Trying to outline a typical day in Antarctica is not easy - every day is different which is what makes an Antarctic holiday so special. There is no average day onboard an expeditionary boat as the day’s activities will be very much determined by the prevailing weather conditions, ice and the wildlife encountered. Flexibility here is the key. If you are looking for a strict and structured itinerary then this is not the destination for you!
Start the day
Early morning call is normally around 07:00 with an update on the weather conditions and the morning’s anticipated excursion (landing). However the start of the day can be earlier, with an excited call of “whales spotted on the starboard bow” or something similarly enticing. Always be prepared to change quickly and have your camera ready for these occasions - no one will notice morning hair or odd socks pulled on in a hurry!
Breakfast is typically a buffet affair with a range of cereals, fresh fruit, breads and a cooked option. There will be a briefing regarding the morning excursion: what the options are, how long the zodiac cruise is likely to be and what the team hope you will encounter.
Standing at the top of the gangplank for the first time can be daunting, but you will soon learn to always keep one hand to rail, the sailors grip and the "step, step, sit-shuffle, shuffle" for a safe and quick entry into your zodiac.
Explore by zodiac
Once in your zodiac, cruise alongside magnificent glaciers with birds swirling overhead and rafts of penguins porpoiseing alongside. Watch penguins, the clowns of Antarctica, gather on the ice edge plucking up courage to jump into the abyss, not knowing if there is a leopard seal patrolling below. When the penguins return, they gather under the surface before rocketing to the surface like little torpedo’s and hurling themselves onto the rocks and ice, often landing in a comical and ungainly heap.
Getting Antarctic Snow and Soil on your boots
The ship will normally be split into groups so those wanting to trek will head in one direction while those preferring to sit and enjoy the serenity can wander at will and find a quiet spot. Find a vantage point with rewarding views far into the distance, over glaciers to snow capped peaks or out at sea where curious humpbacks cavort and play. If you prefer, sit quietly on the edge of a penguin rookery and watch daily life unfold; they are never quiet with constant bickering and stone stealing for their nests going on. Reluctantly, return to the mothership by zodiac in time for a warming lunch.
While you eat lunch, the captain will be skilfully manoeuvring the ship to your next destination, ready for the afternoon’s excursion. While the ship is repositioning, spend time out on the deck watching the elegant pintados glide on the updrafts created by the wake, or go to the bridge, which is often one of the best places to spot whales, where you can look at the nautical charts or just watch as the ship weaves between towering icebergs.
What will this afternoon’s excursion bring? An inquisitive Minke whale diving beneath your zodiac or an encounter with a leopard seal scouting for penguins to hunt? Maybe you will be lucky enough to see an iceberg calving - one moment calm then the next with a great whoosh, turning and rebalancing itself, exposing the beautifully ridged and rippled underside in spectacular blue hues. Alternatively you may encounter one of the Antarctic deep fogs, with icebergs looming out of the mist evoking thoughts of those who explored this region before Gortex and fleeces; many of the bays, glaciers and mountains around you are named after them.
To sleep perchance to dream
After a good hearty three course meal, most passengers are ready to head for their cabins for an early night. The bar will of course remain open and you can expect the tales to get saltier and saltier as the evening progresses - don't miss the opportunity to have a gin and tonic cooled with thousand year old Antarctic ice. For the ultimate bragging rights spend a night camping on the great White Continent - don't forget your earplugs though as amorous penguins can make a racket and keep you awake all night!