Journey to the white continent

Are you an extreme explorer? Then start planning a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Antarctica, earth’s final frontier. Out there you’ll discover a world of waddling penguins, wide-winged albatrosses, walruses galore, gulls, cormorants and terns diving for fish. There seals have many names, such as leopard seals, Antarctic fur seals, Southern elephant seals and crabeater seals, while the whales by any name are magnificent. There you’ll see islands of floating ice, shining in the sun, and white glaciers framed against a radiant sky. Blue, green and lavender icebergs spread out before you into a world of amazing white where it rarely rains or snows and a cozy, luxury ship awaits your daily return.

Let me introduce you to some extraordinary cruise companies to make your dreams come true:

Lindblad Expeditions was the first in 1966 to explore Antarctica and now Lindblad is aligned with National Geographic, making up one of the best ice teams anywhere. The National Geographic Explorer is the newest ship in the fleet and arguably the finest expedition vessel on the seas.

Abercrombie & Kent continues to be a leader in Antarctic journeys after more than 175 trips. Chartered by A&K, Le Boréal features all-balcony staterooms and suites. Tauck World Discovery owns Le Boréal, built in 2010, as well as Le Soléal, built in 2013. The ships are known for elegance, eco-friendly technologies and the highest quality standards, with six decks and French and international cuisine.

How do you get to Antarctica? You fly to Buenos Aires and spend one or two nights exploring this fabulous city, where pleasures include sightseeing by day and tango performances by night. Then you fly to Ushuaia, to the southernmost city in the world and embark on your cruise to Antarctica. While crossing the spectacular Drake Passage, which extends 600 miles from the tip of South America to the Shetland Islands, the expert naturalists and guides onboard will help you spot whales and other marine life that glide along the ship.

Your first sighting of the Antarctic Peninsula will be a memory to last a lifetime. Images of ice, sea, land and sky effortlessly blend together into a portrait of spectacular beauty. The towering icebergs and unique formations of ice are arrayed in blues, greens, clear and snow white. With nearly 24 hours of daylight from November to February, you have ample time to plumb the peninsula and the surrounding islands. During the day, you can take several Zodiac amphibious crafts to remote islands and shorelines. These sturdy inflatable rubber boats are widely recognized as the safest and most versatile small boats afloat. Kayaking also provides one of the best means for personal exploration – although keep in mind that the volatile weather there means it won’t be like kayaking on the Hudson.

During island explorations, you’ll find abundant wildlife on beaches and cliffs and in the waters. The countless penguins have little to no fear of humans. They’ll even spend time observing you. During my visit, the naturalists told me that penguin behavior is endlessly fascinating. There are more than 100,000 penguins. So you’ll have plenty of opportunity to walk among them on the beaches, observing their rookeries, trails and treks into the sea to find food and greet you. Seals also thrive in today’s Antarctic where they have no natural land predators – neither polar bears nor man. Thousands of sea birds ride the winds and scan the sea for food. And keep an eye out for a magnificent whale, on the prowl for a tasty meal of fish and krill.

Naturally, you may be tempted to say: “Iceberg, right ahead.” A massive one, larger than Chicago, broke off Antarctic’s Pine Island Glacier on July 8 and is now floating in the Amundsen Sea.

Now reflect that once upon a time, some 180 million years ago, a large equatorial land mass broke off and went its way. Today, it is a place dedicated to peace and scientific research, the great white continent of Antarctica, which astounds with glacial landscapes and abundant wildlife.

For more, visit Cappy’s Travel at 195 N. Bedford Road, Mount Kisco. Call (914) 241-0383 or email Cappy@travel-by-net.com.

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