permits, even a third and fourth time! I can’t specifically pinpoint what aspect of Antarctica is the most charming, but overall I think it’s the total package of awe-inspiring landscapes, the tranquil and desolate beauty of the pristine environment, the mystique associated with the world’s most remote continent, absence of permanent human residents, and finally… penguins!
To start off, here are a few photos inside of our mighty ship, the M/S Expedition:
The scene as we were leaving Ushuaia…
After spending close to 2 days crossing the rough waters of the Drake Passage, which rocked our ship pretty hard, we finally woke up to blue skies and our first glimpse of the beautiful scenery.
Zodiacs were sent off from our ship to survey the landing site.
Once we landed onshore at the Aitcho Islands, we were greeted by some Gentoo penguins.
The penguin at the lower left hand corner of the photo below may look like it’s having a hard time walking the slope, but it can’t be further from the truth. Penguins are well designed for their environment and many of us couldn’t even keep up pace with them uphill.
Just chilling, napping, and conserving energy…
During our landing we were fortunate enough to encounter Elephant, Weddell, Crabeater, and Fur seals as well.
The weather in Antarctica is very unpredictable, as one minute it’s absolutely calm and another minute the wind picks up resulting in hail stones and ice flakes dropping out of nowhere.
Then the weather becomes calm again.
Even the sun comes out for a few seconds.
Then the sun disappears and the wind and ice flakes kick up again!
Some Chinstrap penguins…
The consensus among everyone after our first landing was that penguins are simply awesome!