Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Koenig
Some have said that going to Antarctica is the closest you can get to leave the planet. A journey to the southernmost continent is truly otherworldly and no words will ever do it justice. It is best to come and see this virtually uninhabited landscape for yourself.
There is no better time than in February when the Antarctic season is in full swing in the height of their summer. Ice and snow-capped terrains on the peninsula have begun to melt exposing rocky beaches, making it ideal for Zodiacs to land. Whales arrive en masse and Penguin chicks are present and plentiful throughout the many colonies that we visit.
Our daily schedule while on board is based on the day’s location and weather dependent but tends to mirror a safari schedule with morning and afternoon excursions with sails through the night and in between early and afternoon activity. A ‘typical’ day may include whales swimming alongside the ship, fluking in the distance or boldly breaching by your zodiac. Or it may involve being struck by the quirky and intricate activity that takes place in a penguin colony, be it the Chinstrap, Adéelie, Rockhopper, or Gentoo penguins or the rare Emperor penguin that may appear on the path.
Ascents on landings provide spectacular 360-degree views. However, sailing under a pink skylight that never seems to turn off or sitting on the deck in silence so steely yet occasionally punctuated by glaciers calving in the distance provides a thin slice of what life may have been like for early explorers back in the day.
The notable polar plunge will awaken each and every sense while stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking amongst icebergs will simply make you giddy as you glide by in disbelief. In Antarctica, no two days are ever alike, but every day is remarkable. We hope you can join us on this adventure to celebrate GAL-antines Day and ourselves in a place that feels like the edge of the earth. It’s the best reset you could ever get.
(Don't let the faraway date fool you. Early commitments are essential for Antarctica. The ship will book up as there will be other travelers onboard. That's why this was planned so far in advance. If interested, I suggest committing asap. It's well worth it!)
January 10th - January 20th, 2021
From $8,456 USD
Group size: Minimum of 12
Gallery images- Mountain, Whale Watching & Kayaking courtesy of Jack Kerivan. Red House by Karen Loftus
About the Trip
Antarctica has inspired explorers from all over the world for centuries. After your eleven-day Antarctic adventure, you are sure to see why. Quark and their esteemed team host this epic adventure to give you a big window into that world. We will sail to and step on to the seventh continent.
While there, we will be sharing our days with a bevy of whales, thousands (literally) of penguins, various kinds, as well as sea lions and an abundance of birds. The wildlife is all encompassing and the beauty seen throughout knows no bounds.
You will be taking in the Antarctic beauty and adventure alongside equally eco-curious and adventure driven women who will be zipping around in zodiacs, ascending icy peaks with ease and kayaking or stand-up paddling by your side. Aside from the Women’s Adventure Travels tribe of women on board, you will be in equally, great company with Quark’s highly spirited team.
In addition, the ship will be filled with other like-minded intrepid travelers, photo buffs, eco-warriors and all around globally curious and vibrantly alive folks who come in from every corner of the globe for this otherworldly expedition. It’s pure bliss both on and off the ship and the greatest reset you could possibly get.
Dates -January 10th - January 20th, 2021
Days - 11 Days/10 Nights
Size - Minimum of 12
Style - Wildlife, Adventure & Nature
Needs - The 10% discount (reflected in the starting cost of $8546 reflects this discount) is available only through October 31, 2019. After that, the cost goes up 10% to $9,495. A 20% deposit is due asap in order to hold your reservation and cabin. (Best to book soonest if interested as cabins do fill up well in advance. It's on a first-come basis.) Regardless, the final trip deposit is due by June 31st, 2020.
Treats - A once-in-a-lifetime adventure filled with exceptional wildlife, stunning nature and endless adventure options including kayaking, stand-up paddling, hiking and camping on an Antarctic island.
Accommodations- Luxury Lodges
Host- Karen Loftus
Fees - Starting from $8,546 (shared accommodations)
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1 | January 10, 2021
Arrival in Buenos Aires, Argentina
You will arrive in Buenos Aires known for its Euro influence and its fabulous art, architecture, food, wine, and fashion. It’s home to the late diva, Eva Peron, whom Madonna memorialized in a film years ago.
You are on your own to get from the airport to the included hotel in the city center. I strongly recommend arriving into Buenos Aires at least an additional day in advance to enjoy one of South America’s most celebrated cities.
There are several cultural offerings that are easily available. Peruse the many chic boutiques in SOHO where local designers are widely celebrated. Embrace the cafe society in the city at one of the famous cafes where long leisurely stays are highly encouraged versus frowned upon. Pop into a city square to soak up the urban ambiance or head over to Recoleta, one of the world’s most famous cemeteries where Peron has been laid to rest. There are countless theaters and an endless array of restaurants where dining is downright decadent and the atmosphere very vibrant. This evening you are on your own to explore the city and the surrounds.
If staying back at the hotel, there is a Quark representative on hand to answer any of your questions concerning the pending expedition.
Day 2 | January 11, 2021
Buenos Aires/Private Charter/Ushuaia /Embarkation
After breakfast at the hotel the group will transfer together to the airport where we will board our flight, a private charter to Ushuaia. Upon arrival this morning, you will have time to explore the quaint port town of Ushuaia..
Ushuaia is the Southernmost city in the world and the capital of Tierra del Fuego. It’s a major port for Antarctic bound vessels and a hip and interesting city to explore. It’s also your last chance to pick up any Antarctic essentials that you may have missed on the home front. The place is full of winter weather adventure shops; but, similar to other touristy towns, be it Park City or Aspen, it can be pricey.
Highlights of Ushuaia include the award-winning Museo Marítimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia, (Maritime & Prison of Ushuaia Museum), located in Ushuaia’s former prison in buildings dating back to 1906. You can’t miss with a walk along the main street of Avenida San Martin with its Argentine leather markets, its many cafes, shops, and restaurants.
Day 3 & 4 | January 12th-13th, 2021
Crossing the Drake Passage
Be prepared as we pass through the legendary Drake Passage as it can be the Drake Lake or the Drake Shake. The latter being intense and exciting yet for those susceptible to seasickness, it’s a good time to throw a patch or two on. Outside of this potentially choppy window, the cruise tends to be as smooth as silk.
The lecture program will commence during this time and continue for the duration of the cruise. Be prepared to be astounded as you hear the legendary tales of the explorers that came before you find out more and more about the unique flora, fauna, geology and biology of this part of the world.
If you’re a history buff, an eco-warrior, an animal lover or simply one that loves to learn and appreciates a good story when you hear one, then you will revel in the lecture program. The lectures and daily briefings onboard are not only informative but a great time to swap stories and share experiences from the day’s events and to bond with fellow passengers from our Women’s Adventure Travel tribe group and otherwise.
Day 5 to 8 | February 14th-17th, 2021
SOUTH SHETLAND ISLANDS & ANTARCTIC PENINSULA
Once the Antarctic Convergence is left in our wake, we begin our Antarctic adventure. It’s the first sight of land itself that is seen as the true beginning of an Antarctic expedition. Once sailing into the world’s most pristine wilderness, we are witness to grey stone peaks, seemingly sketched into the sky as they greet us along the way together with snow and towers of broken blue-white ice showcasing dramatically different wildlife above and below the ice.
Every visit to Antarctica, you witness something new or unexpected, which means that our expedition will be unlike any other—creating our own unique, personal experience. By day, you will take Zodiac excursions from the ship to explore local bays, channels and landing sites. With wildlife always at the forefront of our minds, we will visit penguin rookeries, scout for humpback and minke whales, and search for a number of southern seal species, including the cunning leopard seal.
Each day is undeniably different and anything is possible from a calving glacier crashing into the brilliant blue sea to a penguin waddling by to inspect our footwear or a group of penguins squabbling over prized pebbles. Whatever they are up to, watching their behavior is truly mesmerizing, more than you could ever imagine. Each day and each landing we are presented with something new and different to delight and to keep the cameras clicking. So keep your gear handy.
On board, in between our twice daily excursions, you can also pop into the gym or take a dip on deck in the pool, which is a definitive moment you don’t want to miss. Or you can pop into the spa for a well-needed treatment.
Photo Courtesy of Jack Kerivan
The day’s schedule typically plays out similar to a safari schedule, with early morning and late afternoon excursions that require you to “kit up” each time in wetsuit pants, boots, and waterproof jackets. We watch for an array of Antarctic wildlife, including four types of penguins: Chinstrap, Adéelie, Rockhopper, and Gentoo. A lone male Emperor Penguin may make an unlikely appearance and perhaps an elephant seal. Humpbacks can be plentiful or elusive and orca pods are not unlikely.
No landing is guaranteed as it is all weather dependent. One possible spot and often a highlight of any Antarctic expedition is Wilhelmina Bay known as “Whale-mina Ba”. It is one of the top spots to spot humpback whales en masse. If the timing is right you may see an abundance of them fluking and breaching as the waters are filled with krill, a food staple for many whale.
Day 9 & 10 | January 18th-19th, 2021 Crossing the Drake Passage
Photo Courtesy of Rocio Oyarzun
The journey back across the Drake Passage provides final opportunities to enjoy the crisp Antarctic air. You can wile the day away by spending time on the deck, watching for seabirds, scouting for whales, gazing out at sea all the while sharpening your photography chops as you continue to observe the wildlife and the 360-degree landscape that surrounds the ship.
Your return voyage is anything but from uneventful, yet it is a wind down from the anticipation heading in and the epic activity experienced throughout your trip to Antarctica and to the Peninsula. The lectures continue as you cruise as does the convivial ambiance, the conversations, and the onboard bonding among guests, friends and fellow travelers.
This is also a great time to organize photos and thoughts before disembarking and a great time to chat up any member from Expedition Team as they may be able to answer final questions regarding the expedition and adventure. They will also be conducting talks and presentations throughout the final leg of this journey.
This closing night and our final one on the ship, there will be an event for our group led by Karen.
Day 11 | January 20th, 2021
Disembarkation in Ushuaia & Fly to Buenos Aires
You will arrive in Ushuaia in the morning, after breakfast. If you’ve booked the transfer package, after disembarking you will get a little taste of Patagonia by touring Tierra del Fuego National Park before transferring to the airport for the return group charter flight back to Buenos Aires.
Until we travel together again...
The World Explorer
The World Explorer is a well-appointed small expedition ship expertly engineered to explore the Polar Regions. One of Quark's fastest ships it has Zodiacs for exploration and remote landings and advanced navigation equipment. The vessel is refined and roomy with six tiers of deluxe accommodation. Every cabin comes with either a private walk-out or Juliet balcony for direct ocean views.
There is plenty of public areas to unwind including the glass-domed Observation Lounge, the Explorer Lounge for giggles and drinks and the library for relaxing, reflecting and reading.
For adventure enthusiasts, add-ons include kayaking, camping, and stand-up paddleboard.
There is also an outdoor track, a small gym, and a sauna on board.
*All images of Antarctica are courtesy of Karen Loftus, except for accommodations and if otherwise stated.
Accommodations, Rates, Availability
SHARED ACCOMMODATION: from $8,546 USD
The starting price for the trip is $9.495. There is a 10% early booking discount in effect now through Oct 31st, 2019.
Pricing is based on a shared double- occupancy room
After that date, the starting price jumps back up to $9,495. So, book soonest!
Reservation: A deposit of 20% of the trip cost is due asap in order to hold your reservation.
Final deposit deadline is June 31st, 2020
(First come first serve as most of these sailings do sell out.)
Availability - This program welcomes a minimum of 12 guests booked with WAT.
Hover over the image below to see the full BIO on Your Host, Karen Loftus
Karen in Antarctica
Photo Credit for Gallery: Karen Loftus
I have wanted to go to Antarctica almost as long and as much as I had wanted to go to Africa, but I knew I needed to get a few African trips out of my system first before heading in that direction. Four years ago I finally made my way to my seventh continent. I barely made it out the door let alone on the trip as I was in the midst of the mega-tundra that took over the east coast at the end of January in 2014.
It was bitter, bone-chillingly cold weather with whipping winds and piles of snow head to toe and sheets of ice on every street and walk. I literally almost didn’t make it out of my then apartment as cabs were not running, trains to the airport were delayed for days as were many flights. It was a disaster.
So, tip number one, if you are traveling from a winter-weary city where weather can be crippling, you may want to arrive in Buenos Aires, at least a day or two in advance for your Antarctic adventure. Regardless, it’s their summer there so it will be a welcomed break weatherwise. More importantly, it will get you there on time, as you and your bags have to make the timely connections to get both body and bags on the ship. This isn’t a hotel where you can arrive a day or two late. They cruise. You lose.
Wicked weather aside, I made it to Argentina unscathed, but my luggage did not. Once in Argentina, I was on a smaller domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia on a less than favorable local airline. I was in a sheer state of panic as we were cruising the next afternoon and all I had was a carry on with my camera equipment. The laissez-faire customer service rep could not have been less concerned about me or any bag in the building as she casually told me in a matter of fact manner to just shop in town the next day and get what I needed before my cruise. Yea, let me get right on that.
I had a bag that was chock a block with winter wear and Antarctic accessories. It was not a couple of cheap T’s and well-worn jeans in tow. Packing for Antarctica is a very layered endeavor. Not to mention, Ushuaia is a tourist town. It’s comparable to shopping in Vail for everything you need for ski season or to manage life head to toe in the snow. Not cheap!
Luckily my bag did arrive on the one and only flight the next day. So, my bag and I made it on the ship on time and off we went. Regardless, it made me realize that if going to Antarctica again that I should arrive at least an additional day in advance to avoid having this hiccup happen again. You should too.
The good news for us is that with our trip, we have a private charter from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia with Quark Expeditions. So you and your bag are in the best of hands as is all else with our own charter and Quark at the helm.
The other good news is that February is one of the best times of the season to be in Antarctica. The weather is stunningly beautiful. It’s incredibly mild with bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine, which was much to my surprise. I imagined it would be mega-tundra times ten. It was anything but.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need a case filled with winter weather gear, but it’s a brisk beautiful cold, at least it was for us, so much so that I often took my lunch outside on deck wearing nothing but a puffy or a vest. Once on the zodiacs things can get crisp with the whipping wind and by being so close to the water and ice. So, pack up an array of gear to be sure.
Timing-wise, January and February both are a good time for the whales. Earlier in the season, the prices may be better but you may get much colder weather, overcast gray skies and not nearly as much whale watching activity. January and February are also an ideal time for the chicks to be hatched as they are absolutely everywhere in the penguin colonies.
Bear in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to wildlife as you can’t predict it nor control it, but January tends to be a great time for weather, whales, and penguins. All of my trips are upmarket but I have made amends with scheduling, as best as I could, and if and when it made sense, to bring down the price to make it as approachable as possible. That is what I did with our Botswana Adventure.
For this trip, I was adamant about going in either January or February. If you are going to go to Antarctica, you want the best weather and the best possible potential for sightings, both of which make for the best images possible. On our trip, we had 55 humpback whales in Wilhelmina Bay, known as Whale-a-mina, one day. It was the single best day in Quark history. I never thought anything could compare, let alone come close to my experiences in the African bush. That day did. It blew it away times ten.
Also, time-wise, although this is a little over a year away, Quark's departures tend to book up quickly. So, if interested in this trip, do secure your place as soon as possible to be sure.
Any questions regarding the trip, your plans or packing, shoot me an email or send me a direct message. Regardless, I will be sharing many more details from my Antarctica experience and plenty of packing tips on the blog closer to the trip.
I'll see you on deck! I’ll be wearing a vest.