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Penguins poised to dive into Hope Bay

Penguins poised to dive into Hope Bay

According to Lonely Planet, Antarctica is one of the hottest places to visit in 2014 along with Brazil and Scotland. 2014 also marks the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s fatal attempt at travelling the breadth of this great continent, which was once a part of the fabled Gondwana, before it broke away 25 million years ago.

A luxury cruise ship docks at Port Lockroy

A luxury cruise ship docks at Port Lockroy

Getting there… There are no resorts, hotels, cities or anything except ice (mostly over one mile thick) and wildlife on Antarctica. The most popular way of getting there is via luxury cruise ships that usually depart from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Visitors are taken ashore – always professionally escorted for safety reasons – in inflatable boats. Over flights, primarily from Australia and New Zealand, are popular as well, as the clear atmosphere allows for panoramic views. But, be warned, it is certainly not a low-budget destination. Despite this, approximately 80,000 tourists visit Antarctica annually.

Wildlife galore… Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent and the only one without a single indigenous human – although it has birds and mammals galore. The biggest draw for tourists is the wildlife, and depending on the season, one can view albatrosses, penguins, seals and numerous forms of marine life.Mawson’s Huts were built by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson in 1912

Mawson’s Huts were built by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson in 1912

Plenty of attractions… Popular onshore destinations include the Antarctic Peninsula (where there are, unlikely as it sounds, hot springs), the volcanic Ross Island, the massive Transantarctic Mountains on the Ross Sea, Mawson’s Huts and the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility. Experienced ice climbers can book guided expeditions in West Antarctica and all tourists love to have their photograph taken standing next to the ‘South Pole’, where a purely ceremonial pole stands.

In a nutshell… The ‘in’ place to chill this year is exactly that; with recorded temperatures as low as minus 89°C, Antarctica is the trendiest place to visit
in 2014.

– B Khan
First published in the Real Estate section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on January 5, 2014.