Romancing the snow
Published on August 1, 2014
As Brazil had the honour of hosting the FIFA 2014 World Cup, could Antarctica be the fastest growing tourist destination after all the football fans pack their foam fingers and head home? Antarctica’s tourism is still relatively low in comparison to its grand size; the number of visitors last year (37,000) would not fill the Sevens stadium in Dubai, which has a capacity of 50,000. However, the rate at which tourism is spiralling, guarantees Antarctica a promising future. So what is it about the icy region that makes it so appealing? Antarctica, home to no indigenous people, hotels or restaurants is no longer just a great spot to carry out scientific research; it’s also a great spot for eager, adventure-thirsty tourists. There is of course the novelty value of such an exclusive voyage and the excitement of exploring the last continent to be discovered, but of course the main reason is for what the ice has to offer. A trip to Antarctica gives a rare opportunity to view wildlife out of captivity; services such as ferries and cruises are available for tourists to glide over the royal blue ocean and observe hundreds of animals in their natural environment. Antarctica also offers excursions such as kayaking and diving in the deep sea and of course hiking over some of the most beautiful mountains.
Believe it or not, it isn’t just for the thrill-seeking daredevils — simple yet captivating nights can be spent camping. Yes, camping may not be for everyone; the dirt, heat and bumpy sleeping surfaces are bound to be aggravating. However, one reason Antarctica is high on many traveller’s ‘to go’ lists is the once-in-a-lifetime camping experience. For starters you can say goodbye to the dirt, heat and uncomfortable sleep. Indeed, sleeping and camping on ice under the stars is an experience like no other — not to mention the atmosphere and scenery. For those who have travelled to the icy caps this year, have doubtlessly walked away with incredible stories to tell about watching the star constellation in the dead silence of the undisturbed crystal glaciers. One of the most visited sites in Antarctica by far is the Deception Island. This is an abandoned volcanic area and a former whaling station. This is of course a historical attraction as the whaling equipment and boats still remain, but also the volcanic activity has resulted in natural hot springs. So if you’re into your fancy spa treatments and luxuries, how about this? A natural outdoors sauna in the middle of the arctic — yes, you read that right!
Recently, there have been many concerns about the safety of not the tourists, but the environment. Are we harming the undisturbed ‘last continent’? Many people are concerned about tourists disposing their litter and waste directly into the ocean which would of course, damage the ecosystem. However, The International Association of Antarctica’s Tours Operators today ensures that they are always one step ahead. They have engaged researchers and implemented tactics to avoid the beautiful continent from being harmed whilst still allowing tourists to enjoy the stunning formation that is Antarctica. No one likes a show-off, but whilst visiting somewhere so unique, one must boast a bit, but perhaps do it in a friendly way by using Antarctica’s first and only post office, Port Lockroy. Visiting it is an attraction in itself — as it’s the most southern public post office in the world, which has been turned into a museum. So perhaps it will be the only time, when sending and receiving a post card will be so exciting — an experience that will be cherished forever as it’s not every day that you get mail from Antarctica!
Believe it or not, you’ll also stumble upon a small gift shop centred in Port Lockroy where you can buy gifts for friends and family or use your purchases to back up your proof that you’ve stepped foot on the ‘last continent’. So there you have it, Antarctica can be pleasant for everyone, even those back home who receives your post card as they’ll appreciate it more than being tagged in your ‘Holiday to Antarctica’ photos on Facebook. So friends, try something new. You may just find that there’s more to summer than just tanning and lounging by the pool, especially now that all the environmental concerns about visiting Antarctica are out of the way. However, do bear in mind that you do your part and protect the land. Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories…