Is Antarctica on your bucket list?

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 11:24 04/09/2014
Adelie Penguins at Commonwealth Bay
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RARE TREAT: Being surrounded by penguins in Antarctica makes the challenges of sea travel worthwhile. (Pictured are Adelie Penguins at Commonwealth Bay.)

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Visiting Antarctica might be on your bucket list, but what is a ship voyage to the ice like?

Wild Earth Travel runs small ship voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula from late October to early March.

Rosemary Sivertsen-McNoe, who handles sales and reservations for Wild Earth, said the voyages tended to attract slightly older travellers, with seeing the Antarctic on the bucket list for many people.

Wild Earth's voyages set off from Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego and ''the very very bottom of Argentina'', Sivertsen-McNoe said.

Travellers then spend two days crossing through the Drake Passage, which ''can be rough''.

With another two days return, the trips last a minimum of 11 days with options for longer voyages later in the season.

Sivertsen-McNoe said some people opt to fly to meet the ship at King George Island, bypassing the voyage across the Drake Passage.

''So if people are worried about that Drake Passage crossing . . . you can fly from Punta Arenas in Chile. It's a nice way to cut out what's potentially a rough four days of sea crossing,'' she said.

While at the peninsula people can try their hand at kayaking or spend a night camping on the ice.

Most passengers came back raving about being ''right in amongst the penguin colonies, surrounded by hundreds of penguins''.

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Sivertsen-McNoe said the peninsula had less of the ''human history'' than the Ross Sea area. But some travellers extended their trips to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia - where Sir Ernest Shackleton was buried.

Though the time around the peninsula was focused on being off the ship each day, while passengers were on board there were a range of lectures and other sessions to take part in.

Some voyages specifically target those interested in photography, with specialists on board to help people get the best shots on their trip.

While some of the ships serve alcohol, others are dry, but all put an emphasis on good food. ''No-one ever comes back and complains they haven't been fed well,'' Sivertsen-McNoe said.

With a doctor on board the ships have provisions in case anyone gets really ill. Sivertsen-McNoe emphasised that people needed ''really good travel insurance that covers for medication evacuations'' just in case.

But so far no-one had needed evacuation from any of the trips.

Most of all people need to be ready for adventure. ''There wouldn't be much point in going to Antarctica if you weren't going to get off the ship,'' Sivertsen-McNoe said.

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- The Press

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