The Small but Beautiful Tourist Industry in Antarctica
When it comes to remote destinations that are rarely visited, then the icy continent of Antarctica is one of the most interesting and often uncompromising places in the world. Even getting to the continent is one of the most challenging trips of all, and with only settlements that are supported from other parts of the world, there are very few people staying there that you will meet during your trip to the region. However, there is no doubt that the views that you will get to enjoy are truly majestic, and travelling to the continent is something that automatically engenders a camaraderie among those who are exploring this inhospitable region.
What You Can See in Antarctica
One of the biggest attractions in the region is the chance to see the icebergs and glaciers around the coast of the continent, and if you are fortunate enough to see an iceberg calving from the glacier, it is a very dramatic sight. Wildlife spotting is another popular activity for those visiting Antarctica, with colonies of emperor penguins and playful leopard seals among the interesting species to be found surviving in the region. The continent is also a destination for mountaineers, with Mount Vinson, which stands at just under 4,900 metres above sea level, being the highest point, while there is also the dormant volcano at Mount Sidley.
Cruise Trips in the Region
There are several different cruise companies that run specialised trips in the region, and most will have ships with reinforced hulls because of the potential of coming into contact with a glacier. There are two real ways to get to the region, with some trips starting from the south of Argentina and Chile that usually visit the Antarctic Peninsula, while others from Australia and New Zealand usually arrive in the area around the Ross Sea. Cruises will have to carry all of the food, supplies and equipment they need, so the majority will not make too many land stops, but more specialised operators can include snowmobiling or excursions as a part of the trip.
Visiting the South Pole
Unlike the North Pole which is constantly shifting on seas of ice, the South Pole is in a fixed position on land, and there is the South Pole Research Station nearby, which is why there is a small airfield there. Getting to the South Pole is not an easy trip, but needs to be done by air, with a small aircraft fitted with skis being the only type of aeroplane that can land near the pole. This journey is usually completed as a day trip, as there is no accommodation at the pole and camping is definitely not recommended, with companies offering flights starting from Cape Town in South Africa or Punta Arenas in the south of Chile.
Getting Around Antarctica
There are a few explorers who will try to get around the continent by snowmobile or with dog-pulled sleds, but the reality is that the only practical ways to get from one point to another in Antarctica are by air or by boat. The interior of the continent is largely desolate, and if you run into trouble out there, you will find limited options in terms of assistance that can come to get you, which is why most people will travel through an organised company with a backup crew.
The Challenges of Travelling in the Region
One of the biggest issues is that there are no retailers or anywhere that you can stop for fuel or assistance in Antarctica, so most people will have to carry their own backup supplies in case anything goes wrong. Ships travelling around the coast will need icebreakers and reinforced hulls to withstand any impact, which means they are heavier and slower as a result. With only small aircraft flying, and only when the conditions are right, this does limit the tourism industry in the region, meaning that it will likely continue to be a small and exclusive number of people who will visit the area each year.