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With thanks to Fraser Yachts
“For adventurous owners and charterers, Antarctica is the ultimate extreme destination.” - Mark Duncan, director of marketing and business development at Fraser Yachts
Everyone knows all about the appeals of traditional yacht charter destinations: luxury, tranquillity, sunshine… the list is endless. They are cruises that give us a little taste of paradise – and sometimes that’s exactly what we’re looking for.
But sometimes change is good. Really good. It can take you out of your comfort zone and give you a different perspective of the world.
Destinations that are ‘off the beaten track’ are growing in popularity, with Antarctica ranking as one of the more adventurous regions to explore.
Why? Well a trip to Antarctica isn’t about conventional relaxation; it’s about visiting the little explored and more unusual parts of the world, enjoying the beautiful, unspoilt wildlife it has to offer. With its breath-taking views and natural beauty, the region is a truly unique cruising destination.
A yacht charter in Antarctica will feel like you have jumped straight into the pages of National Geographic as you cruise through eerie bays with calving glaciers while whales and seals swim right by the yacht.
Unsurprisingly Antarctica will naturally be cold whenever you choose to visit. The best time to cruise the region is usually between October and March when you can experienced up to 20 hours of sunlight a day, watch penguin chicks and also have a stronger chance of whale sightings.
There are few places on earth as hard to reach as Antarctica, and the only way to visit in style is on board a charter yacht. Whether you are starting out from Ushuaia in Argentina or embarking after a flight to the Antarctic Peninsula, a charter in Antarctica promises to be a beguiling experience you will never forget.
In fact, if you fly into King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, you will see the giant icebergs and migrating whale pods en route.
Upon arrival little will prepare you for the adventure that awaits in this last of the planet’s frontiers.
As you head south into the vast open waters of the Southern Ocean through the Drake Passage (which is widely regarded to be the gateway to the Antarctic), you might find albatross and whales accompanying you for some of the journey as they migrate between the continents.
Whilst cruising it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at the South Shetland Islands at the northernmost point of Antarctica. They are rich in wildlife (animals make the most of this first/last area of land for hundreds of kilometres) and provide opportunities to walk among noisy penguin colonies and watch the seals as they laze in the sunshine. You will find many groups of scientists based here who research the unique ecosystems of Antarctica.
Deception Island is also a worthy place to stop. It is the remnants of a volcanic explosion (known as a caldera) from the 1970s. The C-shaped island has a protected bay in which to anchor, from which you can take a tender ashore and explore the once-busy whaling stations and meet the local chinstrap penguins. For a truly unique experience, dig a hole in the black sand and take a warm bath in the volcanic-heated water.
To the west of the Antarctic Peninsula sit the Danco Coast and Gerlache Strait, which consist of many islands and channels. Whilst here you can visit colonies of gentoo penguin and then jump into the tender or in a kayak for a tour of the incredible bays and harbours that showcase skyscraper-height ice cliffs and bright-blue glaciers.
Head through the soaring cliffs of the Neumayer Channel, which is likened to a maze due to its lack of visible exits and inverted curved shape until you reach the designated Historic Site of Port Lockroy. The harbour was used as a British military base during World War II and is now used as a penguin research base. It is also home to the southernmost British post office in the world, from which you can send a postcard home!
Between Adelaide Island and the Tyndall Mountains is ‘The Gullet’, a narrow passage with dramatic mountain scenery and flanked by icy waters. If conditions allow, you have to make a visit to Marguerite Bay, where you will see elephant sea colonies and the eerie Bourgeois Fjord.
Expeditions to the Southern Hemisphere require significant planning to ensure that legal and environmental requirements are met.
The Antarctic is regulated by the Antarctic Treat (AT) and is acceded to by 47 countries. Under the AT, individual countries implement the various regulations and provisions (Arising from the Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection) via their national legislation. With this in mind, there are a number of permits required to undertake a charter in the Antarctic – including receiving authorisation from the operator’s own country or the vessel’s flag state.
A minimum of three months is required to receive a US permit to enter the Antarctic Treaty Zone as the US State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and National Science Foundation have strict procedures to be adhered to.
The Antarctic Treaty Zone (south of 60º) and South Georgia are protected areas and vessels must receive permission to enter them.
There are a number of experienced agents who can manage the permit and clearance process for you. Given the timeframes involved with obtaining certain permissions, it is advisable that you recruit the help of an agent a number of months before you intend on cruising in the Antarctic.
Agents will also be able to offer advice on fuelling, taking into account the fuel range of your vessel and the distances between fuel stops along your proposed route.
Unsurprisingly there are no ports or marinas while cruising in Antarctica. You will be reliant on anchorages – and sometimes it will be possible to find sheltered anchorage.
If you fancy the adventure of a yacht charter in Antarctica, you may well have a few things in mind already regarding what you want to do and experience on your trip. It’s important you contact an agent with expertise in Antarctica cruising to help make your dream a reality. The best advice is contact them with as much notice as possible so they can take care of the administrative processes so you can simply revel in the excitement of the journey you are about to embark on.
Discover more key superyacht cruising locations in our library of Destination Guides.
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